Hope You’ll Come Say Hi at One of My Upcoming Talks

Hi Friends:

First I want to say a heartfelt thank you to the hundreds of women who reached out to me, offering to be interviewed for my next book, THE ANGEL AND THE ASSASSIN: The Tiny Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine, and Gives us a Radically New Way of Looking at Human Well-Being, which will be published by Ballantine Books (Random House) in 2019. Your emails and stories, moved me. I’m on a mission to de-stigmatize brain-related health challenges, and you’ve once again proven you’re the best readers on the planet. (I do have all the interviewees I need at this point, and thank you all for offering to help. You’re amazing.)

I hope the book, when it comes out, helps every one of you. I’m setting out to show — based on hundreds of hours of interviews with neuroscientists and thousands of research papers — how and why symptoms of depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, OCD, memory issues, and Alzheimer’s are unequivocally related to tiny, overlooked (and all too often, overactive) brain immune cells – called microglia – which function as the “white blood cells of the brain.” When these little cells get agitated by triggers like toxins, infections, stressors, physical or emotional trauma, they can destroy brain synapses and circuitry, causing “neuroinflammation” and “neurodegeneration,” the same way that your white blood cells cause inflammation in your body. This truly amazing discovery – and the new understanding that the brain is an immune organ, ruled by these little immune cells — is one of the most revolutionary discoveries in the history of science, and it’s changing everything, including leading to exciting new avenues for treating seemingly intractable life-altering disorders.

To report this book, I’ve been traveling all over the country. What I’m finding is pretty much blowing my mind. (For updates, sign up for my blog and newsletter (scroll down on the right hand column of this page!)

Meanwhile, I’ll be giving several exciting lectures this fall and I hope some of you will be able to come say hi. (Psst… if you’re a UK reader, I’ll be in London soon to deliver the keynote for an international conference on chronic pain, held by the amazing group, SIRPA, at the Royal Society of Medicine (details below). Please join us and say hi!)

Here are a few of the upcoming venues where I’ll be giving keynotes and doing booksignings:

October 2-3, 2017
Keynote Speaker, Booksigning and Workshop, Children’s Trust of South Carolina
2017 Prevention Conference: Embracing Prevention, Empowering Communities
Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center
1101 Lincoln Street, Columbia, S.C.
Register here.

October 15, 2017
Keynote Speaker, SIRPA Chronic Pain Conference
Chronic Pain: The Role of Emotions
Royal Society of Medicine
London, England
Award-winning science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa who will discuss the decades of research linking adverse childhood experiences to ill-health, including chronic pain, in later life.
To learn more about the role of Adverse Childhood Experiences and emotions in chronic pain, register here.

October 19th, 2017
Keynote Speaker
Stony Brook Children’s Hospital School Intervention Program,
Helping Children with Chronic Illnesses Thrive
I’ll be talking about Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology – and how we can help kids facing chronic conditions and medical adversity achieve resiliency and well-being.
Stony Brook, New York
Register here.

 

November 14th, 2017
1 p.m. EST, I’ll be giving a live interactive chat & talk on
Survival of the Nurtured: Well-Being, Self-Care, and ACEs, as part of ACEs Connection 2017 Parenting With ACEs Fall Chat Series
(Members of ACEs Connection can Join Parenting with ACEs Community & go there at time/day of chat. If you’re not a Member of ACEs Connection, you can become a Member (free). Join ACEs Connection a day or more before chat. Then, join the Parenting with ACEs Community (PWA) & go there at time/day of chat. See “featured chat” at top of PWA page.) Be sure to check out the other speakers, too — the amazing Sebern Fisher, and Belleruth Naparstek.)

Also, I thought I’d share this essay one more time; it recently went viral with over 2 million hits worldwide. If it resonates with you, feel free to share on social media. It’s about the importance of the medical profession becoming trauma-informed to better help patients: Childhood Trauma Leads to Lifelong Chronic Illness – So Why isn’t the Medical Community Helping Patients?

Hope to see you at one of the above events. And you can always find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s to your healing,

Donna

Want to Be Part of My Next Book Project?

Hello friends:

For my next book, I’m interviewing women and young adults experiencing mood, anxiety and/or learning/cognitive issues, who are curious about the concept that brain based symptoms have neurobiological, immunological, physical roots. If you are, or know, a woman in mid-life, for whom this resonates, and are in an extended family that faces depression, anxiety, mood and learning/cognitive issues, and would like to share your experiences and possibly have me report on your journey of discovery, please message me (or have them message me) by commenting below, or, contact me privately, here. If you have a family history of mental health and autoimmune disorders, this is also relevant. Interviewees can absolutely be disguised.

