When my son was 3, he had a friend in preschool who had diabetes. One day while at the pharmacy, he saw diabetes supplies displayed under the counter. He announced loudly, “When I get diabebes, I am going to buy those!” Everyone in line thought he was so cute. Over the last 10 years we have laughed fondly at that “kids say the funniest things” moment. We are no longer laughing. Just 6 weeks shy of his 14th birthday, my son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes.
This is the child who already deals with anxiety, depression, ADHD and a mood disorder. We are a family already dealing with 3 children ( including him) with mental health diagnoses. I have watched him go through the 5 stages of grief all in one day, several times. He goes from saying he is ok with it and will deal, to wondering why this happened to him, to thinking he will never be able to have a candy bar again, to refusing to watch TV due to the multitude of food commercials, back to being ok with it and ready to take it on. He has decided that since he occasionally laughed at the way Wilfred Brimley pronounced Diabetes with a southern accent, Karma has come back to bite him. He is also ready to play the diabetes card if necessary. When he wanted to play Monopoly, which is my least favorite game to play, he said to me when I declined, “but Mom, I have diabetes!” When I said I had a headache, he said, “at least you you don’t have Diabetes!” At the same time, he expressed great empathy when he saw a little boy on the hospital ward dealing with cancer, also expressing how he was glad he had diabetes, which he can manage, instead of cancer. Last night, as we were getting ready to be discharged after our 4 day hospital stay, he said to me, “I’ll bet the nurses are going to come and and yell ‘APRIL FOOLS!’ any minute!”
“They” say God does not give you more than you can handle. We were already feeling stretched to the limit with what was going on with our boys. In fact, we had begun looking into respite care for our youngest (my 11-year-old step son) because we need a break desperately from dealing with his daily behaviors. As my newly diagnosed son has, I also have gone through the stages of grief, each one, repeatedly. At times I want to find whoever ‘THEY” are and kick them in the teeth!
All of the nurses seem to be impressed with the laid back manner in which we took the news and how quickly we learned how to test his blood sugar and give the shots. I have been told this a lot. People are always telling me they could never do what I do, or would never be able to manage what I manage. Really? What is the alternative? This always baffles me. What do other people do? It’s not like we have a choice in the matter. But one social worker told me she has seen moms rocking and howling in the hallways. Well, I was doing that on the inside.
It’s interesting: since my children have the other mental health issues, I have, over the years, learned to advocate for them. I’ve educated myself and in turn, my career path shifted to helping other families navigate the maze of the mental health world. Now I need to find someone to help us navigate this new world we just entered. As we left the hospital last night, I felt very much like I did when leaving the hospital for the first time. “Here you go! Good luck keeping him alive!” But here we are, 13 years later, and he is still alive. I figured it out then, I will figure it out now.