Ok, so 15 months later, we have progress, we have stability in instability, we have … hope?
It’s been a year of major change, 5 on the Richter scale (okay, maybe a 4). But through it all, still no answers. No obvious reasons for daughter’s continued depression, anxiety, and self-harm. Despite a complete change in environment, support sytems strengthened, and now medication, we still haven’t had any answers beyond “anxiety and depression.”
But that can’t be all. It rings hollow. It rings hollow for me, and for her. It feels unsatisfactory, as though something’s missing. I *get* that millions of people are anxious and depressed for no specific reason. But for her, it just hasn’t felt like that’s it. She doesn’t think so either.
So she’s started looking for answers beyond the obvious. *Why* is she so anxious? *Why* is she so depressed?
After a little bit of back and forth with her questions last week, something … clicked.
It makes so much sense. It frames every experience we’ve ever had with her, since infancy.
From what I’ve read, Asperger’s manifests differently in girls than in boys, and going by male diagnostic criteria doesn’t get girls very far. So I began looking. That’s what I do, after all. Searching for answers, looking for information, asking questions.
I mentioned the possibility to her and not only did she agree that it could be a possibility, she began to do her own searching, and came up with other reasons why this could be a thing.
Now I’m going to get myself in trouble, because I don’t know the terms that people use, and apparently Asperger’s isn’t even considered its own diagnosis anymore, and somehow we still need to work within these parameters that give you a set of criteria, and you either fit it or you don’t. And some people say that *everyone* has these types of brain functions to some degree or other.
My rebuttal to that is that not everyone has the collection of functions that make Asperger’s kids unique. Not everyone has the whole set (or even most of the set).
And then I came across one particular website that outlined some things to look for in preschool girls. I nearly cried. That was her. As an infant / toddler / preschooler. That was her. I felt like I’d been hit over the head with it. I nearly cried because for the first time EVER, it made sense. When doctors couldn’t tell me why she cried all the time, and didn’t sleep till she was 3. Why she likes to walk alone at night. Why she simply cannot find the words to describe how she feels, how emotions and talking about emotions are just not in her vocabulary, and they overwhelm her. And why she had such severe separation anxiety. And why transitions have always caused her distress. Not just, “oh darn, I have to go do something else now.” Downright distress. And why forgotten headphones can start a day off alarmingly poorly. And why I’ve always had to say to her, “You’re not the parent. Your sister doesn’t ‘obey’ you because you’re not the parent.” Why she’s always helping classmates with their schoolwork even though she’ll have to do her own homework later to catch up. Why I can’t say, “Ok, we’re leaving in 5 minutes,” because if she’s not ready it provokes tears and worry. Why her smile is … put on. Like she’ll look at me and for a split second she is visibly putting on her smile. Blink and you miss that. But it’s there. Why numbers “make sense” to her in a way that interpretive subjects don’t. Why jeans were a foreign article of clothing until high school. Why she melts down nearly every day after school. Why she’s always felt like she doesn’t quite fit. Why she moves in a way that seems almost mechanical, stiff, as though it doesn’t quite come naturally to her. Why she can be so honest at times, so much so that it continues to surprise me. Why she can invite a friend over, but then sit in a corner on her phone, ignoring the friend, because she just doesn’t quite feel right. Like she really wants to be with people, but the reality of doing that is overwhelming. How I could never keep her in books. How favourite music isn’t just favourite music. It’s everything. How she will persevere through the most remarkable odds, and how *I* am overwhelmed by her bravery, her perseverence, her generosity, how she’ll be the only one in the family to notice when I get new glasses or a hair cut. How she would give her time and knowledge again and again, and how she *always* sees the best in people, always without fail sees things in people that most others miss, and will defend those people even when many others wouldn’t. (I don’t know if that’s an Asperger’s trait, but I don’t know of too many people who have that in them.)
No, none of this is a diagnosis. And apparently it’s *ridiculously* hard to get a diagnosis.
But for her, we will figure this out. If it means that she can begin to make peace with herself, if it means that she can begin to see where she fits in the world, and know that there’s nothing wrong with her, and if it means that my parenting can work with her brain, well, that’s we’ll do.
And if it’s something else, if it’s really *not* Asperger’s, well, we’ll figure that out too. We will figure it out. We’re still looking.