This is what my attic office looks like as I map out the chapters for my next book, THE ANGEL AND THE ASSASSIN: The Tiny Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine — and Gives us a Radically New Way of Looking at Human Well-Being. I LOVE writing this book. The science is so exciting, and I think it will help so many readers. (Pssst… can you spot my writing companion in this photo?)

In this book, called THE ANGEL AND THE ASSASSIN: The Tiny Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine, and Gives us a Radically New Way of Looking at Human Well-Being, which will be published by Ballantine Books (a division of Random House) in 2019, I’m looking at groundbreaking, recent scientific discoveries at top labs around the country showing unequivocally that symptoms of depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, OCD, memory issues, and Alzheimer’s emerge because of overactive brain immune cells – called microglia – which function as the “white blood cells of the brain.” In the face of 21st Century triggers — from stress to toxins – these little cells get agitated and destroy neurons and synapses, causing “neuroinflammation” and “neurodegeneration,” the same way that your white blood cells cause inflammation in your body. This discovery – and the new understanding that the brain is an immune organ, ruled by immune cells (just like all the other organs in the human body) is one of the most exciting and important discoveries in the history of science, and is leading to exciting new avenues for treating seemingly intractable life-altering disorders.

The fact that our brain is an immune organ and is affected by our immune health on a cellular level is not often addressed, yet this fact can have a profound effect on how individuals view their suffering, and the treatment they seek.

My goal is to de-stigmatize these diseases by taking you into cutting edge labs where neuroscientists are showing that brain based disorders are due to physical changes that lead to disease symptoms – and show what we can do to heal. Thanks!!

If this whole idea captures your imagination, and you and or your family are affected by these disorders – let me know!!!

This year’s Learning & The Brain Conference

In other recent news, I so enjoyed lecturing at this year’s Learning & The Brain Conference, in Arlington, Virginia. (Learning & The Brain teams up with Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, and other leading institutes to provide the latest findings on brain health and brain resiliency). I loved talking to an amazing group of educators about Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology – and how important mentors, adults and teachers are in helping kids achieve resiliency and well-being.

In my fall lecture series I’ll be speaking at venues including the amazing SIRPA international conference on chronic pain in London in October 2017;  Stonybrook Children’s Hospital, in Stonybrook, New York; and the South Carolina Children’s Trust, among other venues.

Don’t forget — reach out if my newest book resonates with you — I’d really love to talk to you! Comment below, or, if you prefer, contact me privately. Or, ping me on Facebook!

Thanks so much!

Donna

P.S. In case it’s helpful, fyi, I’m told that this weekend Childhood Disrupted is at its all time lowest price on Amazon — under $10.

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Childhood Trauma Leads to Lifelong Chronic Illness — So Why Isn’t the Medical Community Helping Patients?

Donna Quote #5 (1)Hi All,

I hope you’ll enjoy this essay I wrote for Huffington Post, “Childhood Trauma Leads to Adult Chronic Illness — So Why Isn’t the Medical Community Helping Patients?” I put my heart into it.

My team has also gathered some of readers’ favorite articles and video clips in which I address the link between childhood trauma, and adult illness, and how we can heal, and put them all together in my most recent newsletter! You can find all that here: http://eepurl.com/b_AhU5 (If you want to receive future newsletters, you can “subscribe” in the top left menu in order to join our mailing list.)

To Your Healing,

Donna

 

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How Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Adult Illness

A screenshot of my Q. and A. -- to watch it, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcZ_uLIB7V8

A screenshot of my Q. and A. — to watch click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcZ_uLIB7V8

Hi All,

Here is a recent video interview, in which I share my thoughts on How Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Adult Illness, why our new understanding of this science must change the way we do medicine, and why I wrote my book, Childhood Disrupted. Produced by Studio4.

Hope you’ll enjoy!

Donna

My Next Book! Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal

What my desk looks like as I begin editorial revisions for my next book: Childhood Interrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology

Every once in a while, as a writer, I sort of “disappear” — taking a break from blogging and social media to fully immerse myself in finishing a new book. I’m happy to say, in 2015, you’ll be able to see what I’ve been so busy working on (and why I’ve been so quiet)!

Continue reading

A Q. and A. with “Between the Covers” on What Compelled me to Write The Last Best Cure

I recently spoke with Melanie Brevis, blogger at Baltimore County Public Library System, and we had a great chat!

