THANK YOU, DAVID O. RUSSELL

Maya Rudolph, me, Catherine Keener and David O. Russell. (photo taken by Jeffrey Dunn).

Maya Rudolph, me, Catherine Keener and David O. Russell. (photo taken by Jeffrey Dunn).



You know how sometimes the very thing you need the most at a particular moment suddenly appears? It can come in many forms . . . a book, a prayer, a person, a film, a letter, an epiphany. Well, many months ago, film director David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “American Hustle,” “The Fighter, “Three Kings”…you get the idea: he’s one of the best!) told me I was going to be invited to speak at the annual dinner held in Boston in June to celebrate McLean Hospital and that he hoped I would accept. He said he had been last year’s speaker and had recommended me for this year. For those of you unfamiliar with McLean, for the past decade U.S. News & World Report has ranked it the #1 psychiatric hospital in the country and this year they were ranked the #1 hospital (of any kind) for psychiatry in the country. Although I cited the McLean Klarman Eating Disorders Center as a major resource for adolescents with eating disorders in my recent book, “Being A Teen,” (for teens and their parents), I wasn’t familiar with the hospital per se. David encouraged me to do the speech, gave me the number of Dr Scott Rauch, the hospital’s President and Psychiatrist-in-Chief, and added, “I think you’ll get a lot out of it.” He also told me he intended to come if I spoke.

Partly to please David and partly because mental health’s an interest of mine, i agreed. I was also impressed that they have a big focus on programs for women and teenagers with histories of trauma and related disorders. Institutions that treat co-occurring disorders — such as eating disorders, trauma-related disorders, borderline personality disorder and substance abuse– are very rare.

I was impressed that McLean also conducts state-of-the-art psychiatric research. Because fewer federal funds are available for clinician-scientists, those interested in both clinical psychiatry and scientific research have to choose between them. At McLean, they can do both.

I also liked that they train psychiatric residents, psychology interns and medical students and that many of their programs are covered by Medicare and other insurance plans.

So, I said yes, wrote a rather personal 20 minute speech and arrived in Boston last Friday night. Looking out the window of my hotel room the next morning, I found I was looking down on the dock where the Boston Tea Party act of rebellion had taken place.

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A few days earlier, Catherine Keener and I were talking and when I told her I was coming to Boston, she said she was filming nearby (a film that she said touches on mental health) with Maya Rudolph and that they’d drive up, get an adjoining room for the night, come to my speech and then we’d have a pajama party. I’d never met Maya and the whole thing sounded totally exciting.

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Friday morning, as I waited in the lobby of the hotel to be picked up and taken to visit the McLean campus and several women and teen-focused programs, a woman came up to me and asked, out of the blue, “Is Richard an Ashkenazi jew?” “Yes, why?” I asked. She said, “I read your blog and I read that your boyfriend has Parkinson’s and Ashkanizi Jews (jews from Russia and eastern Europe) have unusually high rates of Parkinson’s, so I wondered.” See, this an example of the positive things about being recognizable…people come up and let you know important stuff. The woman, Deborah, was Ashkenazi, her father had recently died of Parkinson’s and she said there are studies being done. We exchanged emails and photos. Doesn’t she have a wonderful, warm face? When I go to Israel next I will look her up. She told me to and she seems like someone I could be friends with.

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I spent some time with the very personable Dr. Scott Rauch, President and Psychiatrist in Chief of McLean and was then taken to the Hill Center for Women with histories of trauma and related disorders by Dr. Shelly Greenfield, Chief Academic Officer. Shelly is also the Chief of McLean’s Division of Women’s Mental Health and a pioneer in developing special treatments for alcoholism tailored to women. We sat together in a sunny, cheerful room filled with staff members and talked for 30 or 40 minutes. (For some reason Shelly is not in this picture, nor is Dr. Milissa Kaufman, the woman who presented me with the very thing I most needed right now–a book, a very thick book that I read over the weekend. I’m not going into detail but just to say that it sort of blew my mind apart as a writer —in very constructive way. It felt like a miracle. I’d never met her and she said, “I have something I want to give you,” and she got up, went out and brought back this tome. If I was suffering from PTSD, her eyes are what I’d like to look into. And her face was so calm, intelligent and kind…like you could tell her anything and it would be alright.
(for some reason, Dr Kaufman isn’t in this photo)

