Dear Little Cousin,
When your mother told me that you had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I cried.
I wept because I did not want anyone else in the family to walk the road I am on with my own bipolar disorder diagnosis. I wept because bipolar disorder can be more difficult to manage the younger that you are when you are diagnosed. I was 23 when my symptoms surfaced. You are 14. I feel that is too young to have to deal with emotional and mental concerns.
And yet visiting you in the hospital was bittersweet. It dredged up memories of my own hospitalizations – all four of them – but I was glad that you were receiving treatment and on the road to recovery and wellness.
Attending your 8th grade graduation, my heart swelled with pride. And love. And hope. I felt all of this because the last few months were not easy for you. You had more than your fair share of challenges to overcome. Thankfully, you did not have to do any of it alone.
The relationship you have developed with your therapist warms my heart. She has impacted you to your core, so much so that you, too, now want to be a therapist. That would be the ultimate way of paying it forward, of passing on what was instilled into you.
I know you are only 14, but if this career goal sticks, I know that you will make an excellent therapist. You have firsthand knowledge of what it means to live in mood instability and mood stability. You know the impact of a caring adult and professional; and from what you told me about how you relate to your peers, listening and giving advice, you are already honing important skills.
Listening to you talk about your newfound career interests made me beam with pride. I, too, want to become a therapist because of my own experiences with my diagnosis. I, too, have been blessed with great, caring mental health providers and I want to pay it forward.
I hope that I can also be a role model for you in how to live in recovery and instability. I’ve had nearly ten years to learn about my bipolar disorder. I’ve learned to be reflective and proactive. If you ever need help navigating your moods or self-care or high school next year, I’m here.