The Search For Personal Identity And Independence Term Paper
Type of paper: Term Paper
Topic: Disorders, Education, ADHD, Family, Students, Disability, Depression, Psychology
Being born with drugs and alcohol in my system led to a myriad of health-related issues that were a by-product of negligent pre-natal care. In my lifetime, I have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, bi-polar, Sensory Integration Disability (SID), and Spasmodic Torticollis; also commonly referred to Cervical Dystonia. These disorders affected me physically, mentally, and emotionally. They affected my ability to excel in school. I was enrolled in a Special Education school to help me with the sensory issues, writing problems, and medication management. My progress of each academic year, grades 3 through 7, was tracked on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). My abilities and progress gave my teachers, counselors, and even my adoptive mom and great aunt little hope that I would ever be able to successfully transition beyond high school into society.
In order to fully understand the challenges I faced and where I am today, it is important to give an overview of the individual disorders that plagued me most of my life. Because I struggled with a sense of identity, I wanted to learn all I could about these different disorders. I have never been fortunate enough to have any sort of real relationship with my biological mother. Trying to gain any sense of myself and where I came from or rather, who I came from, became an important mission for me. I needed to understand in any way possible why I was afflicted with so many disabilities and how they might affect my future. Granted, one might assume that any or all of my disorders were a direct result of my biological mother’s abuse of alcohol and drugs. To a certain extent, that was somewhat true. However, I needed to know if any of these disorders were hereditary and existed anywhere else in my family lineage.
I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in grade school after my teachers realized I was unable to focus and struggled with paying attention in class. I was easily distracted and often would zone out. ADHD is defined as a disorder that causes “inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity” (Furman). In the 2005 study, (Furman), found that ADHD is often misdiagnosed due to the comorbidity of symptoms that tend to overlap with other disorders such as depression, for example. It contributes to learning disabilities, anxiety, and other mood disorders. It has also been linked to prenatal alcohol and drug abuse. In a 2014 news article (Attention Deficit, n. d.), a research study conducted by Florida State University showed that prenatal use of nicotine has the potential of manifesting ADHD in the unborn child and can be considered hereditary and transmitted over several generations.
In addition to ADHD, I was also diagnosed with depression and labeled bi-polar. Depression comes in many forms and can range from being mild to severe. Symptoms include sadness, separation anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, loss of self-esteem, and it can have an impact on academic achievement. Bi-polar Disorder (BPD) consists of extreme mood swings that can be high or low. Both depression and BPD have comorbidity with ADHD. According to Fields and Fristad (2009), children who are diagnosed with BPD are often found to be suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). BPD symptoms tend to mirror that of ADHD which include hyperactivity, inability to focus, distractibility, and poor academic outcomes and thus it can be difficult to diagnose properly. The study showed that there is a definitive genetic link to BPD and that “48% of the first-degree relatives of participants with child-onset BPD suffered from an affective illness” (Fields & Fristad). In a 1990 study (Kazdin), childhood depression has genetic markers. The study revealed that parents who have been diagnosed with depression are more likely than not to have children who will also have the disorder. Additionally, family dynamics and interaction play a huge role in childhood depression. Kazdin found that a child’s environment and life events were contributors to the onset of childhood depression.
Sensory Integration disorder (SI) is another diagnosis I received early on. It is a disorder in which the brain has difficulty processing information that is received via the senses and creates an oversensitivity to things in the environment. SI can impact both external and internal responses. Some symptoms include violent outbursts, sensitivity to loud or sudden noises, and inability to recognize hot and cold and pain. In a 2007 study (Dobbins, Sunder, & Soltys), findings revealed that risk factors associated with SI include a family history of the disorder and perinatal complications. Sensory Integration therapy has been used to help me adapt to my surroundings. According to Hoehn & Baumeister (1994), this form of therapy was originally used to aid those with mental retardation but has since expanded to persons with learning disabilities. Although it has been met with much controversy, it has proven successful in certain individuals. Sensory Integration therapy works by modifying sensorimotor neural functioning in an effort to retrain responses to situations and stimuli as they occur.
Perhaps the most debilitating of all disorders I have been diagnosed with has been Spasmodic Torticollis (ST); also commonly referred to Cervical Dystonia. When coupled with the other disorders I have, it has greatly impacted me. ST occurs by the twisting or jerking of the head and neck. It is caused by the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the neck being too short and weak to properly control the head and neck movements, thus creating the twisting and jerking. ST can lead to the head and neck being abnormally placed; cocked to one side, slumping, looking downward, and lacking the strength to hold it in the correct position. The disorder is often associated with Turrets Syndrome. According to a 2012 study, (Tomczak & Rosman), one of the residual underlying factors of the disorder are drug effects such as drug-inducement and linked to prenatal and postnatal effects. It is detected as early as 1 to 4 weeks of age after birth. The long-term effects include learning and social difficulties and developmental delays such as language, motor skills, focus/attention, and coordination.
Social effects of ST can have dramatic impacts. It can create social phobia and major anxiety. In a 2001 study (Gundel, et al), it was found that social phobia can sometimes by comorbid to ST itself because of the similarity of symptoms to both disorders. Yet, ST can cause social phobia so it is difficult to detect and differentiate as a symptom or additional disorder. Symptoms can range from stuttering to tremoring (often found in ST). The social side of ST results in depression, anxiety, and an inability to effectively communicate and interact with peers. According to (Papathanassiou, et al) ST leads to poor perception of one-self. It can be socially stigmatizing because of its disfiguring nature, making it difficult to interact and engage with peers in social settings and various environments. It can be very isolating and create a feeling of inferiority.
While it is true I have been diagnosed with each of the aforementioned described disorders, my story is remarkable. It is one that has been marked with many adversities and challenges from the time I was born until the present day. I have been written off by many because of my disabilities; those who did not believe in me, those who shunned me, and those who never thought I would ever get beyond grade school to amount to anything. However, I proved everyone wrong. Not only did I graduate from high school in 2014, but am now a freshman in college. I refused to allow my limitations and disabilities to define me or determine the course of my life. It would have been so easy to give up on myself or to succumb to my disabilities. Instead, I allowed them to motivate me and propel me forward.
I worked hard throughout school. I was determined to succeed and excel so that I could fulfill three dreams I have; to move away from my parents and live independently, go to college, and get a job. Since graduating from high school, I have moved away from my parents and am living with roommates on my own. I initially enrolled in Lyndon College in Vermont, but after a short time, my experience there was not positive and unfortunately, things did not work out as I hoped. However, I did let that discourage me. I enrolled in Vermont Community College and so far I am adapting well. I am still working on trying to get a job and will not give up until I have succeeded.
My search for personal identity and independence has been a lifelong struggle. I have come to realize that many adopted children never know their biological parents or anything about them. I have been fortunate in that regard. Not only do I know who my biological mother is, but I have a greater understanding as to why I have the disabilities I have. Perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned is that we are only as limited by our disabilities as we allow ourselves to be. Beyond that, I have never allowed my disabilities to become a crutch or excuse for me, but rather, an empowering tenet to motivate me to keep pressing forward and to never give up. That truly is the key to everything in life. No matter where or who we come from, what disabilities, limitations, or obstacles we face, or our circumstances, we can never give up. Even when those who lacked faith and gave up on me, I refused to give up on myself. I believe I would not have been able to achieve my goal of going to college had I not had a determined will and inherent believe in myself of being able to do the impossible. That has without a doubt been the secret to my success.
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