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  • Tell Me About Your Child

    For the past few days, Kate has been rapid cycling. For those of you who are fortunate enough not to know what this means, think about a light switch run by a small person who thinks it's cute to turn on and off the lights in rapid succession.

    Except in this case, "On" is manic, with thoughts racing a mile a minute and exaggeration flowing at all times. "Off" is horrifically sad and angry — adolescence on steroids.

    It's exhausting, not just for us and for Emma, but for Kate as well.

    So, in our ongoing search for life's little ironies, we discovered one tonight. Digging through our daughter's book bag, Jill found a letter from Kate's creative writing teacher: "In a Million Words or Less … Tell Me About Your Child!"

    The assignment was handed out last week; the due date, of course, is tomorrow.

    ••••••

    Below is what I came up with and attached, along with the essay I posted earlier this evening.I hope each provides you with some insight into parenting a bipolar child.

    Kate’s highlight reel reads like this:

    Born two days after Christmas. Always restless and difficult to soothe as an infant and toddler. Walked at nine months. Twin siblings born before she turns a year. Diagnosed with ADHD at 5. Accepted into GT program between 2nd and 3rd grade. Diagnosed as bipolar at age 10. Hits an academic wall in 5th grade. Mood disorder never goes away. Sixth grade hits a major wall and pulls out of GT. Enters middle school and has to be in basic skills.

    Starting over. Struggling to find letters B through Y in the alphabet; prefers to go straight from A to Z instead. Always has enjoyed art. Finds comfort in drawing and sketching. Wants to be a fashion designer, but has no patience to sew. Loves to run and does so like a gazelle. Loves to dance; ironically ballet calms her. Has many ideas racing through her mind at all times; the mind never shuts down. Never. Until it overloads.

    Wants to have and make friends. Doesn’t know what the give and take of friendship really means. Anything can be solved by giving someone a present, usually used and/or created. Doesn’t matter what it is; it’s the thought that counts.

    Has anxiety. Sometimes so severe that it’s almost crippling; other times it’s like sending the space shuttle into orbit.

    Like any adolescent, both loves and loathes her siblings. When she’s rapid cycling, the two emotions overlap, causing confusion.

    It’s hard, this life. No one understands me. And no one tries, even though that’s what we’ve spent her entire lifetime trying to do.

    From an intelligence standpoint, she should not be in special ed. She — and her parents — are alternately saddened and proud that she has the label. This year, she knows that she’s been labeled, and she — like all teens — is both ambivalent and cares too much. Kate’s dual exceptionalities represent a conundrum that school systems are ill-equipped to face, and we say this both having worked as educators in various capacities.

    Kate is someone who is almost incapacitated in her search for emotional equalibrium. She is beautiful and talented and so incredibly creative. She just hasn’t found the true outlet that she can hold on to that allows her to express her thoughts and emotions adequately.

    This week she’s trying creative writing, something that should — and can — be a natural outlet for her, especially given her parents’ backgrounds. The struggle will be in harnessing her innate creativity and not allowing herself to get bogged down and overwhelmed by the mechanics.

    ••••••

    Here's what I didn't tell the teacher: I love my daughter with all of my heart and soul, but her illness doesn't make it easy. My wife and I desperately want to do everything we can to make a difference in her life, and we're trying as hard as we can without getting bogged down and overwhelmed as well.

    Wish us luck. We need it.