10 Resilience Insights from 2019

Date Published: December 24, 2019

Road to Resilience producers Jon Earle, Katie Ullman, and Nicci Hudson reflect on episodes from the year and talk about the moments that stuck with them the most.

Podcast Transcript

Jon Earle: 00:00
You're listening to Road to Resilience. I'm Jon Earle. Today we have a special episode for you. It's going to be a recap of the year in resilience. We're going to go through all the episodes that we listened to and pick out our 10 favorite moments, the ones that really blew us away and stick with us and continue to inform us. And so today I'm joined by Katie Ullman and Nicci Hudson, who are producers on the show and they're going to help me out.

Katie Ullman: 00:23

Nicci Hudson: 00:23

Jon Earle: 00:25
Road to Resilience is now a year and a half old. In the past year we've talked to a whole huge range of people going from Paralympians to comedians, to patients, to oncologists, to psychologists. I want to start out with the first episode that I worked on here, which is episode eight: "The Power of Optimism." It was an interview with Deb Gruen, who is a Paralympic swimmer and an all-around amazing person who was born with spina bifida, which is a very debilitating disease. And with the support of her parents, developed an incredible willpower and incredible will to practice. And so, here's Deb.

Deb Gruen: 01:03
My dad was very influential in making sure that I walked. It was incredibly important to him that I never be dependent on anyone – that I could live in New York City, that I could walk up and down the stairs, that I would never be in a building that was on fire and couldn't get out. And so, he every day forced me to go out and to practice walking. And it's probably where I get the idea now that to be good at something, you just have to practice by rote force.

Jon Earle: 01:32
You know, we've all heard from a young age practice makes perfect. It's such a boring cliche, but this to me, for the first time I really felt that a cliche brought into stark reality. And so ever since this clip, when I see a challenge, I try to think of Deb Gruen and I try to think of the ways in which I can practice and work towards becoming competent or adept at something. And so, thank you Deb. Okay, let's go to Katie. Katie is going to introduce our next clip number two.

Katie Ullman: 02:02
So our next clip was from a mini episode we did with Dr. Stephen Krieger, who is an MS expert and neurologist here at Mount Sinai. And he shared some resilience tips, kind of straight forward things that he's learned from his multiple sclerosis patients. And the first one that really stood out to me was to view uncertainty as an opportunity. And here's the clip.

Dr. Stephen Krieger: 02:25
For me, I try to bring optimism into the room for all of these patients who get diagnosed with MS and recognize that that variability of disease course and that uncertainty, we can harness that for good. We can say, 'This does not have to be a bad prognosis. This does not mean that you are going to become disabled. Let's take the best possible outcome and then align everything that we do around trying to achieve that best possible outcome.

Katie Ullman: 02:58
So what he said really stood out to me. I feel like I sometimes take things and I'm not sure what to do with it and with uncertainty, but I think with his insight, it helps me to think a little more optimistically.

Jon Earle: 03:12
Yeah. Number three, Nicci's going to introduce number three.

Nicci Hudson: 03:18
Yeah. So, number three is from our episode with Darrell Hammond, who is an 'SNL' veteran. And it was with Michelle Esrick, the producer for Cracked Up, which was a documentary on Darrell Hammond and the childhood trauma and his journey to where he is today. And we brought along Dr. Jacob Ham, who is a psychologist who specializes in childhood trauma. And what was so great about this episode is it was almost like a therapy session. Darrell Hammond and Michelle have these epiphanies throughout the episode as well. So, watching that was special.

Dr. Jacob Ham: 03:53
Trauma and like survival instincts, survival brain makes us want to bifurcate the world into you are good, you are bad.

Michelle Esrick: 04:00

Dr. Jacob Ham: 04:00
And the more stressed you are, the more you need to divide the world into simple terms. And the way to transcend the impact of stress and trauma is to be able to tolerate complexity as big as possible. And in – the way that I do that and honor my anger about people getting hurt is that I'm not angry at individuals, but I'm angry at trauma itself.

Nicci Hudson: 04:25
That's the most important part is that you're not angry at the person you're angry – it's the trauma itself.

