Brenda and Faith Ferber are a mother-daughter duo determined to smash the stigma against mental illness.
Brenda recently wrote an article on HuffPost with the title: “My Daughter Told Me She Wanted To Die. To Save Her Life, I Gave Her Permission To End It. The subtitle of that article is "There'd Be No Stopping Faith...if we could get her to adulthood alive.”
Faith is now a full fledged adult who is a licensed master social worker and therapist. She says that her adolescence was a tough one, marked by self-harm, sexting and attempted suicide, but she not only survived, she thrived.
How did her mom, Brenda, an award-winning author and crisis counselor, bravely make that statement and support Faith during those challenging years?
We’re discussing all, including Faith and Brenda’s journey through mental illness, including the power of energy healing, and their mission to help others live their most fulfilling lives.
MORE FROM BRENDA + FAITH
-Brenda and Faith share tips + tricks to support a loved one who’s dealing with mental illness on their Tik Tok @stigmasmashers.
-Reach out to Brenda and Faith, and find out more about each of them at stigmasmashers.com.
-Read Brenda's article on HuffPost.
MORE FROM SHERYL NETZKY
-Find out more about working with Sheryl at goodenergyheals.com
-Listen to Sheryl on Seeking Center episode: "Alchemy, Time Travel and Healing: A Modern-Day Shaman's Guide to Living Your Destiny"
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW NEEDS HELP
-If you or someone you know needs help, dial 988 or call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
-You can also get support via text by texting HOME to 741741 to connect with a volunteer Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line.
-Additionally, you can find local mental health and crisis resources at dontcallthepolice.com. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention at findahelpline.com
Robyn: [00:00:00] I'm Robyn Miller Brecker,
Karen: and I'm Karen Loenser. Welcome to seeking center. The podcast,
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Robyn: Brenda and Faith Ferber are a mother-daughter duo determined to smash the stigma against mental illness. Brenda recently wrote an article on HuffPost with the title. My daughter told me she wanted to die to save her life. I gave her permission to end it. The subtitle of that [00:01:00] article is There'd Be No Stopping Faith if we could Get Her to Adulthood Alive.
Clearly Faith is here. She is a full fledged adult who is a licensed master social worker and therapist. Faith says that her adolescence was a tough one, marked by self-harm sexting and attempted suicide, but she not only survived, she thrived. How did her mom, Brenda, an award-winning author and crisis counselor bravely make that statement and support faith during those challenging years?
We're going to discuss all including mental illness, and we're going to unpack how things turned around for faith, including the power of energy healing, and how Brenda and Faith are on a mission to help others live their most fulfilling lives. Let's get talking. Hi, Brenda. Hi, faith. Hi Robyn.
Brenda: Hi Karen. We're so happy to
Faith: be here.
Karen: Oh, we're so thrilled
to have you here with us, both of you. I wish that our listeners, could see you both in the smiles on your faces.
, this is such an important topic for all of us to understand and yet it's one that I think [00:02:00] many of us are very much afraid to lean into.
You two are testaments of walking the walk and. Really going through the fire and getting to the other side. can we just start at the very beginning and Brenda maybe you can start and talk about that first time that faith threatened to hurt herself with a knife and what happened
Brenda: and what led to that.
Sure. Yeah. So this was back in 2004 and Faith was nine years old. She was a third grader. And she had gotten into trouble at school that day. She and a bunch of her friends had played a mean trick on the new girl in their class, and I had gotten a call from the teacher and. The teacher had said that she dealt with it at school, but when faith got home from school, I still had to have some sort of talk with faith and a consequence.
And so I did. I talked to her and I took away all her screens for the day and that was it. I thought that was it. And so then bedtime came. Put the kids to bed. My husband and I are downstairs in the living room watching the Sopranos [00:03:00] When Faith comes down after bedtime, which was normal.
Faith always came down after bedtime cuz she was always like, I need one more kiss. Goodnight. I need to talk about one more thing. And so she comes downstairs, pause the tv. She doesn't need to see Sopranos. And. She walks into the kitchen, which is adjacent to where we're sitting, watching tv, and she grabs a knife from the counter and she walks over to my husband and me, and she stands in between us and the tv, and she's holding this pairing knife against her palm.
And she says, I'm a terrible person, and. My heart like stops right then and there because what is she doing with this knife? She's a little girl. She had long brown hair still damp from the shower. She was wearing tie dyed pajamas with chicks on them. She was like the picture of innocence standing there with a knife against her palm.
And my husband was like, faith, give us the knife and. She was like, no, I like it. And then I didn't quite know what to [00:04:00] do because even though she was just a little girl, you don't wanna get into a physical fight with someone holding a knife. And so I soften my tone. And I'm like, Faithy, you're not a terrible person.
You did something that wasn't nice and it's normal and typical to feel bad about that, but that doesn't make you a terrible person. And she's toying with the knife against her palm. And I said, do you wanna maybe see a therapist? And she let out a deep breath. And she took two steps, toss, gave us a knife and fell into our arms.
And it was the scariest moment because it was like
we had known
all along for nine years that she was a tough kid. No joke. She came outta me screaming and she didn't really stop
for quite some time, But this was a whole other level There were a bunch of kids in her class who had gotten into trouble that day.
