Have you ever seen another child and thought, “Man. If only my child had that diagnosis. Things would be so much easier because…”? We have too. It’s a totally ridiculous thing to feel jealousy over, but it’s something our brains do, nonetheless. Whether it’s the plethora of existing research, the resources available, or the name that most people know, there seems to be a lot to envy when it comes to more common diagnoses.
In this episode, Kara examines this and other strange things our brains do in response to trauma with her life coach lens. We also conclude that the antidote to this isolating mindset is finding other parents who we can relate with on other levels.
Kara and I were casually chatting a while back about our son’s rare diagnoses—two totally different ones—when the concept of diagnosis jealousy came up. We had both experienced it—envy of the “big name” diagnoses that virtually everyone knows something about and has a community bigger than life. I was intrigued to find another person to experience this, and she graciously accepted the invitation to record our conversation as we dissected the phenomenon.
When it comes down to it, this emotion is completely illogical and overlooks the real hardships behind those diagnoses we envy. We talked about autism and down syndrome and how we’ve both felt a twinge of jealousy of the things about them that we feel we’re missing out on. But if anyone who has a child with those things heard us, they would be the first to tell us all the things about it that are really hard. And yet, like any other emotion, it’s totally valid.
As she teaches her clients, Kara is able to take a step back and see the narrative she has created around it. Recognizing the silly story her brain is producing for what it is, is super effective at stripping it of its power over us. And when we make the effort, we can find so much to connect over with other parents. Kara has a friend whose daughter has a very different diagnosis from her son, but very similar behavioral issues. And she feels so understood by her! Finding people like that—independent of her children’s friendships—has been huge for her and for me.
And having friends that understand the complex emotions and experiences that come along with having a child with disabilities is so huge. We talked about how our trauma can be triggered at any time. Kara told of a time when her 11-year-old son Levi was being sedated for a routine MRI to check for cancerous regrowth in his brain. Although they had done these every six months for nine years, she was surprised to feel herself falling apart. She went to her car and had a good cry about their life and all that Levi had been through. It’s amazing how we can be holding it together, happily chugging along our merry way, and then have the weight of it all come crashing down. She was quick to point out that it was very healthy to allow herself to really cry it out instead of shoving it back. I totally relate.
We also talked about our tendencies to become super controlling when our lives feel out-of-control. For me it was purging our home of 70% of the stuff we owned. For Kara, it was an obsessive scouring of her car’s windshield. We were both in stressful situations and were desperate for certainty. Although we were totally unaware of the why behind our obsessions, our bodies and minds were feeling that stress and it manifested in weird ways.
Which brough us right back to where we started: the jealousy of diagnoses. Maybe part of what we envy is the illusion of certainty. To have a plethora of research and adults to look to for some kind of idea of what to expect for our child’s future. And yet, it all comes back to allowing and facilitating connection with other adults regardless of differing diagnoses. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter that much.
It’s all in being understood and seen.