Sunday, April 29, 2012

During the days of Charity Thomas.........

Charity was a huge influence in our families lives when I was growing up. She was the most wonderful, sweet, truly good person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She worked for Grandma as the household "maid". That is what they referred a woman who would come and clean the house and take care of the children. Sometimes she would stay overnight but for the most part she went home every night. She even wore an uniform.....things sure were different in those days.

She lived on the south side of Chicago in a pretty scary neighborhood and would take the train to Howard Street and then transfer to the Skokie Swift everyday. It was a huge commute for her, sometimes her husband would come and pick her up.....he was a little scary too...she would tell me stories of him and how he treated her...which was not too great and I remember being afraid for her. When you were born, being the first grandchild in the family you were extremely special to everyone. Charity would babysit for you while I would do my various errands or whatever. We lived so close to Grandma and I was able to stay home and raise you and Chel...I never took that for granted.

Charity was like a member of our family and we all loved her so much. When you were first born, I would come over to Grandmas house with your portable was on wheels and had a screen on top that you could zip all the way around. (We would let you sleep outside while we were at the pool at our apartment complex and you would be protected from the bugs.) Sometimes Charity, to get you to fall asleep when it was time for you to take a nap, she would push you around Grandmas house in your crib singing gospel songs until you dozed off. Grandma had a sprawling ranch house with 6 had been added onto twice, so it was an interesting layout where you could go around and around through the kitchen and living room with a fireplace in between. Charity adored you so much.....

She was in our lives for so many years and then once she left we kind of lost touch, which was really sad. She had a daughter who really didn't like Grandma too much so she never let us know what happened to Charity years later, but I heard she may have a several strokes and finally died. I actually had a dream about her a few years ago. She was ironing at Grandmas house and when I saw her, I yelled,"Charity"!! I ran over to her and gave her a hug in which felt so real. I didn't want to let go...we were both crying in the dream. Then it was over.....

Can you dig those colored 50"s

I do have one negative memory of Charity and that was the day that I offered to take her home after work. I should preface by saying that I always had a fear of getting lost, I would always worry about it...getting lost in a bad neighborhood was terrifying to me. I think the only reason I went was because I felt safe being with Charity and also I knew her husband was a tough guy and he would protect us. I went with you when you were about 4 years old. It was kind of shocking for me to see a man on the street in broad daylight drinking liquor from a paper bag, sitting on the stoop of an apartment building. Our world was truly like living in a bubble thus was a definite culture shock for me.
During the short time we spent dropping Charity off..... her German Shepard dog ended up biting you in the face. It had just missed your eye and made a scratch just below your eyelid. I was freaking out and got you out of there so fast, insisting Charity drive us to the entrance ramp going towards the suburbs and away from the south side of Chicago....I had been so scared of getting lost in that neighborhood. I haven't been back there since.


When you and Chel were younger you both showed an interest in tap dance, so we signed you up at Jane Perry Studios in Arlington Heights. Jane was an "old school" dance instructor who would dance with the little kids and they could mimic what she did in a mirror.  She would have dance recitals at the end of the year that you and Chel really enjoyed. Our family would come to the shows and patiently wait for all of the other kids to go through their dance numbers until it was your turn....Just wanted to share some of the photos we took during those guys were too cute!

I didn't want to leave out Chelsey.......

I really wish we could somehow go back in time, just for a while to be there again!

miss you tremendously........m

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Desperate for Help...... and..... PostSecret.....

As life went on and we tried so desperately to get help for you during the first couple years of the illness....I.....the queen of self-help and support groups decided to contact as many organizations as possible to try and learn as much as I possibly could to educate myself. It was very daunting at first not knowing anything about the life-threatening illness that was beginning to take over your life.

This may not have been such a good idea, because one of the first letters I wrote in 2002 was to a place called ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders). I have posted the letter, but I will tell you it was the worse thing I could have read at that time, so discouraging, depressing, so horrible that it haunted me for years to come. I never forgot those words...

