Grieving What You Should Have Been

Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about grief and my experience getting a late diagnosis for both my Autism and ADHD. There are some things that I experienced when I was diagnosed with these that I did not experience with any of my other diagnoses and I want to talk about that experience.

In my mid twenties, I had a neuropsychiatric evaluation because I was having some complex symptoms that could be psychiatric and/or neurologic. The idea for this evaluation was to try to sort out what was really going on and to be sure that the possibility of a neurological cause was not overlooked. This evaluation resulted in me getting numerous diagnoses. I was diagnosed with dystonia, autism, ADHD, OCD and cyclothymia. The OCD was the only diagnosis that I already had prior to that evaluation.

Getting the diagnosis of Autism and ADHD made me reconsider much of my childhood. There were so many things that I have always struggled with and that I considered personal failings. But when I had these new diagnoses, I was able to reconsider that assumption. I began to think of myself as being different rather then being flawed or broken. This was very helpful for my progression towards self acceptance. This was a very positive thing about getting diagnosed.

But there was also another effect these diagnoses had on me. I found myself asking: “What if I had been diagnosed sooner?” or “What if I had been allowed to be what I was naturally?” There is a great deal of research that suggests that those who are diagnosed early in life have much better outcomes then those who are diagnosed later in life. Since I was the poster child for ADHD, I still find it amazing that I wasn’t diagnosed as a child. So the question of “Why was I missed?” also kept coming up for me.

I frequently found myself imagining what I could have been like had I been diagnosed as a child rather then as an adult. Of course, there is no way to ever really know what that self would have been, but that never keeps our brains from imagining up these dream lives that we now feel that we have missed out on. I will never know who I would have been had I been treated as a child. Maybe that person isn’t as good a person as who I am now. No way to know.

The thing is, I still had to grieve for the potential me that never existed. I had to emotionally process all the complex feelings of regret and loss that these diagnoses brought up for me. When I consider this emotional storm that clouded over my life for a time, it is pretty strange. This person I was grieving for never existed and might not have even been a person I would want to be, yet I was angry that I wasn’t given the option of becoming that person. I felt that life had robbed me of the opportunity of becoming my best self.

There was also the strange emotions I felt towards my parents. They did take me to doctors to see if something was wrong with me and I was given some kinds of therapy for deficits that were identified. So, it’s not like my parents didn’t notice that I was different then other kids. Yet, when the doctors told them that there was essentially nothing wrong with me, they believed them. This led to them punishing me frequently for things that were beyond my control. When I was first diagnosed, I felt vindicated. I wanted to yell “See? I wasn’t faking!” into my parents faces. I felt angry that they chose to listen to a stranger (the doctor) rather then me when it came to how I was experiencing the world. I spent much of my childhood being angry at my parents though, so this wasn’t a new emotion for me to feel towards them.

However, there was also this logical part of my brain that asked: “What would I have done?” Truth of the matter is that I don’t know. No one ever told me that my child was normal while my child was telling me that she wasn’t. Had that happened to me, would I have believed her or would I have believed the person who is supposed to be an expert? I don’t know. That’s how my forgiveness for my parents began. I was able to consider my childhood from a parent’s perspective for the first time in my life and it was then that I realized that I don’t know that I would have raised me much differently they had.

Somehow, being able to forgive my parents for not seeing me for what I am was the first step towards me also being able to let go of this idea of having been robbed of my potential to become something more then I currently am. I’m still not entirely sure how those things are connected, but I think it was because I no longer had anyone to blame for it. I think this is the first time in my life that I decided that sometimes shit just happens and it doesn’t need to be someone’s fault. Because it wasn’t anyone’s fault, it wasn’t theft. It was just something that happened to me.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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