Q & A

Talk about the feelings that compelled you to write the blog about The Wolf of Wall Street – it clearly triggered something in you?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a strange thing and it can come out of nowhere. A week before Christmas of 2013 a friend of mine sent me a review in The New Yorker panning The Wolf Of Wall Street. She knew my story and thought I would enjoy it and we could laugh about it together. But I had no idea that the film was about Jordan Belfort and his company Stratton Oakmont, Inc. I had ignored the press about the film because Leonardo DiCaprio’s character reminded me so much of my father—even his physical appearance. And my relationship with my father was still one I felt deeply hurt by, and was, on a daily basis trying to heal from and forgive. So when I read the article and I saw the names Jordan Belfort and Stratton Oakmont, my body had a physical reaction, memories came flooding back and my PTSD was triggered. I had remembered the name from my father’s trial in New York City and the article in The Washington Post about him. I couldn’t understand— on sheer principle— how a director as influential as Martin Scorsese would choose to make a film about a man who had hurt so many people and exclude the victims. After my letter went viral, I received an email from the son of a man who was connected to Jordan Belfort who also
went to prison for fraud. He told me he suffered from multiple panic attacks after seeing billboards everywhere. He’s just a teenager. I received many more emails like that. And so, in my opinion, Scorsese, the producers, and the writer failed in that respect, and whether they realized it or not, it became this glorification of greed, opening wounds for many people. Fraud has a ripple effect on many— including the children of those who committed the crime, and most people don’t think about that. I felt an obligation to stand up for others and myself who were victims of fraud in this country. I had an opportunity to do that and I took it.

Did your feelings about your father change as you went through the process of writing the book?

My feelings about my father always ebb and flow. It will be that way for the rest of my life and I am in acceptance of that now. I learned that it is possible to forgive someone and not be in contact with them, which I never knew was possible until I entered grief recovery. But it doesn’t mean that the anger and sadness don’t come up anymore. Writing about my childhood was the most difficult part of writing my book because memory can trick you into wanting to remember only the good to the point where the memory turns into fantasy or euphoric recall. It was my intention to write and describe my memories of my childhood in a fantastical way because most of the time it is how I remember them, or want to
remember them. But it doesn’t make it the whole truth, and I have to be careful because that’s how denial can become insidious.

What have you learned about the difference between having a lot of money and having very, very little?

I’ve learned that it is rarely ever about the money. Money will not fix your problems, will not make you happy, will not boost your self worth, or make you more loveable. That is an illusion. However, that being said, having money certainly provides more opportunity. I don’t have a lot of money today, but I do have a background of affluence whether that was founded on truth or not. And I have resources—meaning, because of the community in which I was raised, the education I had, the relationships I cultivated over time, I have more access to people, places and things than someone who may not come from a similar background. And on a more fundamental level, I can walk across the street to the farmer’s market and get fresh vegetables. There are people in this country—America—who don’t even have access to healthy food. There are millions of people out there who do not have either the human resources or money, and it’s important that those who have or have had affluence and privilege acknowledge that.

Do you think you were eventually rescued or did you rescue yourself?
I don’t believe anyone has the ability to save someone. That was a harsh lesson I had to learn. Personal change is an inside job. I saved myself. However, I did it by losing my ego and asking for help. Change means getting humble and having the willingness to shut up and listen sometimes. I have a therapist and different mentors who have been instrumental in my personal growth. If anything, writing is what saved me. Writing is like magic in that you can make great discoveries venturing onto that blank page. I learned more about myself from writing than I thought was humanly possible. I started writing eight years ago and it provided real relief from the pain I was experiencing.

What do you say to critics who will raise the ‘poor little rich girl’ aspects of your story?

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. My story and my journey are my own and I’m sure it will resonate with some people and not with others. I don’t mind owning the “poor little rich girl” title because in many ways I am.  But, it doesn’t make my pain any less real, or my experience with betrayal and loss any less valid. Of course, I hope the take away here is that it is not about money, but about family values, love, forgiveness and the most important: accountability— being responsible for our own actions and the choices that we make.