Are you the parent of a special needs child? Do you have a friend or family member with a special needs child? What can we do to help alleviate some of the stress?
In this podcast episode, Veronica speaks to Whitney Owens about her life with a special needs child.
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney Owens is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Private Practice Consultant. She lives in Savannah, Georgia, where she owns a group private practice, Water’s Edge Counseling.
In addition to running her practice, she offers individual and group consulting through Practice of the Practice. Whitney places a special emphasis on helping clinicians start and grow faith-based practices. Whitney has spoken at the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia’s annual convention and at Killin’ It Camp. Whitney is a wife and mother of two beautiful girls.
This entrepreneur went from a private practice owner to being a consultant. Providing fellow clinicians the tools they need to run a successful practice.
Visit Whitney’s website, connect with her on Facebook, listen to her podcast, or consult with Whitney. Email Whitney for counseling at email@example.com
In This Podcast
- Whitney’s personal experience
- Mom guilt
- From overwhelmed to accepting
- Moments of doubt
- Support during frustrating times
- What’s holding us back from having our children assessed?
- Practicing self-care
Whitney’s personal experience
Whitney has two daughters, aged seven (Anna) and three (Abby). Anna is neurotypical and doing well in school, and Abby is Whitney’s special needs child. At around 15 months, Whitney and her husband noticed that something was different when her words weren’t coming. They went to the pediatrician who looked for a certain amount of words but Abby was not at that place. The first thing they thought was that she had a hearing problem so they got a test done but they couldn’t get a good sense of it so said to come back at 18 months. At 18 months they still couldn’t get a sense for what was going on so recommended an ABR (Auditory Brainstem Response) test. This test revealed that Abby has a mild high-frequency hearing loss. It wasn’t detected when she was born and she passed the newborn screening hearing test. It wasn’t the worst news ever, they got her some hearing aids (which was a struggle getting her to keep them on but she’s now a champ at it) but she’s not talking. They met with the audiologist who said that she thinks there’s something else going on. They took Abby to a pediatrician but had a bad experience, were really discouraged, and felt that she didn’t really give them a diagnosis or any direction. Whitney contacted a psychologist friend who said that she must take Abby to a psychologist to test for autism. She found someone in her area who took her insurance and they got Abby in immediately, as with autism you want to get a diagnosis as soon as possible (between 18 months and age 3). They got their diagnosis which was a relief to explain what was going on.
Whitney started reading about ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) and noticed that it’s the most effective form of therapy for autism with 50% of them being fully integrated into the school system (when started between the ages of 3 and 6) by the first grade. Their search for ABA went on for 6 – 9 months, which all boiled down to the insurance company as there was only one place in town that took their insurance. The place was full, extremely rude, and Whitney had to apply to four different locations. Some places would deny them because they wouldn’t accept cash payments. They were going back and forth and not getting anywhere. It was awful. Whitney’s husband put a post on Facebook calling out their insurance who, the next day, figured out an agreement with a place in town. Abby has now been in ABA since October and there has already been a huge change, but that waiting time was the worst!
I could sit and feel guilty about the fact that I feel that way or that I’m irritated with her for waking me up in the middle of the night. But it’s okay. I just start to tell myself that it’s okay that I feel this way. That doesn’t diminish my love for her, my compassion for her. But if we just keep ignoring our emotions, and how we feel, it just balls up inside of us, and it’s going to reflect itself some way. I’m either going to have resentment, or I’m going to be depressed, or I’m going to be angry at my children, and so finding a place that the world’s not so black and white, right, that I can be in the gray and I can feel angry at my child. angry at the diagnosis, but I also love her and love her diagnosis at the same time, and that’s okay.
From overwhelmed to accepting
God helps Whitney through this process. God gave her this child, this life, this family, and he’s going to help her move through this. If she does give in to this overwhelmed feeling and have a breakdown, it’s not going to be helpful. Rather just accept the feelings and move forward. Whitney knows that it is okay to give herself space and grace and trust that God’s going to take care of it for her.
Moments of doubt
There were times when Whitney doubted God. Recently, Abby woke up in the middle of the night, screaming and hollering. Whitney couldn’t get her back to sleep. She sat on the floor and prayed. She said, “God, this makes me think you’re not real.” She was angry with him, mad that he gave her this child. She hates saying that out loud but that’s what she thought. She quickly comes back to knowing that God’s not someone who is based on our circumstances. She knows that she can’t think of God as one thing or another because of her child not sleeping.
Support during frustrating times
Ask for help. When you’re in a terrible place, it’s hard to think clearly and it’s hard to have these positive thoughts because you start getting into this negative spiral. Your spouse can sometimes see things that you can’t see and may be able to help you. And remembering that they love you, instead of getting mad is really important. Being able to listen to one another, even when you’re angry, trying to do what the other one is suggesting, may actually help.
What’s holding us back from having our children assessed?
Sometimes moms aren’t ready to have their children assessed, not because they’re neglecting their child but because they aren’t ready mentally to be in that position of knowing their thinking is confirmed. Early intervention is the key to better success. If you think that there is something wrong, get your child tested. Don’t wait. Don’t let the fear of what the diagnosis will be, stop you. Get it done sooner rather than later. Acknowledge how you feel but don’t let your emotions and fears get in the way of getting your child the help that they need. You are potentially causing more harm by waiting.
It starts with you asking for help. It starts with you identifying that it’s more than you. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re a poor mom, it doesn’t mean that, you know, you don’t have everything together. That’s kind of okay that you don’t have everything together because we’re not perfect.
