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In this week’s series of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, we are looking back at some of the key moments from Tana’s life that shaped her into who she is today, with anecdotes taken from her new book, “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child”. In this episode, Tana and Dr. Amen examine Tana’s turbulent relationship with her father, and how the divide between his spoken values and reality changed Tana’s perception of both him and people in general.
For info on Tana Amen’s upcoming free live virtual event, visit tanaamen.com/event
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Welcome back. You are talking with author, nurse, my wife, Tana Amen, author of the Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. And we have an event December 12th.
And people can sign up for the event at tanaamen.com/event. We’re really excited about it. You can also pre-order the book at relentlesscourage.com. And I think one of the most important traumas that happened to you is when you were in, what, 10th grade?
Yeah, the end of 10th grade.
You switched schools.
So I had found a way to finally be happy and fit in. I became a cheerleader when I was in junior high, and I know that sounds very superficial or trivial, but when you don’t fit in-
[crosstalk [00:01:48] connected.
I was connected for the first time. I was such a nerd before that and did not fit in. I was the geek. I was the skinny kid, bird legs. And then all of a sudden I find this group of girls that became like my sisters. And so for a couple of years, yes, there was chaos at home, but I still had this group of peers and friends that I could lean on, that I could turn to. So it was okay. There was a couple of years that were okay. They were good years. And then we moved at the end of my 10th grade year, and so now not only do I look older than I am and I’m developed, so I leave these friends that I know who teased me for the way I looked, but they loved me. And then when I start this new school, it wasn’t the same thing. It was Mean Girls just all over. It was bad.
And that’s in Huntington Beach?
Yeah. And so I withdrew even more. So that was one of the stressors.
And I think one of the most important ones.
I had no connection.
Because from being part of the group.
So this is the social circle, being part of a group, fitting in, having friends, to being the pretty girl that threatens a lot of other girls, and now they hate you.
Which I actually got bullied. I mean, it was super weird, but I actually got bullied. So it was strange.
And people lied about you.
Yeah. I mean, they were saying they were doing things with me. I didn’t even know them. I was like, “What’s happening right now?” It was pretty overwhelming. So I really learned how to retreat and just go into myself, and I was very lonely. I didn’t even recognize what being depressed was, but I guess now looking back, knowing what I know now, I was depressed. I began to have anxiety issues again, and just feeling like everybody was looking at me, everybody was talking about me. All the time, not just at school. I started to feel paranoid almost. And so yeah, it was a really hard time and it was challenging, to say the least.
Yeah. So that’s one of the lessons, and that’s where the date rape occurred, correct?
Well, it happened towards the end of high school.
Right. But it was in the new school, not the old school.
Yeah, but it wasn’t someone from school. It wasn’t someone from school though.
And what’s the next part of the story that you want to share?
I didn’t recognize it at the time, which I think a lot of us don’t, but I completely severed ties with my dad. I mean, he wasn’t really in my life anyways. He had disappeared when I was young. Sort of came back, but he would come and go, occasionally see me. And finally, my senior year in high school, I just cut ties with him completely. Sent him a letter, told him.
Why? Because your dad had become a minister.
We really hadn’t talked about that.
So when I was really young, he did drugs with my uncle, disappeared. I didn’t see him for years. My mother would buy me gifts and tell me that they were from him and they weren’t, and eventually, I figured this out and she stopped lying to me. But then he shows up one day with a new wife who I actually liked, and he’s a Baptist minister. But he never connected with me. He never really attached to me. So him being a Baptist minister was interesting, to say the least. So there was no connection. He didn’t pay child support. He didn’t really make an effort to see me. And then when I have two half sisters later who are 10 years younger than I am, nine and 10 years younger than I am, he started doing drugs with them. And he now is going to leave his wife.
And I just became so angry. All of my anger from the past, all of my pain from the past, just completely surfaced, and I just lost it. Oh, and he showed up in a silk suit and driving a Cadillac in money he had taken from the church apparently, I find out later, and he tells me that he’s becoming a motivational speaker. He’s going to leave the ministry to become a motivational speaker and he’s getting divorced. And I’m like, “Let me get this straight. You’re going to divorce your wife, leave the church so you can become a motivational speaker and tell other people how to have a good life.” I just lost it. I just lost it. And so I wrote this letter and told him that being a sperm donor did not make him my father and I disconnected, told him don’t reach out to me ever again.
And your mother really counseled you against that.
My mother in my mind was co-dependent. So part of the problems I had growing up were because my mother, she’s just got a heart of gold, huge heart, but had this need to help and fix everybody to the point where it was sometimes dangerous. So when she told me that I’m like, “I don’t have your problem with trying to fix everybody and help everybody and let people in my life who are dangerous, so stop supporting him. I need your support.” And I got pretty angry with her and I chewed her out for it.
Well, David, her father, becomes a very important part of the story, but I just wanted you to have that piece because when we tell it in a bit, you’ll understand why it’s such a special story. Stay with us. When we come back, we’re going to talk about cancer and how cancer can change your life.
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