I just found this picture after almost 3 years now, just reflecting on how far we have come, and how terribly proud I am of my daughter. This is a picture of Abbey sharing her art at a coffee house/Open Mic hosted by what was then a Meetup called The Element School. This was the 1st Meetup Abbey ever attended after having to leave public school 1/2 way through 4th grade due to severe emotional bullying and a subsequent emotional break down. Back then Abbey lived each day in extreme fear, emotional pain, anxiety, and depression. Due to terrifying panic attacks she didn't leave the house for months after leaving school, she couldn't tolerate even seeing extended family. Even after she was able to leave the house she couldn't go into any public building or be around crowds or people she didn't know. She would stay in the car when I went to the store, and many times when I would return she would be crying and hiding in fear.
After leaving school we were suppose to be homeschooling, but she couldn't tolerate any structured school in the state she was in. But she could draw, and so that is what she did day and night she drew with out let up. That night at the Open Mic they were offering kids a chance to share their art, poetry, short films, any artistic passion. I knew that if Abbey could share her digital art it could be the key to rebuilding her self esteem and the start of her recovery. So I didn't tell her much about the Meetup except that she should put some art on a board and take it with us. When we got there, it took me 30 minutes of gentle coaxing to just get her out of the car. It took another 30 minutes to get her from the bench outside, to inside the coffee shop. But, she said she wouldn't show her art, she put it back in the car. We sat down, the other kids had their art displayed, but because of all the people she didn't know she wanted to leave, I asked her to try and stay a few minutes longer. I bribed her with a chocolate brownie and she ate and stayed a little while longer. I begged her again to let me bring in her art and set it beside her, she finally said I could. A few people came by and looked at her art and gave her nods of approval, she started to smile. We didn't sign up for the open mic, but we stayed to watch. The first boy showed a short film he produced, I could tell it put Abbey at ease. She turned to me and said, "I want to go up there." I was shocked, I asked if she was sure, she said yes. I raised my hand and although we had not signed up for the open mic, the organizer called on us and asked Abbey to come to the stage.
As she stood next to her art Abbey spoke loud and clear, she told the audience of about 40 strangers how she use to go to school, but how the kids were really mean to her - so she had to be homeschooled. She said that after she started homeschooling she noticed she had a lot more time on her hands, so she started to draw. She said the art she had with her was digital art of characters she had made. I don't remember the rest of what she said, but I remember I was so proud of the strength it must have took for her to push through all that fear and do what she did, it WAS the start of her recover. I wish so badly I had remembered to video tape it, but I didn't, I only have this one picture.
I didn't fully understand Abbey and her unique makeup in the beginning, I started to learn through research, but it didn't come naturally to me to trust that my daughter knew who she was and what she needed at such a young age. She didn't need me to plan out her life and keep pushing her toward it, she just needed support of who she was, and a very gentle, guiding hand. Please let your kids do what inspires them, even if it is something you don't see much value in yourself, even if it is not something that aligns with your "plan" as to who you think they should become. Who are we to say what will inspire, or what will help another person cope with whatever struggles they face. Supporting or allowing our kids to pursue whatever inspires them can be the key to them growing into strong, happy individuals, who have something to give back and share with others. What more could we ask of of them?
Hugs & Happy Parenting!
Julie L Gibson-Vasquez The Proactive Parenting Coach
This article was written in 2015, the pictures were taken in 2012. To see how Abbey is doing today, some of the people and organizations that helped her, find links to where she posts her own creative passion; art, character design, & animation, how that has helped her heal and how she hopes to help other kids like her through it, visit her website at Cartoon Dreamer! In 2012, after finding no local support, we decided to start our own gifted children support group. It has given us friendships, support and everything we every hoped for. You can read more about it at R C Gifted Children Meetups & Parent Support.