As you may know, Claudia and I are presently in Tampa, FL, where we are attending the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) annual conference. It's invigorating to be with others who understand what it means to work with children who have challenges, and there is a whole array of acronyms frequenting the airspace. It is not difficult to overhear other adoptive parents and professionals discussing the details of a young person's life, including the letters identifying a diagnostic conclusion. There are some who dislike speaking about diagnosis and a child in the same breath, for they fear it labels and negatively impacts the child in question, and certainly depending upon how the information is utilized that can be the case. But there is also value to an accurate diagnosis. I was reminded of that this morning as I took some time for self-care and departed the hotel lobby at 9:45 to walk to the transportation center to catch one of the street trolleys that convey passengers over several stops in the immediate Tampa areas. I purchased my $4 unlimited pass in the hotel lobby and was set to ride.
Upon reading the schedule at the terminal, however, I discovered that the first trolley did not depart until 11:00 AM, and it was 9:45 AM. So I had to decide what I wanted to do. I could return to the conference and arrive late for a session (nope), I could return to the room and do some online work while I waited (possibly), or I could sit and wait for the first trolley to come in 75 minutes (not likely). I pondered my dilemma for a few minutes, frustrated because I had a limited window of time with which to work (I had promised to meet Claudia at noon for lunch). Then I decided there was no reason I could not walk to my destination, Ybor City (the end point of the trolley line).
Understand that a few months ago, or a year ago when we were at the NACAC Conference in Long Beach, I would have not entertained that notion. While I didn't mind walking even a year ago, the distance and the humidity would have dissuaded me and pushed me back into the comfortable, air-conditioned hotel. But several months ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, so I know that every step I take helps me prolong my health and in an ultimate sense my life. For the past few months I have been diligently checking glucose levels, becoming almost obsessed with my numeric targets and quickly coming to realize that exercise makes a huge difference in that outcome.
So, at 9:50 AM with nearly 3 miles ahead of me, I set out for my destination. It is humid and hot even at that time in the morning here in Tampa, but I trudged forward and actually enjoyed savoring my footsteps. I was able to see and experience Tampa in a way that riding the trolley would have robbed me. I felt the warm heavy air upon my face, the occasional, merciful whisps of breeze to cool me, and met nearly no one on my walk. It was a quiet, pleasant quest into solitude, ending in Ybor City some thirty minutes later. Had I not been diagnosed with diabetes several months ago, and had I not started walking as a result, and had I not as a result been feeling well enough to embark upon such a task, I would have consigned myself for a limited opportunity.
I can't speak for children or youth who have been diagnosed with an emotional or behavioral difficulty, but I suspect that an accurate diagnosis, well interpreted and cared for, might provide some level of relief for both parent and child. To know that there is something amiss that can be helped with medication or with therapy or with other accommodations certainly has to be better than to wander in the land of not knowing, simply avoiding or hoping for a positive outcome with few tools to work with.
My diagnosis was no surprise to me, although it was still shocking to realize that if I did not begin to change my lifestyle my life would be shortened and unquestionably diminished before that time. It was a relief to finally know why I was so irritable, why I was so tired, why I was so depressed, and why I never felt that well. And now that I am on the road to better health I feel better, I am not tired, I am not depressed, and I am not worried about why I was feeling the way I did. To know my pancreas is burning out is not exactly what I wanted to hear, but now I have steps toward which I can move, knowing that I can do something to restore a level of health.
That's the value of an accurate diagnosis. May all of our children and youth and those who care with and for them be so fortunate.