Designated Issues

October 9, 2009

A recent article in a national women's magazine discussed "designated issues".   A designated issue is defined as an issue dominating our thoughts so that we will not notice our other problems.  The writer states that designated issues "command inordinate mindshare" and "...allow the mind to stuff much greater terrors in relatively tidy packages."

Hmmm. Maybe I need to explore this..."much greater terrors"...I should find out what these are...shouldn't I?  OK, let's take a look at this theory.  What subject commands the majority of my waking worry moments?  No question - making sure that Lauren is cared for - staffing, medical, service management, daily needs, future planning...Oh wow, my heart is beating faster just making that list.  Now, what are the greater terrors that I'm avoiding?  Well, we can all think of possible terrors that we could worry about - health of self or spouse, economic tragedy, global warming, but since I take care of myself as best as I can, pay attention to my finances, and recycle and reuse. I really don't feel these things represent terrors in my life.

Maybe I'm just not getting this theory.  The writer states that we should be grateful for our designated issues and "sincerely thank them for containing your other worries."  She offers a process for finding your gratitude:  Sit quietly and imagine that your designated issue is gone, not available, not a problem.  Then ask yourself, "Now that I've fixed that, what problems do I still have to face?"  At this point all the scary, stressful parts of your life are supposed to spill out of your life in a "big, ungodly, mess."  According to the writer each attempt you make or success you have in fixing one of these scary parts will result in your designated issue becoming not as stressful and occupying less of your thoughts.

Let me give this a try.  All of the issues surrounding Lauren are gone...she has everything that she needs...she has people that love her in her life...she will receive quality care for the rest of her life...she will be comfortable, happy , and safe when I can no longer be there for her...ohmmmmm...ohmmmmm. Ahhh, this is nice.  I should do this more often.  I feel lighter.  Those funny lines between my eyebrows are gone.  I can actually take a deep breath!  But...let me continue.  What problems are left:  I'm getting older - can't do anything about that.  I can't keep my weight up (yes, I said up - and, I know, you don't want to hear about that being a "problem").  My parents are becoming more frail and needy - can't do anything more for them than I'm already doing.  George is starting to retire - have we prepared enough financially for that and to provide for Lauren...forever?  We have spent so much over the years to care for her, but what choice did we have?  And, then there is our long will we be able to maintain it?  We built this house to fit Lauren's needs.  We're all very comfortable works.  But it's a big house, not huge, but spacious.  It takes a lot of our time and energy to maintain it, and we're slowing down, physically and financially.  What will we do next?

You see, this is where the theory just falls apart for me.  Did you notice how even my other "scary, stressful parts" come back to Lauren?  What if your designated issue is your big, ungodly mess?  What if the designated issue steers the course of your life, impacts every decision that you make, and evades every attempt you have ever made to resolve it?  What if your designated issue is so overwhelming in scope and significance that everything else pales in comparison to it?

Tha writer continues, "If you have a designated issue, addressing other problems will (eventually) make it dry up and blow away."  If only.


  1. Good job articulating experiences that parallel those of all of us with special needs family members. Thanks for offering yet another peek into the window of our lives for those who have no clue. I am sure the "choir" will hear you; if only the directors and those who really don't want a clue, will pay attention--here's hoping.

  2. Interesting perspective on the designated issue subject. I don't see Lauren as a designated issue in your case...she is a real, living, breathing person who naturally deserves the time and attention you must give to care for her. Designated issues (and I'm not a psychologist or anything:)) are the issues we have some control over (weight, depression, smoking etc...). Lauren is a person, not an issue. A bad marriage would be a designated issue (not so much the husband, but the marriage). Abuse would be the issue, not so much the abuser. Maybe you don't have a designated issue Gail? Love the photo:)

  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think you may have missed the point of the post. I was not saying that Lauren was a designated issue. I was pointing out the various aspects of Lauren's needs and care - building a life for her within the limitations and opportunities of our community - are a constant source of worry and concern. They are my responsibility, yet still dependent on the availability of resources. Therefore the main "issue" in my life - being a responsible parent for a young woman with significant needs - is affected by many factors beyond my control. Feeling like I can never do everything that I need to do for my child is my designated issue and is definitely not something I focus on to avoid other issues in my life - it is the "terror" in my life.