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In an email to Dr Kaufman yesterday, I told her how miraculous it was that she gave me that particular book and she wrote back and explained why she’d given it to me: Like me, Dr. Kaufman grew up with a mother who had mental health issues and she felt certain that something bad must have happened to the woman when she was a child. As a teenager, Dr. Kaufman had felt herself drawn to the field of psychiatry—she wanted to understand her mother—but she was not sure she could make it through college academically, much less medical school, so she didn’t see it in her future. Then, at 18, she saw my film, “Agnes of God” in which I play a psychiatrist who helps a young woman who had been hurt and Dr. Kaufman thought to herself, “Is that what a psychiatrist actually could do? Does this mean I could actually do such a thing?” She saw the movie 3 times. Six months later, she said aloud to a caring teacher for the first time, “I want to be a psychiatrist.” And 30 years later, two women who do not know each other meet at a trauma center on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital and one—the doctor– gives the other—the actor, a book. Another miracle.

One of the things I was reminded of during the conversations at the Hill Center was that there was no diagnosis for the disorders being presented by Vietnam Veterans until the early 70s when brave returning warriors demanded they receive mental health care and demanded that their symptoms be named and recognized as stemming from combat. That is how and why Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was finally identified. During previous wars it was pejoratively called “hysteria.” It was also in the early 70s that female psychiatrists realized women who had experienced childhood violence, rape and sexual abuse also suffered from PTSD. Dr. Scott Rauch and his colleagues have been world leaders in determining the brain basis of PTSD, using neuroimaging methods. It is equally important to note that various new treatments for PTSD have been and continue to be developed that do not necessarily involve medication. In fact, polls have shown that 75% of patients prefer talk therapy to meds.

From the Hill Center, I was taken to the Klarman Eating Disorder Center, like Hill House, a homey, cheery residence for young women ages 16 to 26. Drs. Skip Pope and Jim Hudson have been leaders in research on eating disorders. Here I am with the staff and, by the way, the wonderful Dr. Shelly Greenfield is 2nd from the left. I can’t help noticing how young the new leaders seem to be.

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Many of the teen residents were hanging out in the entrance when we left and I found it very moving. Having suffered from eating disorders myself for many years as a young woman, it made me happy that they were in a program that has such good success rates and I told several of them a bit about my own experiences and not to give up.

The dinner that night at the Intercontinental was a big success and I got to meet all sorts of interesting people including many major benefactors and many doctors and scientists.

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Left to right: David Barlow, chairman of the McLean board, Dr Scott Rauch, President of McLean, and Edward Lawrence, chairman of the Partners HealthCare Board of Trustees. (photo taken by Jeffrey Dunn).

After my speech, I was presented with an amazing portrait done by Romero Britto which took my breath away. You can’t really see it in the picture but my lips are covered with glitter.

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Maya, Catherine and I had a fun few hours chilling in our PJs. (Don’t know why I forget to take pictures at some of the most interesting times) Keener was going to go out to get some particular food she craved and I asked her not to, saying that I didn’t know Maya and felt too shy to be alone with her. We all got a laugh out of that because they’d been talking about their own shyness while driving to Boston. I always assume I’m the only one who can feel awkward when I don’t know someone so I was relieved to be disabused of this.

I feel I’ve made some new friends and, as David O. promised, I got a lot out of it.

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40 Comments
  1. Jane thank you so very much for your blogs. I so enjoy reading them and have admired your for years. Your DVD’s on exercise (Fit and Trim, AM/PM Yoga) are my two favorites and I do have more of the DVD’s that I utilize 5 days a week. Again thank you for all that you do and for being an inspiration to me.