I don't think they all went home and took a knife and said they wanted to hurt themselves. So that's when we got her therapist and
Faith: started a very long journey of navigating well and,
Robyn: [00:05:00] yeah. And can I ask too, if you. Can recall, faith, had you had those, nine years old, 2004, which honestly is before a lot of social media and so forth.
So had you thought about that before? Because I think other parents who are listening of younger children, cuz I know we're gonna talk about your teenage years, but that's young. And this before you would've seen it
Faith: Yeah. I didn't have any exposure to the word suicide or that people could even take their lives.
But I just remember from a very early age. Feeling like I deserve to be dead. I remember at one point I drew a picture for my mom of me in a tower being eaten by tigers or lions or something like that. And I remember writing on that I deserve to die. So like my little eight-year-old, nine-year-old brain didn't know what suicide was, but did know that I felt like I should be fed to tigers.
So I really did struggle. My whole childhood. And I just remember thinking that there are good people in the world and there are bad people in the world. So [00:06:00] statistically, some people have to be bad people. And I thought that I was just one of those bad people.
Karen: Faith I was watching
your face as your mom was telling the story, and I, you could still see the pain.
In your eyes as she's telling that, do you remember what was going through your mind? Did you want them to react a certain way? Did you feel like it was , a moment of empowerment for yourself? Or was it just a desperate way to get their attention or all of the above?
Faith: Yeah, I think it was a lot of desperation.
I think it's important to remember I'm working with a little kid's brain, so I don't have all of the ability to think about consequences or to vocalize my needs appropriately or anything like that. So for me I remember part of the reason I felt so desperate was because everyone in my class had played this really mean prank, and our teacher had asked us one by one, whether or not.
We participated and everybody lied and said they didn't do it except for me and one other kid. So I was like, here I am doing the right thing and acknowledging that I did something not nice. And then me and the other kid who acknowledged it got punished for it and we like didn't get to [00:07:00] watch the movie with the rest of the class.
And I remember thinking even when I try to be good, I still somehow end up the bad kid. So for me, I was just desperate and really convinced that I just didn't know how to be a good person.
Robyn: So then what happened? You went to the therapist?
Brenda: so she went to a therapist. We found a therapist who was like very warm and kind and very similar to me in terms of the way she would talk to faith and.
What was great is that even though she was saying all the same things that I was saying to faith you're a good person. You did something not nice. You're worthy, you're growing and you're changing, blah, blah, blah. Faith was able to hear it better from the therapist.
Then she could hear it from me because faith had some weird warped idea in her mind that because. We were her parents, we were required to unconditionally love her and so therefore our loved didn't count. Oh, wow. Yeah. So it was like, you're stuck when anything you say is you don't matter.
Faith: Have to love
me, you're my parents.
Brenda: So that was tough.
did some different [00:08:00] things with
Faith. She did E em, d R therapy with Faith. But Faith was so smart and manipulative that she didn't really like doing
this E M D R therapy.
And she knew what the therapist wanted her to say to have it be done.
So she would just say the stuff and it didn't really work so much and then all of a sudden, here we are now in sixth grade, Faith's been going to this therapist all this time and nothing has really been helping or changing. And sixth grade you start middle school where we lived and
things got a lot worse really quickly in sixth grade.
So I guess the first thing that happened is She became part of this very exclusive popular mean girl group. And and that sort of took over our lives. And then she started sexting. So I had spyware on our family computer. This is before even You know that the kids all had their little iPads or the
Yeah, no I'm glad you're saying that because I think for those listening, we're talking a while ago,
Faith: this No, Facebook, there was, yeah, no, [00:09:00] yeah. There's no internet on the iPod. Yeah. But I was still
Brenda: I need to know what these kids are doing online. I had three kids. Faith has a twin brother and a younger brother, just one year behind them in school.
I gave them cell phones when they got to middle school, but we took their phones every night and I would read their texts. I had monitors on our family computer and every morning once they left for school, I would look and see what they were saying on a o l instant messenger.
I could see the websites they were going to, so I was paying attention as best I could. And still,
Faith: I don't think I cared that you were paying attention, or I didn't think about the fact that you were paying attention in the moment. I think one of the big things that happened for me in sixth grade was I.
Yes, I was part of this group of 16 girls who were all very popular and we were the mean girls type of popular, and everyone was beautiful. All of my friends had started puberty early and they had boobs and hips and they had boyfriends and all of that. And I was like, scrawny and I wasn't [00:10:00] developing and realized super quickly in sixth grade, That you can get attention from guys if you just make yourself a little bit.
Sexual, they love that. And so I very early on learned. I'm not one of the prettiest ones. If anything, I'm on the outskirts of this group because I'm not one of the prettier ones, but I can be the one that has all of the guys wanting to be around her. And so I just really threw myself into that the first time.
I sent a sext, it was to a seventh grade boy. He asked for a picture. I sent it without even giving a second thought. And immediately he was like, you're so sexy. I wanna hook up with you. And I was like, oh, I'm beautiful. I'm wanted, I feel good about myself. All I have to do is send a naked picture.
