Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Instinct for Ignorance

Carter doesn't talk about his illness. Not ever. Not to his dad and me, not to his therapist, not to his psychiatrist, not to anyone. 

If asked why he goes to therapy, he says, "I go to talk"

If ashed why he takes medicine, he says, "I need it," or, "My mom tells me to."

We have tried, on occasion, to discuss the matter with him. Or rather, to test his curiosity about it. It seems that he has none. 

No, that's not quite right. It's more accurate to say that he is anti-curious. When any of us (parents, grandparents, therapist, siblings) tests the topic Carter reacts almost violently. "I don't want to talk about that! Don't talk about that where I can hear you!" 

So, OK. That's fine, except that I don't understand it even one tiny little bit. I am endlessly curious, and so possessive about my own internal life that I'm rendered furious if anyone thinks they understand something about me and I don't agree with them.  I gauge my internal environment constantly. Even when I was a child I explored my mind and my behavior for clues to my motives and feelings.

And if someone thought they knew enough about me to hang a diagnosis around my neck? I damn well would have wanted to know what that diagnosis was, what it meant, what I could do about it, and what the prognosis was (even if I didn't yet know the word prognosis).

Not so for Carter. We do know that he has put together a few things (like the fact that among his medicines are some that are meant to make the "little guys" go away), but he refuses to let us tell him more. His therapist says this anti-curiosity could be a result of the trauma he experienced two years ago, when he was so deeply ill that his own behavior terrified him. His psychiatrist says his anti-curiosity could itself be a symptom of his mental illness, or that it may have to do with a delusion or hallucination. 

Me? In a stunning impulse to look on the bright side (something I usually have to tie myself in knots to accomplish), I've decided that he knows on some deep level that there is a whole vocabulary swirling around him, and he's not ready to know those words and their meanings. Once he hears and understands the words bipolar, psychosis, borderline IQ, generalized anxiety disorder, and all the rest, he can't un-hear them. He can't un-understand.

When he wants to know more, I will tell him, but until then, I'm glad that some instinct has helped him maintain what little innocence he has left. 

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Adrienne Jones lives in Albuquerque, NM with her husband and their four children. She is the author of the blog No Points for Style.


  1. I think that makes PERFECT SENSE! I think we all hear things when we are ready to.
    Thanks very much for sharing!

  2. I agree, I think there is some instinct for self preservation going on here. But also I can see how that would be frustrating for you.
    My son Jacob just doesn't have the abstract though processes yet to understand what "Autism" is really. I have told him that his brain is different, and this is the word we use to name that difference, and I think that's about all he needs / can get right now.
    Love to read you here, my friend. Thanks.