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Bill
Bill, LCSW, Consultant, Expert Witness
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 3706
Experience:  35 years treating individuals, couples, families with mental health and substance abuse prob's
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I have a 13 year old bipolar daughter who is a competitive

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I have a 13 year old bipolar daughter who is a competitive mid/high level gymnast. In the fall she was full of excitement as she'd moved up a level. She was looking good and feeling confident. Then she had a vertebral injury and was off real practice for 2 months. In the meantime at practice (she did conditioning) she got caught up with 2 other girls being 'silly'. The coaches are very good, and had been giving her a lot of attention when she was actually focusing, but as she and the other girls got sillier the coaches openly admitted to us, the parents, that all they could do was keep them safe and so I suppose my daughter perceived that they had lost interest in her. Then she started back to try and get her skills again. Now she suddenly says she hates gym. She was very mentally tough- not telling anyone even when she'd torn her patellar tendon. Now any ache or pain is a big deal and a reason not to practice. She confessed to me that she was now terrified of some of the skills she had gotten during the summer. She's not competing well, she can't do all the floor. She's telling my husband she hates it, me she's scared, and complaining about minor pains to the coaches. We let her quit and over the weekend she had a melt down and decided she wanted to go back. We said fine, but it is for the rest of the season. She's talented and I'd hate to see her quit. I am also thinking that there might be a bit of her depression sneaking in (we have an appointment with her psychiatrist) as she's always tired (beyond what a 16 hr practice week and middle school should be doing) and has stopped caring about the way she looks. I am wondering if there is a way I can get her back 'in the game'? Other tactics, telling her go ahead and quit, telling her she's good, watching her... and lots of other things aren't working. She wants to quit in the summer and move to the tumble team which is a real step down. I can't figure out how to find out exactly what her issue is. Is it really she hates it or is she frustrated or scared? Any suggestions how I can help her over this difficult time while trying to keep her in the sport?

Kim

Bill :

Hello- Thank you for asking the question. I have over 30 years of experience working with individuals, couples and families & am happy to reply.

Bill :

Kim-

Bill :

I am happy to help with this and having worked with many teenagers in my career who have BiPolar illness, stress is a forefront to decompensation.

Bill :

The rigors and challenges for a 13 year old with this type of athletic interest may be too overwhelming for her and at her age- she is not capable of making a consistently reliable decision about what she should do.

Bill :

This is where parenting comes in. She is 13 and you are the parent. You are obviously worried and see her deteriorating.

Bill :

16 hour days are not good for a 13 year old who has a mental illness

Bill :

Particularly when there is so much pressure in gymnastics.

Bill :

In my opinion, this is a conversation you need to have with her Doctor and together - with the Doctor make the best PARENTING choice for your daughter vs relying on her judgement which at this age is not fully developed.

Bill :

Does this make sense?

Customer:

Yes, it does. Gymnastics has helped her so much though. She was bullied and now she has a supportive team and had tons of confidence up until a month ago. She told her coach she will finish the season (even if it's not whole heartedly) and we will talk to her doctor. But in the short term is there anything I might be able to do to help her overcome what seems to be paralyzing fear and frustration with skills that she had but is fearful of now? I think if she can at least do them, she can be proud of herself and that might help in making a better decision in the summer.

Bill :

The only thing that you can do to help her is to assist her in reducing stress which in her case is a double edged sword because of the performance stress that is associated with her sport.

Bill :

I would try to get her to do something that is more relaxing on a daily basis- whether it is just laying down and listening to quiet music or doing something fun that is NO stress.

Bill :

Do you know about relaxation exercises etc?

Customer:

That sounds fine. Just one more question- should we ask her about practice, etc. or just not talk about gym? She used to love to talk about it all the time but I'm not sure if ignoring the sport in conversation is helpful or hurtful?

Customer:

And no, I don't know about relaxing exercises

Bill :

The above link explains relaxation information for teenage girls.

Bill :

Regarding the Gym- I would say- " I am always willing to listen if you have something to say about practice but I won't bring it up." " It is also perfectly okay to take a break if that is what you wish"

Bill :

Or something to the above effect.

Bill :

You want her to feel that she has an out from the Gym and that she doesn't have to please you or anyone else

Bill :

by being in gymnastics at this time.

Bill :

This is way too much stress for a teen with bipolar.......

Bill :

Cultivate ideas about other less stressful interests.............

Bill :

I trust this will help and wish you and your daughter the very best.

Bill :

Kindest regards,

Bill :

Bill

Customer:

Thanks

Bill :

You are most welcome

Bill :

I appreciate your Positive Rating So that I receive Credit for my time.

Bill :

Thank you

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