  2. Dearest Jane,
    I am not sure if you will ever see this, if you do, I would consider it an honor.
    Last summer I had the privelage of being gifted your tour-de-force memoir, and read it voraciously. At times I found myself laughing and crying simultaneously. I took the time to write all over the inside cover every book you discuss in the memoir, and several of your antedotes for easy recall. I just wanted to say Thank You. It may not translate in this rather simple message, but I do mean it from the bottom of my heart. Your words, your story and your very full life have touched this young man of 27 years born and raised in a certain place but whose “head is in the clouds”. I rejoice for you, with you and want to tell you how much you inspire me.
    In reference to your above blog, I’d LOVE to know what the book was that you were gifted, if you wouldn’t mind sharing!

    Love and light to you.

    You are a beacon in the dark.

    Ashley

  3. Wish I could have gone to the slumber party too! I need a girls night out. LOVE the painting!!!! Keep up the great work Jane!

  4. Dear Jane, enjoyed your article, “Thank you, David O. Russell.” I have been a Schizophrenic for thirty-nine years, and through therapy and medication, I have a wonderful life…..The McLean Hospital is so needed, especially its research, and I feel mental health is a national concern. I admire women, who have overcome hardships and challenges, such as Dr. Rauch, Dr. Kaufman, and you. If I can help, in any way, please contact me.

  5. There are a million things a person could share here, about this blog and the millions of this-is-my-experience-in-regard-to-mental-health, we all have them. The very best thing, I think, about this blog, is that you have created (again) an awareness. Mental health is only ever talked about (it feels like) in some sort of extreme, good or bad. In the everyday life of a “regular” person, unless you’re well into recovery or you are a spectacle of sorts, no one seems to think mental health is worth discussing. You are a wonderful soul.

  6. I’m glad you stand up for mental health (among many other things). And we still cannot thank David O. Russell enough for Silver Linings Playbook, either.

    I certainly know what you mean about when something appears at a particularly good time. IMO, for many of us, your post For My Mother was just that. Sometimes when these “happy accidents” happen (not sure if that’s the right word, but when things mysteriously come at a great time), you just feel that you’re cared about in one way or another. 🙂

  7. This was a terrific read. It actually got me misty-eyed here and there. Their work is so positive and your adventure was so enriching because you seem so open to people. And so honest. So many of have suffered one way or another. I eventually ‘talked’ my way via PTSD but not until a friend suggested it may help solve some trust issues. I actually was so shy about meeting the therapist that I asked if we could do a ‘letter therapy’ back and forth and she agreed! We finally met in the same room, but I kept all of our letters. Now here I am sharing with the public…lol… and have a web-blog of sorts. I have yet to address these deeper issues there. Some hints in my poetry here and there. My father served in WW II as a medic and he used to come to me in my dreams. The room was dark except for the table I sat at. He’d stand next to me and I’d leaned my head against his belly, and he’d say as he’d rubbed my head, “My Frances has battle-fatigue.” Then I’d wake up feeling an amazing release. I carried all that mental weight thinking I was doing great on my own, I do not need anyone… ah, thank goodness for good friends who can sometimes see you better than you can see yourself. My PTSD was due to sexual abuse/chronic voyeurism. My late, gentle and non-abusive father suffered PTSD but never had a word for it, except ‘battle fatigue.’ My mother was equally non-abusive, and suffered PTSD after finding her father hanging in his tin shop along with her brother as young kids, and yet, still carried our family with amazing inner strength. Places like McLean should be the rule. A great article… and what a PJ party! Ok.. do I hit submit…. big sigh… ok, ‘submit!’

