TRAVERSE CITY — Three years ago, Carl Everson had a lot of time to think.
He had just had a cancerous kidney removed and was confined to a hospital bed for two days. His marriage was faltering and problems seemed insurmountable with their two special needs sons, Daniel and Kelly, both in their 20s.
Daniel’s two young step-children also needed their help since neither parent could provide the care they needed.
“After I did a lot of praying, I realized there was something else going on,” he said. “You don’t pray for material things. You pray for wisdom and guidance and strength, and I learned to live one day at a time.”
Since then, he said, the couple has never felt more unified, he said.
Carl and René Everson said their journey has been a hard one, starting when their first son, Daniel, was born 27 years ago. The couple knew something was wrong and struggled for years to get help for their behavioral problems.
“They would hit me, kick me, throw chairs at me,” Rene’ said. “They took a wooden board and one was going to crack the other over the head.”
The Child Guidance Center prescribed “high potency, anti-depressant medications” when they were around five and seven, Carl said.
“At the peak, they were on four different ones. Four,” Carl said. “We sat one Christmas, and watched our two boys sit on the sofa while everyone else was excited. They unwrapped the gifts with no enthusiasm like they were in a trance. ‘What are we doing, medicating our children to put them in a trance? This isn’t right.’”
Rene’ began researching the Internet and surmised they might have bipolar disorder. She talked about it with a doctor, who agreed and took them off most of their medications. Meanwhile, the couple worked on behavioral strategies.
“I’ve learned over the years, talk softly, quiet, lower your voice, and with Kelly, it’s a lot of touching the arm,” she said. “Letting him know I love him. Daniel, anymore, lots of hugs. A hug is the best thing.”
Rene’, who works at the UPS Store in Traverse City, said the struggles weren’t only with the boys, but also herself. She often compared them to her sister’s children, who excelled in school.
“It was wrong for me to say it, but I often thought, ‘Why did she get the perfect life?’” she said. “But now I’m realizing the way my life is the way it is. The dear Lord made my boys special in a lot of ways. And He made me be a special person in order to handle them.”