An anonymous interview with Rachel about her son’s severe depression and multiple suicide attempts. Rachel described the precipitous descent into depression that seemed to swallow her previously sunny, confident, artistic boy. She names the terrible and confusing sense of ambiguous loss [Read more…]
An interview with social worker and trainer, Liz Brenner about some of the challenges of having a Dad with bi-polar disorder. Liz describes the ways that her parents sheltered her from the realities of her father’s illness, and the ways in which not talking about it was both a confusing secret and also quite protective. She describes his suicide attempt when she was 20, and how living with the fear of losing him was a form of relational trauma. She experienced first hand how the stigma and trauma of mental illness resulted in her father “trying to prove he was sane by avoiding all mental health professionals for 20 years.” She also reports the difficulty of making peace with her father after a manic episode because he did not remember all the unfortunate and sometimes violent things he had done. Liz ended by describing ways that mental health professionals can make a difference by including families, listening to them, treating them with respect and taking their reports of danger and risk seriously.
An interview with film-maker Nancy Andrews about her experience as a patient in the surgical ICU. Nancy describes the ICU as a torture chamber, where if you didn’t know they were saving your life, you’d think they were trying to kill you. She describes becoming delirious under the influence of painkillers and sedatives, and gives a vivid description of the hallucinations and fears that followed. Upon her release from the hospital Nancy noticed that she kept having “weird experiences”as if she was back there,” which her doctor fortunately recognized as flashbacks from PTSD. Nancy’s film, On a Phantom Limb, explores the horror and disorientation of being an ICU patient. She says that while she is “unable to bear watching scenes of surgery or the physical restraint of others, making a film about it was empowering because I was in full control of the film, in ways that I was out of control as a patient.” She is passionate about getting the message out that PTSD after the ICU is common, and that early identification and treatment can make a tremendous difference.
An interview with author Art Frank about telling stories about illness. Art describes his own experience with an early heart attack and later cancer. He describes the way the medical world can be oblivious to the patient’s needs and subjective experience. He talks about the importance of finding your own voice after your body has been colonized by treatment. He offered examples of the ways that medical professionals can connect more personally with the stories of their patients. He also describes ways that it is both difficult and imperative that we learn to stay present with difficult stories of illness, our own, and those of others. Art’s book is The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness and Ethics.
An interview with author Susan Conley about her experience of coping with breast cancer in China, while parenting two young boys. Susan describes how writing helped her work through her deep fear and sadness about her boys possibly not having a mother. She also talks about “pre-writing” and how she had struggled with resentment of those without cancer, and how that dissipated through the act of writing itself. Susan describes her decision to write as honestly as possible, exposing less than ideal parenting, or spousal moments as part of her story. We end the interview with a discussion of the Telling Room, which Susan co-founded. She describes the ways that supporting children to write and tell their story can give them a powerful new sense of identity and of being heard and valued. Susan’s book is, The Foremost Good Fortune.