Linea and I just returned from presenting at the Wisconsin State Transition Conference. We shared information about bipolar and the issues around transitioning from high school to post-high school for young people with mental health conditions. Although I have presented for many years to many audiences presenting from a personal perspective is different...and scary. We are providing information and research but also a very personal story. The participants at the conference, held at Wisconsin Dells, could not have been more receptive and supportive. It is all worth it when we hear from people that have also been diagnosed with bipolar or have family members that have and are inspired, even in a small way, by our story. Thank you, Wisconsin, for your warm welcome! Let’s get rid of the stigma and prepare young people to advocate for their needs and be proud of their strengths. Let's make sure that there are services and support for young people when they turn 18 and may not be under their parents' health care. But, I learned even more than those that came to our presentation.
See, I am afraid of high places. My palms sweat simply watching a movie with the actors dangling even 20 feet above the ground. I am terrified when my feet are off the ground. It doesn’t matter if my brain tells me I can’t possibly fall. I did something highly unusual at Kalahari Resort where the conference was held. The first night we were there I had watched Linea and her dad climb all over the ropes course. I took pictures and turned away to catch my breath when they walked across the skinny planks and ropes. But then, I, most fearful of high places, managed to walk across (and back through) the ropes course. Yes, I know I was there for professional reasons but I did it. Know why? Prior to this huge event (ropes course!) we had a small dinner in the bar at the resort where a band, including special education teachers, was playing to the great delight of the conference participants. Wisconsin is different from Washington State in that you don’t have to be 21 to be in a bar with a band. Mingled with all the teachers and school psychologists and DVR personnel were young people with disabilities, also attending the conference. As I watched them dance I was so inspired. The kid in a wheel chair that bumped down the stairs on his own and backwards to get out on the dance floor so he could spin with the little blond girl…the young man in his Packer’s jersey that was dancing away very happily all on his own…the young man dancing with two girls at once and did it so gracefully. You all encouraged and touched me in a way that caused me to say, “I’ll do the ropes course.” And I did.