These are the lessons I have learned since deciding rip off the bandaid to share both my son’s diagnoses, and our family’s journey, with the world.
- A “label” isn’t always a bad thing – We spent a long time not wanting to “label” our son, and therefore were not straightforward with him, ourselves or others. This came from a place of trying to protect him from the big, bad world, but in the end actually made him (and us) more vulnerable. The day we sat him down and for the first time had a conversation that included the words autism spectrum disorder, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and medication, was actually a good day. We gave our son the words to begin to understand and talk about what he is struggling through. There is both both knowledge and comfort in the labels.
- We are not alone – In the first minutes of linking this blog to my Facebook page, I received private messages from 6 different people talking about their own, or their child’s, experiences with anxiety, panic, depression, sensory processing, and autism spectrum disorders. Within minutes I went from feeling like my world was very small, to realizing that my world was big, and wide, and there are loving arms to hold us up when the burden seems too great. There have also been people who my son admires deeply, who have come to me with their own stories of struggle. Being able to share those stories with my son, along with the knowledge that these are adults who both care about him and can understand what he is experiencing has made parts of his world a little less frightening.
- Being honest, doesn’t guarantee universal understanding – Most people have been amazing, supportive, and understanding. Most, but not all. I have come across skeptics and naysayers. These are the people who even after hearing the diagnoses, still say “but he seems fine,” or “are you sure?”, or “he’s just going through a phase.” No, no, and NO! I am thankful that the amazing, supportive, and understanding people far outnumber the skeptics and naysayers.
Ripping off that band aid was hard. But we did it. It stung a little, but mostly there has been fresh air. And there is so much healing to be found on the other side.