I welcome Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn, a CSUS professor and expert in PTG (Post Traumatic Growth) to the show for a deeply inspiring conversation about her book, Anatomy of a Survivor: Building Resilience, Grit, and Growth After Trauma. Anatomy of a Survivor examines how survivors can utilize their inner strengths in order to build resilience, navigate through, and ultimately grow from traumas and other major life challenges.
Dr. Joyce brings a positive attitude to the episode, but without the poofy platitudes we often hear. You’ll hear about her story and her book, and be sure to listen carefully later on in the show for that turning point where she went from feeling sorry for herself to instead, taking on challenges and being grateful for a second chance. This wide ranging conversation touches on everything from her to academia classes to the state of today’s students to the problem with today’s “lawnmower parents.” In the middle of the show, we hear the wild and true story that is the centerpiece of Dr. Joyce’s personal journey: In 1990, after a sudden cardiac event, she was actually dead for twenty-two minutes. CPR and determined doctors brought her back to life, but she found that her new life was entirely different. Dr. Joyce found herself suddenly facing depression, as well personal and professional setbacks. But as you’ll hear, she ultimately recognized that this moment in her life was not an end point—it was the beginning. Time taught Dr. Joyce that taking control of your life begins with the essential choice to move forward. In spite of every obstacle, failure, and misstep on the way, she harnessed the power of positive thinking and continued to tell herself: you got this.
Trauma and crisis are inescapable aspects of life; ones that never really leave you once you experience it. But for over two decades, Dr. Joyce has worked with and studied issues faced by survivors. Years of professional and personal experience with trauma and crisis have helped Dr. Joyce recognize that for survivors, moving forward and identifying specific mindsets and behaviors that encourage progress are essential.
I hope you enjoy listening to this powerful episode with Dr. Joyce, and if you’re interested in reading Anatomy of a Survivor or gifting it to a friend or loved one who you think could benefit from it, click here to check it out. Featuring interlacing stories with research on genetics, posttraumatic growth, and the neuroscience of resilience and happiness, Anatomy of a Survivor shows us how survivors of trauma can structure a positive and productive response by using Dr. Joyce’s unique system to guide them forward.
Dr. Flynn talks about how survivors of traumas use their inner strengths to build resilience. [01:20]
One of the classes the professor teaches is called Traumatology. [06:44]
There are three classifications of trauma: victim of the trauma, the secondary and the community. [08:48]
There is nothing positive about trauma but there can be productive responses. [12:05]
Word choices reprogram the brain. [15:20]
Take control of what you can control. [18:26]
There are six stages of meta-hab. [20:32]
Are there differences between the male and the female brain? [21:55]
What are the nutritional needs of the brain? [24:29]
The technology of today can overwork the brain, but know too, that daydreaming uses the brain as it does a lot of work. [26:19]
Joyce had a very close call with death that was a turning point in her life. [30:33]
This stuff is tough but there is a way out and there is a way up. [36:57]
During her recovery, Joyce was able to monitor her own progress as she got her brain function back. [48:00]
You need to realize that you need help in order to move forward. [55:01]
Some athletes in her study didn’t see themselves as resilient. [57:05]
How did she recalibrate after the months of recovering? [01:01:50]
Instead of saying, “I have to do this,” say, “I get to do this.” Think of people who would love to be in your situation. [01:06:13]
Pick one thing at a time that you want to do to improve your life. [01:10:06]
How do you know, as you are supporting someone in recovery, when is the right time to say “Get up off the couch” or saying, “Enough. Let’s get going?” [01:13:59]
Isolation is a red flag to look for in the person recovering. [01:18:30]
Joyce lists the other stages in meta habilitation. [01:21:52]
- Brad Kearns.com
- Brad’s Shopping page
- Anatomy of a Survivor book
- Posttraumatic Growth
- Turning Tragedy into Triumph
- About Dr. Joyce
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Hi` listeners, get ready for a wonderful and deeply inspiring show with Dr. Joyce Mikal- Flynn. Yes, your fearless host wanders onto a college campus for something other than high jumping for the first time in a long time. And we go into the deep hollows of academia to talk to a professor with expertise in PTG that stands for post traumatic growth. Yes, we’ve heard of PTSD. So we are going to learn to see trauma in a new light and gain incredible inspiration from her story. That’s detailed in her book. Dr. Joyce has an amazingly positive attitude that you’re gonna hear come out throughout our conversation, but it’s not that, uh, poofy, uh, platitude laden, positive attitude where everything is sunny. I would say more like a resilient attitude where she has the ability to look at things differently and analyze the best way to approach things.
Uh, she talks about how important our choice of words and, and language is, especially when we’re dealing with something that is very serious and sensitive, like trauma and, uh, supporting, uh, our own healing and supporting victims of trauma. You’re going to learn about three different types or categories of trauma victims. Uh, having suffered personally having vicarious trauma, that’s going through something someone you love going through something and you being deeply affected and then, uh, community trauma too, and how to move on and build resilience, grit, and growth after any of these things, which pretty much encompasses all of us. We’ve all been deeply touched, uh, one way or another, whether it’s directly or indirectly. We’re gonna have some fun on this wide ranging conversation. She’s gonna talk about the classes that she teaches today at Cal state University Sacramento and some comments about today’s student, the lawnmower parents who are now pervasive used to be helicopter parents.
She corrected me and says, no, no. Today it’s the lawnmower parent mowing the path and kind of trying to shelter their kids from a failure and setback. She gives a fantastic quote that she shares with all her students. You’re gonna love that about you know, putting yourself out there and learning from, uh, even your mistakes. So we proceed through some interesting topics, but it’s not for quite a while into the show when the hammer drops. And she describes in detail, this medical event that occurred back in 1990 where she sunk to the bottom of a swimming pool after winning a relay race and was clinically dead for 22 minutes. 22 minutes of CPR. Thank goodness the experts were there and didn’t wanna give up. And then the long ordeal that proceeded where she had to reclaim her life. And it, again, as I mentioned, it wasn’t all the the rosie path of continued growth and improvement and wonderful insights.
She struggled a lot. And you’re going to read in more detail about that in the book. Anatomy of a Survivor examines, in inspiring detail, how survivors used their inner strengths to build resilience navigate through and ultimately grow from traumas and major life challenges. Joyce talks about her 1990 incident. And when she came back to life and survived, she came to find that her new life wasn’t her life at all. She faced depression, personal and professional setbacks. And ultimately recognized that that was not an endpoint, but a beginning. Over time, she understood that taking control begins with the essential choice to move forward. And boy, pay close attention during the interview when she talks about how everything shifted in a moment when she went from extreme despair to the point of considering taking her own life to this very a sudden shift in mindset where she realized that she was part of something bigger than herself and that she owed something to all the people that had saved her and supported her.
It really is a powerful interview. You’re really gonna love Dr. Joyce’s style. And here we go on the beautiful campus of Cal State University Sacramento, Dr. Joyce Mikal- Flynn. Dr. Joyce Mikal- Flynn. Here we are.
And an actual university setting. I’m in a professor’s office for the first time, I think since I was begging for grades at UC Santa Barbara decades ago. But it’s so nice to sit down with you, a former student, Ben Ashton is the one that said, Hey, you gotta interview this lady. She’s got an amazing story. And we’re gonna talk about many things, including your amazing upcoming book. . Which is the Anatomy of a Survivor. Tell us that subtitle
Again. So anatomy, yeah, it came out actually in April of this year, it’s called Anatomy of a Survivor: building resilience, grit, and growth after trauma. So that’s the really been my personal and professional work probably for the last, almost three decades, two and a half, for sure. So in terms of studying, researching, writing, speaking, all of that. So,
So tell us about the, um, the classes that you teach and how you weave that into, to the academic experience here at beautiful Cal State University Sacramento.