Once again, ask for help. And don’t feel guilty about it. Studies show that people want to be asked to be helpful. It makes them feel good so asking for help is almost doing them a favor. Especially when it comes to asking your husband for help. If you don’t, he’s not going to know what you need. You’re going to feel resentful towards him and it’s going to impact your marriage significantly and negatively because you’re suffering silently. So, if you can ask for help, unapologetically, it doesn’t make you a horrible mom, it makes you a healthy mom who is going to connect with her kids when she comes back to a totally different level rather than that sleep-deprived, frustrated, overwhelmed mom.
Meet Veronica Cisneros
I’m a licensed therapist and women walk into my office every day stressed and disconnected. As a mom of three daughters, I want my girls to know who they are and feel confident about their future. I can’t think of a better way to help other women than by demonstrating an empowered and unapologetic life. So I started Empowered and Unapologetic to be a safe space for women to be vulnerable and change their lives for the better before she ever needs to see a therapist. Whether you listen to the podcast, join the free Facebook community, join the VIP community, or attend our annual retreat, you’re in the right place. Let’s do this together!
Thanks for listening!
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[VERONICA]: Between writing notes, filing insurance claims, and scheduling of clients, it can be hard to stay organized. That’s why I recommend TherapyNotes. Their easy-to-use platform lets you manage your practice securely and efficiently. Visit therapynotes.com to get two free months of therapy notes today. Just use the promo code JOE when you sign up for a free trial at therapynotes.com. Have you ever thought How did I manage to lose myself? Being a mom is so hard, especially when we’re feeling stressed and disconnected. We exhaust ourselves trying to create this perfect life for our family. You deserve to enjoy your marriage and your kids without the stress perfectionism brain. I am going to teach you how to identify who you are outside of all of the roles you play. Hi, I’m Veronica Cisneros. I’m a wife, mother of three and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I am on a mission to teach women just like you how to become empowered and unapologetic. Welcome to our girl gang. Hey ladies. Welcome to Empowered and Unapologetic. I’m your host, Veronica Cisneros. Today’s guest is a licensed professional counselor and private practice consultant. She lives in Savannah, Georgia, where she owns a group private practice, Water’s Edge Counseling. In addition to running her practice, she offers individual and group consulting through Practice of the Practice. Whitney places a special emphasis on helping clinicians start and grow faith-based practices. Whitney has spoken at the Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia’s annual convention and at Killin’It Camp. Whitney is a wife and mother of two beautiful girls. This entrepreneur went from private practice owner to now consultant, providing fellow clinicians the tools they need to run a successful practice. So please help me welcome Whitney Owens. Hey, Whitney. [WHITNEY]: Hey, girl. Thanks for having me. [VERONICA]: Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m so excited. [WHITNEY]: Yes, me too. [VERONICA]: So, I have to say I’m inspired by your ability to take what you’ve learned as a clinician and help others in need. At the same time, you’re also a mother and a wife. And so, in today’s episode, I would love for you to help us identify what we can do as parents to assist our children who may have special needs. So, can you share with us some of your story? [WHITNEY]: Yes, I can. I’ll share with you particularly about my daughter and kind of that experience since we’re focusing on that today. So, my two daughters, they’re ages seven, and three. I have Anna, who’s my seven-year-old and Abby, who’s my three-year-old. My seven-year-old is in first grade. Well, she’s so… they’re both so wonderful, but I’m just super proud of my seven year old; she’s doing really well in school, she’s neurotypical, and, you know, also thinking that she deserves everything in the world, right? She’s spoiled rotten. And then I also have my three-year-old and she is also just a doll and beautiful and also spoiled rotten, but she is my special needs child. So, I’ll share with you a little bit about my experience in getting the diagnosis with her and what that’s been like. So, we started noticing that probably something was different around 15 months where her words weren’t coming. So, we went to the pediatrician like you do for your checkups with your children and I believe they’re looking for three to five words, or it can be 15 words, I can’t really remember. But they were looking for a certain number of words at 15 months and she was not at that place. So, the first thing they thought was that she had a hearing problem. And so, we went and got a hearing test done, which let me tell you, trying to get a hearing test done on a 15-month-old is no easy business. And then they were like, well, we can’t really get a good sense of this, we need you to come back at 18 months. So, we went back at 18 months. Again, they just really couldn’t get a good sense for what was going on. So, they recommended that we had this test called an ABR test and that’s… I’m blanking right now on what it all stands for, but it’s basically a test where the child is given an oral medication and they fall asleep and they put electrodes on their brain. And then they put sensors in their ears, and they make noises, so they see if their brainwaves are moving – if they’re basically hearing it or not. And it’s the only way to guarantee if a child is really hearing. So, we did this test, we find out that she’s got a mild high frequency hearing loss. We don’t really know where this came from. It was not detected when she was born. She even passed like the newborn screening hearing test. [VERONICA]: Wow. [WHITNEY]: And so, we were thinking, okay, well, honestly, this is not the worst news ever. We get her some hearing aids, she starts talking. And we were really excited about the idea of our daughter talking because it just had been heartbreaking to be at 18 months, and she’s not speaking, and we want to know what she’s thinking. So, we get the hearing aids, and that was a struggle at the beginning to get her to keep the hearing aids on but now she’s a champ at it. But she was not talking. So, the words weren’t coming, we’re meeting with the audiologist, and she said, you know, I think there’s something else going on here. So, we actually took her to a doctor and had a terrible experience. We actually took her to a pediatrician that was specialized in behavioral stuff, and she did some testing on her. And I’m not gonna go into all the reasons why we had a bad experience, but it was like really discouraging that we felt like she didn’t really give us a diagnosis or any direction on what we