Endorsements and Kirkus Review
"I found myself covering my mouth with one hand, while turning the page with my other. This book—two hearts woven together—a mother's memoir coupled with a daughter's diary—is a must read for parents struggling deeply with a child who is suffering with mental health issues. It is a startling account of a deeply flawed system, and deeply flawed treatments. It is a painful read. . . a necessary read. Karen writes these words at the end of her book: The world cannot afford to lose people like Sadie. She offers up a call to action—asking all of us who suffer from, or suffer around, mental health issues to get angry, to make a ruckus, to make a difference. No, the world cannot afford to lose more people like Sadie, but I am deeply grateful, wholly grateful, that Karen Meadows is in the world to shine a much needed light on this topic." —Amy Ferris, author of Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue.
"Karen Meadows has written an extremely important book, one that is long overdue and necessary for parents navigating the confusing area of treatments for children struggling with mental illness. She does an excellent job blending personal details with information about treatment options at various levels." —Leslie Taylor, MD, psychiatrist
"Meadows provides immensely practical guidance through this morass while persuasively advocating for developing an intelligible system that makes research-based treatment comprehensive and accessible to parents like herself." —Rick Mehlman, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Chief Executive Officer, Child Study and Treatment Center, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
"Karen Meadows delivers a line in Searching for Normal that stunned me with its simplicity and directness—'I want the world to take note that we cannot afford to lose people like Sadie. I want society to stand up and say, This is unacceptable.'" By 2030, depression will outpace cancer, stroke, war and accidents as the world's leading cause of disability and death. (World Health Organization) Karen's intensely human exploration of her daughter's depression and subsequent suicide is representative of the private battle millions of families are engaged in." —Sheila Hamilton, author of All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness
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. —Kirkus Reviews