Well, the three main classes that I teach here, I do teach, I am a nurse practitioner, so I’m in the school of nursing. And so I teach a class in leadership and of course there’s all sorts of ways about how do you overcome adverse the in challenges that are really important for leadership and management? Um, also I do teach a class in neuroscience. I don’t do any original research. I actually use other people’s research, but I put it together and it’s called the brain and gender. So we talk about neuroscience and are there any differences between the male and female brain? Very interesting. And then, um, the third class that I teach and I’m very proud of this because this generated from my research and it’s called Traumatology and introduction to post traumatic growth. So I teach that course and it really focuses on, again, challenge as adversities and trauma and looking at how, not only an individual, but secondary or vicarious trauma survivors, as well as communities move purposefully productively in through, into the aftermath of trauma, into a growth experience.
This is a new term posttraumatic growth.
Well, actually it is not a new term. It was really put out by, uh, two researchers and two, uh, professors, uh, Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi. They coined the term posttraumatic growth several years ago. However, it is still very interesting to me when I do give talks and I even in front of clinicians and I’ll say, who knows about PTG. Well, of course everybody thinks about PTSD and they’ll say PT and you know about posttraumatic. No, I don’t know that. I don’t know that. And yet that term and that concept, and they devised five dimensions of posttraumatic growth, and I incorporate that into everything, but also, especially that trauma class.
Yeah. Um, we’re gonna have to get to those, but I’m also interested to hear you, uh, give those three categories. So you have the, the, the victim of trauma. You have the secondary, or you call it the vicarious, and then the community.
New Speaker (00:09:01):
Um, you gave some quick examples, like the Boston marathon,
New Speaker (00:09:06):
New Speaker (00:09:06):
The whole community had to come together a year later to once again hold the event and then maybe tell us a little bit about those other categories.
Yeah. So my initial,
Why didn’t she mention Boston marathon people because she’s run that thing. We gotta runner here , People.
So one of the things that is very, um, when I did my initial research, I looked at an individual’s response to trauma in the aftermath. And so I’d done quite a bit of work. And actually my dissertation was about that. And my first book Turning Tragedy into Triumph was about an individual. Approximately six years ago, I was awarded a sabbatical and I wanted to look at what I was calling vicarious trauma survivors. So people around the trauma had they gone through the same experience as a person who experienced the trauma. And in fact, could they actually experience a growth event as a result of that just as somebody. So I also found out not only about vicarious trauma, but what’s also called secondary traumatization syndrome. And they’re two slightly different. Some people, um, are, if they have seen a traumatic experience can feel that.
And then some people like now are poor clinicians who are dealing with all the COVID situation are experiencing trauma as a result of their work. And then you have the communities response to trauma. And I do quite a bit of traveling around and speaking. And I happened to be during my sabbatical in Oklahoma city. And I went, wow, remember what happened here? And then I was in New York for the 13th anniversary of 9/11, and actually started talking. We became on, we became a member of a committee called project rebirth that dealt with a lot of the veterans, especially, but even, uh, first responders who have dealt with the aftermath of 9/11. And then I happened to have been introduced to Dave McGilvery who’s a director of the Boston marathon, and I was able to interview him. And so you get to see that the trauma experience or even challenges or adversities, you see themes. You see systems in that. And whether you’re an individual experience it yourself or around people who are experiencing it or working in the type of industry that you’re exposed to that all the time and or communities, you really get to see patterns in the way that they respond in a very productive, positive manner. And so that was the other thing that took me over. And that’s why I wanted to get a course with that. And then my second book, Anatomy of a Survivor really goes very much more in depth with all those areas.
So you see some productive responses, but I assume you also see, um, some adverse responses to trauma and you’re, you’re, luckily you’re picking out some good things and then you can go down that road. But, um, what’s a compare and contrast there.
Well, you know, that’s such a great question and I I’m, and I really want people to know. And when I speak and work with people, I always want them to know, I never don’t pay attention to what happened to you. That I honor, as I say, I honor the adversity in trauma. I understand very deeply from a personal level. And then even as a clinician and working with people, how these events can influence you. They’re tough stuff. My, with that being said, I say, part of your response to the trauma is that you are going to have to grieve. You’re going to have to be depressed. And when I see people going through that, I always say, you need to go through this. This is part of the process, but I cannot leave you there. We need to now move forward. And what I have dealt with and what I work with for on the most part is to look at, uh, the productive aspect of trauma.
I don’t wanna say the positive. Cause there’s not a lot of positive stuff about trauma stuff, but the productive of the, uh, purposeful movement forward after trauma. So I don’t spend a lot of time on looking at what’s wrong. I spend most of my time at looking at what has gone right, and how that can be implemented into clinical practice or even a personal lifestyle. So let, let me get somebody just asked me about this the other day. And we look at, for example, when you’re doing research, you can look at things like depression scales and anxiety scales. And I said, you know, those are real and I get it, but I don’t want people to go into that mindset. So when I do research, I look at resiliency scales. I look at the post traumatic growth survey. I look at that because I want to shift people in a mechanism that is saying, yes, there are responses to trauma that can be moved in this direction as well. Because lastly, I always say, when people go, well, I need, you know, we need to work with people. They, you get over stuff. I said, there’s no getting over this stuff. You don’t get over it. You learn how to use it. You learn how to incorporate it meaningfully into your life so that not overnight, but over time you have found a way up and out and a purpose that goes with that. That’s what people do.
So some of the terminology we commonly use, we might wanna second guess when we’re telling someone to forget about it, get over it. Um, even things well-meaning like get on with your life. It could be, could be misinterpreted or, or misappropriated.
And, you know, I love that. So we’re talking about athletes, right? We you’re an athlete. I’m an athlete be like, and, uh, the notion of words and themes became so prominent to me. And several years ago, when the Olympics were in London and I happened to be giving a talk about athletes who had gone through season ending and career ending injuries, as well as you know, retiring at, you talked about retiring at age 30, like who retires at age 30 and what they go through through the grief, the depression, the change in lifestyle, the change in your identity, all that. So I was giving a talk. I was at Cambridge and I was giving a talk at that. And so I was attending some other lectures and there was this one I attended. And it was about this, about disabled athletes, but you know what, they don’t use that term anymore.
What do they use? Adaptive athletes. And the change of that one word changes your focus. Changes your mindset. These athletes are not disabled. They need adaption. And I love that. And I was just listening to a podcast with the surgeon general the other day. And he was talking about, um, we need to, uh, work on mental health issues. And I said, what if we called it mental health opportunities? So words, language around this is really important for me to maybe start to shift how we organize our, not only our thinking, but our vernacular around this,
Right. I’m sure being in the neuroscience world and, and the medical scene, the word choices are reprogramming the brain. And so what you call it and what you repeat and how you verbalize it and how you think about things could make all the difference.
I tell my students a lot. I go, don’t come to me and say, um, you know, I got a pro I have a problem. I got, I made a mistake or whatever. I go, you need to come to me and say, I have created an opportunity because all mistakes and problems are are, is to get it right. Chances to get it right the next time. So again, I am not foolish. I don’t look at, but I just, I I’m, I cannot look at life in a way that things are, you know, things are bad, but I always go, okay, then what are you gonna do about that? Even with my kids growing up, they would come to me with problems and I’d say, okay, especially as they got older, you need to come to me with three ideas of how you wanna fix that. And then we’ll talk about it. And it’s just, you get them into the of, we talked a little bit earlier about the notion of taking control, making choice, key fundamental ideas, Fundamental behaviors in the aftermath of adversity and challenges,
Taking control of what you can control, I guess, knowing, um, you can’t control what place you’re gonna finish in the race, but you can take control of your mindset and your effort at all times. So I guess you also have to know the wisdom to know the difference, right? As you talk about the recovery programs, they, we wanna let go of some things like we can’t control what happens with COVID, but we could control how we feel about it and our, our mindset and our behaviors.