Between the Covers with Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Donna Jackson NakazawaBaltimore author Donna Jackson Nakazawa discusses her latest book, The Last Best Cure, on Wednesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. at the Perry Hall Branch, sponsored by the Friends of the Perry Hall Library. The award-winning science journalist and writer recently answered questions for Between the Covers about her book.

Before The Last Best Cure, you authored another book about autoimmune diseases, The Autoimmune Epidemic. What insights or new knowledge did you gain between that book and The Last Best Cure? What was going on in your life prior to writing these books?

The Autoimmune Epidemic focused on how modern chemicals in the world around us and in our diet are overwhelming the human immune system, contributing to rising disease rates and chronic illnesses. The Last Best Cure takes this research a step further and investigates “psychoneuroimmunology,” a new field of study that investigates how mind states, such as anxiety, fear, worry, rumination, anger and pain, can end up damaging our immune function in much the same way as environmental chemicals. Prior to this, I was struggling with my own health crises. The Last Best Cure is my chronicle of a one-year doctor/patient experiment to see if altering my mood state might shift my inflammatory markers and perhaps even improve my physical well-being.

 The Last Best Cure has received much critical praise, described as a book that will offer hope for recovery, and change and save lives. What is the most important insight or piece of information you want readers to take away from your book?

I want people to know that there already exists an understanding as to how we can activate the healing potential of the brain. Understanding how to do this gives us powerful tools, ways to change the messages our brain is sending to our cells and our body. Everyone deserves to live the life they want, and these tools can help us all achieve a greater sense of well-being, and even joy.

You were already an award-winning science journalist and writer when you began writing these last two books. What was it like writing professionally about a topic that was also very personal to you? Were there any “aha” moments for your own life as you were writing?

At first, I was only going to write about my personal experiences in the introduction to The Last Best Cure, but my editor thought readers would want to read more about how I also went on this transformational journey myself. She thought it would help convey to readers that we can all take this journey, no matter what physical or emotional health challenges we face. There was so much that I realized along the way about adversity, self-respect and how they play a role in adult illness. Now I’m profoundly grateful to have taken this journey: Life is sweeter, relationships are better and it’s a better, more meaningful way to live.

In addition to being about healing and recovering personal joy, The Last Best Cure is a story about a health epidemic. What steps do we need to take now to secure a better health outlook for future generations?

We need to absolutely, completely and radically change how we view the doctor/patient relationship. If we keep up the current “medical factory” model we’re going to see very little progress in managing chronic health issues. Right now, 133 million adults in America have chronic illnesses, not counting the 22 million with addiction – and these numbers are rapidly climbing. The tools to help patients participate in their own healing and facilitate greater well-being exist; it just requires that physicians incorporate new practices into their doctor/patient paradigm. In order to do this, we must change the way we as a society view treatment, health care and the doctor/patient relationship.

Are there any new books in the works?

Yes, one due out at the end of next year called Childhood Interrupted: How Adversity in the Past Writes the Story of Our Future – And How We Can Change the Script (Atria/Simon & Schuster). It’s a deeper, more extended study of how childhood adversity can create changes in the brain and in our immunology that impact our health long into adulthood – and what we can do to reverse those effects as adults. I’m telling cutting-edge stories of science, about how even very common forms of childhood adversity can reset our immune system to be more stress-reactive, sparking a state of chronic low-grade neuroinflammation for life. I want to help readers understand how the stress we meet in childhood can determine our lifelong “set point” for emotional reactivity, inflammation, disease and depression – and what we can do to reverse the impact of early adversity and trauma years later, in adulthood, to regain our physical and emotional well-being.

How long has the Baltimore area been home to you? What do you like best about living in this area?

My family moved to Baltimore four years ago from Annapolis; my mom and my husband’s parents were already living here, so it just made sense. What I like best about Baltimore is its people. Baltimoreans are real, genuine, honest, intellectual, creative, smart and energetic. They’re committed to their community and engaged in making this a better place to live. We love it here. It’s a vibrant place to be.

 

Thank You Readers – The Last Best Cure hit #10 in Bestselling Books in Health Memoir

Thank you readers, I just found out that last night THE LAST BEST CURE hit #10 on AMAZON in BESTSELLING BOOKS IN HEALTH MEMOIR! That made me smile, and I realize I have all of you to thank for spreading the word, one woman, one reader at a time! In gratitude, I thank you.http://amzn.to/1dIIyVd

Thank you all for spreading the word, I'm so very grateful.


