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There will be no new episodes this summer, but we will return in Fall 2021. Stay tuned!

When Unconditional Love Isn’t Enough

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

No one ever said parenting was an easy job. There’s a lot of work that goes into helping kids grow into functioning, stable adults, and as referenced in this week’s highlighted story from Tana Amen’s new book, sometimes even unconditional love isn’t enough. Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen draw on one of the most dramatic stories from “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child” to illustrate how hard a child’s life can be when addiction is present in the household, as well as what happened when the Amens were unexpectedly thrown into parent/caretaker roles for someone else’s children.

For more information on Tana’s new book, “The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child”, visit relentlesscourage.com

For info on Tana Amen’s upcoming free live virtual event, visit tanaamen.com/event

Read Full Transcript

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

We’re in week five of the relentless courage of a scared child. And this is really about the story of the impact of chronic, relentless, trauma on a six year old and 11 year old.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

My nieces.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And it’s a heartbreaking story, and this is why you never use drugs because you saw up front how painful it was. And-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

My uncle, the one who was a heroin addict, who now is not, he often says the one thing he’s grateful for from doing heroin is he gave me shock therapy.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Shock therapy. But your sister didn’t get the shock therapy or it didn’t take. And we get involved with these two little girls basically.

So we’re in the middle of that story, but before we proceed, we’re so grateful for the reviews that you leave us. This one is from Ourluneone@NYC. “I learned about Dr. Amen through another psychiatrist. First, I used his online store to buy supplements and vitamins and felt very happy with them.” Thank you so much. “Then I learned about the deep work he has been doing with the brain and because I’ve been following the development of brain science, I began to appreciate him even more. His podcasts with his wife are so informative and practical. I feel very well informed.”

I love that.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Thank you.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Thank you so much. So I guess the theme for this podcast is grace. And that sometimes the illness wins.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And despite all of our efforts, sometimes people don’t get well.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And it’s complicated, because sometimes they don’t get well because the disease wins. Sometimes they don’t get well because they’re not ready to take on certain issues. That was certainly true in my sister’s case. We had world-class care for her, wrapped her in services, and she would just break down and go into this deep depression and cry and cry and cry. And she told me, even though she’s got this great therapist, she’s like, “I can’t talk to the therapist about this stuff.” Because the word she used were, “It’s going to swallow me.” I mean, that’s how she felt. “If I talk about it, it will swallow me.”

And so she just couldn’t face it. And if you can’t address your own illness, if you can’t take it on, then nobody can make you do that, if you’re not ready.

Daniel Amen, MD:

No, that’s true. Although, for my patients, when they get to that point, I want them to go toward the pain, not away from it. Because when you block it, it then swallows you.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

See, I just want to beat it.

Daniel Amen, MD:

I understand. That totally fits your personality.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yes.

Daniel Amen, MD:

But so it turned out that one of the biggest gifts I think she gave the kids was the freedom to live with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So, we had our ups and downs. I’m not the most patient person with that type of behavior, with the behavior that goes along with addiction. It’s a trigger for me because of my childhood. So I was pretty bossy and pretty strong because the stakes were high. I had to get my nieces out. And so I’d get really frustrated.

Daniel Amen, MD:

You were bossy?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah. Bossy, bitchy, loud. I’ve been called all of those. So.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Such a surprise.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

It’s okay. I’m okay with that.

Daniel Amen, MD:

People who have been listening to us for a while probably can’t even imagine that.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I know, right? I tried to disconnect from her for a few times, and you are probably the main reason I didn’t disconnect from her. I mean, you really helping me understand that people with addiction don’t get better in a straight line. But there was a point where I finally had just had enough. And it was her, she said something that really caused me to rethink how I felt and not disconnect. And it was not only did she talk about how this was more than just her, this was about more than just her addiction, but she’s like, “Up until now, no one has talked about my mental health, but I still,” she’s like, “you still think this is my addiction. It’s my mental health as well.” And that really gave me more empathy as a nurse,=.