    • Frances. bless your heart! You ‘get it.’ We must all try to remove the stigma from mental illness. People need to know it’s not their fault, it’s no to be ashamed of, it can be helped. Especially, but not only, soldiers. xx

  8. Hi Jane,
    There are two things that struck a chord with me in this post. First, your pajama party with Catherine and Maya and how you were all worried about being shy with each other. I loved that! It just goes to show how alike we all are, doesn’t it? I think that sometimes people are so worried about what other people will think about them that they don’t realize the other person is worrying about the same thing. It’s just a vicious circle if you ask me when all we really need to do is just choose love (although that’s not always easy to do).
    The other thing that stood out to me was how “Agnes of God” had an effect on Dr. Kaufman when she was young. I can’t imagine how good that must have made you feel to hear that something you did had that kind of effect on a person. I mean, look at what effect she’s having on the world as a result! I saw “Agnes” when I was 15 and liked it so much (growing up Catholic as I did and going to 12 years of Catholic school) I immediately bought the play it was based on and devoured it. I started doing excerpts from it at speech tournaments (I was heavily involved in speech and drama in high school) and chose to direct the play for my senior project in college. They are actually doing it next season here in Lexington at one of the local theaters. I am hoping to audition for it however I have a tough decision to make because at the same time another theater in town is doing “On Golden Pond.” Now how do I decide which one to go out for? I guess I’ll have to flip a coin!
    It was also good to hear all the wonderful things this institution is doing in the area of mental health (so I guess that was three things that struck me, huh?). Something we so dearly need in the world is to continue to learn and develop treatments and cures for those that suffer with mental illness.
    Thanks again for sharing a part of your life with all of us! Until your next blog…rock on! 🙂
    Mel

  9. what is the name of the book?

  10. i am interested to know what the book was. my son has ptsd.

  11. It is very moving to see that you have put such an effort and interest into many wonderful causes. Thank you for being a shining example of someone who has overcome an eating disorder and isn’t afraid to talk about it. I only hope that one day we will all have the courage to open up about eating disorders and stare the problem in the face. NO MORE HIDING AND NO MORE SHAME!

    You made a comment about not just going to see a nutritionist if you have an eating disorder. I’m sorry, but I can’t remember what show you said that on?! I have found this to be 100% true though. The problem is not in the food! I was always a skeptic about any sort of doctor until I started talking to a clinical health psychologist. It has been a difficult journey to my recovery, but I have my psychologist and YOU to thank for my brighter days. I love myself more than ever now. I am finally starting to embrace my curves and enjoy my life for the first time in a LONG TIME!

    If you ever make it back to the Asheville, NC area… it would be amazing if you spoke on this issue at the Civic Center.

    -Morgan Fisher xoxo

  12. Thank you for all this sharing! I was so surprised reading about ashkanizi jews having higher rates of parkinson! I will try to find more on internet, since this is the first time I ear something similar…And when you have a family member concerned by parkinson, each information is precious. Merci beaucoup 🙂

  13. Jane,
    Thank you so much for your openness and sharing so much of your life in your own words. I really enjoy reading your blog. When you mentioned being too shy to want to be alone with someone you don’t know, that struck such a chord with me as I’ve struggled with shyness so much of my life. My father had Parkinson’s and was shy too. I think some studies have shown that introverted people may be more prone to Parkinson’s, along with the Ashkenazi background, which he had. I’ve just participated in a clinical study to test for the LRRKK (think that’s the acronym) gene which is one many people with Parkinson’s seem to have. So glad you have gone back to making movies so we can enjoy that side of your creativity too! Best regards.
    Brenda

  14. Jane,

    Helen Bronte Stewart MD at Stanford is doing deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s patients. Here is contact info https://med.stanford.edu/profiles/helen-bronte-stewart
    And an article: http://sanbruno.patch.com/groups/schools/p/stanford-researchers-making-advancements-in-parkinsons-treatment

    Paul

    p.s. A friend of Stephen R’s.

    • Thanks, Richard’s isn’t a candidate for deep stim.

  15. Beautiful portrait of you and again an outstanding article. I love how your blog draws in the people you meet, causes for concerns, the arts, and life. You are a positive example of how one can live when old by the numbers. Hope they do find better solutions for Parkinson’s patients and it helps your Richard.

