mother and daughtersWhat 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.

13 thoughts on “reflections

  1. Autism being my area of specialty in my career being said….the criteria to dx in females didn’t even exist back then asked the presentation is so different. No one would have listened to you. The dx of someone high functioning also was difficult at that time (I know, as my son is 27 now and I know your girls are older than him).
    Our children were our responsibility, yes….however they are independent human beings.
    We can always ask what if, but it’s never helpful. Don’t ask it and look to the future instead.
    I am grateful for every experience of my life, good and bad, because without them I would never be where and who I am, including my experience of visiting you.
    Lissy xx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s not your fault the autism wasn’t caught sooner. It presents differently in girls of all ages and that article even suggested there’s a different phenotype. They’d be looking at the symptoms boys exhibit rather than knowing girls present it differently.

    Despite everything that happened in childhood with how your illnesses affected us we came out of it okay and I wouldn’t change anything. All of our experiences have made me the person I am today and I like who I am. I wouldn’t want to be any different.

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  3. I just started following your blog and it has already become a favorite. I (age 58) too, look at our grown daughters (30, 28, 23) and while we can say they are all successful, they have their share of issues and I often wonder how many of them are a product of their parent’s relationship/personalities/genetics? While being recognized once as a “Family of The Year”, we could have been acknowledged as the “Dysfunctional Family of The Year” just as easily.

    I remember when I realized my parents (now 88/87 years old) were not perfect and I suppose someday, I’ll ask my girls when that moment came for them? I think these things pass down from one generation to the next… I kinda recall how both sets of my grandparents treated their children, how that translated into how my parents treated us and how we treat our kids…we model what we experienced.

    I encourage my girls to see the ways we failed and to break the generational change. If I only knew 40 years ago, what I know today. . . I would have done so many things differently. So while we may not be defined in the DSM, there are lots of “What if?” moments for me.

    Thank’s for hosting the conversation and I look forward to participating as time goes on.

    Liked by 3 people

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