Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chemistry

Chemistry is a funny thing. 
Johnny was a chemist's son,
But Johnny is no more.
What Johnny thought was H2O
was H2SO4
OK, not that kind of funny!

If I had it to do over again, maybe I wouldn't study linguistics and get my TESOL certificate.  Maybe I'd study the chemistry of the brain.  Maybe I could research what happens in the brain when a person experiences the symptoms of anxiety or depression.  Maybe I could apply that research to finding a solution -- symptom relief, brain chemistry balance, a vaccine.  Maybe I'd be in a better position to help my child.  Maybe I'd be in a better position to help my family.

I don't have it to do over again, so I'm taking a class through the local NAMI chapter.  The first peer-taught class met last night.  It was the introduction class, so of course it didn't get to the meat of the curriculum, but it was very useful.  A couple of points that struck me are, in fact, points that I've recognized for years about my son and Asperger's but hadn't connected to my daughter and anxiety/depression.  (You have to remember that I am the adult child of a parent with considerable mental health issues and therefore bring some unresolved baggage to the table.)

One point is that mental health issues need to be reframed as brain disorders.  They are as physical as diabetes, hearing loss, or heart failure.  Just as Asperger's is a neurological disorder, depression is a biochemical brain disorder and not willful defiance/noncompliance.

Another point is that this is not the child's fault.  Just as you wouldn't blame the child with diabetes for having a nonfunctioning pancreas or the child who is blind for not being able to see, we can't blame the child with Asperger's for having a lack of connections in the brain or the child with depression for having a chemical imbalance in the brain.  It's not her fault.

And a third point is that families of children with these brain disorders are often in catastrophe mode.  I've said before that some disabilities seem to be like hurricanes:  You can see them coming from off the coast of Africa, can track them across the Atlantic, can see their strength and where they will make landfall, and can get out of Dodge if necessary.  But having a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder has always seemed to me more like experiencing tornadoes:  They pop up with little warning and might be an F0 or the wrath of God.  The best you can do is run for cover.  I think that brain disorders might just be tornadoes, too.

I'm looking forward to the next class.  And scared to death of getting through the next few days, few hours, few minutes.

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