Are YOU in denial?
Hey friends, today I am going to talk about another sensitive topic that has been plaguing our life for some time.
“Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations — but staying in denial can interfere with treatment or your ability to tackle challenges.”
I wanted to start off with this quote I found from Mayo Clinic staff, because I feel like it encompasses everything that I’m going to talk about in a single phrase. Denial is a coping mechanism that people often use when they are in distress, but staying in denial can prevent so many things from happening – growth or change, and can even destroy relationships.
Denial brings nothing positive to the table, and what’s even worse is when we sit and put our head down on the table and wallow in denial for extended periods of time.
I realize that denial can be seen as a sensitive topic point, but I’ve promised to be real with you, and this topic has been weighing on my mind for sometime.
So let’s dive-in!
— Preconceived Notions —
- How many parents out there had preconceived notions about parenthood?
- How many parents experience parenting exactly how they envisioned?
For me personally, I know I had MANY preconceived notions – not just about parenthood, but life in general. Prior to having Apollo, I had just established footing in a promising career, I was excited about the future in my career, and dreamed of going back to work – to be a working mom that thrives at both career and motherhood.
I’ve had many conversations with fellow parents about their preconceived notions when it came to parenthood, to raising children, to their careers, and even life itself. I know during a lot of those conversations we often find ourselves chuckling at how clueless we truly were in the beginning of our parenting journey. While most of our preconceived notions were impressive, and admirable, they were just a little bit on the dreamy side.
I love me some dreamers!
— Our Reality —
These preconceived notions were soon a distant memory once we were blessed with an atypical son – who showed immediate signs of developmental delay.
By 4 months old, Apollo was in early intervention, and Justin and I were seeing a glimpse into the reality of our future.
As Apollo continued to fall behind in developmental milestones, I found myself in a life-alternating decision; to try and find childcare and pray that said childcare would care for Apollo in the way he needs, or put my career on hold, raise our son the way Justin and I would want him raised, and put Apollo’s needs first.
For us, this was not a difficult decision; thankfully, Justin has us in a financial place where I can stay home and put the needs of our children, first – so that is exactly what we did.
While Justin and I were accepting of Apollo, and his diagnoses, not everyone in our life was accepting
— 5 Stages of Grief —
Puzzling diagnoses, like autism, can bring forth a flood of unexpected emotions. I expected Apollo’s diagnostic evaluation to come back with an autism diagnosis, but found myself flooded with many overwhelming emotions the moment I received the phone call from the Psychologist. It honestly surprised me how overwhelmed I felt that first moment; but I soon snapped back to reality, and accepted the reality at face value.
If you haven’t read about “Our Story” yet, please check it out.
Unfortunately, not everyone in Apollo’s life was as accepting. Many people had to spend some time in the first 4 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression), before finally reaching acceptance – the final stage.
There have even been some individuals that have never moved past the 4 stages of grief, have never reached acceptance, and their actions and words that followed the diagnoses have caused unimaginable heartache, and have even destroyed relationships.
Fortunately for our little family, Justin and I are on the same page, and have leaned on each other for support during this crazy parenting journey – through the good and the bad. We are committed to our kids, to our family, and doing whatever we have to do to ensure both of our kids have the best chance at promising futures.
As I sit here writing this, I feel a pit forming in my stomach thinking about those families where the parents are at odds; one parent is in acceptance – the other in denial (or one of first 3 stages of grief). Parenting a child with special needs is H-A-R-D, and I cannot imagine being at odds with Justin, my teammate, my spouse, my best friend during this parenting journey. My heart truly goes out to any parent that is living that reality. ♥
— Apollo is MORE than any label —
Having a background in healthcare, it was natural for me to turn to our team of healthcare professionals for guidance on next steps – once we got our diagnoses.
While other people in our life were stuck on the labels that diagnoses bring, Justin and I knew that these labels would never define all that Apollo is, or what he will accomplish in life. In other words, we weren’t going to allow any labels to shut us down, and prevent us from trying, from pushing forward, and doing our best. As far as we are concerned, the labels are nothing more than words that qualified our son for additional services and supports that he would have NEVER received otherwise.
Our love for our son is unconditional, and nothing is ever going to change that.
— When others are in denial of your child’s diagnoses —
“If individuals are in denial of your child’s diagnoses or health concerns, it’s not your job to prove it to them. Your job is to take care of your child.”
~ Author Unknown
I will be the first to admit, that I wasted a lot of precious time and energy trying to prove Apollo’s diagnoses to people – with hopes that doing so would help those individuals accept our son; it didn’t work.
While Justin and I recognize and understand that a diagnosis as puzzling as Autism can bring forth a flood of emotions (as it did with us initially), we do however expect people in our life, in Apollo’s life, to not allow their denial to negatively affect him or our family.
In our experience, denial had an interesting way of bringing out the best and worst in people. Even after our team of multiple healthcare professionals, and a school district all came to the same diagnostic conclusions, we still had the peanut gallery telling us it isn’t Autism, but normal toddler behavior; that Apollo isn’t autistic because he can show emotion, etc.
Unfortunately, this denial lead to a divide in our life – on one side there were those that accepted and supported Apollo, and on the other side were those that demanded more and more tests, assessments, second opinions, etc. – making Justin and I feel as though Apollo was no longer looked at as a child, but a test subject.
Denial and divides of these sorts can be catastrophic to an individual with Autism, who thrives on predictability and consistency.
Sometimes in life, you have to do what’s best for your children, and worry less about what’s best for others. Soon after the divide (noted above), Justin and I decided to remove the toxicity from our life; those that were wallowing in denial – or the previous 4 stages of grief.
We are done wasting time and energy trying to prove Apollo’s diagnoses to individuals that will more than likely never reach acceptance. Instead, we choose to surround ourselves with loving and accepting individuals – because our children deserve consistent, stable, predictable and loving relationships.
Thank you so much for joining me!