  16. I hope I ever get to meet you. I’m meeting real person Spirit Mother, for the last time, tomorrow. I’ve spent the weekend with my family, my daughter’s birthday is today, I have had am amazing weekend. I am seeing real person Spirit Mother, for the last time, tomorrow at 1:30. I am sure you must think I am crazy, I promise I am not. I don’t know at all why I was and am drawn to you; it doesn’t really matter. I wish like crazy that I ever am in your arms, even if just for a moment. I want you to think about me tomorrow at 2:40 pm; my 50 minute hour with the person I trust more than anyone will be over. I am sad and want to say so to someone I’m not payin to to a place where I can see GC

    • I will be thinking of you tomorrow at 2:40. Why aren’t you seeing her anymore after tomorrow?

  17. I moved; it just makes sense to have someone closer. She found a counselor for me that is nearer, and I was seeing both of them for a few months. It was hard for me to have two counselors; I felt like I was cheating on her for one, and always, I guess, the dynamic is different with different people and so it just was hard. And, when I did see her, mostly it was just because I missed her and so “theropy” wasn’t really moving along at all. All of my alters love her, it was getting confusing and hard. So, our last session was yesterday, and we just had a visit, instead of a session, and it was wonderful. I cried a lot, but it was good. And she gave me a purple fluorite crystal, something she’d had of her own, and so now I have something to keep from her. And fluorite has amazing healing ??? qualities ??? <—not sure the right word for that. Purple has a lot to do with third eye chakra. One of my alters name is Katharine, and she has an amazing third eye power. And she is blind and deaf! She's very young. And my youngest person is Hannah, she is four, and she's similar to Katharine in a spiritual sense. All of my alters, according to Black Jane, have a job, and Gilda (real person Spirit Mother) played a huge roll in giving them a safe place to "show up". I have lots of work to do, and so now I'll officially transition into my new counselor. Anyway, thank you for thinking of me. And thank you for always holding space for me.. Xoxo

    • I’m glad I can do that for you, Nancy. How great that you had a counselor who had the empathy and skill to allow the alters to show up.A lot of work! Yes! You seem very up to the task. xx

  18. I keep feeling little places of overwhelming sadness. I’m sure that will get better as I move forward. I like very much that you listen to me….

  19. Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    @Jane & @Nancy Motley I read this quote just now, while searching for another by Emerson, and it resonated deeply with me — as I hope it does you.
    “The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires.”
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    I believe that, no matter our age, we are all youth in the process of re-cog-nizing our own divinity, inherent worth and strength. Peace, Blessings and Limitless Abundance I wish for everyone. ’tis our birthright to acknowledge this as our birthright (and take action), afterall. And, our moral obligation to protect the rights of others. To defend and support them, especially when they are unable to do so for themselves.
    My therapist has allowed me to be increasingly comfortable being authentic. When humiliated, I speak back. When hurt, I explain why. When expected to comply, without question, I refuse to stop questioning.
    I don’t pretend to have any answers, nor do I avoid being fully engaged with my ideas and responsibilities — as such, I (hopefully) encourage you to keep reaching out into the world. Surround yourself with good mirrors. Honest and flawed, if we take the time, we can always see ourselves as reflections of one other.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc_-RTvyijc

    • Thank you, Peter. Beautiful

    • Thank you, Peter. Are you just a visitor at this page? You should join the “community”. It is a lot more fun here than it is on FB 🙂

  20. Hi Jane,

    I always wondered, and I hope this isn’t too personal a question, whether actors get royalties in the United States when films are repeated on TV? Actors in Germany are at their wit’s end because since about 2000 all contracts are ‘buyout’ contracts, so as an actor you get a daily wage while filming, but then no royalties. A lot of actors, even major stars are finding it hard to make ends meet. It’s a story that’s making headlines here at the moment. I assume there is a different agreement in the US.
    Best regards
    Jason

