It’s no secret that helping others is one of the most effective ways for YOU to feel happier. Yet sometimes the act of helping someone else can become incredibly complicated, leaving you exhausted and wondering if it’s worth the effort. In this episode of the podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen describe the frustration that can set in when your efforts don’t seem to be making a difference in someone else’s life, and why setting and maintaining boundaries can be so helpful.
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
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’re talking about the relentless courage of a scared child. Before we jump into this episode, we need to tell everybody about our event on December 12th.
Overcoming anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief.
Yes. So exciting.
It’s a free event. It’s going to be live, as opposed to dead, but…
Yeah, totally free. We have amazing speakers, and you get a chance to be entered into a drawing for a full evaluation at Amen Clinics.
Pretty exciting stuff. So December 12th, you can sign up for it at tanaamen.com/event. You can also pre-order the book at…
You can also pre-order the book at RelentlessCourage.com and get all sorts of wonderful gifts.
Almost $500 in gifts.
So we’re on this journey and you are a scary bitch. Just how it was because you were really upset that the children are being raised in an unsafe environment.
Well, and I knew we wouldn’t get them out if… I mean, the stakes were high and I’m trying to deal with this person who’s pretty out of control. And the truth is this, I wasn’t exactly sure how much of it was related to substance abuse and how much of it was related to mental health issues. And it ended up being both. So I just didn’t have enough information, and I didn’t have time to figure it out. And that’s a really hard place to be. It’s fine. It’s all fine and dandy when you’ve got plenty of time to sort of unwind things and like take your time and be empathetic.
And I had none of that. We had to get these kids out. I was going back and forth out of state, and she was out of control. I couldn’t deal with her. Part of it was her trauma. She was traumatized from having her kids taken. Part of it was she was using substances, and part of it was she had mental health issues. So it was very complicated.
And another part is we diagnosed her with Irlen Syndrome.
Well, that explains the 19 car accidents.
And the blue halos. We got her diagnosed. We got her treated. She went to AA.
But it didn’t just get better. It got better, then it went back down. And it would get better and then it would drop, and it would get better. And so we had this up and down and that’s when I began to suspect it was more than just substances. I began to really realize she has a lot of past trauma. She has issues with mental health. She grew up in a very toxic environment with a lot… The deck was stacked with mental illness. And so I began to have more empathy. I was frustrated. I was hurt.
For any of you who have grown up in this environment where you’ve got family members that you know… Like you can’t just disconnect from them completely, or maybe you have, but it’s hard and it’s this rollercoaster. It’s just this constant roller coaster because you love them, you want to help them. But it’s this never ending just chaos. It’s just chaos, and you can’t sort of get away from it. And yet, it’s more complicated. I mean, I’m a nurse. I’ve got loads of life experience, and it was just really hard. And I had no easy answer.
It was. And the kids had been traumatized-
…by what had happened, and they really had no good sense of predictability.
None. How those kids turned out to be such good kids, I’m…
And they’re both great kids, although the youngest one had a ton of anxiety.
She had so much anxiety, she reminds me of me. She’s very cynical, and she’s skeptical. And she’s got eyes in the back of her head and that’s how I was. She’s always waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
Well, and very quickly you became her hero. She wants to be like you.
We’ll see how long that lasts.
So on Mother’s Day three years ago, she got the children. Moved down to Southern California, because that way we could at least supervise the situation. But again, not in a straight line, but they’re getting services. They’re getting the help they need. And it was not easy.
It was not easy.
Your dad was easy. This was hard.
I don’t know I’d go so far as say it was easy, but this was…
Your dad was easier.
This felt almost insurmountable at the time.
It turned out that… I mean, there are just so many lessons, but one of the lessons is at some point, some people really aren’t meant to be day-to-day mothers because they can’t manage it.
