Last night I talked about Tom’s recent diagnosis. But the New Year brought another diagnosis to our family as well. Chris was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome over the Christmas holidays. For those of you who know Chris, you will know him as funny, quirky and witty! He has a fantastic, off beat sense of humour. He is clever and extremely witty. In the time we’ve been married (11 years this year) he has completed two Masters degrees and is right now 3 years into a Law degree. He does it with such ease and with such passion. He has always had a tendency to be able to hyper-focus on things to the exclusion of all else – sometimes a problematic trait – but it means he can achieve way more than the average person. Since we’ve been married he has learnt heaps about a range of diverse topics such as astronomy – this was when we were out in Cunnamulla and had such fantastic skies (and a you beaut telescope!!) He has had transitory phases of learning Latin, and reading about economics and accounting. Since then we’ve had the intensive computer game playing phase (mostly tank related) and now after a quick phase of learning Italian over the Christmas holidays, he has now achieved his scuba diving accreditation. Chris likes people but he also likes his own space. He has been a school Principal in a range of schools over the past ten years and he has done this successfully. Schools are very people intensive places and the emotional and physical demands of leading a school are getting more challenging every year. Chris has struggled with the stress of his job and the anxiety that it has created, especially given the extra demands of our home.
So does Chris’ diagnosis change anything? Not on the surface of things I guess but naming the ‘elephant in the room’ to me is a huge positive for everyone, particularly in a family context and especially in a relationship. We have sought family counselling and have had the process overseen by a Psychiatrist. We now have an effective way to communicate about the more challenging aspects of living with and loving someone on the Autistic Spectrum. It’s been quite a confronting and challenging process but we are all definitely happier, healthier and more balanced as a result.
So how do I feel about all of this? Well … with James a diagnosis was just a relief. I shed far more tears in the lead up to diagnosis than I ever have after his diagnosis. Tom’s diagnosis did make me sad. Whilst I suspected all along that Tom probably was on the spectrum, he would have so many ‘typical’ moments and I’d think maybe he was fine. Like all mums, I just want my kids to have an easy road in life. No-one wants to think that their child will have a harder road ahead than most. I wish both the boys didn’t have this extra challenge to deal with. When your second child is diagnosed people are not perhaps as supportive as they were at the point of that first diagnosis. I guess they assume you’re an old hand at it or something. It’s certainly a different experience from the first diagnosis. And Chris? Well, this diagnosis was no surprise either and I had certainly encouraged Chris for some years to seek out some direction from a specialist in this area. I think that people particularly diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are very adept at masking any difficulties they may have, and whilst that is OK to some degree, I think it has a huge impact on your overall happiness and mental health in the long run.
All I truly want for all my boys is for them to be happy, and I know that each of us have a role to play in making this happen. I do feel however that a lot of this responsibility falls on me. I guess one of my personal challenges is working out where I fit in all of this, and how I meet everyone’s needs as well as my own!