And I get all these people telling me great things. Amazing. I'll do that.
Karen: Brenda, you're doing everything on lines. Like I'm just, what do you, can you even
Robyn: do? And by the way, that does feel so early
Faith: Yes. 12. 12, yeah.
Karen: Lemme just go back to you though for a moment because it [00:11:00] feels again you're trying to empower yourself, right? Yeah. Hanging with this group of girls, Feeling like you wanna fit in and have some power and control with that group. How were you doing otherwise though, emotionally? Did you confide in them how you were feeling?
Were there any of your friends that you could be close enough and honest with about that? Or did you just internalize everything?
Faith: A pretty nasty combo. I did talk to my friends about how I was feeling. In fact, I ended up getting really close with a group of four of the girls within the 16. Cause of course, we all broke up into like little sub factions.
And the group that I was close with we became close because in seventh grade we confessed to each other that we were all cutting ourselves. So I was not the only one that was struggling like this. I was the only one getting caught for struggling like that. I was the only one that was acting out in a way that was getting me a bad reputation, whereas everyone else was holding it all together.
And so I love that you pick up on. Yes. I was trying to empower myself because I felt I really had this core belief that. I was just a [00:12:00] fundamentally bad person simultaneously too much and not enough. And so that was something I was constantly always battling. And I remember my sexuality was something where I finally felt good about myself for once.
So then when my mom catches me sending nudes, and she's like, Faith, this is child pornography. You cannot do this. I was like, my body, my choice. You should be happy that I'm so proud of my body and how I look. And she was like, okay, yes, like your body, your choice, and I'm happy for you and proud of you and whatever, but when you're 18 you can choose to wield your sexuality in this way.
But when you are a child you can't do that. It's not appropriate. And I was just like, wow. Literally this one thing that makes me feel good, you're trying to take away from me. Wow. Wow. So an impossible situation for
Robyn: my parents. Yeah. So Brenda, what did you
Brenda: do? It was just a constant, I call it the cell phone dance.
I would take away her screens, for a few days, whatever the punishment period was, and then she would promise she would be good and wouldn't do that, and then I would give it back to her. And then lo and behold, she would do it [00:13:00] again. I would get to places where I was like, you can only have your phone when I'm standing over your shoulder watching.
But I am really not a good police officer. And I had two other kids, as I said, and I had a career that I was, writing. I just couldn't watch her 24 7 and I kept wanting to be able to trust her because at the same time that she was doing this, she was, So smart and so charming and so good at sports and music and just excelling everywhere in life.
And so I just kept thinking, oh, she'll figure this out. we would have talks about she didn't have a lot of good boundaries, which was part of her mental illness. But also I knew everything she was doing and I wondered how many of her friends were doing the exact same things and the moms just didn't know.
Robyn: And Faith, did you feel at all happy during this time, during this middle school time with.
The whole getting the attention and so forth.
Faith: I think that I did. I will say, Because I struggled with mental health my whole life. I didn't really know what it felt [00:14:00] like to be happy. Just happy, not happy, but like sure that it's fleeting or happy, but probably gonna get in trouble for whatever's making me happy.
I am diagnosed with bipolar. I obviously did not have this diagnosis as a child. A lot of times my happy times and my good times were actually fueled by mania. And so for me, I was like feeling so great. I'm at life of the party. I'm having so much fun, I'm getting all this attention, and then it would always come crashing down.
I like to say, what goes up must come down. And the same thing is true with bipolar. I would get in trouble or get punished. I was doing things that were completely inappropriate in middle school. I snuck off to a gym with some of my friends so that I could take a shower with a guy. And and I lied to my mom and said I was just going with my friend to use a hot tub or something like that.
And she caught me and I got in a ton of trouble. And I remember those were times where I felt so good about myself. And then I was like, wow. I'm having fun. I finally feel good, and my parents are like not that kind of fun, not that kind of good. And so that would just then trigger the [00:15:00] depression and I'd get back into that dark place.
Karen: So when did you get an actual diagnosis of what was going on?
Faith: So when I was in therapy as a kid, I had depression and anxiety diagnoses, which I think are definitely true and accurate. Bipolar is usually something that you can't get diagnosed with until you're an adult. And so when I was 17, after this conversation that my mom wrote the article about, that was when I started a new medication and they were like, if this medication works, it's because you have bipolar and the medication works.
So we were like bipolar. It
So after starting in sixth grade when Faith was sending out nude photos of herself and she was also self-harming and she told me one night she just confessed that she was self-harming.
and that was another thing that I freaked out completely, of course. Not externally though. Externally? Not externally, no. Internally, I freaked out externally. I actually had the perfect response to it. Faith had left a note on my door telling me that she has something [00:16:00] very. Private to tell me and that I can't tell anyone.
I have to promise. I'll keep it a secret. And I was so scared. I was like, oh my God is she being abused? What's going on? And and then I was like, you can tell me anything. and me, I'm writing this back to her and slipping it under her door. Then she's writing me a note, slipping it back under my door.
My husband was outta town on business and she finally said in the tiniest letters, I cut myself And I came into her room and I just opened the door and she was lying in bed. Curled away from the door, and I just wrapped my body around hers and I hugged her and I said, if somebody were doing this to you, I would tell them to stop hurting my daughter.
