Thoughts on Afters and Nexts 2.0

Tomorrow is the last day of the 2021-2022 school year. The kids will say peace out to 9th and 10th grades by lunchtime, and by dinnertime the eldest will also be officially discharged from the outpatient mental heath program that has been that child’s only extracurricular activity since March. To say the least, June 16, 2022 is going to be a bit of a day.

Back in March, when we first admitted our eldest to the outpatient mental health program, I wrote about how this season of parenting has meant coming to terms with the fact that for this child there will likely never be a time of after mental health treatment. In the months since I shared those thoughts, there has been an official diagnosis from our longtime psychiatrist of bipolar disorder with mixed features. We’re all now living solidly in the space where we know after will not come, but next is always on the horizon.

Tomorrow that next looks like finishing the last few assignments to get full credit for a semester of 10th grade completed via independent study with a home hospital teacher, a small celebration with peers and staff in the outpatient program, and choice of restaurant for family dinner. Monday morning that next will look like boarding a bus at 5am to spend the week on a high school wilderness retreat through the YMCA (or at least that is the plan). And then next, and next, and next?

Nexts are possible because our child has medication, therapy, a wonderful treatment team, parental willpower, and unending love. Nexts aren’t a solid plan or clear path forward. But I do believe that nexts are the promise of more tomorrows and our child being equipped with the tools and life skills to make courageous choices. So here’s to nexts – wherever they may lead.

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