were supposed to do. And she didn’t even give us the evaluation at the end. So, we moved from her and we were like, okay, what do we do here? I’m a therapist, and I don’t even know where I’m supposed to take my child for this. I didn’t know what to do. [VERONICA]: [unclear]. Yes. [WHITNEY]: Yeah, it was crazy. And so, a girlfriend of mine in Atlanta who had a private practice as a psychologist, and I called her, I said, what am I supposed to do? She was like, oh, psychologists do this, not pediatricians. I do testing for this. And I was like, oh. So, you take your child to a psychologist to get tested for autism. Specifically, if you can, someone who specializes in that. And fortunately, I found someone in town who took my insurance, and they got her in immediately because they want to do early intervention for 18 months, like age three, they want to get a diagnosis as soon as possible if you have autism, so we took her there. And then we got our diagnosis, which honestly, kinda was relieving to explain some things that were going on. So that’s a little bit about what it was like getting that diagnosis. [VERONICA]: So, you went from 15 months to 18 months to get her checked. What was that…? That’s three months. What was that like for you? Because I’m thinking about my daughters, and, you know, the some of the things they had, you know, when my daughter, when Aaliyah was five, she had kidney reflux, but we didn’t know. And then we had to wait so long for testing. So, this entire time, I know something’s wrong, but there’s nothing we can do. And I remember how I felt so defeated by that. And so you’re saying, you know, all these doctors want her to have this amount of words and you’re feeling something’s wrong, but nobody’s really telling you anything, nobody’s really giving you a diagnosis. And then in addition to that, when you do go to these specialists, they’re also telling you, well, you got to wait three more months. What was that like for you as a mom? [WHITNEY]: Well, annoying. For sure. [Unsure], but you’re speaking to what it’s been like the whole time, not only in that phase. But as the story continues, we’ve had so many times we’ve had to wait on things to work out to actually get treatment, which is awful, because early intervention with many things, but especially with autism, is key that their brain development between those ages of two and six is pivotal. [VERONICA]: Why? [WHITNEY]: Oh, because that’s when their brain is developing the most. [VERONICA]: I know that, you know that. I want to make sure that our ladies know that too. [WHITNEY]: Sure. Sure. Yeah. And so, you feel that crunch, you know, of I’m so helpless, but I’m doing everything I possibly can. And, yeah, so this kind of ties into that. Once we got that diagnosis, we started doing some research on how do we know what to do now? Because, unfortunately, it’s not like you see the psychologist and they’re like, oh, here’s the things that you need to really do. I mean, she gave us some tips, but there’s no place that’s like, you take your autistic child and they get all their services, at least not here. [VERONICA]: Yes. [WHITNEY]: So, we’re like, okay, do we go to speech, do we go to OT, do we get something for the hearing? And I’m reading about ABA, which is applied behavioral analysis, and I’m noticing that it’s the most effective form of therapy for autism. In fact, when children start it between the ages of three and six, it’s like 50% of them are fully integrated in the school system by the time they’re in first grade. [VERONICA]: Wow. [WHITNEY]: Right. So, we’re thinking, okay, ABA, ABA, we’ve got to get ABA. And Veronica, this search for ABA went for six to nine months, and we are wasting time, and it’s all boiled down to the insurance company. Because there was only one place in town that took our insurance, cos our insurance stinks, and then that place was full, and they were extremely rude. And so, I had to apply for like four different locations; I would get denied because they wouldn’t accept cash pay, legit. We will not accept, because you’re cash. Then we’re like fighting for single case agreements and going back and forth and we were getting nowhere; it was awful. And it was, you know, talking about the emotional part, I mean, we were crying over this. We were sad over this because this is our baby and we want her to have a successful life. And then eventually, my husband he… he gets intense sometimes which I love about him. He’s an advocate. So, he gets on Facebook, he puts this beautiful picture of my baby, and basically says, people please start contacting Humana, like, we need them to do something about this. So, the next day after he posted that we get a call from Humana that they figured out a good agreement with a place in town. [VERONICA]: Oh my god. [WHITNEY]: Yeah, then she started ABA. Yeah, yeah. And so, she’s now been in ABA since October, so four or five months; huge, dramatic differences like, wow, wow. So, it’s been amazing. But that moment of waiting was the worst. [VERONICA]: It sounds like hell; it sounds like complete hell. So, you know, I’m hearing, I’m listening to everything that you just said. And it’s like, my heart is aching. And, you know, for those of you that are listening, me and we know each other, we’re actually friends, and I remember you going through some of this process, and how frustrated you were with the insurance companies. In addition to that, we’re therapists and so in so many ways we help others and at times, we do help others with special needs. And so, we’re equipped with so many tools, however, then there’s another specialty that’s equipped with even more tools and having to be at the mercy of others is difficult, especially since, you know, we’re attempting to do everything and feeling as if others are not doing the same. And it’s just, you know, when our kids are on the line, and, you know, like you said, it’s two to six. And so, although this is happening, it’s still feeling as if you’re going nowhere. Right? And so, what has that been like for you and your husband? How did that impact your relationship? [WHITNEY]: Oh, right. I mean, that and just a special needs child in general, it impacts our relationship all the time. It’s a constant exhaustion. And I had my stepmother actually come visit a few weeks ago, and she was amazed by how much work it was to care for just Abby, that she said, wow, I don’t know how you do this without a live-in person. Like, this is a lot. And then someone else said, yeah, having her is like having twins. And it’s so true. So even in our marriage, it’s really hard to find time together. And when we are there during the day, we can’t really communicate because one of us has to chase my child around the house to make sure she’s not climbing on, jumping off of something, you know? [VERONICA]: Yeah. [WHITNEY]: Yeah. So, it is a season of… I feel like the hardest part for me, and this is where I actually am right now, and it is disconnection, I feel really lonely. I feel a lot of pressure to work a lot, because now we’ve got ABA to pay for, even though the insurance