Posted by Anonymous.
I am usually very confident about my parenting decisions. I either confidently make the best decision or confidently accept that I cannot do the best thing and that what I’m doing instead is good enough. I think carefully about my choices and usually feel good about the ones I make.
But there is one issue where I waffle, where I feel insecure, where I get defensive, and where I feel guilt over possibly making the wrong choice.
My son is not normal. I hate writing those words. I hate writing them because I reject the concept of normal. Of needing to conform. Of needing to be like and behave like everyone else. That aside, by the standards of the world around us, my five year old son is not normal.
* He has always been a spirited child, by every definition of the term.
* He is an anxious kid. He cannot go to sleep without parental presence at night. He’s just manipulating us people say. But it is more than that. He is truly scared. He sometimes goes through periods of stress where he clears his throat constantly or chews on the collar or sleeve of his shirt.
* He has extreme oral aversions to certain foods and textures. He is not just a picky eater (although he is that too). He will literally gag and have a major panic attack if he puts something in his mouth that his system, for whatever reason, does not like.
* He cannot sit still and cannot wait his turn. Not at school. Not at home.
* He is not yet dry at night.
He could have an anxiety disorder, a sleep disorder, an eating disorder, a hyperactivity disorder.
He is genetically predisposed to this. My husband and his father both suffer from anxiety. I have always had sleep issues. My brother and I were the weird kids in school, the ones shuffled off to “special” activities for the socially inept. There could be other explanations too, not necessarily that caused the issues my son is facing (since these things do tend to be genetic), but that perhaps exacerbated them. Things like the amount of stress I dealt with during my pregnancy (two very traumatic events).
I know that mental illness is very real. I have friends who deal with it everyday. I have friends who have successfully taken medication to deal with their illness (be it ADHD or anxiety or other) and have gotten their lives under control. I have seen them on and off their meds and I’ve seen the difference it makes. I know the disease is real. I know medication can make a difference.
Yet I hesitate to seek a diagnosis for my son.
* I hesitate because of the label. I worry about how it would make him feel (right now he is confident, likes himself a lot and has no inkling that he might not be like every other kid in every way). I worry about how others would treat him. That worry comes from how I was treated when I was sent off to special activities at school. Believe me: the other kids knew the difference between the times I was sent out for advanced French and when I was sent out to learn how to be more normal. Maybe if I felt like I benefited from it, I would feel differently. But I got the label of being odd without the benefit of anything that truly helped.
* I hesitate because he is doing well in his school. Despite the fact that he cannot sit still in class, he is excelling academically, he loves his teachers and they love him, he has friends, he enjoys himself and they cater to his needs. However, it is a small school that does not have the resources to deal with learning disabilities and a label or diagnosis could result in him having to leave the school. Am I sure he would have to? No. Do I want to ask outright? No. I think that would draw attention to the possibility and result in them asking him to be assessed. I know he would not thrive in our local public school for many reasons and I don’t want to have to send him there because of a diagnosis.
* I hesitate because we’re making progress. He tried two new foods in the past two weeks. That may be more than he has tried in the past two years. We no longer have to lie down with him for him to go to sleep. We can now sit on a chair outside his room with the door open and read something while he goes to sleep without him having a major panic attack. He hasn’t had any episodes recently of obsessive throat clearing or other tics.
While I understand how medication can help other people (and have seen it help other people), I think that if he can learn to deal with his anxiety and his aversions and his hyperactivity, if he can get it under control himself with our help, then he will be better off in the long-term. I’ve seen people do well on medication, but I’ve also seen what happens when they go off their meds because the side effects get to them or because they just don’t want to anymore.
Could therapy help? Maybe. But I don’t have a lot of trust in the medical establishment and, as mentioned above, I worry about the label and what that would do to him personally and to his school situation.
Do I sound confident about my choice? If I do, I faked you out the way I fake myself out every day.
I hated being labeled. I felt restricted by it. As soon as I was out of the environment where I was the “special” kid, I excelled. My husband on the other hand has never had any treatment for his anxiety and still suffers from it today. It isn’t debilitating, but it does create challenges for him sometimes.
There are good days, where I feel like I am making the right choice. Days where we see progress. Days where he seems like a normal kid. But there are also days where I feel like I am making the wrong choice. Where he would be happier and feel more in control if he were medicated and able to control his emotions and his impulses.
I feel guilty about not seeking a diagnosis. But I would also feel guilty about seeking a diagnosis. I feel trapped.