And, you know, I just, I, I love this too, because when I work with people, my focus is always on. I want you to start out with what you can do, and then we’ll go to what you wanna do. Because people will say, well, I can’t can’t I can’t. And so one of the things that I found during my initial research is I created the term meta-habilitation, precisely because I didn’t like the word rehabilitation or I, I didn’t like the word rehab. I just thought that was so small. So if you look it up, it basically talks about going back to baseline and I go, people go,
That’s what rehabilitation means?
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New Speaker (00:19:37):
People go way past that. All the time, people blow past rehabilitation. A lot of times they, they grow, they get better. So I said, I need to have a new word. So I was thrown around some ideas with some colleagues and one of them mentioned, Hey, what about meta? That means surpassing. Meaning going beyond I go that’s right. And they go, I go, how about habit? How about meta-habilitation? Way better way to describe what actually can and does happen. That people surpass baseline. They go down a bit, like I said, you have to be depressed. You have to grieve. Things change. But then when you get back to baseline, you can move past that. And that is also post-traumatic growth or metahab, which is actually a clinical pathway. It’s a philosophy, but also it’s a direct clinical pathway. It’s a mechanism in order to move through.
So I devised through many interviews with people who have gone through horrific things. And I noted that there was actually stages that they went through. So I created six stages of meta-hab. And then I also noted what I’ve identified as characteristics or facilitating conditions. And so in my book and in my workbooks, I have those. And so I’ll, I’ll work with people and I’ll say, okay, when they get to the point where they have characteristics and conditions, I want you to check off what you have. I, and people will say, okay, well, wait, do you want me to say what I don’t have? I go, no, what am I gonna do with that? I don’t know what to do with that. We wanna focus on what you have, what you can do, and then start moving in that direction. And that again, puts people in the mindset of making choices, taking control. And as I said to you, neurobiology research is way on the side of even when people have the perception that they have some control over their situation, they do better.
Right? And you can probably fake that pretty well, or, or
You might have to at first, but then it becomes the way you think a lot of times we fake feeling good, but then it becomes your reality.
Fake it until you make it as loud says Dr. Joyce, how about that? We’ve had that from other experts too. I love that one. Tell my kids that all the time. Yeah. Yeah. Before we, before we continue down this path, I wanna know about that class. Are there differences between the male and female brain?
Uh, well, there’s a lot of research to show. It goes both ways. In terms of there’s no difference. And then yes, there is difference. But what of the, uh, focus of my class and what I like to tell students at the end of the day, we are way more alike than we are different, and that our differences are our strength. So if there’s a difference in it, it has more to do with the processing of information, as well as, as sometimes how we go through our stages that males and females go through stages in terms of reading math, whatever they, how they move through that is a slightly different, but we all have the same brain parts. We all have them there. Some of them are a little bit different in terms of size, shape, neuronal density, but we all have them there, but we are way more alike than we are different. And we do have some differences, but that brings our strength, that causes strength.
How do some of those things play out like in a relationship setting or
Probably, you know, the, the garden variety of things we talk about with regard to communication, especially. We do see some differences with regard to the developmental processing with girls and boys in terms of reading, speech, those types of things we see. We do talk a lot about some of the adolescent brain what’s going on with there, and maybe some shifts and differences that happen with that and, and what we can do to keep our brain healthy and to have it grow and to start to move us out of our adolescent brain. Should I say into our adult brain where we really engage that lovely frontal cortex that helps us with all our decision making and moral decisions and cognitive abilities and that. So, yeah, so we do see, you know, some differences, but they are minimal at best, and they really have more to do, I think, with the processing and over time, the developmental staging of that, we may not be developing and staging at the same time.
So what are some nutritional needs of the brain, as you mentioned to your students,
I always say your brain, your studying your brain needs to be fed, not nachos and Mountain Dew. Your brain. So we talk a lot about, again, you, you even mentioned sleep. Um, I, I almost, um, am nervous about saying this because I’m not as good as sleep as I tell people they should be good at sleep. So I, when I say this, it reminds me I have to do this. But sleep is so key. So key to brain growth and development, health, and wellness. No question about it. And then, and then also we’ve, uh, we talk about nutrition and again, complex carbohydrates, everything, you know, uh, you stay away from processed foods, especially I really stay away from that and get into, you know, nuts, dried fruits, those type of thing. I said, if you’re studying and you need to feed, you know, you’re hungry, get a handful of almonds, walnuts, dried fruit, that, and your brain will immediately love that resource and that help for it. Also the other thing too, is that sometimes you get to a point where your brain needs to have, um, a little relaxation. So instead of playing a video game, go out of doors, go for a walk, go for a run, go lift some weights, go do something like that. Your brain will love that. And it’ll be better and more on point when you go back to studying again. So we talk a lot about that type of brain health and wellness. So,
So if you’ve been working with the kids for a while, I imagine you’ve seen some changes thanks to the, the culture and the advancement of technology and the mobile device. And I’m one, or if you have any, uh, commentary on that, of how things might be different. And the, the challenges of today to me, you know, having lived half my life or whatever without any mobile device or internet, um, that the contrast is, is really disturbing. And I there’s so many things that are great, and I’m an enthusiastic consumer of Google maps. That’ll get me there every time instead of having to pull over and unfold a piece of paper. But, uh, it, it is kind of troubling to see how pervasive the, the stimulation is and the, you know, the non stop opportunity to be entertained, losing out on some of those precious things like daydreaming or, or simple downtime.
And can I just tell you when people are daydreaming, their brain is doing a lot of work. There’s a lot of work being done with that. So if you see sometimes kids strays, you know, staring out the window, do not stop that a lot. That helps a lot as does free play. People don’t realize what free play does to the brain growth and development is so important. But as you’re talking about the devices, one of the things that I have, uh, insinuated in my class is we have no technology. Like I will use some power point and that type of thing, but students are not allowed to use their phone, an iPad. And at first they kind of like, well, that’s how I take my notes. And I said, you know, what’s really cool that your brain loves and loves and loves is a piece of paper and a pen and scribbling down some notes. Then you can take those notes and transcribe them to your computer. So you can learn twice. Now you
Take a picture of him. I found out yeah. Yeah. Those, those apps, like, they take a picture of your notes and put it into text.
Oh, there you go. Well, yeah, but I, I, I really, I very big on not allowing students to have that type of technology in the class that we do a lot more of interaction. And I tell them we actually do a I’ve incorporated into my neuro class, the whole notion of screen time. And we’ll talk about gender differences. If there is their gender differences in screen time, for example, or just, what is screen time, what’s it? What is it, recreational screen time? What is appropriate for recreational screen time in terms of different age groups and what they can do. And it’s really surprising to them, and I don’t know how much it actually may change their behavior, but it definitely builds an awareness around how you are using these devices in a way that you control them and are they controlling you? And so, you know, yeah, we, we talk about, we do bring up that a lot because to me the brain, I mean, I’m athletic. So obviously I love my heart, my lungs, my musculoskeletal system, all that, but having gone through the event that I went through, where I had that sudden death, and then the extended CPR, you know, and all that, and having lost some brain activity, I am so recognized how precious our brains are they’re so what, how we drive them, our brains are the only organ that can actually think about itself. And so we look at it and can contemplate how to make our brains bigger, better and stronger. And that is so key just to whether you’re an athlete, whether you’re parent, teaching, whatever brain health and wellness is key to all those functions, to function well.
Listeners, viewers, I think we better go back to 1990 now. If you read the, the description of the book on the Amazon page or whatever, you present this event in your life as a huge turning point. So, uh, take us back there and tell us what happened.
