Ezra,  Family,  Health, Wellness, & Self Care,  Little Brother,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings,  Special Needs Parenting

Money & Mental Health (the things I don’t want to talk about)

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I spent almost the entire day yesterday on Indeed.com. I spent the last three hours of the day looking at disability grants and scholarships. My eyes are blurry, my head aches, and I’m really not any closer to answers. The short story is that our family is in a bit of a money crisis. But that’s most definitely the short story…

If you have known our family for a while, your wheels might be turning. Why now? I thought you guys were doing great! Didn’t your husband get a promotion? Didn’t you buy a house? 

And those answers would be yes and yes. But just as there is a silver lining to every cloud, there is a shadow to every ray of sun. So let me take you back a few years:


My husband just got out of the Army and is making $15/hr at a call center. We are living in an 850 square foot apartment. Other than my husband, who can get healthcare at any VA facility, we have no healthcare or insurance. We are broke broke broke.

Over the next year, God provides

  • VA disability for my husband who is considered to be 60% disabled due to service-connected issues
  • A VA Caregiver Support Program stipend of $500/month and FREE (no monthly cost) healthcare for me through the CHAMPVA program. My only costs are a 20% coinsurance with a yearly max of $3000 out-of-pocket cap
  • Medicaid for Ezra (and then, eventually, LB)
  • A rental home from family with over 1800 square feet of space for $600/month
  • A new government job for my husband with ability for upward movement
  • A great fit in a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at a church counseling center who was seeing us pro bono (for a while) and then at a reduced rate for nearly two years

And so, our money problems got better.

Medicaid covered ALL of Ezra’s early therapy expenses, and gosh I have NO idea what our life would look like now if they hadn’t. They covered 6 months of inpatient therapy, 8 months of in-home therapy, about a year of outpatient therapy, 3 years of occupational therapy, psychiatry visits, medication, and more. EVERYTHING WAS FREE. When he was six, he switched over to NC Health Choice – instead of medication being free, we had to pay $1. A DOLLAR.

My caregiver stipend and CHAMPVA healthcare allowed me to be able to have another baby.

We did responsible, grown-up things like buying a minivan (2016, which we paid off immediately) and, eventually, a new home (2017).

Each year, since 2014, my husband got a bit of a pay bump. In 2017, he got a promotion and a new position. It’s a good thing because that house payment is about $500 more than what we had been paying in rent. 

And then… dun dun dun…

The VA looked at his “successes” and determined that I was no longer really acting in a caregiver role. I didn’t matter that there are still days he calls in sick due to anxiety and had six weeks of PANIC ATTACKS and had to go on Clonozepam to get through the training and first few weeks of his new position. They see a vet who is functioning better and better each year. And YAY, right? So they booted me out of the Caregiver Support Program, meaning I lost my free healthcare AND my $500/month stipend.

The following year, we also lost Medicaid coverage for our boys because we now make too much money. 

Yes, we have healthcare through my husband’s work. But CHOOSING a plan was a nightmare because as beneficiaries of Tricare Prime, ChampVA, and Medicaid, we know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about things like deductibles, HSAs, FSAs, and in-network vs out-of-network providers. It’s like trying to make a VERY IMPORTANT DECISION when everything is in Greek and you don’t know Greek. I thought we had a good plan (our mother-in-law helped talk us through it), but now I’m wondering if we need a change. I have no brain cells left to look over the paperwork…

This means that there are $25 or $50 co-pays for doctor visits and psychiatry visits…when before they were FREE.

This means that Ezra’s medications and my medications (because yes, I’m still on Zoloft and IBS meds, because STRESS) cost upwards of $100 per month…when before they were FREE.

The LMFT that Russ and I were seeing for marriage counseling moved her practice and was too far away to see for the last two years. I cried tears of joy when I found out she had moved her practice BACK to our town. Just as quickly, we discovered that she no longer does pro-bono or reduced rates, she’s out-of-network, and her rate is $120 per session. But she’s a wonderful therapist and has worked with us for two years, and people don’t know how much that is worth…so we are still seeing her every 6-8 weeks.

We recently decided, since Ezra’s new DMDD diagnosis, to resume counseling and also try neurofeedback therapy, an up-and-coming treatment for ADHD. Again, I cried tears of joy when I discovered that the outpatient Licensed Professional Counselor he had seen off and on from 2015-2017 was a neurofeedback provider and willing to work with Ezra again. Just as quickly, I discovered that she is also out-of-network, and her rate is $90 per session. We have three appointments scheduled for March 2019.

Related: Why it’s so hard for special needs families to find the right therapist

Last fall, we were having a lot of problems with Ezra at home AND a lot of issues with Little Brother, who was NOT doing well in private preschool and at-risk of expulsion. So, we were THRILLED when we found an amazing brand-new organization that has both an preschool program AND an afterschool program. This program also “just so happens” to be run by a Christian lady who lives on our street.

Applied Family Services Winston Salem After School Program

Applied Family Services Winston Salem After School Program

Applied Family Services Winston Salem Preschool

Sensory friendly preschool class for children with social delays ages three and four! Classes will maintain a low student-to-teacher ratio as we integrate social skills through a preschool curriculum. Four days per week for 3.5 hours. $315 per month.

