From my Dad:
In the face of all this honesty, I must admit to you that I never wanted to have children. I wasn't sure I'd be any good at being a father. But your mother wanted kids; I loved her, and so here you and your sister are...the greatest joys of my life.
I loved you at first sight and every moment after.
While you were still in your mother's womb – known to us only as “Baby X” - I thought about you as infant, toddler, teen and grown woman while working out the math on how old I'd be at each of those stages. I imagined as wonderful and carefree a future for you as I could.
I guess it was not to be...at least not the carefree part.
You were born through emergency Cesarean Section after a failed attempt at a home birth that ended in a debate between dueling midwives over whether the hours of excruciating pain your mother was experiencing was “normal” labor. We rushed to the hospital where you arrived hours later – screaming and suffering from a life-threatening infection. You spent days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where your mother and I sat dressed in yellow gowns and latex gloves - the only way we were allowed to touch you. Sometimes we'd try to provide you comfort with our hands thrust through a hole in the plastic of your incubator - caressing you while we watched and prayed and hoped.
You struggled for life. You survived and thrived.
It seemed to have set a pattern for you...struggling, surviving and thriving.
And here you have done it again by creating this amazing memoir.
Reading it was emotionally difficult for me. It brought back painful memories and revealed horrors I never knew you suffered. It was also joyful and inspiring. I cry each time I read it with tears of both sorrow and joy: Sorrow for the pain you endured; for the times we almost lost you to that pain; for the part I played in bringing it on and the sad fact that “doing my best” was often not enough. Joy for the way you have faced every obstacle and overcome them; that you have found love and found strength in that love; for the amazing woman you have become.
I am confident that your readers will come away inspired; that those who read it will be given comfort and hope. For in the end, that is what there is to take away from this story of your journey: That they, too can survive and thrive. That there is hope.
Ten toes the size of peanuts
newly released from their shell
The smell of dew-basted sweet grass
baking in the sun
The unexpected texture of peach fuzz skin
basket-warmed, ripened soft
An often whispered prayer answered
by the cry of a new voice testing
Resting in my grateful arms
From my Mom:
"Everything possible was being eaten, which made the people heavy but did not nourish them….. You must release your heaviness and those things that burden you – lifting your attitude, practice, and vibration to a higher level.” - Brooke Medicine Eagle, from The Last Ghost Dance
There is a Japanese film entitled Afterlife (1999) which assigns the newly deceased, the task of life review and, then, to choose only one memory from their lifetime to carry with them into eternity. After a recent viewing, I asked myself the same question, “What is my happiest memory?”
One answer came quickly: Sara’s wedding weekend. I often revisit it in my head. The whole of it was surreal in the depths of its beauty, and as the counterpoint from where we had been just five years prior. I am crying as I write this. I had steeled myself to accept the very real possibility that Sara would be dead from suicide before the age of 25, or living in a group home for the marginally functional. Yet there she was, radiantly beautiful, marrying her soul mate, Ben. Her community of loving friends, proud sister, Danielle, and family worked long and hard together to create a magical, over-the-top DIY celebration.
We often joke that Sara may not have accrued a single college credit, despite racking up $14 thousand in college loans, however, she has a PhD in life. To her credit (pun intended), Sara wanted to get well. Desperately. She knew her life was on the fast track to early death. She knew each day, each binge was bringing her closer, and her impulsivity could once again take her off the cliff with another overdose. She didn’t know how to stop her self-destructiveness. I strongly believe her brain and thinking was toxic from the massive quantities of chemicals in the food, the psychiatric cocktails of medications, and the byproducts of their metabolism in her body. She was inflamed, enraged, and lived in a state of quiet or not-so-quiet panic. She had to be locked up, locked away from all the triggers, all the opportunities to feed her addiction. Her healing process wasn’t smooth, quick or pretty, and required immense effort, dogged persistence, and the willingness to sacrifice and surrender -a lot. She did it. And continues to live it daily. The quote “Wellness is a process, not an endpoint” fits here. Sara inspires me. I am in awe of her and I love her dearly.
As a parent, this journey was tortuous. My emotional rollercoaster generally mimicked Sara’s. As they say, you are only as happy as your happiest child. I worked hard not to make this be true as she was generally miserable. Yet, the chronic stress got me and I gained weight, developed sciatica and insomnia. I knew her life depended on my involvement and expertise. Guilt, another motivator, was always in the background. “What could I have done differently?” Family and friends provided a much-needed lifeline.
As a nurse practitioner, I combed all avenues of care for Sara, talking to everyone I could think of who might offer some wise guidance in this chaotic maelstrom. I learned there are lawyers who specialized in fighting insurance company abuses and helping patients to obtain quality health care (Thank you, David Trueman, Esq- www.davidtrueman.com). I learned the system was set up to generate insurance denials with the understanding that most people wouldn’t put up a good fight. One of the first things asked of us as we sought legal counsel was “Are you ready to go to the news media?” “Huh, are you kidding? Isn’t that a bit traumatizing?” Going public is a social force with some level of effectiveness. To us, at that stage, it was an appalling option. We chose to work the appeal systems, enlisting a cadre of health care providers and experts, some politicians, and providing extensive dossiers of arguments as to why Sara needed long-term, inpatient services. I also prayed for her recovery daily. We learned not to give in, not to give up, and eventually, it worked! I know I had the benefit of being a health care practitioner with some understanding of medical systems. Still, it took a lot to overcome this Goliath.
It also confirmed for me, once again, that healing is a personal journey, and occurs when some inner process ‘clicks’. Sara had to completely take responsibility for her life. It took a long time for Sara to get there. Everything else was just first-aid, stabilizing, and providing a big toolbox for her to use to rebuild her psyche. The route to health takes many forms. The current pharmaceutical climate in medicine lacks sorely in the provision of sustainable paths for healing. She became well by tending to her body, mind, and spirit, in community with others who loved her. May Sara’s story give courage, hope, and guidance to many.