Well, at that point in time, I had, I, my husband and I have three children. And at that point, our youngest son wasn’t quite two and our daughters were seven and eight. And they were on a swim team in Sacramento. And there was a championship swim meet. I several few years before that had gotten into, um, I’d gained quite a bit of weight after my first two pregnancies. In order to lose that, I cleaned up my diet and I started walking and then running and then started running marathons and loved that. And then I got into doing triathlon. So it was a very active mother of three at this championship swim meet. I have zero memory of any of this. This happened, my event happened on a Sunday. I don’t really remember the weekend at all. And I don’t remember for about a month afterwards, but what I was told is they had a break in the swim meet for the kids, and they had an adult relay, a fun adult relay, well, I’m Uber competitive.
So nothing’s fun for me, it’s all competitive. So I grabbed my husband and I grabbed a couple of friends of mine who were there. And I said, come on, let’s go swim this, and we’re gonna win this. And I’m gonna swim the last lap, cuz I’ve been doing a lot of training for some triathlons I was doing. And I said, I’m the fast so I’m gonna swim the last lap. So I swam the last lap of the relay race finished at the end of the pool. That was 13 feet deep and just proceeded to sink to the bottom and somebody the timer said to my husband, is your wife Okay? She’s on the bottom. He goes, oh, you know, she just goes down and she kind of jumps up and gets to the top. Your wife’s not surfacing. So my husband dove to the bottom of the pool, got me to the side.
Luckily because there were a lot of children there, there were a lot of parents there and some of those parents were a couple ER, an ER doc, a cardiac nurse specialist, a pulmonologist. Uh, so they were kind of knew what they were doing when they gave me CPR. So I received 22 minutes of CPR at poolside. They were able to land a helicopter close. I was, it was at Jesuit high school in Sacramento. They landed a helicopter in the football field at Jesuit. They took me to University California Davis, the med center, my heart stopped again in the helicopter. They got it going. And that’s when I ended up in ICU on a respirator. But actually, um, came through that. I got off the respirator. I don’t remember any of this pretty quickly. And then I was transferred to another hospital, but that is when my life changed like dramatically. Um, well
Wait a sec, 22 minutes. Yeah. Is not a typical duration. They’re they’re trying to get you back. It usually happens in seconds, right? So what was going on during that 22 minutes?
Well, they were just, you know, you know, trying to the heart, wasn’t starting, it, wasn’t starting, I wasn’t breathing on my own. And I actually said, cuz I, when I was a nurse, before I became a nurse practitioner, I was an ICU nurse and we were in medical. I was an ICU nurse in medical intensive care. And we used to answer every code in the hospital and do you know, CPR and do that. And I know how long that all is. And I remember saying to one of the doctors afterwards, wait a second, over 20 minutes, did you, did you think of stopping? And he goes, no, your husband’s there. Your kids are, no, we weren’t gonna stop the code. We got it till we got you breathing and your heart going and, and transferred you. But obviously you can, well, imagine that that took its toll, uh, on me, um, neurologically for sure. Um, and so when I was able to, what I remember is one of the doctors, him into my room, I’ll never forget this. I had no, by the time I kind of had a recollection of what was going on. I remember sitting up in my bed.
This was a month later?
Yeah. This is a couple weeks later, at least two or three weeks later. And the doctor came in and I, um, said, well, what happened? And you know, he told me and I was like, no, because I don’t remember that happening.
Listen to our nurse here. Tell me what happened.
And he said, yeah, you died and you resuscitated with it. And so then I said to him, I said something to him about, well, when will I be able to run again? And he said, oh, you you’ll never run again. And I absolutely lost it. I just fell apart. And my husband is saying, why do you care about running again? You know, you’re alive, you’re alive. But I know that sounds crazy to a lot of people, but when you that’s a joy in your life, that was my socialization. That was my identity. That and all of a sudden, boom, it is gone. And then also, you know, I didn’t recognize my husband right away. I didn’t recognize my children. I mean, I was just really messed up and to get all this at once was just overwhelming to me. And I remember seeing that doctor like the next day in the hallway, the hospital, and I said, um, to him, um, you know, you don’t know who you’re talking to.
You know, I’ve been through a lot of bad things in my life and I’m gonna get through this and you watch, you know, and I’m gonna run again and I’m gonna this again. And I’m gonna, you know, and, um, you know, instead of telling me what I can’t do, your job is to ask me what I wanna do or tell me what I can do to ask me what I wanna do and to get me there. That’s your job. And so I turned around, I walked, go back to my room and I couldn’t find my room. And he said, look, it she’s yelling at me. And she doesn’t even know where her room is, but that, you know, that was, it was again, I was just so defiant. I was so, and that actually the real feelings behind that was unbelievable fear, unbelievable fear that I was never gonna get back and just being angry.
The are some of the real emotions that you go through and it comes out as, you know, being obstinate or whatever, but it really is fear that the life I knew changed completely. And I didn’t realize it then, but I was gonna have to organize and think about what was my life gonna be like after this? And all the things that were very important to me, my family, like I told you, I didn’t recognize them at first, My athletic activity gone. My brain, which I loved gone. Simple things I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t organize my thinking. I was a mess. And so, um, yeah, kind of crawling back from that over time provided me. What I have come to see has been my purpose in life. And that is to recognize that these things are bad. This is tough stuff going through. But there is a way out and a way up. And we need to process that with patients in a productive, mannerism and productive mechanism that shows them a way that there is hope. They have control. They can make choice and their life, more than likely, is not gonna look like the same that did before it can be better. .
Wow. So I’m still stuck on the 22 minutes at poolside, and you clearly suffered neurological damage.
If you don’t recognize your husband and children.
So I guess two questions. One is I, if it took that long, how the heck did you come back? If you’re dead that long, I assume that the odds or the stats of doing CPR for 22 minutes doesn’t come through successfully very often. Maybe someone would acquit it 21 minutes and that would’ve been it. So how did, how did that happen for you and then detail, uh, what was, is going on to, um, to, to cause you to lose all those faculties? Not recognize people, not know where your room was, but then slowly crawl your way back?
Well, that’s a loaded question. I’m gonna unpack it a little bit here. So, uh, I think the extended CPR again had to do with the fact that I was a young woman. I was in good health and my family was there and they were not gonna let this go. They were gonna keep it going. One of the physicians, Bruce Gordon, who’s an ER doc. Um, I asked him afterwards, you know what, you know, people, I don’t wanna say made fun of me, but they would say, oh, look, it she’s this big athlete. Look what happened to her. And Bruce said, there’s no way you could have ever survived, which you survived. Had you not been in the shape you were in, that took you through. So that was very fundamental for me again, to hear. And in terms of getting back my brain, I’m gonna go back to Bruce.
I saw him, um, probably a couple months or so after I got out of the hospital. And so, you know, he said, Hey, you know, um, how you doing? And I said, you know, Bruce, physically I’m, I’m doing okay. You know, I I’m physically, I was, you know, up and why I actually started jogging a little bit and doing some crazy, whatever I said,
this was two months out?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I two or three months out. But I said, you know, Bruce, I think, I think I have brain damage. And, and this was like in 1990 and nobody ever said anything to me about TBI, traumatic brain injury. I never heard that term. And I said to Bruce, I think I have brain damage. And he kind of chuckled. And he said, look, it you’re an athlete. And when you have an athletic injury, you have to rehab that injury.
Your brain has been injured because of the extended CPR. You have to rehab your brain. And as soon as he said that, I went, oh, okay. All right, that’s what I’m gonna do. And when I was in the hospital, they had a speech therapist helping me. And I was very frustrated and didn’t wanna work with her because I could speak, but I had tremendous aphasia. So for example, I would wanna say…. One time my husband said, can I get you something? And I wanted an orange and I could not say the word orange. I could say, I want one of those things that you peel and it’s juicy and it has vitamins. You could talk all around it. But I, so I had this aphasia and I had obviously forgetfulness, I couldn’t connect. And so when he said that, I go, I’m gonna go back to a speech therapist because my articulation was okay.