Talking on NPR about The Last Best Cure

I really enjoyed a great discussion today with Dan Rodricks, the host of the NPR show, Midday, on WYPR, Baltimore’s Public Radio station. Dan is smart, genuine, and asks great questions. We really delved into why I wrote The Last Best Cure, the science behind it, and how I hope it can help readers with chronic conditions. You can listen to the entire show by clicking on the podcast at this link: http://wypr.org/post/last-best-cure.

photo of dogs with glasses reading

My writing companions, Ashlie and Winnie

This photo has nothing to do with this show — I am just reposting it here because I like it and it makes me smile!

Big News Coming! The Next Book!

I’m just about to announce my next book project — which I’ve signed for with Atria/Simon & Schuster. I’m going to be looking for interviewees for this one! So, stay tuned…I’ll be reaching out to you, my amazing, faithful readers.

I'll be looking for readers who want to be part of my next book... I'll announce it soon!

Subscribe to get my blog posts (option on the right) to stay informed and find out more!

The Ones Who’ve Helped us Along the Way

Yesterday I was struggling to manage a few swirling mind states — you know, those fears, resentments and regrets that well up, or at least they do for me. I just could not find any inner compassion for my own life mistakes. My suffering was mind-wrought, and doing me no good, but even knowing all that I could not manage my thoughts.

Then I remembered a type of meditation that has helped me get unstuck in the past. It is taught by many but my favorite version is by John Makransky. It’s called “Identifying Benefactors and Receiving Love.”

So I got it out again, that tape, as a rescue remedy (you can listen to his free 13 minute audio version at this link).

It’s pretty healing stuff. Here’s how a “receiving benefactors” meditation works, in case you feel inclined to give it a try.

Makransky asks us to first think of people in our lives whom we might think of as benefactors, those who have wished for our “deep well-being and happiness.”  Often, these are, he says, the people we most liked to be around at earlier points in our lives.  A dear aunt or grandparent, a friend of our parents, a teacher or professor or coach, someone whom it feels good to remember because we knew in our hearts that they wanted the absolute best for us.  We felt safe by their side.

Thinking of my Own Benefactors

My Dad and I when I was eight-years-old.

I think of my Dad, of course I think of him. I think of how one day, when I was 11, a year or so before he died, we were sailing. As I took the tiller on that blue-green Chesapeake day, my Dad turned to my mother and asked — despite my buck teeth, my horn-rimmed tortoise shell glasses, my frizzy blond hair that inspired my brothers to call me “lampshade head” — “Isn’t she just so beautiful?”  As if he saw something incandescent beneath my profound gawkiness.

Someone who believes we are beautiful, even when we are gawky and awkward, and who knows we need to hear it precisely because we are gawky and awkward, that is a benefactor.

My grandmother, who we called GrandMary, on her wedding day.

I think, too, of my father’s mother, whom we called GranMary. GranMary always called me “my darling girl,” no matter how old I was.  The last time I saw her shortly before her death, she patted my hand between her palms, and, caught in a moment of dementia, asked, “You are going to Jay’s play tonight, aren’t you?”  She was talking about my father, who had been dead for 30 years.  She was reliving one of those buoyant, excited moments of mothering: the opening night of the school play her son had written and directed — albeit half a century after the fact.  “Jay and I have been rehearsing his lines all afternoon!” she said with pride, leaning toward me, our knees touching between the sofa where she sat and the ottoman on which I perched.  “He has his lines down,” she said proudly, patting my knee.

My father, at age 17, the age when he would have been about to appear in the play he wrote and directed, the age at which he would have come in the door to practice his lines with his mom, a memory she held dear after he died.

I recall how she turned and glanced around the room, as if expecting her son to come through the front door of her assisted living apartment.  How she somehow seemed to know who I was and yet not understand that I was also her dead son’s now grown daughter.

“My darling girl.  You are coming to Jay’s play?  Oh, you must!”

I wanted to go to my Dad’s play, yes.  See him as a 17-year-old, directing, acting, taking his curtain call via some kind of magical time reversal.  Or see him on any single day of his life – still alive.  But there is no such magical clock.  I think of how much my father’s mother loved him, how it broke her heart to lose her son without warning.  “The worst thing,” she once told me, in her earlier, lucid years, “is to lose your child while you still live.  It’s an unnatural pain.”  How she loved us all.  How she would tell us at the end of every family party or dinner or day, just that: “I love you all.”

