Running Half-Empty

This week's column from the really real housewife, Jessica Sieghart.

When the kids were little, we spent a lot of time at the pool. It’s right down the street and for a one-time fee in late spring, it was a fun and affordable four-kid-option to break up the long summer days.  

After each pool visit, we’d return home and I’d turn on the shower to scrub the kids free of chlorine. My son, always anxious to play in water of any kind, often stripped well before his turn. One afternoon, he caught a glimpse of his naked self in the full-length mirror in my bedroom and screamed.  

“What happened?” I yelled from the bathroom with my only two hands busy with the bubbles in his sister’s hair.   

“I don’t think we should go to that pool anymore, Mom!” 

“Why not?” My son loved the pool. I began envisioning spotted rashes, fungi or flesh eating bacteria.

“The water is turning my butt white!” 

Those who view the glass as half-full would be admiring their tan lines. For those of us running half-empty, it’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that the missing portion will be located as a stain on the living room couch or, depending on age, sneakily bleaching one’s behind while preoccupied with fun at the pool.  

Up until this week, I considered myself optimistic. I believed there was truth in proverbs such as, “When there’s a will, there’s a way” and “All good things come to he who waits,” but when I got a phone call a few days ago, I realized that my glass is more than half-empty. It’s almost bone dry. 

My daughter has been struggling with an eating disorder for the past five years and for the same length of time, our family has been dealing with her being ill, hospitalized and/or in some type of treatment program. One would think that in this day and age, there would be effective treatment readily available, but this really isn’t the case. I predict that 50 years from now, modern medicine will look at today’s eating disorder treatments as being as effective as the lobotomies of previous generations.  

Just five weeks ago, my daughter returned from a two-month stay at a treatment center in Denver. Contrary to all of the supermodel jokes, an eating disorder is a serious, life threatening illness and I wasn’t all that keen about her going half-way across the country, alone, for treatment that is available right here in Chicago. The experts’ advice was that she had been through all of the local programs several times and this magical mountain place would be our answer.  

I let myself believe that until a really goofy therapist e-mailed me a flyer stating that I shouldn’t let my child’s eating disorder interfere with my life.   
How insightfully ignorant.   

When I refused to participate in over the phone therapy about my feelings surrounding my daughter’s eating disorder, this same goof insinuated that I might be emotionally distant. I’m not, it’s just that after 5 years of this, I don’t care to discuss my personal feelings anymore with someone who is going to send me a bill afterward. I have my husband to talk to all I want to for free and since he’s wearing the same shoes, he can actually offer up some credible insight.  

How do these therapists think I feel and, as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, since when does anyone’s feelings have any impact on whether or not something continues to happen?  

I feel strongly about world peace and still, war is happening. Prejudice makes me nauseous, but I hear remarks all the time. I despise drugs, adultery, bullying, child abuse, AIDS, cancer and eating disorders and yet, despite my personal feelings, all remain out there and active.  

It appeared things were going well upon her return from treatment. She did seem more positive and she was eating... or so I thought. It seems I mistakenly may have swapped my bifocals for rose colored mommy glasses. She was eating when I was watching, but in addition to work, I drive 86 miles a day in stop and go traffic. I’m not home a lot.  

The doctor’s recommendation is that she return to Denver for further treatment. The arrangements are made and I’m already feeling more than half empty, wishing I could reach back and grab one of those worry-free, water wing and white butt pool days.  

Have you encountered something so frustrating that you don’t even know where to turn? Even half-empty, we have the will. We just have to find the right way. 

