The world is saturated with self-diagnosis. I’m not a fan of all the marketing driven “emotional issue” products that seems to introduce a new neurosis every month (Attention Overload Disorder, Multiple Bowel Syndrome, Overexposed Thumb Cramping, or whatever). Often it seems a convenient label to absolve people from being reasonable and self-controlled. But when things happen in your own life, without rhyme, reason or predictability, you question your own sanity and cull the internet for help and respite.
From the beginning we knew Abigail had something in her that was “not normal”. How many one year olds do you know that cross their legs? And not just cross them but cross them so hard that you see anguish on her face and sweat on their brow. When she was 4 we finally took her to a child therapist; mainly to help us in dealing with this and other moments of “oddness” (her rocking and humming when she was upset, her emotional break downs with certain types of clothing). She was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and we were given some great advice on how to help us and Abigail.
Where did this come from? Sonya and I beat ourselves up for a while, wondering what we had done to cause our child to be riddled with anxiety (“It was the phenergan I took wasn’t it?”). But soon after the advice we got in helping Abigail cope with her anxiety brought about tremendous results.
Jump cut to today.
There has scarcely gone a day without a complete emotional breakdown. If Sonya puts the braids in and a hair, the smallest hair, is sticking out, an eruption of “I HATE YOU! GET AWAY FROM ME” – door slamming – screeching at the top of her lungs follow. And this is within 15 minutes of the day starting. Anything seems to set it off. A loud hallway. A shirt that is too long in the sleeves. A “puffy” winter coat. Completely irrational reactions and misguided rage as a sensory annoyance.
What can one do with such irrationality? We’ve analyzed ourselves to death. What have we done in discipline with Abigail that has caused this? What have we done in our interactions with her that has brought out such rage? What God can we do? What God have we done to our daughter to make — this whatever or whoever — come out?
So the self-diagnosis has begun; but I think for good reason – not merely for comfort but for advice and help. And in comes a term called Sensory Integration Disorder. What is it? Simply put, it’s the brains inability to logically process sensory information. Instead of being able to “tune out” the loud clatter of a narrow school hallway, the brain hears every voice in equal volume. The feel of an itchy sweater isn’t just an annoyance but like daggers piercing the skin.
SID is a close neighbor to autism; and is most always present in Autistic children. But one does not have to be Autistic to have SID. All of us to some degree have areas of us that exhibit a form of SID. Me, for example, I have an incredible reaction to food textures. I also have unusually high tolerance of pain (I find myself bleeding all the time and wonder what happened, finding large cuts on my arm, or leg, or hand). But for Abigail there are hundreds of symptoms, or hot pokers, that prod at her throughout every day. Smell. Sound. Touch. Sight. Every sense in her body is over processed, and her only reaction to feeling so off balance and annoyed is to lash out in rage and frustration (and since we\’re her parents, we\’re the safe once to do this to because we won\’t make fun of her or hurt her).
Just this morning Abigail told me she hated me, was going to throw her brush at me, blah blah blah. We were 15 minutes late for school, and on the drive there the root of the hyper-reaction was this – “My voice sounds squeaky when I sing, and I forget the words to the song and Elizabeth sings really loud behind my head”. But that reasonable explanation is logically skipped over by her brain; because at school all those senses that are off balance and unprocessed stew inside her (because she knows better than to freak out in school, or to her teacher) till she gets home. And Abigail herself doesn’t want these things to bother her, she doesn’t want to feel so off-balance, so bothered by everything, but she too is at a loss; as are we.
It’s our duty as parents to raise our kids to be functional and stable individuals; who we hope will contribute something wonderful to the world; to love God. Right now, we feel like failures. So, your prayers are appreciated for this little family unit.