What nobody told me about having adult children, is that they will inadvertently cause me to examine my own childhood traumas as well as magnify my failings as a parent through self-reflection. While I do understand that I did the best I could with the knowledge that was available at the time while dealing with my own mental illness, I see the amazing advocacy my eldest daughter does for her sons and can’t help but get stuck in a downward spiral of if-only.
These two strong women have fought their way to adulthood despite the rocks that have been pelted at them along the way. There were so many nights in the ER that I believed my younger daughter wouldn’t make it into adulthood, yet she has come so far through her own fight to survive. A few years ago my older daughter left her own domestic violence situation and has been fighting tooth and nail for her boys to get the help they need (while going to graduate school). Through them, I have learned about late diagnosed women with autism spectrum, autism in general, Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes, and a variety of other physical and mental issues I had no idea even existed.
Yesterday, my younger daughter (28 yrs old) received a diagnosis confirming that she is on the autism spectrum and my eldest brought up an interesting point: “I imagine if I were you I’d be thinking what if I had caught this earlier? And that would be difficult to feel.” Of course I replied flippantly “That’s the least of my guilt for my children.” But then I started to really think about the ramifications of my lack of knowledge as a young parent as well as the insufficient resources of my own parents, even though my father was a physician. We did not have the internet, nor any way to research symptoms or diagnoses other than to rely on our peers or our physicians.
Each time one of my girls has told me about a new diagnosis, I have examined my own life and frailties. Once I accepted that it’s pointless to berate myself for failings as a parent over which I had no control, I started wondering if there’s really any point of bringing these things up with my own physicians or psych team at this stage of my life. While these diagnoses could explain quite a few things about my ridiculous body and brain that have never quite made sense, I can only see that this knowledge would be helpful if I can find a way to incorporate what I’ve learned moving forward on my own. I have physically and mentally had to adapt to my limitations for so long, would having what one might consider accurate diagnoses really make a difference? And other than being required for insurance, can attaching a DSM-5 approved word to a complicated individual really help improve one’s quality of life?
As I battle the what-ifs, I find myself mired in this cesspool of labels, desperately trying to make sense of the remainder of my life.