covers it, I mean, it only covers a portion. So, Abby not only has ABA, but she’s got tons of other therapies that I’m constantly coordinating, I have like seven therapists I’m talking to on a regular basis. And so, trying to coordinate all that but then fill in the need to work because I’ve got to make money to be able to pay for all this stuff. And then when I’m not working with her, so it is a constant battle with the emotions and with the time management and with trying to find time with my husband. [VERONICA]: How do you do that? How do you do all of this? So, you know, I’m hearing you and saying that, you know, it’s a struggle, and it’s overwhelming. And I can imagine, I think, from working with other mothers, they experience the sense of mom guilt, because I’m frustrated, and I’m overwhelmed. And I’m frustrated and overwhelmed because of my child. And I feel so guilty in saying that; I felt so guilty because as a mom, no, I should – and they use that word often – I should be able to just love her, I should be able to care for her and I should be able to just pick it up and keep going. And it’s like, wait a minute. No, you’re placing way too many expectations on yourself. And in addition to that, you’re only adding on to that pressure that already exists. Can you speak more to that like, what is that like? That mom guilt, right? [WHITNEY]: Oh, it’s real. Right? It’s real, it’s happening. But I think the key that I have found with all of it is acceptance. That, you know what? It’s normal that I’m irritated that I’m exhausted and that my child wears me out and that sometimes she upsets me. That’s okay. She’s got, I mean, all of our children, we feel that way. Right? [VERONICA]: Absolutely. [WHITNEY]: But especially if you got a special needs child. And so yeah, I could sit and feel guilty about the fact that I feel that way or that I’m irritated with her for waking me up in the middle of the night. But it’s okay. I just start to tell myself that it’s okay that I feel this way; that doesn’t diminish my love for her, my compassion for her. But if we just keep ignoring our emotions, and how we feel, it just balls up inside of us, and it’s going to reflect itself some way. I’m either going to have resentment, or I’m going to be depressed, or I’m going to be angry at my children, and so finding a place that the world’s not so black and white, right? I can be in the gray and I can feel angry at my child and angry at the diagnosis, but I also love her and love her diagnosis at the same time, and that’s okay. [VERONICA]: So, as you’re sharing that, you know, a question that pops up for me is, so being empowered, being unapologetic about all of these things like, this is where it’s at, you know, it’s not so black and white. And I’m gonna have all the emotions, I’m gonna have all these feelings, I’m probably gonna have some doubts and insecurities. How do you do that? How do you deal with that? Because, as clinicians, we’re trained to regulate our emotions, we’re trained to teach other people how to regulate their emotions, and in session, model it for them. How did you get there? Because I know for me, when it’s something very personal, especially with my children, I know for me, it becomes a little bit more difficult to go into acceptance, to start that path. I know for me that there’s even sometimes the emotion comes up so strongly that I might feel like I… I don’t want to say I am at a breaking point, however, yeah, sure, if there’s so many things that I can’t control and there’s so many things that are in other people’s hands, especially when it’s my kids, it’s this kind of feeling of defeat. How did you go from being overwhelmed and feeling defeated and being at the mercy of everyone, to this now stage of, okay, this is where I’m at. I can accept that this is where we’re at. And I can move forward, and I can have these great and not so great days, and that’s okay. How did you do that? [WHITNEY]: You’ve given me a good question. So, I wish I could tell you okay, here’s step one, two, and three, and this is how I got there. [VERONICA]: Yeah. Yes. [WHITNEY]: But it’s not that easy. I do think part of it is logic. I’m a very logical person. And so, when I think about this idea of okay, if my child is throwing a temper tantrum on the floor, and I’m at my breaking point, right? I could either give in to that emotion, have a breakdown with my daughter, or I can just choose to accept it, that I feel terrible, but I’m going to move through this process. And for me, as a believer in God, God helps me through that process, that I know he’s given me this child, this life, this family, and he’s going to help me move through this when I feel all these things. So, part of it is, if I do give in to this overwhelmed feeling and have a breakdown, honestly, it’s not going to be helpful. So, I’d rather just accept that I feel this way and move forward in it. And that’s okay, and give myself grace. I feel like I’m always saying give yourself space and grace. And then just trusting that God’s gonna take care of this for me. [VERONICA]: Has there ever been a time where you doubted him through this process? [WHITNEY]: Oh, yeah. [VERONICA]: Awesome. [WHITNEY]: Girl, all the time. All the time. Just the other night, um, my daughter’s really struggling with her sleep. And that has been really hard as a mother. And so, she wakes up in the middle of the night, she’s up for three hours, and she’ll be in the bed screaming and howling but you can’t get her back to sleep. So, she was up from, I don’t know, 2:15 to 5am I think, and I had to get my other daughter up at like 6:30. So I didn’t get a lot of sleep. And I just sat on the floor and prayed. And I was like, God, this makes me think you’re not real, because you can’t keep my daughter asleep. And you know, I need sleep. Right? But then I have to come back to this idea that, I mean, God’s not someone who’s based on our circumstances. I can’t think that God is one thing, or another based on my child doesn’t sleep through the night. My child just didn’t sleep through the night because she has autism, or because she’s three. [VERONICA]: Yeah. Whitney, can you take us back to when you were there feeling defeated, and you were praying, and you said something so powerful? I feel like… and I don’t want to mess up your words. Did you say, I feel like you’re not real? I feel like or… because you know I need sleep. What were those words that you said? I don’t want to scramble them up. [WHITNEY]: It was probably something like what you just said. I mean, that is how I felt. I was on the floor, head in my hands, God I am angry at you. I am mad that you gave me this child. That’s what I thought. And I hate even saying that out loud. Right? That mom guilt. [VERONICA]: No. [WHITNEY]: But then I moved through it. That, you know what? It is okay that I’m mad. It’s okay that this is hard. This is not how I’m going to feel forever. This is a moment in time. And God has given me this child because he knows that I can care for her. He knows that I can do this, and he knows this is the best for her. So, I’m going to keep going