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Just as Tana Amen was just beginning her new relationship with Daniel, an unexpected phone call upended her life. Her estranged father, with whom Tana’s relationship had been strained, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, when Daniel scanned his brain, what they found not only surprised everyone, but it also left the door open for reconciliation. This episode of the podcast chronicles the turbulent, but ultimately uplifting story of Tana and her father.
For more information on Tana’s new book, “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child”, visit relentlesscourage.com
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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. We are still talking about my journey through the relentless courage of a scared child. We are hopefully finding and touching on topics that relate to you, and some of the things that you guys have dealt with growing up. I’m getting these messages. I love them. Keep them coming, please. And we left off with EMDR and when we were dating…
And it was sort of a perfect segue into about four months into our relationship.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into with you.
It’s been the best time of your life.
It has, but it was…
There’s no growth without pain.
A space with a lot of personal work. Let’s put it that way.
Right. Children have growing pains. It’s because they’re going to be bigger and…
It’s like working out in the gym.
And one of the early things that happened for us, so when I was writing, The Brain in Love, it just had been very clear to me: if you want someone to fall in love with you, you want to do something special for someone they love.
But you probably should make sure they actually want you to do that for the person.
And so you got a call-
From my sisters, my two half sisters. And they were freaked out because my dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He was a recluse. He wouldn’t come out of his room. He wasn’t showering. He wasn’t going to the grocery store. He was was a mess. And I hadn’t seen my dad now, because of my situation with him growing up, he had left when I was a baby, we did not have a good situation or a relationship growing up, even after he finally came back and decided he was going to become a Baptist minister.
And that was very complicated. His journey with religion was complicated, and complicated our relationship more. I’ll leave it at that. But as I write about it in the book, but it didn’t make things better. Let me put it that way. Then he leaves the… He leaves the ministry, and is again now doing drugs with my sister, one of my half sisters. I just disconnected from him. And I finally had stopped being angry at him, but I also didn’t have a relationship with him. I finally, along the way, it was just like, “I’m too tired to be angry with him anymore.” I had disconnected from him. Didn’t talk to him for years. And then finally I was just like, “I’m too exhausted to be angry, but I don’t want to… I don’t want him like in my life.” And so then I get this call from my sisters that he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and they need help.
And I’m like, “And what’s your point? Not my monkey, not my circus. Like, he’s never been there for me. It’s not my job to be there for him.” And that’s really how I felt. I was… Had just come out of a really awful divorce. I was finally dating, something in my life was finally getting back on track. I was doing a lot of hard work with myself. I had a baby, a toddler, and I… That was not… That was not even close to, like on my list of things to do, was taking a dad that had never been there for me.
Yeah. And for me, family is super important. John, one of seven…
Your family’s not like my family. Mine’s like Jerry Springer. Yours is like, Leave It to Beaver. So… Mine is like The Nightmare on Elm Street, actually.
And so with his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, one of the reasons I got so excited about imaging, is one of my very first cases was Matilda, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. And SPECT is actually very good at distinguishing: is it Alzheimer’s, or vascular dementia, or frontal temporal lobe dementia, or pseudo dementia?
But I didn’t really care at that point.
And Matilda had pseudo dementia, and when I put her on the right treatment for her brain, she got her memory back. And it’s one of those dopamine, aha, oh my God, incredible moments. I mean, it’s sort of like the movie Awakening.
And when you have that kind of experience as a doctor-
You remember it and it just gave me all the chemicals of happiness. And so when I heard-
I loved what you did. I just didn’t want to bring my dad into my life.
And so I said, well, you should bring him down and we should see him. And at least let me work him up.
And I’m like, “And where’s he going to stay?” And you’re like, “With you.” And I’m like-
No. No, no.
I didn’t mean forever. [crosstalk [00:05:42] so we can work.
But that’s not what happened.
Well, keep going with this story. So I scan him, he doesn’t have Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, he’s on a toxic chemical… Toxic combination of medication that I ended up pulling him off the medications. I mean, he had to stay so that I could work the plan and…
He had to stay, let’s repeat that, he had to stay. So it wasn’t temporary. So you could work the plan, which means he lived with me, and yeah.