"Experience does suggest that if the person is not ready to change, then nothing can be done to make her change. And as you know, the risk is high that she will not live long enough to experience a desire to change, especially while her brain is impaired by malnutrition".

Around 2005 I then decided to write a few letters to Oprah, since that is the first place I ever heard of the bazaar world of eating disorders in the first place. There was a girl she had on her show several years trying to help her recover to no avail. She ended up dying of her illness, it was so sad. I wrote to probably 4 or 5 total talk show hosts or people in the media like Robin Roberts, Maury, Tyra...etc.   I never heard back from anyone of them. I guess deep down inside I have a small bit of resentment to them all.

Why was everyone elses story more important than ours....? 

Here are 2 letters in which I saved in order to look back on now

After never hearing anything from the media, I gave up on that idea and went on with life. 

         PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.  You were so exited about it after finding it on the Internet. You would beg me to go there every Sunday to check out the new secrets that would change every week. It is a very popular website dedicated to helping a Suicide Hotline save young people. They even have several books with Postsecrets in them that they sell all over.

I even sent one in at one point, which I don't think ever made it on the website. You went crazy making some, yet never ended up sending them in. I think they were still very therapeutic and with your creativity in art you just enjoyed making them.   There was a time too that you got this brilliant idea of having people who were in treatment or  ED hospital programs create cards and send them to you. You wanted to have it dedicated just to people with the same problems you lived with to see if it would be of help. I remember you wrote a letter to Frank Warren (founder of Postsecret)....but never heard back.  You even called some programs, a few were actually interested, yet it never really got off the ground.  You always wanted to help others...that was one of your wonderful qualities.  If you ever saw anyone who was going down the same path that you had gone you would discourage them immediately.
I wanted to share some of the cards you created......some are incredibly powerful

 I am thinking of sending a few in's very freeing and psychologically cleansing....

I truly miss you more each day.......m

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Ramblings from the very beginning of the Anorexia nightmare.....

One of your art pieces you created while spending time at ABBH

Right around 1998 life as I knew it in my bubble of happiness was about to take a drastic turn for the worse. My family whom I took such pride and care for, who I made sure was always as happy as humanly possible was about to have a rude awakening. Our lives were truly picture perfect with our share of ups and downs. You and Chelsey were coming into your mid teens and we as parents having pretty much dodged the somewhat horrifying anticipation of possible teen pregnancy, drug addition, in with the wrong crowd...etc......i never in my wildest dreams would have thought that Anorexia would come into our lives. I often felt that in the long run I would have rather dealt with any of those above mentioned than what we dealt with for 14 years...

About a year earlier the family had gone through some time trying to diagnose what was wrong with Chelsey which we would find out later to be Panic Disorder. After going to several different professionals who had some pretty strange ideas of what could possibly be the matter and also dealing with her high school, who was very little help...... we found a wonderful doctor who specialized in PD and we got it all under control. I guess you could say this was the very beginning of my education that not all doctors and health professionals know everything...remember I lived in a "bubble of happiness" for a long time. I guess I was a little naive too since our lives didn't really have much trauma up to this point.  Things were looking better after the help of Dr. Feder....

When you came back home after your 3 weeks grooming at the horse shows in Florida and after a large amount of weight lost during those few weeks, the trainer begged us to take you home, she suspected the worst .......we then took you to one of the outpatient programs in Chicago,which you did not like much at all. There was so much anger that I didn't understand where it came from. You had been so weak from your change in diet and your new way of eating..combined with your new exercise regimen.....I remember you told me one day that you were afraid of falling asleep, that you felt so weak you were afraid you wouldn't wake up.

I will say, looking back at it all now, that you really did a splendid job hiding your whole exercise deal from me. I had no idea of what the extent of your addiction was taking you to. That one time you shared with me your entire routine, I was in awe of the  routine you set up for yourself, which you would do daily for a total of 4 to 5 hours per day ( I was unaware of this, until much later). So there would be, for example, a certain number of stretches to start, then 8 jumping jacks, then 20 kicks and so on....IF you added one more into the routine you could never go back and take it could only increase. Those were the rules that you made. You could never change the knew it didn't make sense and you knew it was hurting you, but you couldn't control it. I truly believe that if you could have stopped the insanity you would have.

