You made your bed, now lie in it.

So, I sat. In Charter Westbrook for 90 days.

I went through the motions, because there was simply nothing else to do. We would wake up, be expected to make our beds, shower, walk down for group, weigh in (always backwards on the scale, I was 89lbs when I went in, 95lbs when I left), breakfast, group, lunch, group, dinner, reflection time, bed. rinse. repeat.

I learned to say the things they wanted to hear in order to earn small privileges like a razor to shave with, monitored of course, or as I said before, access to Lyle Alzado’s aerobic tape so I could work out.

I was never cured because I felt acknowledging that it was MY issue meant letting those responsible for shaping my life into the turmoil that it was off the hook. And that is exactly what happened.

My step-father was never held accountable for all the abuses he put us through. There was a divorce, a move and it was done. He walked away, scott free.

I come from a family who’s motto has been “you made your bed, now lie in it”.  It seemed to me, he was laying on goose down with 700 count Egyptian cotton sheets and a smile and I was in Charter Westbrook sleeping next to a girl who kept stealing my underwear….yes, my underwear.

I slept on a hard cot like bed, in basically a jail with no contact with my family or friends. I felt punished for having a life that was never mine.

I left that place unceremoniously, just walked out the front door when my insurance ran out and my dad came to pick me.

Charter Westbrook was later closed down by the state for it’s treatment of patients there. Like I said, it doesn’t matter what truth you tell, if it’s ugly enough people will simply not believe it.

A mental hospital is the cruelest place to be sane and rational.Image

random and in no particular order… my workouts

I have been told a million, no a million and one times, that I am a guy’s girl, whatever that truly means.

I am biologically a girl, true statement. I follow basketball and football. Football to the point where my Thursday nights, some Saturday’s, definitely all day Sunday/Sunday night and Monday nights are pretty much booked from the beginning of the pre-season until the Superbowl.

I drink beer, too much actually, and CRAFT beer at that, I am a beer snob, unless I’m broke, which is often during football season with the fantasy leagues and side betting of course. I cuss, a little too much for my own taste sometimes, but it rolls off the tongue better in a sports bar, alot better than “aww shucks!”  or “dag nab it!”….after all, I am a Miami Dolphins fan through and through and before you give me shit about that, let me just say two things, #1. UNDEFEATED & #2. on my grandmother’s death bed and I mean this in the most literal sense of the word, She asked to watch Monday night football with the family, asked for her Zack Thomas jersey and her Miami Dolphins blanket, watched them lose and passed away the very next morning.

Her final words to me (and I am not writing this for dramatic effect) were “Wake me up for kickoff, lets hope they can do something”  Well they didn’t, but she was a die hard HOPEFUL fan til the end, so my allegiance will never change!

Anyway, back to the point.

I watch sports, have an affinity for violence in movies, hate chick flicks and love songs,have worked every day since I was 15 years old, drink beer and am just as comfortable sitting alone in a biker bar as I am surrounded by friends and family at an art gallery, yet I am alone.

I get that men that like the “idea” of me but ultimately they want someone to coddle and protect or rescue. I have this one girlfriend who is a total wreck of a human being. Always some major drama or meltdown on the horizon and she’s not exactly a Scarlet Johansen type, she’s more of a Rosanne Barr type but this chick ALWAYS has men clamoring to pay her bills, buy her computers, purses, tires for her car, taking her to dinners, lunches, plays etc.

I can’t get a man to change a light bulb in my house if he’s sleeping over (now that’s a slight exaggeration but not by much) and it leaves me wondering….do guys just say they want a guy’s girl so they don’t have to put the maintenance in, or are they really all just looking to be someone’s superhero??  If the later is the case, I am excepting applications.



3 days…no acceptance

So it took me about 3 days to figure out the “system” at Charter Westbrook.

The goal, apparently was the acceptance phase. Acceptance meant that I acknowledged I had an eating disorder and that I was willing to change, to fix it, to heal. Acceptance also meant you could go outside for short periods of time, maybe a group trip to the mall, have an exercise tape (for me this was Lyle Alzado’s aerobic tape). I was obsessed with obtaining the rights to exercise to this tape because all my other activity was monitored.