And what happened?
So here’s the truth. It didn’t just all of a sudden our relationship, didn’t just all of a sudden get better. But we had time, we ended up with time as his brain got better. We started having these opportunities to heal. And within months he was actually, not only did he not have Alzheimer’s Disease, he had pseudo dementia and he gets better. He loses 20 pounds. He starts teaching all-day seminars at the church and leading Bible study in my house. And he starts getting sort of back into his ministry. And I’m like, “I don’t know if I trust this right now because I’ve never really trusted that with him.” But he started… Like, I really could see this sincerity, probably for the first time, probably honestly, for the first time ever. And so we started to have these opportunities to talk and over time… Now we also had a lot of hard times that we had to work through; but we had the opportunity to have those hard times to work through. And then fast forward, when we finally get married…
And then he became more independent.
He became more independent. And as we got married, we ended up helping him get a roommate. And then a few years later he ends up passing away with a leukemia, like a blood disorder, similar to leukemia and nothing related to his brain. And he ends up moving back in with us when he was on hospice. And so we moved him back in with us at the end of his life. And so he ends up dying in my arms, with me praying for him. But I had the opportunity to really work on all of that anger that I had had with all of those bad memories, growing up, all the anger that I had with him.
And I was able to completely forgive it. And he had a harder time forgiving himself than I had for forgiving him. I didn’t realize how much he had been carrying. Just regret for the way he had handled his life and how he’d been a dad. And so we were able to work through that and it was, it really was a gift. And that was when I really realized, it was the second time that I realized, okay, I was arguing with God again. And first time was at the drug rehab center and it’s like, no, God was trying to give me this gift. And I kept trying to push it away. He was giving me this gift of healing.
That was awesome.
So you’re going to take the credit now, aren’t you?
I want to take the credit for being who I am, which is-
-Wanting to be helpful. And when someone is suffering, it’s just so easy to call people bad. It’s so easy-
When you grow up… And when you grow up in trauma, it’s easier. When you grow trauma, it’s easier .
And it’s just harder to go “Why?” But when you’ve seen tens of thousands, actually it’s getting closer to a hundreds of thousands of scans, it just softens your heart.
And you just go, “Well, why was he like that?” And which of the four circles that you and I always talk about were broken or needed help?
In this case, pretty much all of them.
And his mother had suffered with severe depression.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And he was abused when he was young and…
Yeah. And you got to meet your uncle.
Yeah. And so one of the gifts through that was that I didn’t even know my dad, my dad didn’t introduce me to his half-brother or talk about him when I was growing up. I didn’t really see my dad. He has this half-brother that I didn’t even know about. And when I met Bill, Bill ends up being like this amazing human who is so much like me.
So much like your real dad.
Yeah. I’m like, “Why wasn’t he my dad?” He literally was like…we had so much in common, it was crazy. [crosstalk [00:10:03] He was so into karate, I was super into karate. We just had so much in common and I’m like, “That was the weirdest thing.” And it was right at the end of my dad’s life that we connected. And it was like this last little gift that I got. It was like, oh, this person, I’m so bonded to him. And it’s we just like instantly bonded. And it was, yeah, it was pretty amazing.
Yeah, so as he passes you really get-
And my Aunt Patty too, like both of them are just amazing humans and I just love them.
Yeah. So the help was for him.
And the healing was for me.
So, what did you learn?
Has that ever happened to you? Where you had to take care of someone you resented and you didn’t want to do it, and what happened? I would love to hear the story.
Write it down, what you learn. Post it on any of your social media sites, #Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Tana Amen. And if you can relate, we’d love to read your story. Post it at brainwarriorswaypodcast.com. We’ll enter you into a contest to… to a raffle, to win a copy of The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child. I hope you just give it away to so many of the people you know who’ve struggled in relationships, but guess what? That’s all of us. You guys have heard about the goat. No one is immune. It was Leave It to Beaver with a little bit of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Seriously. I know. I always think of your family. Your family is so amazing. And then I heard that story and I’m like, “Oh, okay. Well, I don’t feel quite so bad about my life now.”
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