[ Home | Writing ]
Full Circle Associates: http://www.fullcirc.com

Mapping Life in the FAS World: The paths of Marceil Ten Eyck

Michael Dorris From the September 1997 issue of the Iceberg, a newsletter on fetal alcohol syndrome, Volume 7, #3.

    We must each find our separate meaning,
    In the persuasion of our days,
    Until we meet in the meaning of the world.

    Christopher Fry, The Firstborn, 1946

Marceil (Marcy) Ten Eyck has managed to find meaning in paths of her life everyday. With that meaning, she helps others find their way with fetal alcohol issues. As a birth mother of two fetal alcohol affected daughters (and of an adopted son), as a woman in recovery, as a counselor and as an active member of the "FAS community," Marcy exemplifies the marvels of the human mind and spirit.

Born in Portland Oregon, Marcy entered the world of alcohol in college where she, in her own words, majored in " booze, boys and bridge." She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1963. The script continued. Married. Had two daughters. Adopted a son. Fast forward: husband leaves. Alcohol remains a constant.

After a very near death experience (cirrhosis) Marcy crossed the bridge. "I was supposed to die, but I chose not to." Fast forward: April 23, 1980 - Marcy entered recovery. She then learned more about the map of grief than she ever bargained for.

As she struggled to recover from alcoholism and parent her children, one with FAS and one fetal alchohol effected, Marcy identified one dominating landmark -- hopelessness. "They said it was hopeless. And I couldn't live with that." Through the exploration of her grief and the recognition that her alcohol consumption resulted in permanent birth defects in her daughters, she started charting paths through the hopelessness. She explored how FAS issues are connected with grief.

"If we don't get past anger, we're stuck.," explains Marcy. "We make a lot of noise when we are angry. But we need to go through grief to acceptance. Then we can start learning and get to the point where our emotions aren't driving what we do."

Like Saint-Exupery wrote in The Wisdom of the Sands (1948), "The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves, but in our attitude towards them." When you pass the attitude of grief, you can see "what needs to happen, and what 'works' becomes clear. The emotions are still there, but knowledge can go to work, " says Ten Eyck.

In trying to share her map with others, Marcy has identified important messages she has learned from people with FAS/E:

  • Don't forget I have brain problems that don't show.
  • I can't change my brain; but you can help me change stuff around me that cause me to have worse problems.
  • I can learn if you will teach me "hands-on" -- and if I'm really interested.
  • I am able to understand with my heart -- and I have a good heart.
  • I want to succeed.
  • I want to feel good.
  • I want to be able to live a good life.
  • Love ME, just as I am.

Many of the lessons Marcy has learned, she has learned from her daughters, Sidney and Stefin. "You can change the environment, you can't change the brain," says Marcy. "Sidney was diagnosed in 1988 and it took me until 1996 to say that and understand that clearly. It has been a trip through emotions of denial, anger, self-hate, guilt, shame and mourning." And from that trip Marcy cites two detours she had to navigate.

First is that "I did this (FAS) to her -- it is my "fault." Second is "my daughters have a disability that will never heal. They have to struggle with life so what I have to do is to find out how to help them make their lives as positive as they possibly can be: happy, comfortable, and functional."

Specifically, the most important role for Marcy has been in parenting her daughters through some of the most painful areas such as sexuality ("A Parent Faces Growing Pains: Independence, Sexuality and Letting Go," Iceberg, Spring, 1996). She sites her 12 step program as a guide which has helped her through "what felt like the impossible." She lives the French proverb: "Life is like an onion, which one peels crying." Sandy Randels, the past Washington State FAS coordinator explains Marcy's journey this way. "Parenting a child with FAS like trying to find your way around Seattle with a map of San Francisco. I think Marcy, in her own way, discovered the map of Seattle."

Professionally, Marcy is a psychotherapist and counselor in private practice in Kirkland, Washington where she brings her heart and brain together in working with individuals and families impacted by chemical dependency and other addictive behaviors. She has also worked in community mental health as part of an anger management and domestic violence team and has been a family counselor. She holds a Masters of Counseling degree from Seattle University and is a National Master Addictions Counselor, a Washington State Certified Mental Health Counselor and a Washington State Certified Chemical Dependence Counselor. Add to those impressive credentials is the lofty credential of mom.

Her professional and personal experiences have led her behind the podium to share both her heart and mind. She has spoken extensively on FAS issues throughout the US and Canada. She has been an active participant in many of the FAS-related projects in Washington state as well as a founding member of the FASIS (Iceberg) board bringing the critical voice of a parent. Sandy Randels says of her public service in the FAS community, "Marcy is a caring human being willing to share her experiences to help other people without self-promotion or glamorizing. She focuses outward to help others relate and acknowledge their own experiences."

The road has taken some wonderful twists as well. Over the years in her counseling practice, Marcy had taken a number of referrals from the University of Washington FAS clinic. One day a gentleman called regarding his fetal alcohol affected daughter. Something, her instincts, said "don't ask him to be a client." Instead, she invited him to the parent support group she founded. Working together to "be the best parents we could be for our daughters," Marcy and Jim also became friends. In November of 1995, they married, bringing together a family that included 7 kids -- three alcohol affected, and one with cerebral palsy, along with 4 grandkids, and two horses. They share a very busy life and find time for some of Marcy's "likes": being out doors, reading, food.... Jim has also been a wonderful contributor to the FASIS board.

As Marcy looks forward down the path, into her "crystal ball," here are her projections:

"I believe the scientists are doing a good job measuring and defining what FAS is. At the same time, counselors, teachers, parents who are with these kids have been putting together things that work, things that are helpful; "how to's." These two things will start coming together so we begin to understand the connections between the brain and how it works, and what works for people" in their daily lives. "

In 1988 the words were "a forever disability" -- there were no services to direct one to, and one was bombarded with bad news like "your kid won't graduate," and other predictions of doom. Yet Marcy was put in touch with other parents and from there, connections grew. Now there is an amazing network of services here in her home state (WA). Marcy predicts that someday FAS will be as well known as Downs syndrome, thanks to the dedication of many parents and professionals. Marcy wears both hats, and when we look back 10 years hence, she will be one of the names on our lips.

In the meantime, Marcy plans to continue to "fit in wherever I can and am asked to in the work to achieve the vision. As a person, I plan to continue growing spiritually, stay in recovery, be with my husband, enjoy our kids and grandkids, travel and dig in the dirt." Sounds like a grand trip.

contact us

Full Circle Associates
Seattle, Washington, USA
(206) 517-4754

© 1999 Full Circle Associates - content
© 1999 WWCoCo New Media - design and graphics