Friend not foe

About 8 years ago my 10 year old son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He had been deathly ill for weeks, we had no idea why and it wasn’t until I posted how much weight he had lost on facebook that a friend of mine from all the way in Australia called me to say “rush him to the hospital right now” — we did, he was ambulated with bells and lights to the city and the best pediatric endocrinologist in the maritimes was there waiting for him.

It was incredible the change that came over him when he got some insulin into him — I’ll never forget it. It was a life changing moment for our son and our family. One that has a lot of negatives that come with it — but there have also been some things that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I can remember one of his well visits to clinic when the doctor said to me that she thought he was doing so well because we didn’t treat diabetes as the enemy. We weren’t constantly fighting it. We decided at the beginning that this was our new reality, that diabetes was a new passenger on our journey and while we weren’t thrilled it was there we did now include it in every decision we made.

I felt similarly when my daughter was diagnosed with autism at 18. I had begged the school and the therapist to help us, to test her, to diagnose her, to give us answers. It wasn’t until after she returned from a school trip to NYC and had multiple meltdowns that we were finally convinced that an autism diagnosis was the direction we were headed. When it finally came we were all so relieved. Diagnosis does not give you the disease or the condition that is finally identified. Diagnosis gives you the ability to name, face and deal with what has been vexing you. It may not be a friend, but we have found that treating it as such, instead of as an enemy to fight with constantly gives a shift in perspective that brings the ability to be intentional and responsive to the needs that arrive, instead of reactionary and playing defense all of the time.

I have lived with my constant companion of autism for 50 years. My diagnosis will only be a flag stuck into the ground of the place where I stand. I have been walking with this all my life. It’s time I knew it’s name.

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