So please stop hurting my daughter. And she just started crying and she's you're not mad at me. And I'm like, no, I'm not mad at you. I'm sad for you. And. It was just like exactly the right way to respond in that moment. But then of course, then we started trying medications, which didn't work, and we, consulted with a psychiatrist and and then [00:17:00] everything started to blow up because faith told me that her friends were cutting themselves. And so when I said I have to tell their moms. And Faith no they'll drop me. It'll be the end, And so we came up with a whole plan where I could tell the moms how to discover on their own.
That their daughters were doing this and just to leave faith out of it. And the moms were like so grateful to me. Oh my god.
Faith: Faith saved your lives. Yeah.
Brenda: Thank you. Oh my God,
Robyn: it's, she's amazing.
Brenda: Thank you so much for telling us your
Faith: amazing faith's. Amazing. Thank you.
Brenda: Within an hour, they'd all talked to each other, the moms.
And I think because Faith was this loud mouth sexy person, they were like, this is our chance to get rid of faith and get her outta the room. So they did not discover it on their own. They told their daughters that Faith had told on them.
Faith: I went to school and I was getting the silent treatment from all of my best friends.
Until finally someone in math class had the courage to tell me, my mom said, we can't be friends with you anymore. I no friends. And she, and suddenly I was this mean popular girl, and [00:18:00] suddenly I became the person that I was bullying. I had no one, and I was like, oh,
Brenda: this'll blow over. They'll come around, they'll realize that you're a good person and you did this out of love and care. And I even appealed to the moms like, come on,
going on? This is not okay. And they were all like, oh no,
Karen: hands off. Let the girls deal with it.
Brenda: They were like, goodbye, good riddance and goodbye. And that's when faith. Really was suicidal and we had to put her in a hospital. Yeah.
Faith: So few days before eighth grade. And I was just like, I cannot handle going back to school. it's gonna be the worst thing ever. I'd rather be dead.
And so that's when I told my therapist that and she was like it's time to go to the hospital. And so I did. And then it wasn't any better. I got out a few days later, went to school started. All of my friends came to the first day of school in matching outfits that I obviously was not included in, cause I wasn't part of the group anymore.
And that was, fall of 2008, by February of 2009, my parents had sent me to a wilderness therapy program in Hawaii because I was just doing so [00:19:00] poorly that they were really worried about me. Yeah.
Brenda: And that place was amazing. I know there's so much in the news about terrible wilderness program experiences, but this place, Pacific Quest.
It's very different than all the other programs.
Faith: Yeah. They actually identify as an outdoor behavioral health program and not a wilderness therapy program anymore because they operate so differently. Their whole thing is you live on an organic farm and you learn how to care for the land and care for your community in the ways that you need to care for yourself.
And so that was the first time that I realized I had some self worth. I was in charge of. The plant nursery. So if I didn't make sure that all of our little baby plants survived, then we wouldn't have food to eat. So it was a big responsibility and I had no gardening experience and I just learned how to do it.
And so that was when I first realized, okay I have some worth. I could be lovable. I could have a purpose here. It was also the first time I had a therapist that really called me out when I needed it. she was not sweet and gentle in the way that let me like walk all over her and manipulate her.
And [00:20:00] I was shocked by it. And also oh, that's really cool. And so Hawaii was actually where I said, if I'm gonna make it out of this alive, I'm gonna be become a therapist one day. And
Robyn: how long were you there?
Faith: I was there for 56 days. And then I went to a therapeutic boarding school after, which was horrible.
When you hear about the troubled teen industry, this was one of those programs where there was rampant abuse of the kids going on and abuse animals. It was just, the whole thing was horrible and scary and terrifying and, I got bullied because my parents loved each other. it was just a really bad place, and I also couldn't communicate with my parents about it because they were monitoring our communications.
So it took three weeks of me being there before finally my parents heard what was going on, and were concerned enough and trusted me enough to take me out of there, which I know for a fact that had I stayed the whole year and a half, two years, that most people did at those programs, I would've left far worse than I went in.
So that was a big moment [00:21:00] too.
Brenda: That was a huge moment. so Faith came home, it was like May of her eighth grade year, and she wasn't gonna go back to the public school where all the kids were that were causing all the trouble. And so she never actually graduated eighth grade.
Robyn: a, somehow she's a therapist so
Faith: you can drop outta eighth grade and still do it.
Brenda: So we ended up sending her to a traditional boarding school in Connecticut for high school which really was a great experience for faith. she's such an extrovert and so this was like an extrovert's dream to be with her friends all the time.
And she was meeting kids from so many different walks of life, different cultures, different all over the world. All over the world, and different socioeconomics and. we were raising her in a very homogenous sort of town. And when you go someplace where you're meeting all kinds of different people, it actually allows you to become yourself.
You don't have to fit in the cookie cutter thing anymore very much. And so she had this social justice in her got ignited and she Realized she was gay. So much good [00:22:00] stuff happened at this school except she still had mental illness. And so Faith, do you wanna tell what happened at
Faith: Yeah, so I came out as gay.