But also she then did the hardest thing I can think of for any mother. And then that was when said, she was just crying her eyes out. And she said, :I love these girls. I love being a mother, but it’s not enough for them. That’s not enough for them. They need consistency, reliability, structure, and a safe place.” And she’s like, “I have work to do.” And so when she said that she was like, “I will always do that work. I’m going to keep doing that work in the hopes that I’m that person one day.” But I couldn’t imagine what that would feel like if I had to say those words. And so that really, that made me respect her at a different level, that she was willing to do the hardest thing ever. And that is ask us to let her kids live with us.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah. That is so hard because it goes against the attachment-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Maternal, yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

-bond. But sometimes, and I know some of you listening are raising your grandchildren.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Or your nieces.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Or you’re raising-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Nephews.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah. What we’re doing is not all that unique.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

No.

Daniel Amen, MD:

But we have the ability to do it and they clearly had the need. And so sometimes it’s important to say, “Sometimes the illness wins.”

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And I know some of you are living with loved ones who had killed themselves. And I’ve treated so many families over the year where they just live with guilt. Yet people who die from a heart attack their loved ones don’t live with the guilt, or who die with cancer or who die from a stroke. They don’t live with the guilt. Somehow mental illness is thought of differently. And the whole point behind relentless courage of a scared child or my book, The End of Mental Illness is these are brain health issues and they steal your mind.

This is why you want to impress upon your kids, that they need to just stay away from drug abuse, because it steals people’s minds. Now it doesn’t steal everybody’s mind, and that’s where I think it gets confusing for some people, but, you didn’t do drugs?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I didn’t experiment with drugs. I tried pot twice. And I was like, Ew, this is just, yeah.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

And because I just thought it was like playing Russian roulette. And some people like playing Russian roulette. I don’t like playing Russian roulette, but there’s a significant level of the population where it literally hijacks their mind. And in Tamara’s case, exactly what happened. It hijacked her mind.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And the girls father.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And she’s working on it, but it’s a process that goes positive and then not so much, and then positive and not so much. But there are millions of people who’ve broken addictions. Of course be smart, don’t start. But if you’ve struggled with it, keep after it until you break those bonds. And part of it is by living a Brain Warrior’s Way life.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And if you are a person who has tried to help over and over and over, whether it’s your kids or a family member, a sibling, to get well, to get clean and it hasn’t worked, don’t think of like you failed or they failed. It’s not your fault that for whatever reason they weren’t ready or they just couldn’t do it yet. I mean, or even if it’s mental illness, if they’re not ready or they can’t do it, there are times that it’s, maybe now is not the time, maybe it’s going to happen later, but drawing boundaries is important too. So even with my sister, I think we talked about that in the last episode. It’s like, we have a girls now, but there are still some pretty strong boundaries.

Daniel Amen, MD:

We’re actually going to talk about it coming up.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah. So we’ll talk about boundaries and what that means to your own sanity, to your own mental wellbeing. But it’s not your fault.

Daniel Amen, MD:

So what did you learn? There’s a lot to unpack in this story, which has a very good ending. Stay with us. What did you learn? Write it down, post it on any of your social media sites. The thing I would post is sometimes the illness wins. There’s only so much people can do.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah. How many of you have taken care of someone or tried to be invested, and you felt like either you failed or you were just disappointed and you were angry about it. We want to hear about it because it’s not your fault if someone else just isn’t ready, or they’re not in the right place to receive the help, or they just can’t for some reason. So we want to hear from you. And I love to hear from you on Instagram. That’s where I answered most of my questions, Instagram and Facebook. So I’d also be grateful if you did pre-order the book. I have a whole bunch of gifts for people, almost $500 worth of gifts.

So if you go to relentlesscourage.com, check out the gifts, and there’s no obligation, but would love your support. And with love, I think pain shared is pain divided. So I’d love to have to be on this journey with me.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Stay with us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

If you’re enjoying the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll always know when there’s a new episode. And while you’re at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating as that helps others find the podcast.

Daniel Amen, MD:

If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.