But the part of my temporal lo part of the brain that had to do with that had been injured. So I needed to work with that. Also, I started thinking about, oh, I got my degree as a nurse practitioner from UC Davis and I was at UC Davis med center. So some of my former faculty had come to see me. Well, I reached out to them and I said, can I sit in class again? Can I just sit in class and listen again? So they allowed me to do that. And then, um, another thing that I did to help, um, get me going is I found a doctor, a cardiologist who was a runner and he is a big time runner. And he said, look, it, we don’t know exactly how far this is gonna go, but let’s get you going. And he put me in cardiac rehab.
Well, I’m 35 years old in cardiac rehab. Obviously the youngest person there, but it got me to start exercising in a controlled atmosphere. So I could look at my abilities and, and man, then I just started getting traction. Then I started. Then I started seeing things, what I could do. And I started things moving on. Well, I didn’t know it then, but teaching this course in neuroscience also told me, taught me about plasticity. That the brain can be healed. It’s just like collateral circulation in your heart. You can do collateral neural pathways. So if there are damaged areas in your brain, but again, it doesn’t happen unless you engage with the process. So if you want to get bigger biceps, you can’t sit around, hoping you get bigger biceps. You need to do what you need to do to do that.
So lifting and doing all that. Well, the same thing with my brain, I couldn’t sit around hoping my brain to get better. I had to engage meaningfully with it. And so reading, going back to class, um, going to speech therapy and doing the work that they had me do, um, all this kind of stuff. So new brain cells developed. New pathways occurred, and over time I got it back. And so when I faced, so I, and then I also thought, oh, two years after my accident, if I really wanna get my brain back, I gotta go back to school. So I decided to go back to get my master’s degree. So I live close to SAC state, and SAC state has a nursing school SAC state where I teach now, but at nursing school and they had a master’s. So I went to the nursing office and I was talking to a woman at the office.
And I said, you know, I’d like to apply to the master’s program here. Not sure how well I’ll do because I had this event. So just as I was saying that, the chair of the division of nursing walked by. Her name is Dr. Robin Nelson and she stopped and she looked at me and she said, what’s your name? And I told her Joyce Mikal-Flynn. And she said, I was there that day. She had a daughter on a swim team, another swim team. So she saw it, she goes, come in my office. So Robin really mentored and helped me through. And I got my masters looking at people who had survived death events. Well, then.
That was your focus of your master’s?
Of my master’s my thesis.
And so I looked at, had they gone through being depressed, had they gone through these different things. And so again, patterns and patterns. So then I got back into it and I had children to raise. And so I went back, I started seeing patients, luckily Dr. Dan Fields, my friend and mentor got me back into seeing patients clinically and helped me that. So I started seeing patients a couple days a week, and I just started noticing patients that I’d seen, or a book I’d read or a movie, I’d see a people going through horrific things. And again, not overnight, but over to time, not only survived, but thrived and not in spite of what happened, but as a direct result. And I was fascinated by that. So after the kids got older, I went back to get my doctorate. And so I studied, um, that’s what I studied in my doctoral work. And that’s how meta-hab or Meta-habilitation came up and the system and all that.
So, yeah, and I, when I did, when I, it was really cute when I finished my doctorate, uh, my husband and my kids had a nice party for me. And of course they invited the docs who resuscitated me. And so, Bruce Gordon was there. He was one of the docs who was there. But, um, after somebody said, I was giving a little talk about, thank you, thank you for all people who had brought me back. And, um, I mentioned obviously the doctors, and so after I gave, and somebody said, well, tell us what you did your dissertation on. And I said, um, well, I, I gave them the whole thing. This is a study that I did, and this is what the methodology I used. And I went through all this, and this was great and said, ah, that’s great. So Bruce walked up to me afterwards and said, you know, that brain damage, you said you had, I think you fixed it. I think you fixed it. So, yeah, so that was great. And then I eventually, that’s what I’ve been doing all along since that time. So I finished my doctorate in 2005. I’ve been teaching at Sacramento State University in the division of nursing since then, and, uh, have dedicated my, again, really personal cuz I take this personally as, as my professional and research life into this endeavor.
Uh, you said that the brain’s the only organ that can reflect upon its own function. Our kidneys aren’t thinking about our kidneys Now, when you, you were going through this, uh, this meta-habilitation journey, I almost said rehabilitation of your brain, but your meta-habilitation of your brain, were you able to reflect and notice, oh gee. Before I couldn’t say orange, I could describe it as the, the thing that you peel that’s juicy. So were you able to kind of monitor your progress from a distance knowing, Hey, Joyce is doing better today or, or, or something to that effect while your brain was healing? I,
I could, yeah, I could definitely, like, I wouldn’t see it on a day to day thing, but then something would happen where, um, I would read things and I would recall it again, you know, things we recall was better and I’d feel that. And I just feel how that, like, okay, I’m feeling more. I, I can, I think I was out for a run one time and it was not quite two years after my event. But it was close to that. I remember being out on this run and running again, like it’s just such a reflective, prayerful time for me too, that, you know, you really can get into yourself and think it beautiful, but I was reflecting about things and I thought, yeah, you know, I think I’m feeling like I was before. I’m feeling more and more like pretty much like I was, I got, I feel like I kind of came back from that. So I definitely remember having a conscious thought, like I’m feeling more comfortable about things, so yeah.
Wow. That’s really hard for almost everyone to relate to. I guess if you missed a night of sleep or you’re jet lagged and you’re slowly coming back to life and you can feel your brain coming back online, it would be a minor, uh, example of the same thing where you just notice. And another day comes and progress continues, I suppose, same with, uh, building the, the bicep muscles. You don’t, you don’t wake up Tuesday from your Monday workout and say, wow, I’m, I’m getting the guns back. It just kind of happens. Six months later, you get a, you look at an image or whatever it is. Right. But that, um, that journey’s pretty, pretty precious and valuable experience. You’ve turned it into something. Awesome. Uh, but I think you also mentioned some struggles that ensued in your personal life after the incident.
Oh yeah. No, there, you know, you really, and, and that’s the thing that I have had to also incorporate and make sure I reflect on again. I never say to people when they’re just going through something, well, you know, this is a real growth experience for you. Like in my head. I know that. You smile. Yeah. Thinking that I will never say that. I, I will say here’s the hardcore truth. You’ve been through some stuff. And part of the process is going through being unbelievably, bummed out and depressed and sad, scared. And when I hear that, it doesn’t frighten me. It lets me know you are engaging with the process. And so those you, this is not a psychiatric disorder. This is a, sorry, should I turn that off? Oh, sorry, my phone.
Sorry. It’s not a psychiatric disorder. Yeah. I tell it’s not psych, it’s a life situation. It’s a living situation and we need to engage it with in, in that manner. You are not a crazy person. You’ve been through something and you need to sometimes crawl your way out of that. And it’s tough, but the focus over time has continually to be on making a choice, making probably multiple choices on moving forward and recognize again, these are parts of the process. I’ll tell you when I went back to see patients, um, and this was several months after my accident. But again, I mentioned, you know, Dan Fields who was a physician that I was in co practice with. And he really helped me. He started seeing easy, easy stuff and he would see every patient with me and we’d go over that. And he really worked me through that process, but I remember driving home one night and I just had, you know, I was just thinking about it as I was driving home and thinking, gosh, I, everything that used to come so easy to me, so difficult, I just have to just work so hard.