There were the few times you got caught, once by Chel and her boyfriend Matt. They saw you exercising through the crack under  the basement door and when they came to tell me about it I defended you...because you weren't allowed to be doing that...that was one of the rules in order to live under our roof at that time. I don't know what my problem was...maybe just ill equipped emotionally to take on this powerful illness which was taking my daughter away from me slowly and consistently each day. 

When I call it your addiction it never made sense to people who don't have any experience of Eating Disorders. They would say, "how could she be addicted to food, she is starving herself"? The fact of the matter being that everything relating to food, all of the numbers relating to food...such as calories, grams, fat content, sugars, weight etc. becomes an obsession. Going to the grocery store you would spend hours reading every single label on every single thing you picked up, buying only your restricted list of safe foods and stayed away from anything else. There was another component that came into play right from the start of it all and that was your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder...(OCD)....very common with some people to accompany an eating disorder.

This went on for several months and we tried so hard to do whatever the professionals told us in hopes that if we did..... you would be just fine. About 8 months later after refusing to enter into the inpatient program and also after they taught you how to basically eat again...the ultimatum was given. We told you that if you didn't go into the would have to live elsewhere...your age being against us in the fact that we really didn't have any real say so since you were 18 at that point you left our home to live with your friends. They were unaware of the entire enabling issue, although they meant well and thought they were helping they only took you on the wrong path to recovery. This was just part of the journey.....who knows what would have happened if another path was taken, we will never know........

You looking very proud of yourself ....
When this photo was taken we all thought that it was incredibly horrible and you couldn't possibly look any worse.....we were so wrong! Looking back now you look incredibly fantastic!  At this point it confirms what one of my favorite sayings are..."every thing's relative"
I even remember one of your doctors wanting to use this photo to use in one of his training programs to show what Anorexia does to people.

The Journey would continue............

miss you terribly.....m

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"Dusty" to Madison Square Garden....

I am so proud to bring videos to this blog....many thanks to Chelsey for her figuring out the task of transferring all of our old time movies to DVDs. The first one is of your first horse show at DuPage County Fair in Illinois and you rode none other than the famous, "Dusty". You were only 11 years old at the time. He was one the greatest school horses ever! I remember so vividly how difficult it was to walk him anywhere near hay or grass, he would basically pretend like we didn't have him on a lead rope and drag you to where he could cop some food. He was strong as hell and sometimes would even try and grab grass while you were on him. I think every barn out there has had a school horse like "Dusty" at one time or another. Anyways, you were so exited to have the opportunity to ride him at the show. Pete, your trainer, who owned him told you to wake him up before going into the ring and boy did you ever! You hit him with the crop 3 or 4 times and it really wasn't inconspicuous in the least. It was kind of funny....I remember being so proud of you....little did I know that it would become your passion for years to come. A girl and her horse..there is nothing like it.

So many years went by between this video and the one below. About 7 years to be exact... 7 years of riding, grooming, lessons, horse shows, barn friends, Halloween barn parties, dressing up horses in costumes, trail riding, countdown, jumping, falling off a horse or two, breaking your arm, Blackie, Phil, Burt, Malmo, Kix, Rudy...etc.

I have just a few regrets in my life and one of them is the fact that when you were going to go to ride Malmo at Madison Square Garden, I was not there. I remember I had just gotten a job at Saddlers Row and I used that as my excuse.....real reason was that I was and always have been afraid to fly. I wanted to be there so had been 15 years since you went to NY and I will say I'm sorry I didn't go with you. I know you had a blast and I was about as proud as a mom could be! To this day every opportunity I can I mention that you rode at Madison Square Garden.  Here are some memorabilia you saved from that time. It sure is a good thing that you are a saver....(the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree).

This was your acceptance were so exited!

"Rudy" in anxiety levels were sky high during those days

You and Malmo.....A Fantastic Team!

I miss you a ton........m