The Diagnosis

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by RI Editors

This guest essay in our Peculiar Minds series, is anonymous.

the_snow_storm_by_anugerah_ilahiI’m sitting on an old metal school chair, the ones made for small children. I remember hating these chairs as a child, always trying to find a bigger one. I felt so small as a child; I fought anything that made me feel smaller. Now I’m back in the dreaded chair in this strangely gray room. Gray carpet with small blue spots cover the floor, a rough office weave. It doesn’t invite you to sit and play with a child. It seems to discourage it very thoroughly. The walls seem a dull, dirty, brown as if smoke and grime have been collecting there for years, a dirty unbroken brown. There are no pictures, no bright spots of joy to relieve the gray-brown gloom. I always pictured places like this as depressingly bright. With flowers and rainbows everywhere, a little girl’s drawings brought to life. Instead it’s depressingly dim.

I’m sitting in this room with all these doctors, waiting for them to tell me what they’ve learned about my son. My 12 year old son. My son who overdosed on prescription sleeping pills two weeks ago. He’s been in the psychiatric ward for two weeks now. Two weeks of yelling, anger and accusations from him, and his father. His father says, “It’s your fault these things are happening!”

It’s snowing outside, big flakes; they remind me of down coming out of a pillow that ripped when I played with him when he was four. They call out like they did when I was young, for a snow ball fight, a snow man, or snow angels. The flakes look as big as cotton balls but lighter and softer. They drift down so slowly it seems like winter in slow motion, like life has slowed to a crawl. I almost expect them to stop falling and return to the white clouds above, reversing time as they go up, a wishful longing for easier times. They’re so soft and welcoming compared to this room, with the hard, painful school chairs and the gray chill.

My mind is wandering. I’m trying to avoid the reality of this situation. “Pay attention,” I tell myself.

They announce: “Autism, Depression, and ADHD combined.” How can that be? He’s had therapy and psychiatric visits since he was 3. How could they miss something this big for so long? I knew something more was going on . I knew there was something different, something more. “Hyperactive,” is what they said.

All of these thoughts echo in my head while the chair, that stupid chair, cuts into my back.

The snow outside is no longer welcoming but a weight that will bury me. The flakes hiss as they fall against the window, menacing, angry. The storm has changed now. The flakes come down heavy and fast as if Mother Nature is trying to have her turn yelling too. I feel so cold now as if the windows offer no protection from the winter wind. The same wind that seems to be driving the snow into a white, swirling vortex that is hungry for the little warmth I have left. I huddle as far from the windows as the small school chair will allow, clutching my husband’s hand which seems to be the only spot of warmth in the room.

He is yelling now, what do I do? Calling me names and arguing with the doctors. Can’t he see how his son is reacting? The struggle he’s having not to break down? I put my arm around my son, he’s still so small for twelve. I struggle to see him as the young man that he is becoming. I still see the gentle eyes that at two, looked up at me pleading to help him understand what these changes were in his life, ones that no two-year-old could understand. I always feared that I had caused his problems by handling the ugly divorce wrong. Had I done enough to shield him from the anger and resentment on both sides? How could I have helped that small, happy boy keep the smile that melts my heart? The warmth from his body slowly seeps into mine. He looks up at me and tries to smile, while tears shimmer in his eyes. Tears that he refuses to let fall, he’s too grown up for that now.

The snow falling outside looks lighter and brighter again. Not like the gentle feather down of before, but not the threatening, heavy cold either. It seems in the middle, just what it is, good and bad. An opportunity to play and be happy as I was as a child and a deadly peril to anyone not wary of the danger, like the winter storms that give our desert precious water in the dry hot summer. This will give me the knowledge to help him flourish when all other help has vanished and he feels as barren as the desert in July. There will be trickles of that love and knowledge that I can give that will show him that there is still life and joy even in the barren desert, because there was this vicious and gentle storm now.

Image credit: The Snow Storm, by Anugerah Ilahi


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4 Responses to The Diagnosis

  1. Jendoop says:

    I’m sorry for all that you and your son have been through. I hope he is getting the help he needs. You are a good mom, doing what you can. Thank you for being willing and courageous enough to share your story. <3

  2. misssrobin says:

    What a beautiful story of a mother’s love. I’m sorry for all the things that made this so difficult. I’m glad you have answers. I’m glad your son has you and you have him. May you be blessed with strength, wisdom, and peace along this path.

  3. Bonnie says:

    What a journey to have to travel. As those of us who haven’t traveled it read, we can think proactively of better ways to be supportive. I hope the journey has grown easier over time, revealing more and more wonders in your winterland.

  4. Paul says:

    Learning a diagnosis is a complicated matter; there is comfort in naming something and there is terror in understanding the implications. Best to you in your journey.

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