This is so hard coming back. I don’t know if I can do this. And then I thought, if I just drove my car into that embankment, it would be over. Cuz I just, this is so hard. I don’t think I can do of this. And then just all of a sudden, this little voice in my head said, there’s a ton of people who brought you back. There’s a lot of people who spent time and energy on bringing you back and you have family and everything. And at that moment, and again, like I get emotional. Cause I just remember being taken back to that moment. But I hear this in other people’s stories. There is this moment in time where you go, I have no idea how I’m gonna pull this off, but I am going to move forward, am making the choice to move forward. And so again, once you make that critical choice, it isn’t that the bad stuff goes away or was never there.
But you tend to, again, start to look at how can I use that? How can I use that bad stuff to motivate me to move forward? How can I engage people, friends, and family or whatever, to help me move in a productive, purposeful manner? And that’s, that’s the thing I think sometimes we miss. But if you hear, if you talk to people who’ve been through that, I’m telling you, you will hear that in their, over and over again. Athletes who didn’t get their time, didn’t get their place or whatever. Yes. It’s it hurts. They’re bummed. They can be bummed for a while. They can be really depressed for a while, but then they start to say, okay, that was then. What am I learning? What lessons am I taking forward? And to me that is critical. So when you’re going through this and you’re going through tough times, it is so important to make sure you attend to those aspects too.
So get a good therapist. But get a therapist who recognizes you want to move forward. You know, get a good counselor. Get a good coach. Get somebody that’s going to help you because here’s the other thing that is so fundamentally clear to me. I’m a pretty tough person. I did a lot of stuff on my, I can get through this. I can get through this. This was way bigger than anything I had ever gone through before. And I slowly but surely came to realize this is bigger than me. And if I’m going to get through this, I am going to have to ask for and accept help.
That’s an interesting transition from being the, the baddest MOFO on the planet to this is bigger than me.
And once you get yourself right, and recognize if I’m gonna move forward I’m but you get you and you, listen, I tell my students this too, listen to the right people. You know, pick good people. Listen, take that advice and get that support. You’re not gonna get through this alone. And I don’t care if it’s a cancer diagnosis and treatment, domestic violence, spinal cord injuries, all the veterans, all these people I really worked with and dealt with in terms of using Meta-hab in their, in programming, it’s over and over. You hear it over and over again. Addiction, dependency, all those things people go through. Athletes who have retired. Athletes. You know, I did a big study here, um, not a huge study, but I did a nice study here at SAC State. I got a, um, a grant from the NCAA to look at athletes and resilience.
And we did a podcast called Athletes Interrupted and talked about athletes who have had any, everything from coaching changes to injuries, to changing colleges, to, you know, having, uh, had to retire, you know, once they stop their collegiate athletics, they were done and that transition and identity crisis, I mean all those kinds of things. You’re not getting through this stuff alone. You need to, you know, learn from people who have gone through that and get that support was so fascinating to me to look at that. Real quick, the other thing that was fascinating to me is I did part of that. I did the series of podcasts, but I also did some study on resilience for athletes. And one of the things that came out of that was a finding that we saw was athletes did not identify themselves as being particularly resilient. And I thought that was fascinating. Like, wait a second. When you’ve reached collegiate athletics at a D one college, you’ve been through a bunch of, you’ve been through lots of losses, successes for sure at losses and this and every the team and you, you don’t see yourself, you don’t identify as being resilient.
There’s only 12 people on the team. Dude. You’re pretty resilient cuz 87 tried out or whatever.
And I, I thought that. So that was a place for me to go too. When you’re working go, why are we, why are they not identifying themselves as being resilient? What is that about? So I thought that was kind of interesting outcome and talked about that.
What’s that about? What is it about,
I don’t know. That’s surprising to me that to think that they don’t see themselves with that character. Why, why don’t they have, why? I don’t know. I, I guess it’s, it’s just a conundrum that I get to kind of look at in the future about that, but it is interesting to me. What about I’m doing some work, you know, with first responders and you know, I’ve done some work with veterans and are, are they not seeing themselves as being resilient? And you know, are we when we are doing programming for them, if we get athletes coming in as freshmen for, or transfers or whatever is part of their programming, do we talk about that? Do we talk about, you know, the resiliency in them and incorporating that and seeing how they can make, how they’re connecting those dots? Cuz they’re not connecting the dots sometimes cuz they clearly are resilient. But how they’re not identifying that, is crazy. So working with, you know, first responders or veterans and cadet training and doing programming around what this is all about so that they can start to incorporate that mindset as they go through. And you continually go through that during their time.
Yeah. I guess in many successful athletes, you want to form some protections against getting too arrogant or getting comfortable and cushy and then losing your edge. And so Tom Brady pretends that he’s in summer training camp vying for a spot with other quarterbacks and, and playing all kinds of sort of games. So maybe that’s one thing that comes to my mind is saying, um, if you, if you ask about all these amazing attributes, I’m not gonna list them one through 10. I’m gonna say I’m just out there trying to battle for the next, uh, you know, the next, next competition it could be. But especially with a young athlete, um, there’s probably some fears and insecurities that have driven them to push the so hard to, to, to reach the division one level. Maybe the hotshot who’s headed to the pros is gonna have a different mindset than someone who, who just made the cut and was lucky to get a walk on position. They’re not gonna call themselves resilient because that, that hunger is what got them to that point.
Well, that’s interesting. Yeah, no, I appreciate that perspective. Unfortunately I wanted to do, you know, I, I crunched some numbers around that. I did some quantitative research, uh, findings around that. I wanted to do some, um, you know, group surveying kind of thing. And because of COVID, we weren’t allowed to do that, but that is something that I would like to see what’s behind those numbers. So you you’ve given me some insight to that me more.
I appreciate tell me more
Young athletes. Yeah, I appreciate that. No, that’s really good insight.
Uh, I’m thinking back to this swim meet and your immersive role as a parent, watching your kids swim, and maybe the parents are holding stopwatches and writing in the pad and, and, and swarming over this, I called it the helicopter parenting era. You, you corrected me and said, no, it’s the lawn mower parent era where we’re mowing, we’re paving the way. So everything’s smooth and easy for our kids. And then, uh, you’re at the bottom of the pool rather than the stands. And I’m wondering about that shift in perspective, where it’s like all these things that seem so important and all the drama of daily life. And, uh, the worries that we, we have about our car registration or whether our kid’s going to be in the A heat or the B heat. When that stuff’s blown up. I know that there’s an adjustment factor, and I’m wondering you had to fight and regain and get outta the hospital bed and take all those steps. But then one day you’re sitting on the couch, you got your life back, it looks like you’re gonna be okay, but how do you recalibrate now? And what you said, you struggled in, in assorted ways and whatever you’re gonna talk about there. Um, that, that seems to be another layer of challenge that’s right there, an importance or difficulty of actually getting the neurons firing again.
Yeah. That’s such a great question. It was funny. I remember a friend said to me, you know, after your whole event at whatever I noticed that you seemed calmer. You were calmer and you were more, you know, open or whatever. And so I definitely understand. I’ve always been an optimistic person I have, but I even became more because I’ve seen what people have gone through and go, wow, look at what they’ve gone through and come out of this. And so I know I, I have such a belief in the capacity of the human spirit, the human mind, the human being itself. So I look at that and I recognize and I believe in that. So it kind of calms me down from nervous about other things. Cuz I go, one of my favorite things is when I talk to students and they’ll tell, I’ll say, tell me your story.
And they tell me these stories that are just, and I will look at them. I say, look at me, you got this, do you not understand? You got this. Do you not see this in yourself? You know, I’d see that strength and ability. And I think that’s a lot of what came out of this for me and recognizing that there are things there are gonna be some wins. There’s gonna be some disappointments. And I need to recognize how to be a decent, productive human being in both those cases. You gotta know how to work with both of those and to be present. I don’t get myself wrapped up in stuff that I just think is like, you know, oh, you gotta, you know, meet this person or this important, but I don’t see that. People to me are important and exciting because of what they do. What they’ve given back. Their presence and their people’s lives around them.
