How do you look back over the past ten years and realize all the changes that have happened? For those of you not familiar with my story let me give you a short recap. For more detail just go back and read my other posts.
10 years ago almost to the day Zoe attempted to take her own life. I was on a trip to my Mom’s and the day I was due to come home she called me and told me that she had taken some pills, but she “was ok now”. I can still hear the tone of her voice from the day she called me, I still remember talking to my Mom about it wondering what in the hell had I missed? What was I supposed to do now? All I knew then was I needed to get home from California and try to figure out what to do next.
What to do next? That in it’s self was a joke. No one had an immediate answer when you call up your doctor’s office and tell them that your child tried to take their own life. 4 to 6 weeks to see a specialist? Seriously? Sure that’s fine I will just not sleep for the next month and a half while you find time to see my child. Outpatient treatment? Inpatient treatment? Resources at least? Nope. Pretty much nothing until she is evaluated we just wait. And for me, I am not a sit back and wait kind of person. I see a problem and I want to fix it. Not 4 to 6 weeks from now, but now. What I did not know then was this was not something we were just going to “fix”.
One of the only things I knew how to do was to spend time with her. Some of that was out of fear and some of it was just truly not knowing what to do. So we went on a drive in to my old neighborhood, where I grew up, where I went to elementary, junior high and high school. Today that drive is known as “The bullshit tour of Kirkland” Not because it was bullshit but because it was just a way to look back at that day and realize how much bullshit there was at that time that we needed to work through.
Let me also tell you that this was in April of Zoe’s Senior year of high school. We had already adjusted her schooling over the years to help with her anxiety and other issues in school. She was a part of the HomeLink school program in Lake Stevens school district and I honestly don’t know if she would have graduated without it. The program allowed her to finish her schooling at her own pace and without all the drama that high school involves. It also allowed her to graduate with 12 other people in a small amazing graduation ceremony.
After graduation there is quite a gap for me in her treatment. I don’t think we really even established what exactly it was that she needed until 4 or 5 years later. There were many times I remember yelling and crying just trying to understand how to deal with her inability to have a constructive conversation with us as a family or even just me one on one. And remember when I said I was someone that just wanted to fix things? This was way out of my circle of control and was very difficult for me to realize how to support her without pushing her even farther away.
One thing I know for sure is that there is absolutely no way we would have come out of this on the other side without a few things and definitely a few people.
- Amazing health care – I know the health care system is not perfect, I also know that I pay a shit ton of money each month for the healthcare plan that we have. However, Zoe’s doctors and treatment are all a part of this plan. I will expand a bit more on this when I talk about her specific treatment plans and continued care.
- Our close family and friends. My husband Matthew is my rock and I while he does not always understand what is going on he always found a way to make things work. My Mom is truly the only person other than my husband that has any idea of what each and every step of the way the things that have happened over the past ten years. My other two kids Lexi and Logan, talk about an amazing brother and sister. There were times when my life solely revolved around Zoe and they were champs. I am sure they have no real idea how spread thin I was during all of what was going on. My best friend Katie, as she was raising her own kids with struggles of her own she still found time for me whenever I needed it.
- Best Buy – This may seem like an odd thing to mention but when you go on vacation and then come back and say I need to take more time off to figure out my daughters care and without hesitation my boss and team showed up to cover me. Over the past ten years I have been in the same store with most of the same leaders, some of them know more than others about Zoe’s struggles but honestly they have all allowed me to take the time that I needed when it came to her care.
Five years ago Zoe did some research on ECT treatment. I was very apprehensive when originally presented with this plan. Here is the short summary of what ECT is. “Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure, done under general anesthesia, in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental health conditions.” (Mayo Clinic) So when you read that what is the first thing that comes to mind? Depending on your age it might be One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or other films that portray ECT as a terrible form of treatment. My immediate concern was, “you are going to give my child a seizure multiple times a week?” Zoe did not originally let me in the first consultation appointment, I drove her there and then patiently waited in the waiting room until she was done. After that I went to all of her appointments. Talk about an amazing team. This treatment is highly under utilized and if there was a way that I could tell people to do their research and get over their fears and look in to this treatment I would.