through this day and I might feel terrible, right? Because I’m going to be so tired and overwhelmed. But I’m going to move through this day knowing that God’s gonna take care of it. Actually, it ended up being a fine day. [VERONICA]: That faith is so strong, so strong. And that part where you’re able to go ahead and switch it. Has there ever been a time where it didn’t switch so quickly? Where you were just like, maybe you wanted to run away, you know, maybe you wanted to just like, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t do this anymore. I need to take a timeout. You know, maybe there was, you know, some conflict between you and your husband because I’m like thinking, okay, from this time to this time you still have to go to work. You still have to be a mom; you have to be a wife. You still have to maintain this household. And your daughter is screaming and can’t go to sleep and she’s screaming out of frustration because she’s probably so tired and wants to sleep. And she probably doesn’t even know what the heck’s going on with her either. So, you have your daughter completely frustrated and overwhelmed, and then you’re feeling all of that pain too that you can’t take away from her. Has there ever been a time that that switch wasn’t so fast? I’m stressing this because I feel like, for us moms when we’re in it, we’re in it. And we wish we could switch from point A to point B however, we don’t. We might have a moment where we’re so frustrated, we’re, like, screw this, I’m out, or I’m gonna lock myself in the bathroom and just put on music or do something. But I feel like I’m going crazy. I feel like I’m going crazy because I don’t know what to do. And they might not be able to transition as quickly as you were in that moment when you gave it God, which I think is beautiful. Has there ever been that moment? I’m trying to make sure that, for other women out there, that this is normalized, that you’re going through something very, very difficult and in some cases, even traumatic. [WHITNEY]: Yeah, I got a couple of thoughts here. I hear what you’re saying. And I agree, sometimes it does seem kind of, honestly, trite. But it was, I don’t really know what I’m really trying to say. So, there were… I think where I am now, as far as my ability to trust God with my daughter is because of the life prior to her birth, in the sense of I’ve gone through trials, where I finally came out on the other side, even though it didn’t feel like I was going to. And I think those have helped grow my faith to the point where now I can really believe the things that I’ve just said earlier. I hadn’t really thought about all that, but you asking this question has really brought that up for me. Now, a time where I felt like God was gone. Sure. I feel like those have happened probably… Before my daughter was born, I remember very clearly, we lived out in Colorado at the time and my husband was trying to get a job. He’s actually a minister. And it’s a very long story, but some things did not work out the way that we really believed God wanted to work them out. I felt like the Lord had showed us, these are the things that you’re called into. This is the plan for your life. And some really bad, shady stuff occurred where we didn’t have that happen. And we went through a season of just feeling so distant from God. And it really hurt our marriage. I think that was the worst moment in my marriage. Because my husband was so discouraged, he didn’t want to talk about it. He’d come home and you could just feel that heaviness when he would come home. We had our first daughter then, so she was like, I don’t know, in her first year at some point. And I started to really question this whole thing like, hey, I thought God was real. I thought God existed and this is what I thought I was supposed to be doing, and now it’s not happening. Maybe God’s not real. And I would say, there were months we didn’t go to church, because we didn’t find any help from our community either. It was actually the community we were in that had hurt us so bad. So yeah, I remember feeling that way. It was awful. I felt so distant and I don’t really know how I came out of it. I guess I just kept saying, God, if you’re real, you better show me. You better help me because right now it doesn’t feel like you’re real. And finally, for my husband, he kept applying for jobs. And then it took a year and a half, so the plan that we thought was gonna work out didn’t and then finally something did, and it’s been amazing what has worked out. And I think that has really helped me in my faith as well. [VERONICA]: So, with you and your husband going through that really difficult time, him not wanting to talk about it, and you being in this place where you know, not being able to trust your community, and you had this great amount of faith, and then also questioning, you know, whether or not God was real. How did you guys come together as a couple? Because I know during those times when maybe one person isn’t talking, it makes it really difficult to come together and find some resolution, find some level of connection. What did it take for you guys to come together and be this strong unified team? Or I mean, maybe you weren’t an instant, strong, unified team, but how did you guys get to that step where, okay, this is what happened? We’re going to accept it. This is how we’re going to move on. Was there a conversation? [WHITNEY]: Yeah. You know what, I think a lot of that honestly had to do with my husband and his journey. And I tried to communicate with him. But every time I would bring up what had happened, and the pain that I was experiencing, he didn’t want to go there, because it hurt him so much. And honestly, the situation was more something he went through and I kind of went through it with him, in the pain that I experienced through the community. But he went through it the most. And so, I would keep coming to him because I wanted that community with him. And he wasn’t with me in it. He was on his own little journey. And I kept asking him to invite me into that. And I think he invited me in the best he possibly could. But he really had to go through it himself. So, it was in that moment, I had two other very close mom friends. And I reached out to them and I said, I need you guys. I need someone to hear me through this. And they didn’t have answers, but they just sat with me, they prayed with me, and they loved me. And that was huge, right? [VERONICA]: Yeah. [WHITNEY]: And eventually, through time, I think my husband found his own kind of healing. And it brought us closer together in the long run, like now when we look back on that, I’m like, wow, this has been beautiful, that we went through this together. And I think the same thing about a special needs daughter, that no one gets it the way your spouse does. And yeah, sometimes you’re going to feel distant in a season. And instead of forcing it and getting angry about it, saying, you know what, it’s okay. We’re each going to go through this, and we’re going to come out on the other side. [VERONICA]: Mm hmm. I appreciate that you shared that