The (Not So) Fine Art of Negotiating With My Tween’s Bipolar

We’re getting ready to go to the beach. It’s New Year’s Day. (Yes, I know I’m lucky. Truly grateful!) While I’m packing, my daughter with anxiety disorder and Bipolar is escalating. She follows me around the house as I collect towels, bathing suits, beach shoes.

“You threw out my old swim suit?!” She accuses, screaming at me.

“Last time you wore it, I told you the suit was finished. It had holes.” I reply.

“It was FINE. And you KNOW it! You want me to look ugly and all my friends are going to laugh!” She yells.

(None of her friends are coming, but you and I know that’s not really the point.)

“I’ll talk to you when you’re calm and respectful, honey.” I remind.

It’s almost mechanical. The words I’ve said so many times. She doesn’t remember. She never does. That’s life with a child with a mood disorder.

“You always do that! Screw up what I want to wear!” She persists.

No comment. I pretend to pack the swimsuits for the third time.

“What were you THINKing? …And stop LOOKING at me like that.” She accuses.

(I check myself to see if I’m doing any “look.” Once I reassure myself otherwise, I keep packing. It’s worth making sure, right??)

“I hate when you look at me like that. Everyone always looks at me like that.” She’s calming, but resisting it still.

Crickets. (Still not doing any “look.”)

“What am I supposed to wear to the beach, then?!” She asks. Asking is good. It’s a step toward relating again.

“Maybe some shorts and a tank top?” I offer.

Bad move. Too soon in her bounceback. I realize it as verbal bazooka fire comes back at me. “WhatEVER!” She yells. Starts crying. Throws herself on the floor like a child 1/5 her age.

(Damn. Gave her fresh ammo there. Must resist the urge to talk until the pupils constrict again and she doesn’t have the cadence of a 1000 pound gorilla.)

She tries to pick a fight. I ignore.

She incites me. I resist, keep packing.

She backs down. I glance sideways to see if her posture is relaxing, her eyes calming from wildness.

“You’ll know how to figure it out,” I affirm her, quietly.

She stomps away. Comes back in a leotard, shorts and a play shirt.

I smile.

She falls at me, arms outstretched, face nuzzles into my neck. “I’m sorry mom.”

“I know.”

“I love you, mom.” She’s quieter.

“I know. I love you too.” I assure.

And the world is back on it’s axis, with life back to normal.

For about 5 minutes.




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