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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. 

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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