story because it makes sense. You guys went through that really difficult time together. It kind of sounds like you guys were betrayed by your community. You guys were able to go out and learn and grow and he needed his space. However, although he needed his space, you needed some level of support. You were able to go out and reach out to people to find a community of women that were there for you, and that community being your friends. And so, it sounds like with that, you were able to go ahead and use that time with your current situation and being okay, yes, this is where we’re at right now. And we’ve gone through tougher things, or we’ve gone through something similar, and we were tested. And so, we can utilize this, our past, to go ahead and get through our current situation. How do you and your husband come together when you’re both frustrated? You know, I remember when Aaliyah had just had surgery, she had… like I mentioned, she had reflux, and so she had her ureters realigned and she’s only five so she’s teeny tiny baby. You know, I say that now because she’s seventeen. And I remember… this might be TMI, however I’m going there. I remember, the doctor had said, okay, you know, you’re going to take her home after so many days and we took her home and, you know, we had her little Porta Potty because she would have to go to the bathroom often. And whenever she would urinate there would be blood and so she would freak out. Freak out. And in those moments that she would freak out, she would try to hold her pee, so she wouldn’t go because she freaked out the side of blood. And she couldn’t process like, this is okay, this is just you know, whatever was left from the surgery, she was freaking out and so I’m pregnant from Aubree at the time, and I wasn’t… so I was pretty far along, so I wasn’t supposed to carry Aaliyah and I remember being sleep deprived, because Aaliyah would wake up in the middle of the night, there would be all of these things and I remember being sleep deprived. She would try to go to the bathroom on her own, and it would wake us up. And I remember just picking her up and my husband gets so… I remember Willy would get so upset with me and he’d say, Veronica, put her down, let me carry her. And I just wanted to hold her, and I just wanted her to know that everything was going to be okay. And in so many ways, I wanted to take away her pain. I wanted to take away her pain so badly, because she was freaking out, she didn’t understand. And I couldn’t. And, in that moment, Willy attempted to go ahead and carry her, and it was like, I just want to hold her. And yes, in so many ways I’m possibly affecting my current child that’s in my… but like, there’s probably going to be some impact to… we didn’t have her name figured out by them, but Aubrey. However, for right now, I can hold this one, and the other ones in my belly, so technically, I’m holding her too, right? And so, I just remember feeling so defeated, feeling so defeated that I couldn’t take that pain away from my kid. And Willy wanting to fix it, versus understand, that only frustrated me even more. Did you guys ever have that time and then come back from it? And if so, like, what did that look like in the moment? [WHITNEY]: I don’t have a particular story that I’m thinking of. But I am thinking of times where I felt that sleep deprivation, which really makes for a frustrating time. And it really makes it difficult to communicate with your spouse, much less think clearly. Things that I guess I would say for advice on this is listening to your spouse. You know, that when we’re in that yucky place, it’s hard to think clearly and it’s hard to have these positive thoughts because we start getting into this negative spiral. And our spouse can sometimes see things we can’t see. And remembering that they love us. Like, instead of getting mad at them and thinking, oh, well, he’s just thinking about himself or he doesn’t want to help me, you know what, my husband married me because he wants to help me the rest of my life. And I want to help him, and so being able to listen to one another, even when we’re angry, just trying to do what the other one is suggesting, because it actually might help. And the other part is asking for help. And I do remember… this was probably about six weeks ago, we had another really bad night, and it was Saturday morning, and it was about eight o’clock and I was about in tears. When I get really tired, I just want to cry. That’s all I want to do is sit and cry because I just feel so bad. And my husband looked at me and he could see it all over my face. I’m like trying to hold it together, but all I want to do is sit in a dark room and cry. And he said, let me take the kids for a few hours. I was like singing hallelujah inside, right? And he took the kids, and they were gone for like three or four hours. And I laid in my bed and I went to sleep. And I felt like a different person when I woke up. And I learned through that, you know what? It’s okay. When my husband got back, I felt all this guilt, like, honey, I’m so sorry you had to take the kids. He’s like, what? They’re my kids. You don’t have to feel sorry. You don’t have to feel bad. I want my wife happy. I want you to enjoy being with the kids. And if that means I take them for three hours and I have a good time with them and I come back and you’re happy, that’s awesome. And it really spoke to me about that guilt, that you know what, this is going to make me a better person, a better mom, if I get the help I need and ask for it. And so that is something I’ve really been working on, is knowing that it’s okay and that people want to help. And I’m actually going to be able to care for Anna and Abby better if I get some help reinforcements, you know, reinforcements to help out and that has made a huge difference. [VERONICA]: Yes, absolutely. That takes me to my next question. What do you wish you knew then that you know now? [WHITNEY]: I think I wish I had known, and when I say know, I mean within me, not in my head, because that’s always really hard, for the emotions and the head to align. But I really, really wish I had known that everything was going to be okay. We spend so much time worrying that things won’t be okay. And knowing that they are going to be okay… so when she got diagnosed, I think I kind of knew it. But you still worry, you still worry about how your child’s going to be, and I still do worry sometimes how she’s going to be but worrying is going to get me nowhere. I have to trust that she’s going to be okay; trust that it’s going to work out and trust that we love her, and we have given her the best possible life she can have. And it’s going to be okay. You know, and that I’m a good mother. I feel like a lot of times we think, oh, I should have done more, I could do more. No, I am a good mom and I just had someone the other day, I was talking to a friend, and I was like, having some trouble with my other child. And she said, Whitney, you are a good mother. And anytime you doubt that give me a call. [VERONICA]: I love that. We need to hear it. You know, it’s crazy. You