Kathy Larson, author and illustrator of “ Dancing Crazy,” generously agreed to an interview about this recently published children’s book aimed at helping kids understand bipolar disorder. Here is an excerpt from that exchange:
What motivated or inspired you to write “Dancing Crazy?”
I really had no choice. Our daughter experienced the most challenging event in the course of her disease. Doctors feared she was moving into a permanent catatonic state; we feared she was dying. After spending three months in a secured setting, Susan was released from the hospital. The world immediately became a different place-for her and her husband, their children, all of us, really. Each of us helped as best we could-praying, baby-sitting, cooking meals and doing the laundry, all the while seeking reassurance in words we could understand. There were many excellent books on the market for adults, but none for little ones. So I wrote one.
Please share your personal experiences with serious mental illness.
Although never diagnosed with depression, my mother spent long hours staring out a window or napping on the couch. As children, we figured she was just worn out from raising the five of us. Now, as adults, we wonder how Mom even survived with such responsibility and little support.
Over the years, many of my students have suffered physical or emotional abuse from mentally ill family members. Others continue to live with the results of parents or siblings who have either attempted suicide or been successful. I think of one little fifth grader who stopped coming to school after excerpts from her father’s trial were detailed in the local newspaper. She was positive everyone would figure out she was the person he’d raped and “stare at her”.
On a personal level, several members of my family take medication for anxiety or depression; and a few more probably should. Looking at the myriad of mental illnesses-from schizophrenia to borderline personality disorder to just plain naughty-we’ve got it all somewhere.
What do you hope to accomplish by publishing “Dancing Crazy?”
“Dancing Crazy” will reduce the fears of many children as they deal with Bipolar Disease. Kids’ worries are so much the same. Did I make my parent act this way? Can someone “catch” bipolar? What’s going to happen to me or my family tomorrow or the next day or the next?
What do you want people, especially children, to know about bipolar disorder?
Bipolar Disorder is a disease caused by a chemical imbalance in somebody’s brain. Your mom or dad did not get it because they work too hard. Nor did they get it because they have too much fun. The truth is everyone in your family will still have good days and not-so-good days, just like they did before someone got diagnosed with bipolar disease.
To learn more about Ms. Larson’s book, or to order it for yourself, click here. And if you know of other books about mental illness written specifically for children, please contact me.