I had a HUGE problem with the acceptance phase, because as the days passed and I saw the other kids, who had been there longer leaving, it always seemed to fall right about the time their insurance was running out.I would say 85-90% of my fellow fuck-ups found acceptance approx 10 days before their benefits were up. They were just as fucked up when they left as they were when they came.

I learned the system in 3 days, learned to say the right things, do the right things, attend the right groups and earned my “privileges” like a good girl. I remember 2 pretty specific incidents while I was there. The first was that black, the color, was a trip to solitary or as they called it…Reflection Time.

My father had dropped off clothes for me and one day I woke up, put as much thought into choosing clothes as you might expect with a limited selection and no one to see.

When I arrived in group the first thing the counselor said to me was “Is there something you want to share?”

ummmm not really, why?

“Well, it appears you are making a statement with your clothing selection.”

ummmm, no this is what my dad dropped off for me to wear.

“It’s all black”

me looking down and noticing for the first time….

oh ok, shrugging shoulders, sitting down in the circle on an orange chair with metal legs.

” I think you need to go change”

…I’m sure I looked at her like she had 3 heads, change why?

“Your message has been recevied” ….

me HUH??? what the hell are you talking about?

(that comment had me removed from group, stripped into a hospital gown and sent to reflection time.

That next Wednesday this woman was wearing a black pencil skirt and a black blouse with black pumps. I looked right at her and said “message received”.

I never made it to the acceptance level of the program.

Stubborn I guess.


Institutionalized? you don’t say…..

So they we were, parked in front of Charter Westbrook, Richmond VA. For those of you unfamiliar, and I hope you are, unfamiliar. Charter Westbrook is an inpatient facility for the mentally disturbed.

It houses your drug addicts, your bipolars, schizophrenics, manic depressed types, suicidals, eating disorders and so on. So they we were. My father walking into the building, me sitting on the top of his pickup truck. Something told me this was not the “quick little visit to just talk to someone” he had made it out to be. He originally told me he was taking me to see my boyfriend, Ronnie Lee Phelps (god, I loved him). I would have never agreed to get into the truck in the first place.

So there I was sitting on the top of the truck where no one could reach me without any real effort, refusing to go inside. I knew somehow that if I did, I wouldn’t be seen or heard from again. So my father disappears into the building and I wait. These are the days before cell phones and I am in a dead panic with no way to notify anyone of where I am or what is happening. He comes out about 30 minutes later with a nice enough looking lady who tells me that my father just wants me to talk to someone, to help us all understand each other.

I agree to talk from the roof of the truck, which I do for about another half hour and I explain to this lady that my boyfriend is waiting on me to arrive. We called when we left to tell him I was on the way and his dad is going to bring me home. She says why don’t you come in and give him a call, we are done here for today…

I reluctantly agree and slide down from the safety of my perch. We begin walking towards the door and I notice my father is falling slightly behind and as I cross the threshold and the automatic doors peel back and I glance one last time behind me.

I see he is crying. And THEY are waiting. I attempt to bolt back toward the door but it is too late. I am caught. I am theirs.

And thus began my 90 days of treatment at the age of 15 for an eating disorder that I developed as a way to take the lack of control over my own life and mold it into something I could control….ME.


the writer, part 2

The second lesson and perhaps one that has stayed with me my entire life was acceptance. I never really fit in in high school because I was the South Florida transplant in a little southern town called Midlothian,Virginia. I was blonde hair, green eyes, tanned skin surfer girl amoung the Kelly Bundy look a-likes with the teased 80’s hair, Lee Press On nails and heavy eyeliner. I didn’t exactly blend. But this writer, for whatever reason, and despite his own cool factor, didn’t seem to care how different I was and one day I invited him over to watch Shakespeare on PBS right before I had decided to move back to Florida.

He knew I was leaving and I am not sure if that prompted him to agree to come or if it was the Shakespeare…but he brought with him a gift that I have kept for 22 years. It has been with me through marriage, divorce, homelessness and many moves. It is the first thing I would grab in a fire. It is a very simple crystal ball on a brass stand. He said he saw it and thought of me. It was the very first gift I ever remember receiving that wasn’t out of parental obligation during a birthday or holiday and it suit me to a T.I can remember looking at it and swelling inside because someone…finally…got…ME!