need to hear it. What would you say is the number one thing that’s holding us back from having our children assessed? And I asked that because, you know, you knew early on, you knew something wasn’t right. You went to the doctor, it was confirmed. And sometimes one thing that I’ve been met with for some moms is they’re not ready to have their child assessed, and it’s not that they’re not ready because they’re neglecting their child. However, they’re not ready mentally to go ahead and be in that position where what they’re thinking is confirmed. [WHITNEY]: Yeah, I’m so glad you asked that question because I meant to bring that up at some point. And I hear it all the time. Right? I think I did have an advantage in this in being in the mental health field, because I know that early intervention is key to better success. And I see that in the counseling office all the time; people, unfortunately, wait too long to go to counseling, and then they’re already in a bad place. And if they come in sooner, they could have been in a better place, right? I mean, this is what empowered and unapologetic is all about, is helping people not get to that yucky place. Let’s catch them early. And so, I already had that mindset because of the work I do. And so, I knew that if Abby’s got autism, I’d rather know when she’s two than when she’s three. [VERONICA]: Yes. [WHITNEY]: And if I look back and I say this to moms, get your child tested, you want to know because, think about if I had waited. If I had waited till even right now, she’s three and a half, holy moly, she wouldn’t have started ABA until she was four. And that’s a scary, scary thought. You have to fight so hard to get these treatments, to fill out all the paperwork, to make all the phone calls; get it done sooner rather than later. But I think what really makes people not do it is that fear of what the diagnosis is going to be. And you just got to know that you got to take care of your child. You’ve got to let go. Acknowledge how you feel, but don’t let your emotions and your taboos and your fears not help your child get the help that they need, because you’re actually causing harm by waiting, potentially. [VERONICA]: I’m so glad you said that. I am so glad you said that. Now, next question. What do you say to your child with special needs? What type of conversation do you have with them? [WHITNEY]: Well, we don’t have much conversation yet. She’s still not really talking. [VERONICA]: No, absolutely. [WHITNEY]: What’s really beautiful is we try to treat her like we would, either way, spend time with her, read books with her and do those types of things. So, the conversations aren’t really occurring but there are conversations with my other child, my seven-year-old. She is amazing with her sister, loves her, hugs her, treats her like other kids. But as time is passing, she’s starting to notice that her sister is different, right? I mean, she can’t do some of the things that her other friends sisters can do. And so, we talk with her about that. We talk to her about why Abby has all these therapists come into the house to see her and that she has autism, and Anna is starting to understand the word autism, she’ll say it. And it’s constantly a work in progress. I’m constantly figuring out how to say this, but I feel like it’s more important that we’re talking about it then not talking about it so that Anna understands what’s going on. And I was even just thinking about this this morning, actually, she’s reading this little book about a little girl becoming president or something. And I thought, wow, what if Anna became president and she advocated for her sister? Like, what if she advocated for special needs? And what a beautiful thing that would be. And so, we’re talking about it in the house because I want her to understand what’s going on. And I also don’t want her to feel rejected by Abby, or anything like that when Abby doesn’t reflect back the kind of love that Anna’s trying to give to her, and I also want Anna to know that we love her, even though Abby has to get more attention sometimes, that we still love Anna, because she doesn’t have to go through the challenges Abby has to go through. [VERONICA]: Absolutely. It sounds like education is really key for all of you, right? And for all of us, being able to have those conversations and let them know that there are, yes, there are some differences. However, we can still come together as a family and we can still grow, and we can still understand and connect. It just might be in different ways. [WHITNEY]: Definitely. Yeah. [VERONICA]: I love that you said that. What advice would you give…? So, for the moms that are listening right now, maybe their family member, a friend of someone who has a special needs child, what can they do to help? [WHITNEY]: Yeah, so help that mother anytime you can. I got a girlfriend; her son also has special needs and we were chatting about it. I go to a birthday party, and the struggle is so real. I have to take both kids because my husband’s out of town. And then my oldest one wants to play at the birthday party with the youngest one, I’ve got to chase her the entire time. I cannot turn my head for one second because that could be a very dangerous thing. And so, my child might be throwing herself on the ground screaming crying, and then the other one is crying because she spilled water on her pizza. I cannot possibly care for both of them at that exact moment. And you would be amazed how many parents say nothing. I was like, seriously, do y’all not see what’s going on? Can someone just get off their butt and help me? Like, help. [Unclear] do. [VERONICA]: Yeah. Yeah. [WHITNEY]: When you see a mom, if they’re in crisis or if they’re not, just say, you know what, what can I do to help you? What can I do? Like this weekend my husband’s gonna be out of town. I’m gonna be with both kids. I tried to find a babysitter for a couple hours. I couldn’t find anybody. So now I’ve got this stress of constantly running after my daughter, I’m not gonna be able to do anything at the house. I mean, you can’t fold laundry or anything when she’s awake, I’m gonna be exhausted. And all I would want is someone to say, hey, can I come over for 30 minutes and watch your child so you can take a shower? [VERONICA]: Oh, I love that. [WHITNEY]: So just say, what can I do? Can I come over and sit so that you can do something for a short time, a long time, can I take your child somewhere? Whatever is going to help them, but it is the world of difference when someone offers to help your special needs child because a lot of times you feel like my special needs child is too much for people. And so that makes [unclear]. [VERONICA]: I appreciate that you still ask, you know, cuz I think most moms won’t because of what you just said, I feel like she might be too much for other people. You get to still ask and let that other person determine – as long as you trust them, obviously – but let that other person determine whether or not it’s too much. However, if you don’t give anybody the option to help, then no one will help. And it’s true. It’s