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.
A Live Forum for Courageous Conversations.
Safe Space is a show about subjects that are hard to talk about--a respectful forum for courageous conversations about difficult subjects in order to reduce stigma, provide education, offer hope and access to resources. It is a space for the in depth discussion of matters that touch hearts and yet feel risky to share; subjects that deserve, but rarely get, thoughtful consideration.
The topics on Safe Space often deal with the guests’ courage to accept difference in themselves, especially when they feel afraid or ashamed about that difference. Shame is a painful psychological and emotional experience, but it is also a cultural and political force. All acts of courage inspire others to take risks, to express themselves, to be themselves. Such acts have political force to stand up to silencing, to create change.
Each show attempts to name and acknowledge difficult feelings, and to honor those who have found their own way of putting them into perspective. Listening to Safe Space will introduce you to many who are daring to speak about what is true for them as they find a way to turn their deepest wounds or hidden struggles into a gift for others. Giving voice to the unspeakable is ultimately an act of generosity and courage that makes our world more hospitable and welcoming to the parts of each of us that feel vulnerable.
An interview with law professor, author and Macarthur fellow, Elyn Saks, about her experience of living with Schizophrenia. Elyn describes the experience of psychosis as like living in a nightmare from which you cannot wake up. She describes her 20 year long struggle to deny that she had schizophrenia, and especially that she did not need medication, despite months long hospitalizations, and daily experiences of psychosis. She was given a grave prognosis and told that she might never live independently. With the help of psychoanalysis and medication, Ellyn returned to law school and is now an expert on mental health law and the author of four books. Elyn speaks powerfully about stigma and mental illness, the use of restraints in psychiatric hospitals and her research into the lives of high-functioning people with schizophrenia.
An interview with David Moltz about his experience of being a psychiatrist. David talked about his reasons for going into psychiatry and the things he finds most difficult about the profession and the things he loves. He spoke about the use of power, the difficulty of deciding whether to commit someone to a hospital, how he listens to a suicidal patient and the importance of being present in the midst of someone’s pain. David also talked about the differences between the culture of mental health, and the culture of substance abuse treatment or recovery models of care. He also talks about the corruption of psychiatry by the pharmaceutical industry and how this has brought us back to the importance of human relationship in healing.
An interview with author, Christiane Wells about her experience living with bipolar disorder and addiction. Chris describes ten years spent in and out of psychiatric hospitals addicted to crack, not taking her medication and struggling with suicide. She began to get better when she decided that maybe she was not damaged after all and could give herself a shot at having a real life. She describes feeling bullied and shamed into taking her medication by doctors while in hospital. The side effects of her medications were sometimes so bad she felt she would rather die than take them. She discovered that as she started taking care of herself, protecting her sleep and creating more stability in her life, she actually needed less medication, and found it easier to take.
An interview with Deb, the author of the blog, Living in Stigma. Deb describes her experience of feeling written off by the mental health system after multiple psychiatric hospitalizations and 77 ECT treatments failed to help her. After being willing to try anything that might help her she met a new psychiatrist who took a real interest in her, spending time getting to know her, and letting her know he believed in her. This was a turning point for her, when she began to get up each day and do something no matter how depressed she felt. Deb describes the stigma of living with a mental illness and how unsafe she feels to share it with colleagues at work, for fear they will no longer take her seriously as a legitimate person.
An interview with author and trainer, Tom Wootton about his transition from Bipolar Disorder to Bipolar In Order. Tom describes how current treatment paradigms teach people to view their highs an lows as problems to be gotten rid of, and that it is possible with training and skills development to stay aware of intense moods while experiencing them as a beautiful part of life. He describes the difference between the feelings of depression and the behaviors in reaction to it, like staying in bed, or attempting suicide. He describes the way that he begins to help people find value in depression and mania and learn to see each state as an opportunity for growth and non-reactivity.
An interview with award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker on whether psychotropic medications may be worsening the long term outcomes of people with severe mental illness. Bob, was drawn to this research because he noticed that since the advent of psychotropic medication, the numbers of Americans on psychiatric disability has tripled. He also notes that people with schizophrenia tend to do better in some developing countries with less access to medication, than they do in the United States, where they are encouraged to take medication for life. Bob examines the role of the pharmaceutical industry in influencing the development of academic psychiatry, and in most of the clinical studies done on medication. He offers an alternative way to approach severe mental illness from Finland, where more time is taken to discern which patients actually need medication before using it on everyone.
An interview with Jean Vermette about her experience of recognizing that she was female, and taking the risk to share it with the people she loved. She ultimately chose to undergo sexual reassignment surgery and wrote a book, Je Me Souviens (I will remember) about her experience of MtF genital surgery. Jean spoke movingly about how her need to feel whole was so strong that she was willing to risk the loss of sexual responsiveness. Jean described the process as an example of the universal spiritual story of death and rebirth, and the sense of loss of her male self that was a necessary part of embracing her female identity.
An interview with doctor of clinical social work, Frank Brooks about gender role non-conformity. Frank described his own experiences of feeling different and facing prejudice as he grew up. He then went on to study the powerful link between gender role non-conformity in boys and the risk of suicide. He works now with families with gender role non-conforming kids to help them protect their kids from bullying, threats, and shunning. Frank uses the term Gender role instead of gender to highlight that these roles are social constructions and are changing. He sees hope for transgender and gender role non-conforming kids as social awareness and acceptance grows.
An interview with sexuality educator and mother, Sandy Lovell about parenting a trans son. Sandy shared the story of learning that her daughter was becoming a man. She described her son’s childhood and the very early ways he was drawn to play with more stereotypically masculine toys, and said he felt “in the middle” between being a boy and a girl. As a feminist mother she celebrated his gender non-conformism, although 23 years ago it had not occurred to her that he might be trans. Sandy named parental concerns for her child’s safety, his ability to find love, her grief over losing the daughter, and her struggle to accept that the transition was really necessary. Sandy also spoke movingly about how her son’s courage to be himself has inspired her to live her most authentic self, and that in many ways his transformation has been a gift to their family.