There started to be a little bit of conflict at the school. This was an all girls school and the girls who were gay were starting to be held to different rules than the girls who were straight. And so this social justice fire had been ignited in me my freshman year. I was required to take the social justice class.
That completely changed my life. And I remember being like, this is an injustice, this is homophobia. Like you need to be treating us the same. And so that kind of, sent me spiraling a little bit and I was, I remember I started to say fuck it, I'm done with this school. I'm not staying here.
They're homophobic. And I remember my parents being like, Okay. Okay. Calm down. Make it through the end of the school year and then if you really wanna transfer home, which we think is a horrible idea, but if you really wanna do that, you can transfer to another school. But just please, we're begging you to make it through the school year.
And I did not. I, Got caught breaking school rules related to sex [00:23:00] of course, because that was me. And then eventually at one point I was talking to this older girl and I really wanted to be able to get off of campus and go sleep at this older girl's house. And so dumb 16 year old me told my advisor who was the dean of students, I'm feeling suicidal.
Can I sleep at my girlfriend's house tonight? Yeah know. Of course. Like Perfect example of your brain is not fully developed. Yeah. You are not able to think through the consequences all the way. So next thing I know, there's a dorm parent knocking on my door and she's I need you to come to my apartment.
And I come to her apartment and she's we heard you're suicidal and ambulance is coming. And I was like, oh
Robyn: my goodness. I was
Faith: like, oh god no. Oh, I really messed up. So then I had to go in the ambulance. I had to go to the hospital. They put me in the psych ward. I told them like, I'm not actually feeling suicidal.
I just was trying to be manipulative. And I remember they called my mom and told her what was going on, and they [00:24:00] were like, because she's a minor, she's now a liability because she's suicidal. So she can't stay here anymore. You have to come get her. I
Brenda: was so mad. I was like, she's just manipulating you.
She's not actually suicidal. They're like That may be, but you still have to come pick her up. I'm like, you could just put her on a plane and send her home.
Faith: That was so bad. And they're like no, we
Brenda: can't do that. You have to come pick her up. So I was like, fuming. I got on a plane the next day and go to pick her up.
And so we get her home and it's I can't believe she, this was the middle of her junior year. It's like such an important year of high school. And she was like this a student until that semester she got like all D's and
Brenda: A from one teacher.
And I was like, oh, how's she gonna get into college now? I was so irritated. But then she had to start off at our public school with all these same kids
Faith: which I hadn't been to since I Yeah, that's years in eighth grade. Everyone was like, here's this boy crazy girl. And of course all these rumors were flying about what actually happened to me.
There were rumors that I had gotten pregnant and sent away because of that. There was just all of these rumors that were flying cuz no one knew where I had [00:25:00] gone. And all of a sudden I come back and I'm like the social justice activist. Super gay. All of these things that were just like, not who I was in middle school and there was zero room for that.
Everyone was like, we don't believe that you're gay. You don't look gay. I was such a loser. I was eating, lunch by myself alone in the bathroom stall. Nobody wanted to be friends with me. All of the mean girls that were popular in middle school were still the mean popular girls in high school.
Like nothing had changed except I had changed drastically. So I'm back in this horrible environment. I've messed up my life. I messed up the most important year of high school. I don't have any friends. I'm depressed. And that was when I was like everything started to hit me. The weight of I've really messed up my life to a point of no return at this point.
The only option is gonna be suicide now.
Brenda: And so that brings us to that article that I wrote about on HuffPost, which I was sitting on the couch and Faith came home after school and she snuggles in next to me on the couch. And she says, I said, how are you doing? And [00:26:00] she's not good. I said, things are gonna be better, things will get better.
And she goes, no, don't say that. She goes, you're gonna be okay when I die. And I was like, no, I will never be okay if you die. And she goes, mom, kids die all the time from cancer. And their parents get over it. And I said, first of all, their parents don't get over it. And second of all, you don't have cancer.
And I said, if you had cancer, we would try everything to save you. Like western medicine, eastern medicine, everything in between. And she said, but then if you tried all of that and I was still sick, you would let me die. And a light bulb just went on in my head. And I had thought all along that I was pretty open-minded about the mental health, mental illness stigma.
But. Thinking of her mental illness as cancer, as something that was literally killing her. It changed it for me, and I got it. I finally got it. And it just flipped things. So instead of me always being the person who says, you're gonna be fine. It's okay. Don't worry about [00:27:00] it, things will get better.
I said, okay, I hear you. I understand the pain that you're in. And I said, if you are willing to try everything. And granted, we tried a lot of things, but we hadn't tried everything. We've only tried Western medicine. Yeah. If you're willing to try everything and you still feel this bad, Then you can end your life.
and faith was like, okay. And I didn't know this, but Faith had actually attempted suicide right before this conversation.
Faith: Yes. That's why I came home so dejected and exhausted because I had every intention to kill myself that day, and I attempted and it didn't work, and then I was like, wow, I'm such a failure that I can't even kill myself.
I'm desperate to get out of here. I can't get out of here. I'm trying, I didn't have access to guns, thank God. And so I didn't have any like really lethal way of killing myself and I was just like, I'm stuck here. It's never gonna get better. So when my mom said, if we try everything and you still feel this way, you can kill yourself.