And here’s the big lesson that for me, and I write about this in my book, it’s like for most of us, we fall, we get up. We win, we lose. We soar, we crash. For most of us at the end of the day, it’s a choice. And sometimes the disease wins. Sometimes you do everything you can to help people. Sometimes you do everything you can. Whether you keep helping them or you don’t, sometimes they don’t win. She’s doing better. She’s doing the best she can, but the kids aren’t living with her. I think she does better when the kids aren’t living with her.
She misses them terribly. She sees them, but she just has a hard time sort of keeping it together. And I do think that getting treatment for mental health is just something she’s going to always have to do.
Yeah. And so now the kids are with us, which we adore them.
But I don’t have that anger anymore. There’s not the anger. There’s not the disconnection. She could make me disconnect if she did certain things. I would disconnect not because I don’t love her, because there are certain things I won’t allow in my house. So I did a video on social media about dealing with toxic people. I have boundaries. I’m clear about my boundaries. At this stage of my life, I’ve done enough work. I’ve really taken the initiative to understand what healthy boundaries are. And I want you, as listeners, to think this through.
If you’ve done this work, if you haven’t done this work, if you’re still suffering with it, I’ve done the work on understanding what my boundaries are. I’ve made my boundaries clear to everyone in my life. Everyone knows what my boundaries are. And if they can’t respect those boundaries, if they continue after knowing what my boundaries are, I don’t like drama in my house. I mean, normal drama is normal drama, but I mean the crazy drama.
If they cannot respect that and they continue to bully, threaten, push, violate, lie, scream, that’s not acceptable to me. I’ve got a family, my husband, my daughter, now my nieces that are my priority and that is mine to protect. They have a choice. You can either respect these boundaries or not. And if you can’t, I will have to love you from a distance. I will pray for you, and I will love you, and I will miss you.
Well, there it is.
There it is. So I would love to know if you have had to deal with that, if you are still dealing with that, and what your way of dealing with it is. How do you manage your boundaries?
Boundaries are so important and people often become conflict avoidant and the boundaries become porous, and then people become overwhelmed. At some point, you have to go, “This person is able to do this, or they’re not able to do this.”
Yeah, you got to be honest about it.
When we came to that conclusion, she’s just not able to do it. You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be bad. [crosstalk [00:09:11]
You don’t have to be angry about it.
But then you just have to go, okay, so what’s the next decision? And we ended up initially, which caused us a lot of conflict between you and I, I think we navigated most of it really well together. Now, of course, when it doesn’t go well, you blame me.
Oh, 100%. 100%. I told you so, my favorite words.
Yeah. When we were dating, you said i.-
No. No. I don’t know why you keep thinking or remembering it that way.
Because I remember it.
My favorite words.
I think that must’ve been a moment of bliss and, oh, I love you so much.
No. No. I think that was a moment of bliss that you imagined that.
I didn’t. I didn’t. But I’m clear now that you will say, I told you so.
Right. You need to stop and think it through ahead of time for sure. Like my prepping. You can always continue for the rest of your life to say, “Thank you, honey,” or I will say, “I told you so,” forever.
So some of the big lessons from Tamara’s story is when you’re going to help someone, communicate with your partner. Really come up with a plan together if it’s going to impact their lives.
Because it impacts everybody. When you’ve got family members that are struggling with substance abuse or mental illness or both, they’ve got a dual diagnosis and it’s both, and there’s that much chaos, it doesn’t just affect one person. It affects all of you. It affects your entire life. It has the potential to turn your life upside down if you guys are not a team. So you’ve got to be a team. You’ve got to be on board together with this.
That’s it. And I actually dedicated my book, The End of Mental Illness, to Amelie and Alizé because the whole goal… Because they’re loaded for mental illness. The whole goal is to prevent it in them and in their babies. And it’s work, but it’s absolutely worth it. What did you learn? Write it down. Take a picture of it. Post it on any of your social media sites.
Make sure you write to me and tag me.
And the #BrainWarriorsWayPodcast and go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com. Leave us a comment, question, or review. The podcast has been just growing like crazy. I know when I went over 10 million views, and we’re just so grateful. Stay with us.
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