important that you do have… it’s important you do have other people, it’s important you do have this other level of support, because, like you’ve mentioned and like you’ve gone over, there’s so many emotions that are involved with this. There’s so many ups and downs. It’s not only your child that needs that assistance. It’s also you. Moms, I feel like we’re these nurturers, and we take things to the next level because we want to take care of everybody. And at the same time realizing we can’t, and practicing self-care, so I love that you ask. [WHITNEY]: Yeah. And that’s my number one advice, if someone could take something away from this, is asking for help and not feeling guilty about it. Like, you know what, I haven’t gone shopping in a while and I really need some new clothes. And I just said to my husband today, I said, you know what, honey, I want to go shopping with my friend. Like, I’ve been feeling disconnected. I haven’t had time alone with a friend in a while. Will you take off half a day of work so I can do this? And he is. He said, sure, I’ll do that for you. And now I’m feeling refreshed and excited that I’m gonna have this time with my friend and so, guys, or ladies, just ask, just ask for help. People actually want to help you. I think I heard on another podcast, it might have been Donald Miller actually. And he said, studies show that people want to be asked to be helpful, but no one wants to ask for the help. So, people would much more want someone to ask them for help, it makes them feel good, you’re actually almost doing them a favor asking them to help you because they want to be available for you. [VERONICA]: Oh, gosh. 100%, especially with you asking your husband to take time off. He’d come home without even knowing that you needed this time off and you’d feel resentful towards him because you did all of the things; that would only impact your marriage significantly and in a negative way because you’re suffering silently and not saying anything. However if you’re able to go in and kind of pass the torch and say you know what, I need a break and I need to go shopping and, again, being unapologetic about that like that’s okay, you’re not a horrible, awful mom just because you decided to practice self-care. If anything you’re a healthy mom who’s going to be able to connect with her kids when you come back at a totally different level than if you’re sleep deprived, frustrated, overwhelmed, there’s going to be some form of resentment. And I don’t think that a lot of women realize that. When we don’t ask for help, when we don’t communicate our needs, we’re just bottling it up. And that’s oftentimes when anxiety and depression, symptoms of anxiety and depression, start to come up. And I mean, I’m sure you’ve seen it in your practice. I see it often. I mean, hell, this is the whole reason why Empowered and Unapologetic exists, is because I’ve seen so many women at their breaking point in my office, just completely defeated, completely stressed. I mean, a totally different level. And it’s like, gosh, if I could have only caught you six months ago. If I could have only been able to help you so many months ago before you lost it, how better you might have been and how these symptoms of depression and anxiety wouldn’t be so overwhelming. It starts with you asking for help. It starts with you identifying that it’s more than you. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re a poor mom, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have everything together. That’s kind of okay that you don’t have everything together because we’re not perfect. [WHITNEY]: That’s right. That’s right. And it really has helped my marriage and helped my overall anxiety level, like reaching out and asking for help. And sometimes that’s getting more nannies on board or getting the husband on board or… we rely a lot on our church community, a lot on friends, but it makes a world of difference. [VERONICA]: Absolutely. So, Whitney, I’m going to close with what are you doing right now to live the life you want to live? [WHITNEY]: What we just said, I’m asking for more help from people. I’m getting over myself, like, I get in the way all the time. And so being able to humble myself and say I can’t do it and that’s okay, and I need help doing this life. It takes a community to be able to do it. And so, reaching out and asking for help is helping me live a better life. [VERONICA]: Absolutely. So, for that stressed and disconnected mom that’s listening to you right now. In one sentence, what would you say to her? If you were talking just to her right now and she was listening, what would you say to her? [WHITNEY]: Ask someone to spend time with you. Yeah, ask someone to spend time with you. [VERONICA]: As you said that, Whitney, my heart, it just… oh my gosh. It didn’t stop, but it was just so profound, because that is so true. That is 100% true, we need it. [WHITNEY]: Yeah, we do it alone for too long. When really, we just need to say to somebody, like I said to my girlfriend, I called her yesterday and said, hey, I feel lonely. Let’s go shopping. So, we’re gonna go shopping. [VERONICA]: I love it. So, Whitney, how can we find you? [WHITNEY]: Yes. So, two places. I have my private practice here in Savannah, Georgia, and that’s Water’s Edge Counseling. So, the website is watersedgecounseling.com. If you want to get in touch with me, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org, but I’m also a consultant with Practice of the Practice. So, I help people nationwide build counseling practices. So, if you have listeners out there who are therapists trying to grow their practices and wanting some consultant with that, they can get in touch with me. We do offer a 30 minute free pre-consultation call if you are interested in doing consulting, and then specifically if there’s counselors out there who have children with special needs trying to build their practices, I could work with them as well, but my email is email@example.com. [VERONICA]: I love it. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for being with us. [WHITNEY]: Girl, it’s an honor and Veronica, just giving her a shout out. She, as a friend, has been huge in my life in helping me to where I am now. All this stuff I’m talking about, Veronica has been an inspiration. So, I love the work you’re doing. And it’s really cool to be able to be on your podcast. [VERONICA]: Thank you. What’s up, ladies? Just want to let you guys know that your ratings and reviews for this podcast are greatly appreciated. If you love this podcast, please go to iTunes right now and rate and review. Thank you, guys. Many women lose their own identity in the shadow of being a mom and a wife. We are a community of women who support each other. We leave perfectionism behind to become empowered and unapologetic. I know you’re ready for the next steps. If you want to become empowered and unapologetic, get my free course, “Unapologetically Me,” over at empoweredandunapologetic.com/course. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests, are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.