"It's just the way you say it... 'diagnosed.' It sounds so mean." -A Light Beneath Their Feet

It is estimated that 1 in 4 adults suffer a diagnosable mental disorder ranging from no impairment to severe. Now, consider that anyone in relationship to the person diagnosed is impacted. So, is anyone untouched by this? How do we look at, feel about, and/or treat someone “diagnosed”—starting with ourselves?

Diagnosis can be used to bring clarity to a situation. It can be used to help a person obtain the treatment and/or supports needed. Or, it can also be used in ways that are “mean.” It can carry a stigma that belittles someone or devalues them. It can be used to put severe limitations on someone as to what their life will, or won’t, be.

When my son, Micah, was born they diagnosed him as being a “vegetable.” They said he wouldn’t: make any sounds-even a cry, ever know us, be able to learn, be able to move; and his brain waves were nothing more than seizures. What a devastating diagnosis! Faith and my “mama bear” instincts would not allow that diagnosis to be the final determination of his life.

He was quadriplegic and also nonverbal. However, he was far from being a “vegetable!” He couldn’t ambulate on his own, but could walk some in a supported walker, and harness. He loved horse therapy with side walkers helping support. He cried for the first time very shortly after being home from the ICU. He also developed communicative sounds. For example, I would tell him that I loved him and ask him if he loved me too, and he always made a certain sound—even though it took so much effort to get it out. He absolutely knew us and he responded in various ways, although it took him a lot longer. He did learn, and knew more intellectually than he could ever prove due to his quadriplegia and poor vision. He touched the lives of many; and, sensed others with a deep presence—like seeing into the eyes of their soul. He had a great sense of humor, loved silliness, and when he laughed—he absolutely lit up a room. Yet, nothing topped his UNconditional love! I could truly go on and on about all he did and his beautiful soul.

There were undoubtedly lots of hardships in caring for Micah; however, he taught me more about life and love than anyone I’ve ever known. Words alone can’t express how deeply grateful I am that we chose love, and never the limitations of the diagnosis! What will you choose for yourself and/or others—love or limitations?

Cheri Thomas

Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.