I know that in his teenage mind, it was probably just a gift, a gesture,  but to me… it was EVERYTHING. It taught me to give from the heart and if something reminds you of someone, get it, give it. Because the gesture itself may seem small, but you have no idea the effect it has to that person’s heart. So whenever I am at war with myself, or I start to feel like no one understands me, I look at that crystal ball and I am reminded that for a brief moment, someone was thinking of me and that is all that matters.


the writer. part 1

In high school I met a writer. A poet. He seemed so surreal to me and so enlightened. He was part of the elite “drama” crowd and I remember watching him perform onstage in awe that he could let himself go like that, without hesitation, not afraid to be made fun of.

I don’t know exactly how we began spending time together and it wasn’t a lot of time, maybe a movie here and there, but he taught me two things. I can guarantee that he never knew those lessons existed.

The first time I went to a movie with this boy (and I don’t even know the movie) when the film was over, I stood up to leave and he gently grabbed my hand and said “we wait til the credits are done, this movie didn’t happen in 2 hours, it was made by all these people and they deserve for us to know their names” I should mention we were on a double date of sorts with a “drama couple”.

At first I thought he was kidding, but they sat, watching the names scroll by and I thought it was so profound and so I sat and watched the faceless names roll in front of me and I began to see them as someone’s daughter, son, sister, brother and it affected me.

So now I sit and read the names  that scroll after the movie is over, not always, but often and it brings me back to that movie theater in high school, with the writer, who even then, was giving credit where credit was due. It affected me. It still does. That was the first lesson. Give credit where credit is due.


If the truth is ugly, it doesn’t exist.

It occurred to me looking back, that I did not have a single childhood memory where I felt happy. Not a one. It was as if time stopped during those years of both being abused and watching the abuse take place around me. It was as if I jumped from child to me now with a few scattered memories in between. I do remember running away when I was 12, right before my 13th birthday. I didn’t just run away in the “I’m packing a bag, being dramatic and going around the corner to sulk until someone comes to find me kind of way” I ran AWAY. at 12.

I somehow convinced two of my friends to come with me, both named Tanya and both had NEVER dealt with anything like the things I had seen. They were so completely lost and scared and crying the entire time but I was FREE. I loved it. No schedule, no rules, no one to answer too. I could yell,scream, laugh, cry and talk without consequences. Or at least I thought I could. I remember running into these two guys and them offering us all a place to stay, seems they had a boat on their property with a cabin that they offered up for us to crash in. It sounded perfect, we were tired of sleeping in the woods. So we went. It was with consequences.

All I will say about that incident is that once again, I offered myself up in order to protect the two Tanya’s. I felt like I could handle what was going to happen because of the things I had already endured. I remember walking in the front door of my mother’s townhouse, I’m not sure how much time had passed, I think it was 2 weeks.I expected a warm, heart felt greeting. I did not get it. I walked in, sat down at the table and didnt speak, because I didn’t know what to say but she took it as indifference and began yelling at me. I know now that she was experiencing a  plethora of emotions and the yelling was  just a uncontrolled reaction, a mixture of relief, fear, anger, happiness, etc but it was NOT the greeting I was looking for after spending 2 weeks on my own, in West Palm Beach, facing the things I faced.

I guess during my absence she had called my father who was living in Richmond, VA at the time and he had come to find me. I remember my mom putting me in a car to Virginia with him to go live, hoping he could help “straighten me out”. and I remember thinking that if I didn’t have the life I had, I would not have run away. 12 year old’s don’t run from happy homes and it bothered me that I was getting the blame for my behavior.

On a side not and kind of jumbled, I do remember going to the police station to give a statement of sorts about what had happened when I was out there and feeling very victimized by the police officers, they didn’t believe me, or didn’t want to believe me, I’m not sure which. But I learned from that lesson, that no matter what truth you tell, if it’s ugly enough, people will simply pretend it doesn’t exist and that running away doesn’t work because you always have to face yourself.

run away1