In her debut memoir, Meadows memorializes her daughter while deploring the state of adolescent mental health care.
Karen and Dennis were ecstatic to adopt infant Sadie. She grew into an outgoing, adventurous child who embraced life, whether that meant fishing with her grandfather or starting a neighborhood dog-washing business. But bouts of crying, anxiety, and overeating became regular occurrences in Sadie’s life when she started middle school, and a psychiatrist eventually diagnosed her with dysthymia, a chronic depressive disorder. Medication failed to help Sadie, and she made her first suicide attempt in seventh grade. A short stay in a psychiatric ward was followed by more attempts and a longer stay in a residential facility. The family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Sadie’s new psychiatrist prescribed an ever changing drug cocktail as Sadie joined the city’s street culture and began skipping school, avoiding home, and admitting herself to the ER. The Meadowses eventually found what they hoped was a true solution: several months of treatment in a wilderness program followed by over a year in a rural emotional-growth high school. Sadie’s stability issues continued in Portland, however, and at age 18, she died after a suicide attempt. Meadows emphasizes that the tragedy of Sadie’s situation was not just her illness, but how her illness obscured a vivacious and complete human being. She writes compellingly about the constant obstacles facing Sadie, herself, and Dennis: a dearth of child and adolescent psychiatrists, lack of “wrap-around” services, and, perhaps most significantly, the stigma that prevents families from seeking help or comfort. The book’s power comes from the way Meadows lucidly analyzes her own story to identify larger systematic issues in mental health care for young people. The memoir also includes basic advice and resources for struggling teens and their families.
An intense, moving account of raising and mourning a child with mental illness.