I didn't [00:28:00] think at all in that moment that there was hope for me. The only hope that I saw was all I have to do is get through this checklist of trying X number of different things. And then they're all inevitably gonna fail. And then finally I can kill myself. So for me, I was like, great, let's dive into it and start doing whatever we think is gonna maybe possibly work, because I know it's not gonna work.
And I just say something
Karen: right now though. I'm like getting choked up at looking at you too. what a powerful. Relationship you have. Faith, to have the courage to tell your mom at that moment, there's so many people that wouldn't do that.
Faith: Yes. And we're so that's such a huge part of why this worked for us.
We've had some people say oh my God, if my mom told me I could kill myself that would be it. I'd kill myself. It was the fact that we had such a close relationship that allowed this specific framing to work for us.
Karen: And the bravery that you had, Brenda, I can't even imagine what that moment must have felt like for you and, for Robyn and I, what we talk about all the time, it feels like such a soul contract that you had with each other at [00:29:00] such a deep level to have that relationship.
I can't imagine where this would've gone if you didn't have that, I commend you a lot faith for having that courage to, to reach out to your mom at that moment because again, I think that probably made a big
Faith: difference in the path. Yeah. And it's so interesting because my parents were always telling me growing up, use your powers for good.
They're like, you have all of these strengths. You just need to channel them appropriately. And this lack of boundaries. Being an open book is what's making us so that we're sharing our story right now. So like for me, this is such a good example of using my powers for good. I am an open book, I'm willing to talk about anything and now I'm gonna use it to try and help other people.
Robyn: So then what happens then? I'm sure you didn't even have a moment, Brenda, to think kind of list do I have to come up with now? It's gotta be really fucking long, what
Brenda: right. you start with your friends. So I had very good friend since I was 16 years old, who's an energy healer.
Sheryl Netzky who's been on your show. And so I was like, okay, energy healing, we could go down that path. [00:30:00] And I called Sheryl and I was like, Can you help? And she goes, absolutely. We scheduled a call for the next day and also looked into acupuncture. I'd made an appointment with a friend's brother who was an alternative psychiatrist.
we ended up canceling that appointment because the first thing Faith did this energy healing. Changed everything. Yes. Tell
Faith: us. it was amazing because, not only had, I never heard of energy healing before, but I was pretty certain that it couldn't work over the phone.
And we were in Chicago and Sheryl was in Michigan and she's telling me that she can see my energy and feel my energy and work with my energy over the phone. And I'm like, that doesn't sound legit, but okay. I think if it had not been my mom's friend, I would've. Probably been far more resistant, but I was like, this is a normal person, so I'll hear her out.
And she told me that she was gonna go on a soul retrieval for me, and she's, making all of these weird noises and sounds on the other side of the phone. And I remember getting distracted and being like, she's such a scammer. She's making all these sounds into the phone and gonna charge a bunch of money and then not actually do [00:31:00] anything.
And as soon as I got distracted, Sheryl was like, Bring your attention back to your breath and your body. And I was like, what? How does Lady know that? I just got distracted. That's wild. So then she's I'm gonna go on this journey for you and I'm gonna find these different missing parts of your soul, and I'm gonna tell you what I see and you're gonna tell me what they mean.
I say, okay. So she goes on this journey, she finds three different parts and she tells me what she's seeing and she says, what does this mean to you? And in my head, I'm like, I have no idea what it means. You tell me what it means, lady. But then as I'm thinking that there are words coming out of my mouth that make perfect sense and explain exactly what these pieces mean to me.
And that was really the first time that I realized, oh, there's a healing. Capability that is beneath our conscious level of attention, and That was a really game changing experience for me. And after the call ends, I walk out of the room, I go downstairs, I'm feeling weirdly light and not [00:32:00] depressed and confused by it.
My mom says that I came out and I had a light in my eyes that she hadn't seen in years. And I said, Sheryl told me I'm, not supposed to talk about things yet, but I need to take, a bath with baking soda. And I went and I took the bath and, ended up going to bed.
And I remember thinking it's so weird that I'm feeling better right now. This will at max last a couple days, maybe a week, but surely this didn't just like magically fix everything. But then more days passed and more days passed and more days passed. And I. Felt good. I didn't feel depressed. I also got on a new medication and I really think the combination of energy, healing and medication was what I needed, especially since I have bipolar cannot go unmedicated.
So meds have been really important for me managing my own mental health. But the depression truly went away completely.
Karen: do, did you continue any kind of practice on the spiritual side
Faith: It's so interesting because I actually have come back to Sheryl a few times [00:33:00] in my life and it's always when I get to a point where I'm feeling really stuck and I don't know the way out and. I remember the first few times I was gonna work with Sheryl after this moment. I was nervous and scared to reach out to her because I knew it had been so life changing before and I was I don't know if I'm ready for my whole life to change again.
But I have a chronic pain disorder and she helped me greatly in managing my pain and learning how to work with my pain and lessen it so that I could go to grad school and be successful and live on my own, like I'm able to now. She helped me get over an abusive relationship, she's really helped me out a lot of super critical.
