THE DAY AUTISM, ODD, DEPRESSIVE DISORDER, MOOD DISORDER, OCD, AND BIPOLAR DISORDER KNOCKED ON OUR DOOR

We struggled through 10 long years of what we refer to as “different” behaviors from our son Nathan along with countless medical and psychological evaluations, referrals, and mountains of paperwork before receiving a definitive diagnosis.

I’ll never forget that day! There I sat, all alone in a conference room. My husband, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was preparing for yet another deployment so he couldn’t attend the diagnosis meeting. Seated across the table was an entire team of doctors and nurses, all with varying degrees of psychiatric/psychological expertise.

So MANY different emotions raced through my entire body. I felt a deep sadness in my heart BUT extremely happy in my mind, if that makes sense. I just knew that this had been a long time coming and these people were about to tell me what Nathan’s “different” was.

Dr. J, the head doctor on the team, cleared his throat as the registered nurse who was sitting next to him stood and seemingly glided across the room gently placing a box of Kleenex tissues in front of me. The box was blue and purple. I’ll never forget the colors of that box. It became my point of focus as I sat in silence with a huge lump of absolutely nothing yet it felt like a huge lump of absolutely everything somehow suspended in my throat. 

As the nurse returned to her chair, Dr. J spoke in the most gentle voice barely above a whisper. My eyes switched focus, he was now the center of attention not the Kleenex box.

He said, “Erica, we have exhausted all means of research, we’ve combed through all of Nathan’s medical records and evaluations, we’ve assessed him and his thought processes by conducting our own psychiatric and psychological as well as medical and educational evaluations.” The lump in my throat grew and I felt my posture change. I almost felt as if I was literally sitting on the floor. After all of these years, all that was between me and a definitive diagnosis for Nathan was a few moments in time and a Kleenex box placed on a large brown table.

Dr. J took a deep breath and said, “Nathan is on the autism spectrum, he has Pervasive Developmental Disorder, NOS.” I sighed, thinking that it was all over, my legs crossed and nervously knocking against that large brown table. For a moment my eyes locked directly with Dr. J’s eyes and he said firmly “But there’s more! Nathan also has Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Depressive Disorder, Mood Disorder, he’s displaying signs of compulsive behaviors, and I’m all but certain Bipolar Disorder BUT I’m reluctant to attach that diagnosis given his age.”

My heart was racing. It was at that moment I realized why the nurse had gently placed the box of Kleenex in that very spot. I took in a humongous breath and loudly let it all out. Then came the tears, uncontrollable tears. They streamed down my face, onto my neck. I felt what seemed to be complete wetness around the entire top half of my body. I felt my bottom lip tremble, my heart breaking from the inside out, sadness and confusion. I was trying to form the words to pray because one thing was for sure, in that very moment, I needed guidance. What did this mean for my child? What did this mean for my family?

The nurse stood and glided across the floor once again this time taking a seat next to me and placing her hand gently on my shoulder as Dr. J continued to give me the basis for each diagnosis. As he laid it all out, I realized that he was describing my Nathan. His diagnosis was spot on as if Nathan was the “poster child” for every single disorder.

My eyes shifted focus back to the Kleenex box. The strokes of blue and purple seemed somewhat safe as if I could just rest there for a moment. In that moment, I prayed quietly to myself. “Lord, I need you right now. I need to feel your presence. I can’t do this without you. I’m not even sure that I can speak another word or even find the strength to stand without you. Lord, I need you!”

The nurse’s grip tightened on my shoulder and I felt my legs stop moving. They were no longer knocking against the table. I felt this immeasurable sense of calmness and peace. My posture straightened and with my chin lifted high, I communicated that I fully understood each diagnosis pertaining to Nathan. Dr. J continued speaking, “He will never do this. He is not capable of doing that. You might want to consider lowering your expectations.”

He passed me the super thick packet containing all of Nathan’s evaluations and an explanation of each diagnosis. We scheduled Nathan’s next counseling session and everyone seated at the table stood. 

It was in this very moment that I knew that I had a choice to make. I could continue to sit and wonder OR I could rise and do everything in my power to ensure that my son didn’t become a statistic. A “given his full diagnosis, he probably won’t ever” statistic… I rose!

10 Comments:

  1. I have no words. Tears, sadness, tears of praise, tears of Blessings for you and your son. You both are Beautiful and Brave. May God continue to give you strength.

    • Thanks for your encouraging words! We’re still taking it one day at a time. Lots of grace all around! God has truly smiled on us! Be Blessed!

  2. I LOVE that you wrote this today of all days. Just a few hours ago I was thinking of you and your Nathan (I’m a silent watcher of your YouTube channel) as I got a call from the school for the 3rd time this week about my (soon to be adopted) son’s behavior. We know he is “different” but are just starting down the path to find out the reasons why. In those tough moments I remind myself of you and your son and am reminded of the potential that lies inside him. Thanks for being an encouragement and a light of hope for our family!

    • I’m thankful that sharing my truth made your day a bit easier. Remember to take it one day at a time with loads of grace. Your sweet boy is going to need you now more than ever. Be Encouraged!

      P.S. Thanks for hanging out with us over on YouTube!

  3. Karla from Unschooling the Sensational Six

    💗 I understand! #6kids

  4. I just found your blog/Instagram. This was a beautiful representation of the feelings you went through. It’s such a mixed bag of emotions, some are not always understood or even easy to admit. I am going through a trying time with my 6 year old that came to a head this summer and we had no question what to do so the evaluations started. I was so alone, sad, and confused. Most of her extreme behavior was caused by anxiety which does not present the same way in children as adults. Thank you for being so honest. It’s a hard thing to do and yet it does help others going through similar circumstances.

    • Welcome to our journey! Thanks for your kind words and for sharing a bit of your journey with me! It is extremely difficult to walk through seasons of simply not knowing and experiencing so many different emotions. I’m glad that you received a definitive diagnosis for your sweet girl. Be Encouraged!

  5. I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Keep your chin up and resting in Gods palm. I know what it is like to live with bipolar disorder and how challenging and life changing that diagnosis is let alone all the challenges you are facing right now. I have no words. I wish somehow I could help shoulder your grief as only those who suffer with this disorder can know the havoc and pain it causes. I’m so sad you have to go through this. May god bring you help, hope and healing. Susan

  6. GM, my 12yr old son who I love dearly is not only the autism spectrum, but he was diagnosed with multiple medical issues, one diagnosis while he was in utero. I found your blog because I am considering home school. He is having difficulty with his sleeping. He has a sleep study scheduled, but the problem with school is that he does not perform well in the morning, so he is sleeping during class and then by the time he reaches his evening classes, same problem. Any way I would like to start a homeschool program with him, but I don’t know where to start. I am both inspired and encouraged by your story, and will be praying for you and your family.

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