    • Jason, we do get residuals when our films are shown on TV or DVDs are sold. x

      • That’s really good to hear. It’s a catastrophe here in Germany and it’s a problem that actors are not willing to talk openly about for fear of being blacklisted. A very successful actress friend of mine is slowly but surely starting to open up and talk about the subjectpublicly. but it’s tough. It’s new ground.x

  21. Re-read = Uuuuhggggg!!

    All of that sounded so simple. It wasn’t, and isn’t. :/

    I found a place in her where all my world stood still; a place that for so long was held by you. An entire life, almost, of having a place to go and it being with someone “real”. You’re not really real, not for someone like me; but she was. And so I had to decide what’s better for me; having someone who now, because of logistics, was turning into someone like you (in my head), or going to see a counselor. All of my “selfs” would have rathered I stay in the this-is-where-the-world-stands-still. I miss her already. I’m glad, though, that I am the one that decided this, not her. And she is proud of me and loves me.

    • I think I understand and good for you, Nancy! That takes strength and courage.

  22. Xoxoxo (x’s) 1,000,000,000,000

  23. Thank you Jane for your MY LIFE SO FAR What an intense and deeply moving experience to listen to you read aloud as I drive to and from work daily. What an inspiration as not only a woman but a human being. you have lived SO MUCH LIFE and I am grateful that you have shared it with us and am in awe of your level of introspection. II suffer thru bulimia still at 51 and have been since college (off and on) my story is very similar (yet very different too) to yours. my mom was bi-polar manic depressive and suicidal – my dad distant and scary. I am not finished with your book yet but just got to the part where you say you stopped binging and purging. I hope I can to and wonder what your advice would be to me at this age – Atlanta

    • So, if I read correctly, Melanie, you live in Atlanta. I would check with Emory Hospital to see if they have any program for eating disorders. There can be many reasons for it…early trauma, anxiety, etc etc. I found that anti-anxiety meds, Prozac specifically, were helpful getting me over the hump. Sometimes 12-Step programs work. Cognitive therapy, if done with a skilled, compassionate therapist, can work. I wish you all the best, Jane

  24. Xo

  25. Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    You are so welcome, Jane. Thank you. It’s so weird that I still get such anxiety over connections with other people in my life. When a friend leaves me a voicemail, I don’t listen to it for days on end because I am afraid that this is going to be the time that they say: “Peter, you suck. I no longer want to be your friend.” When I finally work up the courage to listen, it is always just a kind word and an invitation to get together. Reaching out is becoming easier for me; but, I wonder if it will ever be second nature? Anyway, the words were heartfelt. Nancy your journey helps to re-inspire my own! Good therapists are a rare gem. I’ve had many. Although, I do believe that each one showed up for me at exactly the right time. (I’m going to keep this registration active. First it was “peteractll”, then “Peter2″, now “PeterReDeux”. I keep worrying that I am a bother to you, Jane. What I lack in confidence, I over-compensate for with sincere-cleverness.) P.S. This is meant in the most respectful, non-objectifying way possible — Jane, your son is smoking hot! Very handsome, in addition to being a powerhouse talent. (Hey, I’m married, not dead. 🙂 )

    • Peter, your name appears here in black, not red; I can’t see your profile or send a friend request to you. I’d like to. If this page works like I think it does, if you and I are “friends” here, we could message each other directly, and not have to wait for Jane. If you’re interested.

  26. Hello Jane you are wonderful and an inspiration. My name is Tim, I hope you read or see this! Stay beautiful in your great life and work!
    Peace and many blessings!

    Here’s a link to a new trailer for the film Im working on with producer Jullian Crowe, “Under a Gettysburg Sky.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hoCRIWn37s&feature=youtu.be

  27. Hi Jane….Just stop by quick, to say HELLO, because I have been working hard for the Brazilian Wolrd Cup since may…missing the Blog, but no time to read,….Best regards from Brazil…..I will be back….

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