Katie Ullman: 04:32
It gives you peace.

Nicci Hudson: 04:33
Yeah. It gives you peace. So, it makes them more relatable. But also, you just understand that this person also went through a traumatic experience.

Katie Ullman: 04:42
That brings us to our next favorite moment.

Jon Earle: 04:45
Our next favorite moment, which is also from that episode, which Katie's going to talk about. So what are we about to hear?

Katie Ullman: 04:52
So this next clip I found very impactful, just, it was talking about the hidden traumas that people face and that aren't so obvious as you know, some what they call the big "T" traumas like physical abuse or sexual abuse. Just talking about the day-to-day neglect that some people may face and how these moments can have long lasting effects.

Dr. Jacob Ham: 05:13
The field still focuses too much on big "T" traumas like physical abuse or like sexual abuse, but it's the day-to-day neglect that I find to be the most insidious in the most profound. You don't need the other stuff that's just gravy compared to the neglect.

Darrell Hammond: 05:31
Yeah. That's already atomic.

Dr. Jacob Ham: 05:33
Yeah, that's my point. That the trauma happens moment to moment.

Darrell Hammond: 05:36
Moment to moment.

Dr. Jacob Ham: 05:36
It's not just these big events.

Jon Earle: 05:40
There are so many moments in this episode when, it's like you said Nicci, when you hear Darrell and Michelle learning and processing in real time is so cool and so surreal.

Nicci Hudson: 05:50
You can tell that that really hit home for him.

Jon Earle: 05:55
All right, number five. This is a clip from again, one of the earlier episodes in the season called "Somebody to Lean On," which is episode 12, and it was with two MS patients, Kate Milliken and Elizabeth Jones. And this clip is about reframing. It's about seeing – being in a situation that seems bleak and gaining the skills to see it in a different way. And so that's the clip we're going to hear.

Kate Milliken: 06:24
I have found no matter what curve ball comes, somehow, I've gotten to a point where I can reframe, like I am a reframing master. So, you know, if something's going terribly, it's like, it's going terribly so far, you know, like, believe, have like blind faith, you're going to get a nugget, like one little foothold that you're going to hang on that's going to start to change your perspective.

Jon Earle: 06:48
I think about that a lot. I think about the 'reframing master' and like what would a 'reframing master' do in this situation? Like how they would turn the negativity and the cynicism on its head and find the good and find the opportunity.

Nicci Hudson: 07:02
It's like finding the glass half full.

Jon Earle: 07:05
Alright. We are rocking and rolling. We are halfway through. This is number six on our list, our top 10 moments of the past year of Road to Resilience. Nicci, tell us about number six.

Nicci Hudson: 07:18
Number six is from episode, "Forget Kumbaya: The Art of Self Care," with Dr. Cardinale Smith and she is a lung oncologist, and she happens to be in a pretty difficult area of medicine where a lot of the patients develop cancer, there are long-term relationships and some of her patients end up dying. So, let's listen to the clip first and then I'll kind of give you a little bit more reasoning.

Dr. Cardinale Smith: 07:52
What has now become my practice through trial and error is, once I have a patient who dies and it doesn't have to be that same day, but certainly within that week, you know, once the house is quiet, I go to my desk, I light an electric candle, and I write about that person. Usually with a glass of wine, but maybe sometimes with water. And then when I'm done, I blow out the candle or turn it off, and shred that piece of paper. And that shredding that piece of paper feels really final and like closure to me. And it very much internally feels like I've now closed the door on one chapter and I'm ready to move forward to the next.

Nicci Hudson: 08:37
I just thought that was really beautiful. I mean, I think that a lot of times we're thinking about the patients and their families and what they're going through, but sometimes we forget about the doctors and the struggles that they go through when patients die. And if they're seeing it more often than others, you know, how do they get back up on the saddle and keep going? So, I just thought it was beautiful that she discovered this ritual and I think it could help a lot of people outside of medicine. I mean I think if there's anything, writing it down on a piece of paper, having that ritual and then...

Katie Ullman: 09:18
Letting it go.

