When Abby was a baby and toddler she would cry for no apparent reason. We spent many a night walking the floors, going and sitting outside, even taking her to the ER convinced she had some undiagnosed medical condition that was making her inconsolable. Turns out she was just anxious and pissed off about it. I kid…but she did have a very difficult time expressing her emotions in any way other than crying and tears. As time went on and she became more verbal, we would get a glimpse into her mind and how it was working but had times when we just didn’t quite know how to handle her meltdowns. Time between episodes would pass and we chalked it up to her personality.
Abby was always a master of creative play. Stuffed animals, “Littlest Pet Shop” creatures, Barbies – all were participants in the elaborate make believe worlds she would set up. Arts and crafts were also a favorite past time – she once spent hours making “Aidorondack” style chairs out of popsicle sticks for her LPS animals. She could make the tiniest creations out of clay that resembled real items. Her artwork often graced both the refrigerator at home and my desk at work.
Abby never went to a formal preschool because I was a stay at home mom at the time. She dabbled in gymnastics, and she had an ill fated season of 4 year old soccer, but didn’t really enjoy sports. From the time she started kindergarten up into her elementary years, things rolled along quite smoothly. In 2012, when she was only in third grade, all of our worlds fell apart when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although we had a wonderful support system with family, friends, and the school, the thought of your mother being seriously ill is enough to bring anyone, much less a 8 year old child, to their knees. I went through treatment and am doing well but I believe that was the traumatic event that caused her anxiety to manifest again.
Throughout later elementary school and middle school years, Abby was a good student. Very shy, she didn’t participate in much until she joined the Destination Imagination program. The shy quiet girl who never spoke became comfortable performing in front of judges and audiences in a problem solving environment that allowed opportunities to not only work with friends and classmates but interact with students from around the world. As her sister had done before her, Abby also found a tribe after joining band. Although she originally wanted to play percussion, I can’t imagine her marching with anything other than the flute she plays.
We never really quite knew what would trigger Abby’s anxiety. It could be slightly not feeling well, not sleeping well, running late for school, being “stressed” about an upcoming assignment. Add in the process of becoming a teenager and the trials and tribulations associated with that and the episodes became much more frequent. We finally decided to consult a doctor and she was put on a low dose of anxiety medication a few years ago. Last year, we even tried a medication for ADHD but she found it made her anxiety worse and she is trying to manage without it. Counseling was a no go for her (she just clams up) although I do like to think we have an open enough relationship that she feels that she can talk with us about anything.
Although I was worried about the transition to high school, Abby did quite well her sophomore year, becoming involved in the drama department in addition to being a member of the GHS marching band. Her personality became much more exuberant and she is known by her classmates as being very funny and outspoken. She has had the usual ups and downs of any teenage girl, a good relationship with her sister (which can also be fraught with drama) friendships that have lasted since elementary school (or birth in the case of her cousins), and a boyfriend who shares her wacky sense of humor. At the same time, she has had struggles in school, the recent death of her grandmother and the loss of a couple of friendships which caused angst and pain.
Academically, Abby is very intelligent. Most issues with her schoolwork come from her not completing tasks or her not applying herself. While she could be a solid A/B student, her attitude towards her work and her total and utter lack of organizational skills often result in a couple of A’s, some B’s, the occasional C and a disastrous year in Algebra II last year. Compounding this issues is that fact that her sister Sarah was such a strong, organized student. Sarah was always intrinsically motivated and I never had to be concerned with her assignments or her work. But comparison, as they say, is the thief of joy. We are very careful NOT to compare Abby to her sister. They are both unique and wonderful in their own ways.
In conclusion, Abby is creative, intelligent, funny, artistic and a joy to be around. She is also incredibly unorganized, messy, and prone to procrastination. As she has gotten older, she has become much more independent, getting her driver’s license and taking every opportunity for a Target run. She loves music, art, thrift stores, and animals. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do with her. But we damn sure wouldn’t know what to do without her.
Karri Temple Brackett
August 17, 2019