I get very interested and excited about that, but I’m not celebrity stuff. I’m not that impressed with at all. In terms of getting myself worked up about problems, I will take some deep breaths. I do get upset about certain things. And, but then I say, okay, put this in perspective. So when I was I’m older than this now, but when I was 50 years old, I was out for a run. And again, I can, you know, that’s such a good time for me to think through things. And I was out and I was like, oh my gosh, I’m 50 years old. I am 50 years old. Then all of a sudden I had this like shift in thought and said, no, you got to be 50. Cuz when you were 35, you were dead and you’re going get to be 51 and you’re going to get to be 52.
And now I got to be 67 and I have, you know, seen all three of my children played D one sports in college. Two played soccer, one played water polo. They are, you know, all three of them, our son just got married a month ago. So all three of them are married. Lovely, wonderful spouses.My husband, and I now have six grandchildren. I go, what am I, I get to be doing this? I tell my students the other day I go, you know, I want you to, you know, I have them try and achieve that mindset. And I said, don’t not don’t. But think about it this way. Instead of saying, I have to take this test, I get to take this test. I have to go to school. I get to go to school cuz you know how many people would love to be sitting exactly where you’re sitting right now and you get to do that. So I think that shifted for me tremendously. Well, not tremendously, but it just, my event gave such meaning and structure to my thoughts about life and how to be in the world afterwards.
Whew. If you’re not an optimist before listening to that last passage, I think it’s time to shift, especially with aging is one of the biggest complaints or the biggest ways that we lament throughout life. I think it’s a common theme and boy, I, I feel the same way. It’s such a privilege to be, have reached this age. And to think in any form of negativity about it, it’s, you don’t even have to have had your heart stop at a certain previous age. You’re just, you know, anything could happen anytime. Right? Right. And so what a, what a gift it is for, what am I 56? Hey, it’s a great year, you know? Yeah, incredible. Right. Wow. But even 10 times more profoundly for you cuz you can always put your finger on that age 35 and think that would’ve been it.
One of my colleagues said this to me the other day. I love it. She said I’m retired and I would uh, um, and she said, you know, um, I’m living in the carpe diem part of my life. Seize the day. I show up for everything. I love that. And I show up to run and I show up for family events and I show up for my students and I show up for this podcast. Like I show up for stuff. Cuz I’m here and I,
you might as well to do that. Right?
So it’s like a lovely thing to be able to participate in life. And um, the other thing too is you, you do, you know. I’m not running a marathon as fast as I used to. In fact, I haven’t run a marathon in a while, I’ve run some halves and I do running a van and not running as fast, but I also love the whole notion of adapt and, and acceptance, you know. Just because you can’t do it that fast doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
You just adapt and accept to what you can do and enjoy the process and keep pushing yourself, pushing yourself and going, how can I make things better? That’s always what I wanna do. How, how can I be a better 67 year old person? You know, keep moving. You know, listen, I love listening to you and these lovely books that, you know, seeing the lovely books you’ve written and everything really reminds me, I gotta like clean up some of the way I’m eating and stuff. So I’m so happy to be talking to you because again, it’s such a great my, to me look at, there are some things that you are doing that are less than productive and just talking to you today. Yeah. I need to clean that up a bit
And, and you’re smiling while you say it, which is a huge difference from beating yourself up saying I’m, I’m, I’m falling short here. I’m falling short there. And that’s something that it’s increasing interest to me as I get older and hopefully more wiser and more mature seeing that, uh, that, that, that drive and that competitive intensity that endurance athletes are familiar with and it can make you get to the finish line, but it could also be something that can leak in, in an inappropriate manner. Your friend calls you more calm. I believe that would be a, a compliment in probably an attribute. Whereas if you know some of that edge that you have to achieve high goals in academia and, and put, uh, finish awards up on your wall here. Um, some of that can get misappropriated at times. Yeah. And you’re gonna, she’s smiling while she’s cleaning up. Her diet, people are gonna check in and in 60 days to see how that goes. But that I feel like is the, the best, uh, place to start something like a personal transformation is you’re looking so forward to choosing better foods and ditching the bad stuff. It’s gonna be amazing.
Well, and I, and I like it too. When I talk about that, I always say to people, it never works to change everything. Pick one thing, pick one thing for the next week, I’m going to stop eating goldfish, you know, or something like,
There you go, like just refined industrial seed oils in there. One of the worst things you can put in your mouth and your kids.
Thank you. And so like, I go, okay, I use that as a little snap. I’m gonna like, I’m gonna stop that. I can do that. One thing. And I’ll just keep doing it for the week. I do everything else, but just do that one thing for the week or whatever. And that’s when I talk to people about really in the aftermath of challenges and things, I go, you know what, don’t worry about five years down the road, don’t worry about even next year, let’s look at today and pick one thing this week, or this month that you are going to say, I’m gonna, I’ve done the at, I’m gonna get back into doing that. Cause people really have had, we didn’t get this far without having some good habits. So pick a habit that you did before and do it. You know, one of the things I do, a women’s wellness that I live part of the time in Sonoma and the trails, the running trails, there are like Nirvana. It Is heaven.
So I bring groups of women to Sonoma and we do women’s wellness day. And part of it is there’s no PowerPoint. There’s nothing like that. We interact with each other. And part of the day is we take a hike. We do it out of door and we take a hike on the trails. And so when we come back, we do some debrief and whatever. And I go think about something. Is there something you did before that you stopped doing, but you really gave you pleasure. Really calmed you down. And women will talk from everything from again, physical activity, crocheting, painting, journaling. I go, what’s stopping you? If that already, if you already have identified that as an activity, I’m not gonna say, why don’t you start journaling? No, I wanna know what have you done before that gave you that gratitude, that calmness or whatever? Can you think about maybe doing it again? So I don’t like to give people new stuff to do. I like them to go back in their toolbox. pick out something they did before.
Easier. Less intimidating.
Yeah, it’s good.
If we can get some quick takeaway tips in, in some areas and one of ’em I’m thinking of is you mentioned that it’s okay or you actually said you need to fall into despair and depression as you’re processing trauma. And then there’s probably a ticking clock somewhere. You mentioned how the endurance legend entrepreneur legend, Sally Edwards came over to your house a year after your accident said, here’s some goggles, we’re gonna go start swimming. We’re gonna do a triathlon. So she had impeccable timing.
You reference it as a great turning point in your life. Yes. Cause she said, yeah, one year’s time to whatever, quit feeling, sorry for yourself and get your goggles back on. And I know that, um, support crew and, and people that are trying to do their best for someone who’s struggling are constantly balancing, uh, tact, the ticking clock. And wondering when is that time for the intervention or the kick in the butt to get off the couch and so forth.
Well, one of the things I do wanna bring up too, you mentioned with Sally, um, love Sally. I’ve known her for a while. She’s been integral part. I awesome. But the key thing you just said is she came to my house with my goggles and said, let’s go swimming. She didn’t tell me, go swim. She did it with me. Wow. And that’s a, she really did care. She did. She said, I’ll go, you we’re going swimming. And she went with me.
Big difference. Totally
That’s what you see in the movie scenes too. Dr. Joyce. Yeah. You it’s always someone coming and dragging ’em out and then they go have a good time.
Then they go. Yeah, that’s right. And it is a good time if somebody’s there and you’re comfortable and all that. So, um, I think in terms of the timing, you know, that’s such a great question and it’s kind of open to interpretation with different aspects. But I would say when people are going through things that, especially in the first, like the first stage of meta-hab is the acute phase. And that is the part where you really do have to spend three, six, whatever. How many months you about six, you know, really working through the, you know, whether you’re in an ICU or coming out of the, whatever, working through this tough, really emotional intellectual and even physical stuff. There’s just a lot of energy spent on doing that. Starting to see making choices again, making the choice to move forward, taking control and starting to move forward.