Points along the way, and she's been like, since that very first session I was 17, she's really been honing in on, she's you have this gift, you have this ability, you can work with your own energy and you can work with other people's energy. And I've been able to do that. And so Sheryl has really taught me this is how you use it.
So I'm able to, Help my friends who have pain and I can put my hand on their body and just literally put my hand on their body. And then 20 minutes later they're like, I'm in less [00:34:00] pain and I don't understand why. And so it's been critical and critically helpful throughout my life.
To the point that now I just started this month at a new therapy practice that specializes in using body-based modalities to treat trauma. So we do reiki, we do yoga, we do brain spotting and E M D R. So all of these things that are all about, like we have the capacity to heal within us if we can just learn how to access it now.
That's my whole life. Isn't that amazing? And
Robyn: Brenda Not only, obviously, you also had the courage to agree to tell faith. yes, you can go if we try all these things, but then you had the intuition to call Sheryl.
Robyn: Which is really interesting cuz you yourself hadn't really experienced a
Brenda: session with her.
No. And so Sheryl and I we were friends since we were 16, working at a French fry store together at the mall. and we went to the same college and I've been with her for a very long time and I saw first, she was a high school English teacher, and then she was making a big life change, getting a divorce, starting this [00:35:00] energy healing practice.
And I talked to her on the phone a ton as she was going through this, and she was so unsure about, if she could make that work, if she could really do it. And I was just like, of course you can. Yes. This is what you're meant to do. Go for it. You got this girl. But meanwhile, in the back of my head, I'm thinking energy healing, really.
I don't know. I had enough of an open mind about it to know that there are things in this world that we can't understand. There are mysteries in the world and this is just a mystery. And energy to me is less of a mystery than God. So it's easier for me to believe in energy than it is to believe in God.
So then once Faith did this with Sheryl, I was a hundred percent like, oh wow, she wasn't kidding. This is real. And Sheryl has worked on my body too. So since then and my spirit too. Yeah, I think you have to be
Faith: open-minded. And I will say one of the things that drove me nuts about my mom growing up was she was so optimistic.
Her license plate on her car was literally optimist one. it drove me nuts because I was like, the world is horrible. Everything is horrible. How could you be so optimistic? And now [00:36:00] I think I don't think all of this would've worked out the way it did if we didn't have my mom's optimism because she really did hold out hope that something eventually was gonna help.
And whether that was optimism or hope or delusion, it doesn't really matter because she held on when I didn't have anything to hold on to.
Robyn: And I don't You think that there's no coincidence. Her name is faith. Yes,
Faith: the same thing. It's so interesting because I never liked my name growing up because I was like, I'm this like sexy sex appeal girl, and faith makes me sound like I'm modest and prude.
But then in grad school I worked at a domestic violence shelter and so many of the women when they call to enter the shelter, and then when they come to the shelter and I introduce myself that so many women were like, I think it is a sign. I'm doing the right thing because your name is Faith.
Absolutely. Now I love my name.
Karen: of names, can you just tell us a little bit about Stigma Smashers and where did that name come from?
Faith: Yeah. I don't remember where the name came from, but I remember, so I [00:37:00] convinced my mom to write a memoir about our story because I wanted to write a memoir very early on.
And I remember for a while my mom was like, your story is not over yet. It is not time to write this. And then when it did seem like it was time to write it, she was like, please, we've had to deal so much with, bad reputations and people thinking that she's a bad parent and all that.
She's can't we just Go on with life and be happy. And I was like, no, this is an important story because I'm certain that I'm not the only kid who felt this way, but I know that people are not talking about it. And so eventually I did convince her to write a memoir and she wrote one and. In order to sell it, we really needed to get our name out there more.
We're not celebrities, we don't have some massive following. So I said, I was like, if we're gonna be trying to build a platform, TikTok is the place to do it, because that's the one that you're most likely to randomly go viral on. And so then we I remember my mom, she's I watched tutorials of how to make TikTok on YouTube and how to do branding.
she went so hardcore so quickly, we're both like anti [00:38:00] procrastinators. Within 24 hours. She was like, I reached out to 20 people to make us a logo and all of these d we just so quickly we had a TikTok, a website, a logo, a name, everything and we just hit the ground running, making TikTok Mental Health Awareness month last year and we've been making them since.
Brenda: been really fun doing this and the name stigma smashes. We were just trying to think of our whole goal is to end the stigma against mental illness, and so the memoir is, Serving that purpose and the TikTok channel is serving that purpose. And so we were just coming up with different names that weren't already in use.
and we landed on stigma smashes, and I think it's a great name. people can follow us for tips and tricks. Yeah. So can you give just one
Robyn: or two while we're all together for people who are supporting a loved one who are dealing with mental illness?
Brenda: Sure. I'll say the most important thing you can do is have empathy and validation.
So instead of trying to minimize what your loved one [00:39:00] is experiencing, which is a natural tendency
for humans instead. Really listen
And tell them you understand what they're going through and tell them that it makes sense what they're feeling. And you could even say this is what I'm hearing you say, that is really hard and I get what you're feeling is so hard.
