When You Feel Inadequate: It’s Ok to Just Come Alongside

Mental health

…continued from yesterday.

I learned how to come alongside someone in need.

My phone buzzed as I fidgeted in the uncomfortable seat in the waiting area of the airport the next morning. “Hello?”

“Have you decided what to do once you get Sarah?” my brother-in-law asked. I jumped up and pulled my suitcase to a quieter area.

“Not really. We just know we need to find her help, but Portland doesn’t seem to have anything on our insurance list.”

“I spoke with my wife, and she’s willing to help in any way. In fact, you and Sarah are welcome to come here and stay as long as you need to.”

Silent tears coursed down my face, drawing curious stares from disinterested passersby. “Thank you. We’ll do that. I’ll start looking into treatment centers in the Bay Area.”

“I’ve also called my friend who’s a psychiatrist and has a practice in Calistoga. He’s willing to see Sarah just as soon as he can fit her in.”

I jotted down the phone number and thanked him once again, assuring him I would keep him apprised of my progress and travel plans.

When we hung up, I discovered my name had moved to the top of the standby list, so I went to the counter to get my ticket and boarded the plane.

I spent most of the day in the San Francisco airport, hoping to get on a flight. I finally texted Sarah and let her know that I would see her the next day.

Sarah Ojeda: I still haven’t told anybody you’re coming…I just don’t know what it will do… I can’t wait to see you but I’m horrible…
Anita Ojeda: Who knows when I’ll get there.
Sarah Ojeda: Oooh, Marm! You’re wasting your time! I love you so much and I know you love me but I don’t know what it’ll do to have you here!
I’m a lost cause!
Anita Ojeda: You are NEVER a lost cause! You are NOT a waste of time. Are you trying to make me cry in an airport?
Sarah Ojeda: No. I keep forgetting that other people have feelings, too! 🙁
Can we go to a mountaintop and do nothing together forever?
Anita Ojeda: We can certainly find a mountain to climb!
Sarah Ojeda: But I can’t because I’m so fat and I have to work…and I don’t know how to do anything or plan anything … Must go now
Anita Ojeda: I love you! When someone has cancer, do you call them ‘horrible’?
Sarah Ojeda: No…
Anita Ojeda: So. There is no difference between having a sickness of the mind (it’s NOT your fault) and having cancer. You don’t cause either one. So it’s silly to call yourself ‘horrible’ when you are sick in your soul and need help.
Sarah Ojeda: It is my fault though… I’m not trying.
Anita Ojeda: Do you think people with cancer should ‘try’ to fix their cancer?
Sarah Ojeda: Yes
Anita Ojeda: How does a person with cancer ‘fix’ their cancer?
Sarah Ojeda: They go to the hospital and receive treatment..
Anita Ojeda: Do you have the courage to do the same?
Sarah Ojeda: To go to a hospital?
Anita Ojeda: Yes. At least to have an official evaluation and physical so some experts can suggest a treatment plan.
Sarah Ojeda: Hmm
Anita Ojeda: I’ll be with you and lend you courage and mortal support 🙂 and lots of love.
Sarah Ojeda: Mortal support? Ha, ha
Anita Ojeda: Yep. I’m just a mortal 🙂
Sarah Ojeda: Everybody is trying to help me…everyone is so kind and happy and they love me but I’m just rejecting it all…
Anita Ojeda: Kind of like a person with cancer who thinks they can cure themselves with carrot juice enemas, eh?
Sarah Ojeda: Haha!

I also searched the Internet and called all of the treatment centers within a hundred miles of Angwin, CA, where my brother-in-law and his wife live. I discovered that when a doctor tells a friend, “I’ll fit her in just as soon as I can,” he probably hasn’t consulted his office staff—‘just as soon as I can’ meant the following week. I wanted things to happen immediately and I struggled to keep my impatience and frustration from leaking out in toxic rivulets that would burn anyone who came in contact with me.  I prayed for patience and a flight out of San Francisco.

When the standby list for the last flight to Portland came up, I discovered my name in the 23rd place on the list. A sense of calm came over me, and the Shepherd’s Psalm popped into my mind. Even if I didn’t make it to Portland that night, I would make it in God’s time. He would keep Sarah safe—not me nor my worrying would do that.

God speaks to us in unexpected ways at unexpected times. Live in anticipation of his love notes. #mentalhealth Click To Tweet

God certainly has a sense of humor. Once he had my attention, he moved my name up the list in short order even though the ticket agent had told me my chances didn’t look good. I boarded last on the last flight and had just enough time to text my mom to let her know when to pick me up.

The next day produced typical Oregon weather—rain, scattered showers and more rain. The weather fit my mood. For six weeks Sarah and I had communicated mostly through texting—I wondered what in the world I would say to her when I saw her in person.

Mostly, I just hugged her and cried a little. Then I helped her pack her stuff up and I spoke with her boss and explained that I needed to take Sarah so that she could get help. The rest of her co-workers seemed sad to see her go, and they all told me kind things about her.

I don’t know exactly what I expected—maybe that they would revile Sarah as much as she seemed to revile herself. We left after a late lunch, ran a few errands and than headed for California.

Chattering does not come naturally to me, nor do I feel qualified to talk someone through their angst or probe the depths of their despair. I breathed in and out with constant prayers whilst trying to assess Sarah’s mood, the source of her depression and conjure up any clue that would help her. Basically, I spent a lot of time driving and not saying anything.

Occasionally we spoke of mundane things. The weather. The mountains. Birds. Funny things that happened in North Carolina. My brother-in-law and his wife had gone out of town, so we had no reason to hurry. We discovered that the Costco in Petaluma, CA sells the most heavenly gelato in their food court. Sarah had an eye exam and got new contacts. We went to Point Reyes and looked for birds. Ok, I looked for birds, Sarah napped in the car a lot of the time. We spent the night in a seedy hotel.

When we finally arrived in Angwin, we had resolved nothing—but Sarah had agreed to keep the appointment with the psychiatrist and she had an interview at an eating disorder treatment center near San Francisco.

I hoped and prayed that something would come out of our wandering and seeking. While she napped, I worked the phone—arguing with insurance companies and petitioning treatment centers.

Mostly, I just felt frustrated. After all, the nirvana of depression medicines had done nothing to lift Sarah’s depression.  I kept thinking that if we just held out for a few more days, she would wake up her cheery self (or at least have a few cheery moments).

…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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