Another diagnosis and a surprise

Throughout my life I’ve had an overwhelming sense that something was wrong with me. This feeling has followed me everywhere. I’m not sure entirely where it came from, maybe I just had a sense of being different, of not quite fitting in, and I translated that into “something is wrong.”

I know I was a difficult child. My parents made no effort to hide the fact that they struggled with me as a kid. My dad used to like to tell the story of the time we first visited New York and I was jumping off the walls so much he had to hold me down to keep me still and get me to fall asleep. I was about six. Then there was the time when I broke my milk cartoon bird house over the head of another student at school. I was about seven then. I was “strong willed”, “too sensitive”, bossy, stubborn, argumentative, unfocused. I was not an easy child.

And I have a son just like me.

When Thad was young there were moments when I thought he would literally drive me crazy. I used to say, “Sage is non-verbal, and non-mobile, but Thad is my difficult child.” At various times I would become convinced that he had ADHD, or was maybe even on the spectrum. But, I never had him tested, because….well, with everything else in our lives, it never felt urgent. Thad was fine.

Until this last year.

Last year he started having problems at school. Mostly behavioral, but I could see his grades weren’t quite what they used to be either. He hated school, struggled with his teachers constantly, and was regularly in trouble. He was frustrated. His teachers were frustrated. And I tried to brush it off as something that would just get better on it’s own.

Then at the end of the year someone from the school called and asked about having some testing done. She and I had a very honest conversation and by the end of it I knew I couldn’t brush this off. I had been failing Thad in the face of everything else going on with Bryan and Sage. It was time to do something.

So, I made an appointment with a psychologist.

Bryan and I went and talked with them, and then filled out a bunch of assessments. Thaddeus spent half a day with them taking tests and playing games. At the end of it all we were given two things, one a diagnosis that my gut had already known, but my brain needed time to process, and the other a surprise.

Thaddeus was diagnosed with ADHD.

This was not a surprise. We already suspected as much. But, it still took me awhile to be able to process it. When it was just a suspicion it was something I could ignore. Now that I had an official diagnosis in writing, I knew I couldn’t ignore it.

For the first few weeks, I couldn’t read the assessment. It just felt too overwhelming. I couldn’t deal with one more thing I had to figure out, learn about, advocate for. I just couldn’t. Gradually, as I became more comfortable with the idea, I became relieved and grateful that we did this testing and that we do have this diagnosis. A whole new world of resources and help has opened up for us. Help I didn’t know existed when Thad was young and driving me crazy. Help I wish I had known about sooner.

I can’t beat myself up for the past. What’s done is done. But, now, I do wish that we had done this testing sooner. I wish I had known some of these things about how his brain works when he was younger.

I’m glad I know now.

The second thing to come out of this testing was a surprise, that wasn’t fully a surprise to me either, although the extent of it sort of came as a shock.

We’ve always known Thad was smart. But now we know he’s really smart. The psychologist said Thad tested in the top 1% for his age and even tested out of the vocab test he gave. Of course, any parent loves to hear that their kid is smart, but there’s also a level of panic that comes with hearing your kid is this smart.

How do we deal with that? How do we encourage that, without overbuilding ego or pride? How do you parent when your child can already use reason and logic against you and isn’t satisfied with anything short of a fool proof argument for why he can or can’t do something? I really don’t know.

Bryan and I sometimes joke that cancer is the worst club with the best people. Getting a diagnosis can feel like joining a club you didn’t have a choice in joining. And it feels a bit like we joined two more clubs we didn’t have a choice in joining this summer. The ADHD club and the exceptionally smart club. Hey, they’re way better than the cancer club, but it still feels a bit like being thrown into the deep end when you don’t know how to swim.

So, here’s to figuring out how to swim in these new waters, getting the lay of the land in this new club, and to throwing out the term “difficult” and embracing Thad for all the wonderful complexity that is him.

Grace and peace,