I'm here for you
Faith: and tell me how I can
Brenda: best support you. But just that is like the best thing
Faith: you can do. Yeah. And I really think that, for me it's important to emphasize. Yes, there is this, of course, innate fear that parents are gonna have if their kid is struggling with suicidality, but also that need to manage that and put it aside and process it in appropriate ways that aren't with your kid.
Cuz it was so hard for me to be constantly hearing things will get better, wait until you're an adult. All of these different things. And I was just like, If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, a, I can't see it. B, even if I can see it, I don't think I have the energy to get there, and I don't know when I'm gonna get there.
Is it gonna be 20 more years of suffering like this? Is it gonna be two more years of suffering like this? And so for me, [00:40:00] that optimism just felt really invalidating, especially, was constantly. Harped on that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems, and that didn't resonate with me because I was like, these problems have been going on my whole entire life.
You're saying that they're temporary, but they feel pretty permanent to me, and especially when you're dealing with kids who are suicidal. Your frontal lobe doesn't develop until you're into your twenties and you need your frontal lobe to be able to manage impulses. think plans through.
Anticipate consequences. All of these really critical skills that you need to be able to recognize that how you're feeling right now in the moment is not the end of the world and isn't gonna last forever. So you have to also recognize where kids are at developmentally when you're talking to them about these things.
The other thing I would
Brenda: add two really important things. If you have a loved one with mental illness, especially depression, a, you should not have guns in the house. Yes, period. The end, get rid of them. B. You should program crisis text line into your loved one's phone, which is seven four [00:41:00] one seven forty one and that it's 24 7.
Help free of charge confidential. Train crisis counselors answering those texts. And we talk a lot to kids because kids are so good at the texting, that's how they're used to communicating. And so that should just be in your kids' phone, seven four one seven four one.
Robyn: That's really important.
And if there is anyone listening today who is either a parent of. Somebody who they believe may be thinking about suicide or if someone listening today, even as an adult is thinking about suicide. Is there anything else besides the crisis hotline you'd recommend? Yes.
Faith: I think that the biggest myth is that asking about suicide, asking if someone is thinking about suicide will put the idea in their head if they're not already thinking about it. All of the research shows that's not true. In fact, all of the research shows that best practice is to ask people if they are suicidal.
You can ask directly, are you suicidal? You can say sometimes when things like this happen, people feel like the best thing to [00:42:00] do might be to end their life. Are you having any thoughts like that? You can also normalize suicide by saying it. Most people at some point in their life have thoughts of things would be better if I were dead.
And just because you have those thoughts doesn't mean you plan to or want to act on them. So starting that conversation from a place of normalizing how they're feeling is huge. And then if your loved one says, yes, I am thinking about suicide asking, do you have a plan? Do you have access to the things that you would need to carry out that plan?
And do you have a timeframe for when you might enact that plan? So if someone says, I'm thinking about overdosing on Tylenol, and we have Tylenol in the house and I might do it tonight, that's when you really need to intervene. Someone is at imminent risk of attempting suicide. But oftentimes people will say things like, I would hang myself, but I don't have anything to hang myself with or from.
And that in itself can be a protective factor against suicide. So we have to remove the stigma and the scariness from suicide so that we can talk about it in a way that actually then allows people to get the help they need and then
Robyn: at [00:43:00] that point, if you're the parent, let's say you would reach out to a therapist or a doctor or somebody to then help you, I assume.
Brenda: And not to
Karen: hesitate in that reaching out, right? I think some parents might feel like they might have that information, but be still afraid to move forward and actually act upon it. But that. That acting upon it is like the most important thing that they can do at that
Faith: moment. Yeah and also, I think it's relevant to point out like we're four white women talking about this for a black family, if, let's say a mom has a black child who is feeling suicidal and you wanna get school involved or a hospitalization involved or anything like that, It can very easily be turned around on the parents.
A C P S investigation can get opened up. Parents can be accused of neglect or abuse or things like that. And if you are a person of color, you're more likely to experience that. So there's also a huge privilege in white people being able to say yes, reach out for professional support, when oftentimes that's not always accessible or safe for people.
Robyn: [00:44:00] Thank you both so much for sharing. And being vulnerable for being brave at all different points. And now for really being so open so that you are now helping so many people. I know that your TikTok is reaching thousands of people every day. Yeah. And so we're so grateful to be part of telling your story
Brenda: and really helping
Robyn: them hope
Karen: too. Faith. . Yes. Faith. That there's hope and there is a way through it.
Brenda: Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to chat with you.
Robyn: Oh, so grateful. . You can find tips and tricks from Brenda and Faith to support a loved one who's dealing with mental illness on their TikTok
At Stigma Smashers. You can also reach out to Brenda and Faith as well and find out more about each of email@example.com and if you or someone you know needs help. Dial nine, eight eight or call 1 802 7 3 8 2 5 5 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
And as Brenda was saying, you can also get support via text [00:45:00] by texting home to 7 4 1 7 4 1 to connect with a volunteer crisis counselor at Crisis Textline. And additionally, you can find mental health and crisis resources at don't call the police.com And outside of the US please visit the International Association for Suicide firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amazing. Thank you so much. Yeah, thank you,