Back in the Nest: A Safe Harbor for a Floundering Fledgeling

A safe harbor for a floundering fledgeling

…continued from yesterday.

“Come home,” Pedro said to Sarah.

I grabbed my computer and started looking for one-way flights to San Francisco. God, my ever-faithful travel agent, led me to a flight that would have me in San Francisco by noon that we wouldn’t have to mortgage the house to purchase. When your child tells you that she’s thinking terrible thoughts, you don’t fly standby to reach her.

Pedro spoke with Sarah a little while longer, than we both rushed to pack what we needed. Within thirty minutes we had tossed stuff in our car and headed to Phoenix.
Pedro’s brother had arranged for a friend to go over and check on Sarah, although Sarah said she would be fine.

I had my doubts. Her ‘terrible thoughts’ included going for a walk in the dark on the lonely back roads near her uncle’s house and stepping in front of a car. I prayed without ceasing through the three-hour drive to our hotel.

Sarah had been on Zoloft for almost a month now. She had seen a handful of mental health professionals—and none of them seemed to feel the urgency I felt at Sarah’s depression and lack of progress. Her behavior fell so far out of the normal range for her that I wanted to shake some sense into those who purported to help her.

The next morning I rode the shuttle to catch my flight and Pedro drove back to Holbrook—both of us breathing in and out prayers for Sarah’s safety and mental health. I also prayed desperately for us as a couple. After two years of adjusting to a mostly empty nest, life would certainly change as we reincorporated Sarah back into our household and struggled to figure out how best to help our floundering fledgling.

Sarah met me at the airport in San Francisco at noon, and we started the long drive back to Holbrook. She didn’t have much to say, other than thanking me for flying up to help her drive home. She slept a lot. She told me a little about what she had done at Alta Bates.

I learned a bit about cognitive distortions (and at our next gas station stop I quickly found a book on cognitive therapy on Amazon and purchased two copies—a hard copy for Sarah and a digital copy for me). From what she told me, Sarah suffered from a slew of cognitive distortions—not to mention her continuing eating disorder. A blogging friend had mentioned Emily Wierenga’s book Chasing Silhouettes, and I bought that one, too. I felt an urgent need to equip myself to help in any way possible.

I wanted to equip myself to help in any way possible. #mentalhealth #write31days Click To Tweet

Sarah told me how much she hated the program at Alta Bates and what a waste of time and money it was. According to Sarah, the health professionals there wanted her to find a program closer to home. This made gorge rise in my throat and I wanted to dial their number and give them a piece of my mind.

After all of my work to find a place within reasonable distance that could help Sarah AND took our insurance, who were they to casually urge her to find a place closer to home? What did they know about where we lived and what options were ‘closer to home?’ Of course, Sarah staying with her uncle and aunt didn’t seem to work out that well, so perhaps home really did offer the safest harbor at the moment.

I felt woefully inadequate, though. What did I know about helping someone navigate the dark waters of depression—a depression so deep that medication didn’t seem to offer even a glimmer of hope?

We stopped at a mall on the way home, and Sarah and I chose some towels to go with the bedding I had recently purchased for the guestroom. My mommy guilt screamed in my ear that perhaps all of Sarah’s angst came from the fact that we had moved and she didn’t have her own room in our new, smaller house. I hoped enlisting her in personalizing what I had called the ‘guestroom’ would make her feel more anchored—as if she belonged somewhere.

We arrived late Tuesday afternoon, and after helping Sarah unload her car, I started fixing supper. Afterwards, Sarah went to bed, and Pedro fell asleep whilst watching TV. I dove into the book by Emily Wierenga, anxious to finish it as soon as possible so that I could share what I learned with Pedro and maybe we could figure out how best to help Sarah and provide her with a safe harbor whilst she figured things out.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. By the time Pedro woke up, I had already gone to bed—I’d been living on far too little sleep for over a week, and I felt tired, cranky and exhausted. Pedro wanted to talk about our next step. Our plan.

We didn’t have a plan. We ended up having one of those quiet, intense arguments where both of us say things we know we shouldn’t because we’re too tired to fight fair. He accused me of always wanting to do things my way—of not consulting him and just running with what I thought would work best. I apologized (because his accusation held a lot of truth in it—my perennial flaw involves wanting to protect or shield other people and thus doing too much on my own. I did this during Pedro’s cancer, and my bad habits had resurfaced again).

But his accusations hurt—especially because I felt that he should feel grateful that I had worked so hard to find help for Sarah and spent so many hours reading books that would give us the guidance we so desperately sought. I ended up spending a couple more hours in the living room, reading as fast as I could—hoping to find easy answers in someone else’s story (and avoiding Pedro, because my anger hadn’t simmered down yet).

The next evening at dinner things spiraled even further downhill. Pedro started talking to Sarah about her eating habits whilst I squirmed in my chair. Each word made me want to jump up and scream, “You’re doing this wrong! I just read a book!” But I didn’t. I started praying instead. I asked the Holy Spirit to guard my tongue and keep me silent if I should remain silent.

I asked the Holy Spirit to guard my tongue and keep me silent if I should remain silent. Click To Tweet

The Holy Spirit kept me quiet a lot longer than I thought was necessary. By the end of the evening, Pedro had said far too much (in my opinion) and my nerves twanged and jittered at the slightest mention of food, exercise, eating or the word ‘plan.’ But I’m not God. I’m not the curegiver. I am only the caregiver. As we got ready for bed, Pedro lamented that he needed a book to read because he had finished his the previous night.

I handed him a copy of Chasing Silhouettes.

...to be continued.

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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