Wednesday, June 12, 2013

If Only We'd Had the Internet...

Al Gore's dilly-dallying had a major effect on my childhood.

Wait a minute...what? Dilly-dallying? Al Gore? Has Prickly Mom finally gone completely cuckoo-bananas?

Let's think about it. In this day and age, the Internet is a major player in any mother's life. We turn to it when our littles have anything from a tummy-ache to a string of temper tantrums. Now, I'm not knocking the library or the brick-and-mortar bookstore (which I still visit regularly), but let's face it: the Internet is always there the instant you need it. It's become an integral part of our lives.

As a little girl growing up in the 1970s and '80s, I had stomach aches all the time. I cried when I had to go to school. I remember being 12 or 13 years old and checking and re-checking to make sure there were no people hiding in my closet or under my bed, even though I was in my bedroom alone with my door locked. For a while there, I was convinced my teeth were falling out. And I continued to play sick or be sick so I could stay home from school. I was still throwing fits at age 14.

Looking back, I'm sure my mom knew there was something wrong with me. She took me to the pediatrician a lot for my stomach aches and filled scores of useless antibiotic prescriptions (our small town had one of those doctors who gave out an amoxicillin script at every visit, regardless of what your problem was). As I entered my pre-teen years, my mom started taking me to a string of social workers who tried talk therapy, and even took me into the city once to visit what I'm assuming was some kind of neurological clinic. Unfortunately, during that time period, none of those doctors was insightful enough to put two and two together: probably because childhood mental illness wasn't even on anyone's radar (think about it--if adolescent depression had been an issue back then, wouldn't there have been a Judy Blume novel about it? There wasn't. Touche).

I know now that I grew up with clinical depression and anxiety (with an obvious peppering of OCD in there with the teeth-falling-out thing).

Dang that Al Gore...if he had just started inventing the Internet 10 years earlier, the medical community could have been sharing information more readily and worried '70s moms like mine could have had access to more research and anecdotal evidence--as well as access to other moms around the globe with the same concerns about their kids. My mom would have logged on to AskJeeves or Dogpile and found that a child's complaints of feeling sick, refusing to go to school, clinginess, sulking, and crabbiness can all be signs of childhood depression (according to this NIMH fact sheet).

Thankfully, things started to come together for us in 1992 when my mom, after probably her millionth semi-futile phone call to the hundredth health-care agency, was put in touch with a psychiatrist who diagnosed my depression and put me on my first anti-depressant. Yes, I was a legal adult by then, and took charge of much of my own mental health adventure from that point on, but it was my mom who finally got me on the right track after wandering down dead ends for decades in search of help.

So later today, when you're Googling "stomachache tantrums behavior" for the zillionth time, say a little thank you to our fore-mothers who had to drive to the library and make phone call after phone call (on a rotary, curly-corded phone) for years on end to figure out how to help their kids. And say a little prayer of gratitude that now we have the Internet to help us.


  1. The internet does make it so much easier, doesn't it? Though it also throws in wrong diagnosis and opinions stated as fact, just as an added bonus. ;)

  2. We have it pretty good these days! Enjoyed this post. :)

  3. The internet has allowed everyone to feel like they're doctors, chefs, comedians and lawyers. But it is an incredibly useful tool to have.