The week Sarah and I spent together seemed like an exercise in futility. From my point of view, Sarah had entered full-blown crisis mode. From her point of view, no one could do anything to help her. From the medical/mental health point of view, Zoloft would fix her.
When we went to the New Dawn Eating Disorders Clinic in Sausalito, I had high hopes that they would admit her into the program—especially because they had an apartment that she could rent so she wouldn’t have to drive almost two hours each way every day. We toured their facility, and met with the intake counselor. I ended up in tears.
The counselor gently explained to me that they only treated eating disorders—not eating disorders plus severe depression. We had gotten nowhere. Again.
Every morning, I poured out my frustrations to God, begging him to grant me patience and composure when talking to insurance people (after dealing with insurance during Pedro’s illness, I have a difficult time speaking with insurance representatives without bursting into tears and blubbering all over the place). I knew God knew what was happening, and I knew that relief would come at the perfect time.
The day before I had to fly back home, Sarah and I visited the psychiatrist’s office in Calistoga and I pre-paid her co-payments and made sure she knew how to get to the office on her own.
While I traveled to Holbrook, Sarah saw a general practitioner and the psychiatrist. At one point during her conversation with the psychiatrist, he called and asked to speak with me. I tried to explain everything that had been going on so far, from the anorexia to the binge eating and depression in ten minutes or less. At the conclusion of our conversation, he admitted that her depression bordered on meriting hospitalization.
If only he had hospitalized her.
Once we had an official diagnosis from a doctor, I had a slightly easier time convincing insurance companies and treatment centers that IF Sarah called in and made an appointment, they would probably authorize treatment and take her as a patient. Everyone in the family, including her aunt and uncle pressured her to call Alta Bates—the only program I had located that treated both eating disorders and severe depression. (I still find it ludicrous that a mental health center would not automatically work with eating disorders and an eating disorder center would not automatically work closely with someone with depression).
Sarah eventually called for a screening appointment—even though entering the program would mean driving three hours every day (as long as traffic didn’t make it a longer commute). During this interlude, pre-session meetings started at school. At the end of the week Pedro had to travel across the country for four days of meetings, and I had a melanoma scare the day he left. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared when Alta Bates called and said that they had accepted Sarah to their partial hospitalization program and that insurance had authorized one week of treatment.
That’s when we found out that Pedro’s brother and sister-in-law had work and family commitments that required them to leave home for about ten days at the same time Sarah was scheduled to start the program.
I worried about leaving Sarah alone in Angwin—I doubted her ability to make it to her appointments on time, take her medicine and basically function normally.
After discussing everything with Pedro, we decided to see if Laura and Louis could drive up and hang out with Sarah so that she would have family members around to help her stay accountable. They would only stay a week, because Louis was due to start graduate school.
By now, Sarah had been on Zoloft for three weeks, and from our daily texts, nothing seemed to have changed for the better.
Anita Ojeda: I’m curious as to where your obsession with stuff, clothes and food came from. Did we teach you that?
Sarah Ojeda: No. But at one point I had clothes I liked but then I made weird decisions and gave them away or destroyed them and now I don’t have many but I’m stuck on this hill. And as far as stuff, it’s just really disorganized and I have no real home. And as far as food, who knows.
Anita Ojeda: Ask your aunt if it’s ok for you to unpack your stuff and put it in the dresser. That might help you 1) feel more at home 2) feel more organized. When Laura and Louis come, maybe you guys can go shopping. Although, the last time I gave you an opportunity to go shopping, you didn’t seem too interested in actually picking anything out.
Sarah Ojeda: But I’ve been to a bunch of thrift stores in Vancouver and I never found anything. I just keep reverting to that my life is a mess and I can’t think and I can’t stop wasting time.
Anita Ojeda: So maybe you need help rebooting your mind.
Sarah Ojeda: Well, these doctors and groups aren’t going to do squat. I keep hiding things and trying to escape and doing everything wrong and this won’t help.
Anita Ojeda: How do you know? It’s back to you thinking you’re God. What are you hiding?
Sarah Ojeda: Myself. From everybody.
Anita Ojeda: Go and participate in the groups and talk to the doctors and for goodness sake, don’t pretend or hide yourself!
Sarah Ojeda: That’s why I don’t talk to people or call them. I’m going to fail at everything!
Anita Ojeda: No, you won’t. I love you! I’m cleaning the house–ugh. Not my favorite thing to do (especially the showers).
Sarah Ojeda: Hey! I should probably clean the downstairs bathroom because Noel asked me to.
Anita Ojeda: We can be long-distance partners in grime 😉
Sarah Ojeda: I really want to die. I’ve been eating so much and watching so much TV. I finally cried for the first time in a long time!
Laura and Louis drove with Sarah to her first day at Alta Bates and helped her check in. Pedro, Laura, Louis and I had all agreed that Sarah would need to get up and drive herself
from there on out—especially because we didn’t know how long she would remain in treatment and she couldn’t rely on a family member to always go along with her.
The fifth day of Sarah’s Alta Bates program, Laura called me. “Sarah didn’t want to go this morning,” she said. “We had a horrible time getting her up and out of the house.
“I’m so sorry to put you through this,” I apologized. “You know if someone could sub for me, I’d be there in a heartbeat.”
“That’s not the worst part,” she started to sniffle. “She told me this morning that she wanted to get in a car wreck so she wouldn’t have to keep going!”
My eyes sprouted tears and my body froze. Despite all of Sarah’s laments that she wanted to cease to exist and to die, she had NEVER shared a plan for self-harm.
Until now.#Depression affects the entire family--and it take the entire family to coordinate care. Click To Tweet