I’ve been mentally writing and rewriting this post for three weeks, beginning with the moment I took this picture…
Three weeks ago today, our eldest child boarded that school bus and rode off to the first day of a fresh start. A fresh start that none of us wanted, but was absolutely needed.
The wheels on that bus go round and round, transporting high school students from every corner of our little city to one small building on the back corner of a high school campus. That building is home to a targeted intervention program that exists to support the mental health and academic needs of teens. That bus, that building, and that program are what high school now looks like for our 17 year old who lives with bipolar disorder.
The wheels on that bus go round and round, transporting my child to and from a school program we didn’t even know existed until about one month ago. It seems to be the best kept secret in our school district – one I’m both glad we know and yet also wish we didn’t get to the point where we needed to be in the know.
The wheels on that bus go round and round, setting my kid apart as “other” in a way we never wanted. We always felt (hoped) that the resources available in the mainstream school programs combined with the resources we access outside of school would be enough. And they were, until they weren’t.
The wheels on that bus go round and round, taking my kid to a place where the teachers and staff are fully invested in the individual success of every kid in the program. Students are not “other” when they are there. They are given the space to be fully themselves and helped to chart their own paths forward.
The wheels on that bus go round and round, simultaneously taking my kid toward new possibilities and away from the way we all thought high school would unfold. There is a tension in that reality. We are all, in our own ways, grieving the loss of a once imagined future at our neighborhood high school. But my child has begun to talk about feeling more self-like and wondering out loud if that would have happened had we not left the home high school.
The wheels on that bus go round and round, building a little more hope in my heart everyday. This school program is not a magical solution. But in conjunction with therapy and medication, this school program does appear to be the right fit – perhaps just for now and perhaps for the remaining two years of high school.
The wheels on that bus go round and round, every weekday and on this specific Monday that also happens to be #worldmentalhealthday2022. I am well aware everyday that we have the privilege of access to mental health services, but I am reminded on this day that access is still too far out of reach for far too many people both in the United States and around the world.
The wheels on that bus go round and round, driving my child away every morning and bringing my child back every afternoon. There have been some afternoons in these past weeks where the kid who gets off the bus is worn down and the gremlin that is a bipolar teenager walks into our house. But there have also been some afternoons in these past weeks where the kid who gets off the bus has successfully navigated life and walks into our house with a lightness we haven’t seen much in recent years. Life with bipolar means that gremlin will always be around, but this fresh start midway through high school is giving us all a glimpse at possibility. And for now, possibility feels like enough.