None of us fit in a box, neatly labeled or easily identified. My whole family, we’re a bunch of special needs individuals. We blur the lines, we question and challenge definitions, we defy categorization and we all, yes- even the dog, require medication to function on a daily basis. And if a doctor were forced to diagnose our individual neurosis, well, the best that they could come up with would be NOS- not otherwise specified. Which is exactly the non-diagnosis diagnosis that the fireman is sporting these days.
We’ve spent the last several weeks working with a new set of medical specialists to get a clear cut diagnosis for our guy. How can we begin a treatment plan, something that is sorely lacking right now, without one? Coincidentally, or not, we are also working on developing his first public school IEP, a process that requires testing and an academic diagnosis to determine proper placement. It’s been a fucking joy ride, let me tell you. When my butt is firmly planted in the stale-smelling AA meeting (which I know is somewhere in my future), I will point directly to the stack of assessments that I had to fill out these past few weeks as the epicenter of my drinking problem.
When evaluating the following statements, select the answer that best fits each statement:
Never | Sometimes | Often | Always
I haven’t needed a number 2 pencil since 12th grade calculus. This was almost as fun.
One evening, a week or two ago, I decided to break out a little lite reading: the fireman’s medical records from his hospitalization last year. From his psychiatric hospitalization. For my (then) four year old baby.
Bruno begged me not to do it. ”What are you thinking? Are you trying to ruin your night?” he asked me. ”I know,” I said. ”But I can’t not read them. I’m an idiot. And a masochist. But I have to.”
Yes, I was a masochist.
The file was about an inch thick, much of it repeating itself. It seemed like each section of the report repeated the same intake scenario, so I quickly learned that I could skip over that part as I moved through the pages. What I didn’t expect were the records of the staff’s observations of ME. Our deal, in consenting to the fireman’s hospitalization, was that I would be able to stay with him in his room. It was a locked unit and guests were only allowed during visiting hours, but I could stay. The fireman was too young, agreed the medical director, to be away from his mother. What they did not tell me is that I would be as much of a part of the fireman’s medical record as would he.
Every mention of the fireman’s behavior was followed by a description of my reaction. ”The mother allowed the staff to restrain her child without intervention. She held her hand to her mouth and cried silently while watching, but did not intervene.” Someone on the staff had a minor in English lit.
My personal favorite parts of the report were the mentions of my fragile mental state and how it directly related to my son’s anxiety. ”The patient appeared to grow increasingly more anxious as his mother withdrew. He appears acutely aware of her emotions and responds to them with anger and defiant outbursts.”
Begrudgingly, we turned this report over, with the rest of the fireman’s medical history, to his doctor and his school. They used this data, along with the various reports and assessments completed by everyone who has ever met us or the fireman (including the mailman and the gas station attendant down the street), and they carried the 1, divided by pi, accounted for leap year and arrived at the conclusion that the fireman’s specific set of strengths, deficits and lagging skills equalled a good solid diagnosis of: We Don’t Know. Or, in medical speak, Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
The amazing part of all of this is that they have a pill that can help! Who knew that they made a medication specifically for We Don’t Know? It minimizes the symptoms of We Don’t Know and allows the patient to become receptive to We Don’t Know therapies. The results of this medication vary and have a multitude of side-effects, but patient’s with We Don’t Know seem to respond well. We may see a change for the positive in the fireman. We just don’t know. Or, he may gain a lot of weight and a new set of medical issues. Again, We Just Don’t Know.
Awesome. Not Otherwise Specified is awesome. And I, clearly, am Mother Of The Year.