And so as we work with people, we’re not doing this to you. We’re doing this with you. As we’re working this through the, and making suggestions, what are you wanna do next? How are you gonna move forward? What are you gonna do? So I am would say in general, within the first year, that’s a really intense, big, tough year. That again, I don’t ever have people looking, we’re not looking at the, you know, the finish line. Now we’re looking at getting to mile one, then mile two.
Don’t be talking about no finish line with me right now.
Yeah. And so you go through that and then you start to point out traction that they’ve made. So the first three to six months, key, key, key on really focusing. And then again, starting to have them take control and turning their lives over back and how they’re moving forward.
And it’s sort of like with children, I would just watch our grandchildren this weekend. And one of the things that is so key to me when I’m watch for our children, watching, catching them, doing something good,. Catching them doing something good. So, Hey, I just saw you helped your sister up. Well done. Good job. That’s you don’t need to go crazy. Just well done. Good job. So as you’re working with people and you’re seeing you go, Hey, you know, you might not have noticed this cuz you’re living in your own body, but I saw you a week ago. And today I noticed you’re smiling more, or I noticed you walked another half mile, or I noticed that catching people doing it. So they again become aware of their progress. Start moving forward. It’s it’s gonna be the intense time and everything it’s a year plus for sure. You know, you really do, you know, again, depending upon what it is going through.
Makes a difference. I’ll tell you one of the key things that must, that’s a red flag and must be monitored for, and this is key, um, isolation. So there are, I tell people there are time where you need to be by yourself and chill and think about this. But if I’m working with vets, first responders, you know, people going through different things. If you are noticing that they are spending a month or two or whatever, like checking out, they’re not going to class. They’re not going to church. They’re not going to their workouts. They’re not, you know, going to family functions. They’re not doing stuff. Get on that. Isolation is a problem. Not everybody who isolates is going to self harm or get into trouble. But when I look at people who have self-harmed or gotten into trouble, isolation seems to be a part of that.
And, and don’t just call ’em or text. ’em go over to their house, ring the doorbell with some figurative goggles in hand and get ’em out. Yeah, love that.
That is a perfect thing. Let’s go, Hey, I’m going to of the movies. Let me treat you. I’m going to this. Let me do you. That’s a perfect thing. But that, that to me, you know, I, I have a, when I was working with vets, I had a very special vet who I had worked with and I really loved the guy. He was so positive and productive. We started doing some, you know, thinking about doing stuff at SAC state. He was just a amazing guy. And um, I think it’s now two years ago, one of the head vets who worked in that organization called me and told me he had taken his life and I was absolutely devastated. I was devastated. And I look at that and again, they identified, he had been checking out and you just can’t do this. This is this beautiful, lovely person.
And it makes me sad. So I, I like to bring that forward. You know, when you talk about doing things together, when I would do some, I, I would doing some overnight stuff. I did an overnight thing with vets and we’d go hiking and camp and all that’s really cool. Out door activities, key, key, key. Out door activities, the best in terms of healing. But when we got there, um, they said, okay, we’re gonna assign you a, a battle buddy. And I love that. I go, well, what’s a battle buddy. So a battle buddy is like, you know, you check in with Joyce, have you eaten? I go, you have you eaten yet? Where are you? You’re always, you’re not looking after yourself. You’re looking after your buddy and making sure they’re okay. So that was, Sally was my battle buddy. and a lot of times, you know, and, and so also when you have that, you stop thinking less about yourself, obviously, and you focus on the health and wellbeing of somebody else. It’s a beautiful thing. And that gets you going too. Because again, you realize you have something to offer. There’s purpose, purpose in your life. So find a battle buddy, that’s another key thing. Find a battle buddy.
This will be covered in detail in your book, but maybe we could close with a quick hit of the, the six steps we got to number one, the acute phase of meta-habilitation. Yeah. And then, uh, I’d love to love
To get, yeah. So next with the rest. Yeah. So there are six stages. And the first stage is the acute phase. Stage two is what I call turning point. And that is key where they may not identify it, but you can hear it in their story where they again said, I have no idea how I’m gonna pull this off, but I’m gonna go forward. And there may maybe multiple turning points in what they do once they make the decision to move forward. That’s when, especially a lot of support has to come around them. Because that’s when you get into treatments, both complimentary and traditional types forms of treatments. People are looking stuff up for you. People are getting you to be different places you need to go to do that. Spend a lot of time on getting back. Then you’re like stage four adaption stage.
Three stage, Stage two is a turning point.
So stage one is acute phase. Stage two is turning point. Stage three is treatments, traditional, complimentary, okay. Stage four is acceptance and adaptation. Now that doesn’t mean you do that for a lifetime, but you’ve been through a lot and you’ve done a lot to help yourself. This is a time that, and people have identified times where they just, I just needed to set myself down for a while and think, what did this all mean? Where am I at? Where do I wanna go? A very big thinking time, you accept things. And you have made adaptations for right now. And you just need to have some chill time. Then stage five is returning to life. In some way, you’re getting back.
You went to nursing, you went to grad school.
Yes. Something you do. You go back to school. You go back to work. You go back to stuff. You go back, you get back in, you get moving in and it may not be the same. And here’s the other thing will need to realize. That I have talked to a lot of people who have gone through things and didn’t go back to the profession they had been in before. And it’s kind of like that door shut, but these interesting, more effective, fun doors wow open.And had that door not closed. I never would’ve pursued this other line of work activity or whatever. So you get back into that. And then stage six is taking on the future. That’s meta-hab. That’s a never ending phase. Because once you get to stage six, you have developed a growth mindset, right. A growth mindset, where every time you go through even a disappointment, you like go back to the drawing board.
What stage am I in? And how am I gonna move forward? And how am I gonna do this? And I know I gotta circle back to this stage, and then I’m gonna go forward. So that’s taking on the future and that’s when you look back, can go, wow, this is nuts. Had I never gone through that. I don’t know if I would’ve gone from my doctorate. I don’t know if I would’ve gone to, I don’t know what I would’ve done with that. So you really, it’s a never ending thing. And that’s why at my age, people go go, I got too much work to do.
I got a lot of work to do. So I’m just coming up on another sabbatical. Where I’m super excited about. So I, um, really, if, uh, you know, people can get to my Instagram Dr.JMF or doc Dr. JMF and my website, Dr. jmf.com. Um, I’d love if you need. I do a lot of speaking. I do a lot of programming. I do a lot of all that, but I’m very excited too, because during my sabbatical, I’ll be working on a children’s book about this. I am in the process of writing a play based on this work, and then writing about secondary vicarious trauma survivors, especially as it relates to what we’re going through now. So, so
Go connect with her, people. Yes. Dr. Joyce, Mikal- Flynn. Thank you so much. Thanks for listening, watching it, everybody. Thank you for listening to the show. I love the experience with you and greatly appreciate your support. Please email podcast@Bradventures.com with feedback, suggestions, and questions for the Q and A shows. Subscribe to our email list to Brad kearns.com for a weekly blast about the published episodes and a wonderful bimonthly newsletter edition, informative articles and practical tips for all aspects of healthy living. You can also download several awesome free eBooks when you subscribe to the email list. And if you could go to the trouble to leave a five or five star review with apple podcasts or wherever else, you listen to the shows that would be super, incredibly awesome. It helps raise the profile of the B.rad podcast and attract new listeners. And did you know that you can share a show with a friend or loved one by just hitting a few buttons in your player and firing off a text message? My awesome podcast player called overcast allows you to actually record a sound bite excerpt from the episode you’re listening to and fire it off with a quick text message. Thank you so much for spreading the word and remember B.rad.