ECT was a long hard process. There are a few things that even with research and pre treatment visits that you really just don’t live until you are already in the program. First things first, Zoe could not drive during treatment, she was going under anesthesia three times a week, her brain given a baby seizure and then coming back out of anesthesia. The first treatment was rough, she was scared when she woke up so it took a bit longer in recovery, and then she threw up the entire way home from the anesthesia, thank goodness for the Trader Joe’s reusable shopping bag in the back of my car. Once we were home she would pretty much sleep the rest of the day and then two days later do it all over again, minus the throwing up on the way home. Three days a week for 6 weeks, did I mention this was in North Seattle and we live North of Everett? Again thank goodness for the carpool lane especially when treatments were in the early morning. By the end of about 10 weeks we were finally starting to see some progress. Remember when I mentioned amazing healthcare? There was one month that the billing cycle and insurance pay did not line up and so Zoe got a bill for ECT, she was the patient and as an adult even though she was on our insurance the bill still went to her…She opened it not realizing what it was and saw a bill for over $15,000, one month, the amount of a decent used car. She had a small (actually not small at all) panic attack until we explained to her that is was truly not a bill just a statement that passed in the mail. Matthew was sure to collect all the Swedish Hospital statements from then on out.
One other thing that I failed to mention is that one major side effect of ECT is memory loss, so the more you do it the longer the recovery is to gain that memory back. Mainly short term memory is what is effected, so it’s a little crazy. Zoe can tell you what she wore to school the first day of kindergarten but she can’t remember what she got for Christmas last year.
ECT part 2 – Zoe had made so much progress and things in her personal life were changing as well. Her doctors were incredible and they had found a good blend of drugs to go along side her treatment. I think that is something else that people just don’t realize, while I tell people that ECT is a life changing form of treatment, it is not end all be all. There is still a cocktail of medications, there is still therapy, there is still a support system needed to maintain her progress. Based on a number of different factors Zoe decided to start another round of ECT in January of 2021. She had met her now finance in July of 2020 and he was quickly becoming a part of her support system. This round of ECT something different started to click, maybe it was due to all of the hard work she had put in, maybe it was her brain responding to the combination of ECT, medication and a strong support system, the brain is a mysterious thing and we may never know.
As I was writing this I was really starting to wonder if I needed to go in to as much detail about ECT. I think my thought process was probably just to set the tone of how much hard work it takes when someone is battling depression. There are so many moving pieces and to see it all work together is what really matters. I think that often times people do not have any idea what it is like to deal with Mental Health issues. The stigma around what to do, how to do it, when to talk about it, when not to talk about it, what medication is ok, what medication is not. There are so many moving pieces.
When I originally started this post I was wanting to talk about the way that her journey has effected me. Not to show how hard it was or to make myself out to be this strong mother who has it all together, but to be real with you about what this life is actually like. Over the years the journey for me has been ever changing as well. The days of texting her throughout the day just to check on her are practically over. The thought of wondering if she will wake up the next morning doesn’t even cross my mind. Her ability to communicate with me and share with me how she is feeling in the moment has changed all of those scared feelings. When you hear your child tell you that they just don’t feel safe and they don’t know what to do it takes a long time to get over that fear. I think one of the things that has made my part of the journey better is telling our story. Zoe will tell you that she could not have got through the past ten years without me, and I can tell you that while that may be true for her, the amount of hard work she has done is just as an important part of the journey.
I know that not everyone is as lucky as me to be on the other side of a suicide attempt. I have no idea what I would be like today if that day had turned out differently but I truly believe that God has a plan for her and as one of my favorite songs says, “You are more than able. Who am I do deny what the Lord can do?” (Elevation Worship) While my faith is different than Zoe’s I know that all that she as accomplished in these past years has been set out before her. There are many days and nights that I would have never made it through without my faith and those that stand firm with me in what He can do. “Anything is possible, who am I do deny what the Lord can do, anything is possible, who am I deny what the Lord can do”
I will continue to share our story, I will continue to be an open book for those that want to know the details. All of this has been part of the journey and all with Zoe’s permission to share with all of you. I know that there are so many other things I could have shared and may at one time share some of those most intimate details. Until then I just want those of you to know that have been there for either of us or our family over the years, prayed for us, text us, call us, changed schedules or plans because of us that there is no possible way that we would be where we are today without all of you.