Charles Gulotta November 15, 2011 at 06:09 PM
People, including professionals who should know better, often try to identify our reactions to a situation as the cause of that situation. This is backward logic and helps no one, and usually creates a lot of guilt and other bad feelings. The truth is, sometimes things happen and there's no rational explanation, no cause and effect. All that matters is that we respond with intelligence and love. Anyone familiar with your family knows that you will do just that, as you always have. Your family is strong and your instincts are solid. Trust your heart, Jessica. You'll look back on this, too, one day, and wonder how you all made it through. You may not even have an answer for that, but you will make it through.
Jessica Sieghart November 15, 2011 at 08:43 PM
Hi Charles, that does seem to be true that identifying the way we react seems to be part of the motivation. Honestly, I'm not sure they're supposed to know better. I really think they're trained that way. For example, when the therapist who called me to inform me my daughter had to go back, I told her that I think we need to sit down and look at different facilities that possibly use different methods or phiolosophies to handle this after 5 1/2 years, she should have some skills to cope with every day life. My opinion, of course. The therapist kept feeding back what I was saying and interjecting things like "I'm hearing a lot of caring, concern and love in your words." That's great except I was trying to have a treatment conversation and not play guess my emotions. She then told me it's already been decided and they'd like me to be on board because I'm such an integral part of the team. What she really meant was that she wanted me to buy my daughter a plane ticket. Every time I try to have any discussion about treatment, I get the "I can't imagine how that makes you feel" instead of a discussion or an answer. I suppose some people like that stuff. I find it annoying as all heck. Thank you for the kind words, Charles. You're right-I'm as solid as a rock and my family and family ties are super strong. I know one day, we will all get through this. Sooner would be better :)
Leslie November 15, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Oh Jess, if that therapist was in Denver, I'm not sure I could have sent her back there. I believe you offer your daughter unconditional love and support. I don't have any clue why she has this disorder, but calling you on the phone to see if it's your fault seems so far off-base I can't even imagine. Does she want to go to family counseling together? Does she want to go back to Denver or stay local? Call me anytime or I'll text you more tarantula pictures. And please please tell that pool story at our kids' wedding. ; )
Jessica Sieghart November 15, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Hi Leslie, yes that one was in Denver, but I think I've encountered that everywhere we've been. There seems to be some pre-conceived notion that moms cause eating disorders. I've been asked if I have an eating disorder because I'm not overweight and I've been asked if I for sure don't tell my daughter she needs to "drop a few pounds". Yeah, I'm running my daughter all over the country for help to save her life and then bring her home and tell her she needs to lose a few pounds. Ok. sam doesn't mind therapy of any kind, even family therapy. I'm the one that can't stand it. Sam says it's because I'm one step above most humans in emotional maturity. LOL. I think it's more that I'm tired of talk and want to see some action. Thank you for the spider picture :) if I saw that in real life, I might just need a therapist :) thanks, Leslie!
Sheri November 17, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Jess, I have been thinking about this since I read it yesterday. Trying to come up with words of encouragement but everything is just inadequate. Having just learned about Danny's accident, I am sitting here shaking my head. Hoping that the love and support of all who know you will help to refill that glass. You are one of the strongest people I know and someone who has faced more than her share of challenges. Words are failing me so I just send love and prayers.
Jessica Sieghart November 17, 2011 at 12:46 AM
Hi Sheri-love and prayers are perfect. Thank you. I go back and forth as to whether I should write about less than humorous topics or not, but I feel as though I should sometimes. Mental health issues are still so swept under the rug or hidden and that's part of the reason I think the treatments aren't all that effective. Danny will be fine. As the doctor put it, he got his bell rung good. I think I have to stop handling things so well. Maybe then they won't happen :) I can wish, right? Thank you, as always, Sheri, for your kind comment.
Margaret Reyes Dempsey November 17, 2011 at 04:45 AM
I feel for you, my friend. You must be exhausted and frustrated with everything going on at the moment. For the record, I hate that brand of fake communication, too. It's just a way of hiding the "but" lurking on the other side of the comma. Be well.
Jessica Sieghart November 17, 2011 at 11:15 AM
HI Margaret- I am beyond pooped, yes. I just have to keep hoping that it works. That's all I can do right now. You've summed up my thoughts in one sentence. That's what I don't like about it-it's fake communication. There is no sharing of thoughts, it's one-sided. I already know what I think :) Thanks, Margaret!!!
Lesley A Plage-rohrman November 17, 2011 at 03:38 PM
wow when it rains it pours.but that is no way to get your glass full.Are family also in last five years has finally been properly diagnosed with mental illnesses,me my father,my maternal grandmother.definitly think there is a dna link.And of all the things we thought we had this one has carried the most stygma,seriously cancer would have been easier to tell people not that i wish that on anyone but you get the idea.I do wish though i could get my doctorite just by answering people questions with questions. My father and i find therapists annoying ther may be good ones but we didn't find them.Like you lots of communication within the family has helped the most.the best advice i have ever gotten was from a regular gp(a woman) is you must do something just for you whatever it is to refill your glass like she told even the best cars stop when out of gas. this isthe hardest thing for moms to do.being ill and a single parent left me as worn out as an old holy tshirt.but when i really started taking time( not alot)to really take care of me i had the stamina to face the next hurdle.your wonderful family and i am so glad you have entred our lives.you will get through this and you are never alone. hugs and prayers
Jessica Sieghart November 17, 2011 at 07:29 PM
HI Lesley, I agree, it's so important to admit you're getting close to running empty before it actually happens. I do try to take a little bit of time each day to just sit and do nothing (which works best for me) because otherwise it all builds up and I can't do anything. Every once in a while I have one of these weeks that just seems overwhelming. I suppose I write for therapy :) Hey, whatever works, right? I'm very glad I found you, too! Thanks for the comment and the kind words.
Melinda November 18, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Oh Jessica my heart goes out to you and what you have been through. I hope something finally clicks and works. Her having such a loving and supportive family has to make all the difference in the world. You do such an amazing job keeping it all together. Hang in there!
Jessica Sieghart November 18, 2011 at 08:37 PM
Hi Melinda, I hope having a loving and supporting family makes a difference. Somehow I think the eating disorder can get bigger than anything. I'm hoping my Catboots will kick its' butt one of these days. It's not for lack of trying. Maybe I need a cape or something, too? ;) Thank you, Melinda.


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