Nicci Hudson: 09:19
Letting it go. Exactly.

Jon Earle: 09:21
Yeah. This is one I have in my back pocket.

Katie Ullman: 09:24
Yeah, there's a lot of takeaways from this.

Jon Earle: 09:30
Number seven. Okay. Here we're going to get into the immigration episodes that we did. Obviously, immigration is in the news a lot. It's a big topic and there are a lot of tough stories and I think we found some interesting stories of resilience and Katie's going to introduce one of them. It's number seven on our list. What are we going to hear?

Katie Ullman: 09:52
So in this next clip you're going to hear from Dr. Craig Katz. He's Director of Advocacy for the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program. And he was recently part of a study that looked at the mental health of kids in immigration detention.

Jon Earle: 10:05
Here’s the clip.

Dr. Craig Katz: 10:06
Perhaps the most striking of our findings, again, not a surprise, it told us in science what you know in your heart, right, was that the separated, detained kid actually had higher rates of emotional problems and PTSD compared to the detained kids who, themselves, on the whole had higher rates compared to the general population in the US.

Katie Ullman: 10:28
It really amplified also just the need to have that mental health care in those detention centers. And it was alarming just from, you know, from my knowledge, I did not know what was going on there.

Jon Earle: 10:41
Yeah, that's such an intense clip. And this one's going to be intense too. Nicci, number eight.

Nicci Hudson: 10:47
This one is so intense. I really have no words. It's hard to describe this one. So, this episode was with George who was born in Ghana. He was a gay man and was persecuted and had to flee the country. And so, it's the story of his journey of seeking asylum with the help of the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program.

Jon Earle: 11:15
Conditions at detention facilities across the country vary widely. George said, one of the hardest things was the fact that nobody calls you by your name.

George: 11:23
I was never called by my name at the detention. I was bed 25. So they'll call you by a bed number until a visitor came and called me George. That was the first time I felt somebody is calling me by my name. It's horrific man.

Jon Earle: 11:38
What are you thinking as you're there, kind of day after day?

George: 11:44
I don't know how to express, it wasn't easy. It wasn't easy. It wasn't easy.

Nicci Hudson: 11:49
So I think that this clip sticks with me the most out of all the episodes because I honestly think that I cried during that part when he said that. It's just haunting to know that moment where someone called him by his name, you know, meant so much to him.

Jon Earle: 12:08

Nicci Hudson: 12:09
We should say something positive like, but his strength and resilience...

Jon Earle: 12:13
We can see easily say something positive. It's the fact that...

Katie Ullman: 12:16
He persevered through that and received asylum.

Jon Earle: 12:16
He received asylum. Which is extraordinary and that he has really a new life in this country and he's looking forward to, this wouldn't really surprise me, he wants to be a truck driver, a long-haul truck driver.

Nicci Hudson: 12:29
To see the world.

Jon Earle: 12:31
And see the country. Yeah, I’m really happy for him.

Nicci Hudson: 12:37
It's a long journey but with a happy ending.

Jon Earle: 12:40
So, number nine is from an episode called "Kids Who Can Deal," with Dr. Aliza Pressman who is Co-Director of the Mount Sinai Parenting Center and we had her on to talk about how to raise resilient kids...

Katie Ullman: 12:53
Kids who can deal.

Jon Earle: 12:53
Kids who can deal, as she put it. And she has a lot of smart things to say about that. She talks about different styles of parenting, but the clip that I selected is about failure. It's about modeling failure for your kids so they know how to fail well, and they know that they know how to handle kind of the ups and downs, the waves and crests of life. Let's talk about failure.

Dr. Aliza Pressman: 13:17

Jon Earle: 13:17
That was another thing that came up a lot.

Dr. Aliza Pressman: 13:18

Jon Earle: 13:19
How do you teach kids to embrace failure and to see it as inevitable part of life as opposed to being just defeated and concluding I just can't?

Dr. Aliza Pressman: 13:28
Right. So, for kids to learn how to fail well, the first thing is that parents must learn how to fail well. And they need to learn how to fail well in front of their kids.

Jon Earle: 13:40
In their own life.

