A Meaningless Diagnosis

by barbaraluther on May 15, 2012

In the March issue of Reader’s Digest, they shared winning entries in a challenge contest they had run. It went like this: Write a story about some aspect of your life in 150 or fewer words. The goal was for people to tell their story or share a life experience. The entries published in the issue were incredible. One stood out for me:

A Meaningless Diagnosis by Brian Mayer

Most would not smile in my position. I sat across from the psychiatrist, holding my wife’s hand as our two-year-old son played inattentively in the background. “The severity of your son’s autism will likely prevent him from ever being independent. It is very possible that he will never speak or have friends. The comorbidity of mental retardation will compound these challenges.” The psychiatrist paused and examined our expressions. My wife clenched my hand a little tighter, but she, too, smiled because we knew firsthand that the diagnosis was meaningless: When I was three, a psychiatrist told my parents the same thing about me.

I work every day with incredible people who have received a diagnosis of ADHD – and while it isn’t as feared as autism, most people sadly have a pretty negative perception around the diagnosis. But I happen to agree with Brian Mayer above: the diagnosis gives information, but it isn’t the final word.

Last month, I referenced author Nick Tasler and his book, The Impulse Factor. I really like how he concludes his book:

. . . genes are simply a guide to potential behaviors, as opposed to an all-inclusive determinant of behavior. For example, supposing that some variation of the DRD4 gene creates a reduced sensitivity to dopamine, it can only tell us that a person has a reduced sensitivity to dopamine. What it cannot determine is how that person will go about compensating for that reduced dopamine sensitivity. Maybe that individual will be a crazy driver, a compulsive gambler, a sex addict, a drug addict, or a deadbeat. Or maybe he will get his dopamine fix by burying himself in scientific endeavors and revolutionizing physics or neurology in the process. Or maybe she will push the boundaries of our thinking about the way people conduct business, or revolutionize how we as humans display compassion. To a large extent these paths will always be a matter of choice. Just as the launchpad can never fully determine the destination, neither can a gene ever fully determine the path we choose to follow. (pp. 221-222)

We can choose our story. What do you want your story to say about you and your life? It’s a great exercise to think about our life experiences and craft what our experiences mean and say about us. If this idea speaks to you, I hope you’ll take this challenge to write your personal 150 word life story. I bet it will be a gem!

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