So there was no Let’s Talk About for May, I know. There were a lot of behind-the-scenes things happening (wonderful bloggers added, site makeover, ideas germinating), and it simply didn’t happen. So to make sure we have something to talk about this month, I’m writing this up.
You’ll notice I used the term “mental differences.” For those of you who know me, or who have read my blog or this one for any length of time, you know that I have an ambivalent relationship with the term “mental illness,” and thus “mental differences” was born. But I want to use the term in this post to address more than just what are classically classified as illness. I want to speak on all psychological, psychiatric, and even developmental disorders that affect children.
This topic was inspired by watching parents dealing especially with severely anxious children. It got me thinking about my own anxiety, and how (with that wonderful 20/20 hindsight) very much beyond the pale it was when I was a child.
Exhibit A: The Blind Burglar
When I was quite small, I began to insist that a light be left on downstairs after everyone went up to bed. My father would joke that it was so the blind burglar could find his way when he broke in. Now I was small enough that for years I didn’t get the joke, I just knew that it needed to be on or I couldn’t sleep. Oh, and when my parents were up late and didn’t leave a light on, you could not imagine what they had to face when I came down in the morning and discovered their carelessness. Never mind that I had survived the night without it.
Exhibit B: My Pillowcase
Also at a very young age, I began sleeping with all of my most treasured possessions in my pillowcase along side my pillow. Books, trinkets, I think there was even a flashlight in there. I kept my teeth clamped around the ear of a favorite stuffed animal (to this day, Coco bears the marks), and my special blanket was around my wrist (I had created a neat little hole to stick my hand through). There was a very reasoned method to this madness: If the house caught on fire, I could grab pillow, Coco, blanket, and get out. Though this behavior didn’t stay with me as long as my need for a light downstairs, it did stay with me for some time. And personally, as a now quasi-parent, I would view it as. . . concerning.
So I thought about whether I would have been helped by psychological intervention for my anxiety at an early age. And honestly, the answer I came up with was no. When I was a wee one, psychologists were not for any but extreme cases, especially if you were a child. Even if I had agreed to see someone when my bipolar was first evident in my pre-teen/early teenage years, I don’t think anything would have “stuck.” It needed to be me. All me, completely in my control – which is part of why my parents never forced me into treatment.
Now, I’m not advocating that children should be left to work serious disorders out for themselves. Do as Ruby says, not as Ruby does (did). For example, I knew a very sweet young girl with ADHD, and her parents recognizing it and helping her in a way that suited her individual needs has allowed her to grow with a minimum of distress into a very sweet young woman.
So, lovelies, riddle me this. Let’s talk about when you were young, whether you feel your disorder(s) were adequately addressed or not, and why. Let’s talk about the children you have now, what you watch for in them, or if they have any kind of mental difference, what you find helpful/unhelpful for them. If you are a doctor, teacher, caregiver, grandparent, anyone who deals with children, what are you thoughts on this matter?
As always, all I ask is that you be respectful of varying opinions and positions. Nothing gets people fired up like bringing children into the discussion (see how much I trust and respect all of you, I’m doing it anyway).
Comments on this post will be closed, to participate in this discussion, please go to June 2012: Mental Differences In Children.
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