Dr. Aliza Pressman: 13:42
In their own life. Just so that it's a comfortable thing. It's not – we don't just celebrate our accomplishments. If the tone of your house is, "What was the awesome thing that you did today that made you, you know, move forward in your job or in your relationships or in your life?" The underlying message in the house is, "We're all superstars in this house." So there needs to be an ability to talk about, like, "I didn't get the promotion that I wanted. I'm going to – what are my strategies to try to get it next time?"

Nicci Hudson: 14:16
It's great advice because I feel like so often people get held back just because they're afraid to fail. So, it's teaching your kids that it's okay to fail. You learn so much when you fail.

Katie Ullman: 14:31
Like building a model for kids to accept disappointment, and learn from it, and then grow from it, I think is extremely important.

Nicci Hudson: 14:40
And to see that it's not the end of the world.

Katie Ullman: 14:42

Nicci Hudson: 14:42
If you fail.

Katie Ullman: 14:43
We’re all human.

Nicci Hudson: 14:44
Yeah. For some reason, with failure there's this feeling like it just is impossible. Like it's going to be the end of the world. And when you figure out that that's not the case –

Katie Ullman: 14:55

Nicci Hudson: 14:55
And then you're also proud of yourself because you did it anyways. It makes sense.

Jon Earle: 14:59
Cool. We've gotten to the end. We're at number 10. This isn't the cheeriest way to finish the list. Maybe that's a mistake on our part, but it is a profound, I hope you agree, way to end the list. It's from an interview with Dr. Gabriel Sara, who's an oncologist at Mount Sinai West. And he has some really wise things to say about, not only about telling the truth and the connection between the truth and resilience, but about death. And here's what he said.

Dr. Gabriel Sara: 15:38
It doesn't have to be ugly. It doesn't have to be ugly. You don't have to laugh about death, no, I never do. But you can be light about it. And if you have no choice but to die, why does it have to be ugly? Why can't it be beautiful? When I say that it shocks people. I'd like to have a beautiful death, why not? You're going to die regardless! So, it might as well be a good experience.

Jon Earle: 16:06
What does a beautiful death look like?

Dr. Gabriel Sara: 16:09
I think it's not one way of looking at it, and I think it will change from one patient to the other, from one experience of death to the other. But at least one thing that I would think should always prevail is having peace going into the process of dying. Accepting that you're going to die, appreciating what you went through. I find there are five magic words – maybe there are more, but at least those are pretty good – when you're dying is to tell people around you, "Forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. Goodbye." If I can say this to my people around me, I think I'll have a beautiful death.

Nicci Hudson: 16:55
Forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. Goodbye.

Katie Ullman: 17:00

Nicci Hudson: 17:01
That just sums up everything in life basically.

Jon Earle: 17:05
Yeah. And it's something – except for the goodbye part – that you can say to the people in your life right now. You don't need to wait.

Katie Ullman: 17:13
Yeah, I agree.

Jon Earle: 17:14
That's the end of our list. That was 2019. We had a great year and so we have a lot of really good episodes lined up already for 2020. We have an interview that we've recorded with NFL Hall of Famer Curtis Martin. We also have an interview with Trisha Meili, who is better known as The Central Park jogger, who again is another person with an extraordinary and very public resilience story, which she shares beautifully together with Dr. Kristen Dams-O'Connor, who's a specialist in traumatic brain injury here at Mount Sinai. And so it's really, really interesting and we think you're going to like it. We have a lot of people to thank on our team – Lucia, Dorie, Justin, Cathy, Tina, Leslie, Alison, Chloe, Andria, Michele, Karen, David and others 'm sure I'm leaving out. This is a huge team effort and includes not only the people who are in this room, who are recording, but also the people who work on our website, who do design work for us, who have done our beautiful cover art, who've advocated for us in this project. So, thank you to everybody. And lastly, I want to thank all of you who are listening. This would definitely not be possible without you. Thanks for sticking with us. Thanks for joining us on this journey of looking for wisdom in tough places. So, from all of us here. Happy holidays! Have a great new year, and we'll see you in 2020!