I think, too, of the aunt who comforted me through the years after my father’s death. My Aunt Nan wasn’t related to me, she was my parents’ best friend and our neighbor. When he died, the summer I was twelve, I began spending Saturday mornings at her house, making pancakes, and school day afternoons climbing the pine trees in the field in front of her driveway. We’d run around in her yellow Volkswagen Beetle; the same one in which she’d driven me to kindergarten seven years earlier — she’d also been my kindergarten teacher.

She’d leave surprises for me in the mailbox, knowing I picked up the mail when I got off the bus. One day there was a small toy Leprechaun sitting in the mailbox, his pliable legs and arms crossed, as if he’d been waiting patiently for me.

Years later, when I moved to New York, Aunt Nan tirelessly helped me to find my first walk up apartment. She’d moved to Connecticut, and on weekends I’d recover on her couch in the country in front of her fireplace. We often had a cup of tea together as she listened, patiently, dearly, to my stories of work and love in the city. One day I gave her a porcelain tea cup.

When she died a year ago, her daughter said she had wanted me to have that tea cup back, and gave it to me.

The tea cup I gave my Aunt Nan, which she left for me when she died.

I keep it on my desk beside me and I always think of her when I see it, every single day.

I think of my mother’s mother Gammer; how she was there to hold me with open arms the day my mother broke the news to my brothers and me that my dad had died.  I think of the New Year’s Eves I would spend with Gammer well into my twenties if I didn’t have a boyfriend.  Each time I ditched or got ditched by a guy, she would send me another small tiny ceramic frog with a hopelessly beautiful cliché note that simply read,

My grandmother, Gammer, holding me when I was 8 days old. I miss her everyday.

“Dearest Donna, I guess you will have to kiss a few …”  After a while frogs began to appear with no note at all whenever a relationship bit the dust.  Her collection still makes me smile.

I think of them all, my father, my two grandmothers and my aunt.

“Bring them to mind,” Makransky says.  “Imagine their smiling faces before you.  Envision your benefactors sending you the wish of love, the wish for you to have deepest well being, happiness and joy.”

It is enough to make my breath slow, my throat catch.

I try not to think of whether I deserve their love, or whether those I’ve loved and lost would in fact be proud of me, when I haven’t done half of what I thought I’d do in my life, have been cranky too often and selfish and have my share of regrets and resentments that are, well, the reason why I am doing this meditation.

They were all so resilient, so upbeat despite the sorrows life threw their way.  I am not as resilient, I fear, as the ones who came before me.

The Benefactor Meditation

“Allow the soft healing energy of their love into every cell of your body and every corner of your mind.” Makransky’s voice continues. “Bathe in this.  Heal in this.  Rest in this.”

He suggests we bring one benefactor more to mind than the others, and let that connection “energize the magnitude of the radiance we feel ourselves receive.”

I imagine, of course, my Dad.  He is standing before me.  I try to brush aside the worry of whether he would be proud of me or not so proud.

“Join your benefactors in their wish for you while receiving the radiance of their love, repeating the wish for yourself in your mind,” says Makransky.  May this one have deepest well-being, happiness and joy.

I can’t help but think of the scene where Harry Potter gazes into the mirror of Erised  — the name backward for desire — which shows the deepest wishes of one’s heart.  How he saw his dead parents waving to him, their heads nodding.

This one,” I hear my father say.  “May this one have deepest well-being, happiness and joy.”

My eyes prick with tears.

I hear Makransky’s voice: “Rest in this love until you feel complete, whole.”

Sometimes, I have found I can’t recall the exact contour of my father’s face; the crevices, the smile lines, the five o-clock stubble.  But in this moment I see my father with utter clarity. He is smiling at me, as if to say, Remember what I taught you as we sailed together, as we took in the whole wide sky and bay. Remember that this world is a magical place. Remember to be amazed.

I imagine the love of my dad and the beautiful women whom I have been so blessed to be loved by, how they loved me. How I want to carry that love forward, pay it forward, in the way I am in the world.

As I open my eyes, I feel washed of something. Of all the swirling fear and regret that consumed me just fifteen minutes earlier. I feel a compassion for myself. For all beings.

And I am okay with what is. I trust in my capacity to be here, with what has been, what has not been, and what is.

Try the Benefactor Meditation for Yourself — It’s Worth it

Who are your benefactors? Can you imagine them standing beside you, sending you so much love and well-wishes? How does that feel? Give it a try.