After-school program for grades K-5. The program runs Tuesday- Thursday from 3:00pm-5:30pm. There will be an emphasis on: Social Skill  Development, Homework Assistance, Nutrition Expansion. $100-300 per month (based on how many days the child attends – Ezra currently is going twice a week). $200 per month.

I cannot put into words how wonderful these programs have been for our family.

Applied Family Services Winston Salem Preschool

Applied Family Services Winston Salem After School Program

Applied Family Services Winston Salem After School Program

Applied Family Services Winston Salem After School Program

Applied Family Services Winston Salem After School Program

You can read a little bit more about how it has helped my boys get along here in this post: I cleaned the play room today: here’s what I realized about my boys

This organization is also running a SUMMER PROGRAM. Preschool summer camp is four weeks, five days a week, four hours per day. $160 per week. Grade school summer camp is six weeks, five days a week, six hours per day. $180 per week. 

Our debt has also been climbing, because LIFE IS EXPENSIVE. Like over the last six months…

  • A tree fell on our house and our insurance only covered $400 of the repairs. Out of pocket cost for us was over $700.
  • LB ended up in the ER needing six stitches for jumping on the bed. ER co-pay: $150.
  • The van needed new tires because they were dangerously bald. $460
  • My husband’s vehicle is completely dead. We bought a vehicle off of our in-laws that we still owe them for, plus over $300 for registration and title and all of that.
  • I needed a root canal and a crown on one of my teeth and my dental benefits only cover cleanings. Cost for that is going to be close to $2000 by the time all the steps are done.
  • I had to pay $228 back to my college for registration fees for a class I had to drop when I couldn’t hack the stress.
  • We just (this month) finished off paying off the $3000 we owed the hospital for when I ended up in the ICU two years ago.

And yes, we have done some things to invest in our family’s overall well-being…like my husband and I going away for a night for my birthday and our 11th anniversary…or spending money at the ice rink for exercise doing something that Ezra and I love…or paying for a summer pool membership at our neighborhood pool.

So it’s not like we are dirt poor and need money for the basics like food and shelter.

We’ve cut money where we can:

  • I canceled ad-free Pandora and YouTube TV
  • Russ worked a bunch of overtime over the last few months
  • We kept Christmas very small this year. I bought presents at Goodwill.
  • I started shopping at Lidl
  • I’ve even started picking up groceries at the Dollar Store.
  • We’ve cut back on extras like Chickfila and ordering pizza once or twice a month.
  • I used a 50% off Groupon to get my hair done on my birthday.
  • We didn’t get family pictures taken this past fall.

We don’t have a cable subscription. We don’t spend money on alcohol. We don’t have a big-screen TV. TMobile pays for our Netflix. Our boys watch little shows on a 1st generation iPad with a cracked screen that’s mounted on LB’s bedroom wall, and they listen to Grandma Jeannie stories on a 1st Generation iPad and an old iPhone 4 that sometimes has a messed up touchscreen. My wonderful handheld vacuum doesn’t hold a charge more than a minute, but I’ve put off replacing it even though I need a new one. We give 10% of our income to our church and supporting two missionary families.

But being a family that faces serious mental health and behavioral health issues is costly. Staying sane costs money.

We have come SO FAR and made so many strides. We have a WONDERFUL team in our corner who helps us get through our oft-challenging life. But good help costs money.

I have put off writing this post for months.

There are so many families worse off than ours.

We aren’t asking for basics. 

There’s more we could do to save money. I know it.

I can’t ask people for money when I went ice skating this week…when I bought a soda at the gas station…when Russ took the boys to see the Lego Movie…when I got my hair cut and highlighted…when my husband took me away for my birthday…

If I were working harder on my blog and affiliate marketing we wouldn’t have this problem.

Maybe we just shouldn’t have our kids in these programs. Maybe I should get a job. Maybe I should homeschool.

But I recently had a friend who went through something similar. She’s a Christian, white, middle-class mama like me with two special needs kiddos. She has severe anxiety. Her husband has mental health issues. And she did something radical and asked for financial help from her friends and family. Her words echo in my heart:

I considered the various evaluations and therapies our family needed to pursue. The math, the pieces we didn’t foresee being covered by insurance. The loans we’d need, how many years — decades maybe — they’d take to pay off.

And then, in my gut, this undeniable nudge that I still believe came from the Holy Spirit:

Ask. Your friends love you.

Oh you guys, I wrestled, squirmed, questioned God. Began a conversation with Stan. And it was one of the most uncomfortable things we’ve ever done, but we asked.

We started a GoFundMe Campaign, and despite our messiness and our inability to share many details for the sake of protecting our kids’ privacy to some extent, our friends and family were so very generous to us.

It just undid me, seeing the funds come in that allowed us to begin the specific therapies that we needed. We didn’t raise our 40 grand, but through your prayers and gifts, God provided enough to get us started with many vital treatments.

The Difference A Year (of asking for help) Can Make

So, I’m following her lead and I’m asking. Thank you for your prayerful consideration in this matter.

Money & Mental Health (the things I don't want to talk about): Support Our Family


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