Transcript: EP 345 – Creating Healthy Family Dynamics that Upend Cycles of Dysfunction and Trauma with Author Tamika Christy
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Tamika: I can’t tell you the number of organizations and outreach and authorities that I reached out to help me when my daughter was in crisis and they simply were not able to help her. They could not help us. There were times when I watched my daughter walk away from me down the street, out of my reach, with the authorities standing there and because she didn’t want help, they let her go.
Dr. Taz: Hi everyone, and welcome to Super Woman Wellness. I’m Dr. Taz. I’ve made it my mission throughout my career in integrative medicine to support women in restoring their health using a blend of eastern medical wisdom with modern science. In this show, I will guide you through different practices to find your power type and fully embody the healthiest and most passionate version of you. I’m here for you and I can’t wait to get started. This is a Soulfire production.
Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where we’re determined to bring you back to your superpowered self. And as you’ve been noticing on the podcast, I’ve been mixing it up a little bit between stories and experts and experiences and even some of what I see in the exam room. But with us today is a really special guest to bring to light the issues of mental health, being a mom, being a wife, so much more, that we all are trying to juggle day in and day out as we live sort of what I’m calling the super woman life.
So please meet Tamika Christy. She’s an extraordinary author on a mission to empower women and advocate for mental health awareness. Her journey as a writer began in her early years as she poured through her thoughts into journals and really crafted captivating stories. Despite pursuing a legal career after college, she never let go of her dream and she published her first novel, “Never Too Soon,” in 2013. However, Tamika’s mission goes far beyond the pages of her books. An unimaginable tragedy shook her world, I’m going to get chills, when she lost her eldest daughter to suicide. This devastating event ignited a fire within her, propelling her to advocate for mental health education, particularly among women. Tamika understands firsthand the profound impact of mental health struggles and is committed to equipping others with knowledge, compassion, and resources to support their wellbeing. Through her writing, she’s found solace and healing, using her stories as a gateway to release her trauma. Her vulnerability and authenticity create a safe space for readers to explore their own emotions, discover their inner strength and find inspiration to overcome life’s challenges. Welcome to the show, Tamika. I’m so honored to have you here.
Tamika: Thank you so much.
Dr. Taz: Look, I always say and I’m not letting go of it, I haven’t met a woman who’s not a superwoman, you obviously fit right into that category. Tell us a little bit about your journey to really empower women and about your personal experience with trauma because I think that is one that will make us change course very quickly no matter what we’re doing.
Tamika: It does. And thank you for that beautiful introduction. When I was listening to that, I was like wow, that’s a lot.
Dr. Taz: Yes, it is.
Tamika: But sometimes we have these experience where we’re going through and we realize we have to be strong and move forward, but in hindsight, it’s just like I don’t know how I got through that.
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Tamika: But my journey with empowering women started early. I lost my mom at an early age and I became the defacto matriarch, the unwilling defacto matriarch of my maternal side of the family. And there were a lot of issues that we dealt with from marriages, children, education, and we were basically 11 first cousins trying to help raise each other and navigate life. And somehow I became this person that everybody came to. And so I started dealing with that the same way I dealt with trauma as a child is I would write through. And that’s why my novels, they all embody some form of relationships, whether it’s romantic, familial or friendships and finding ways to navigate through them. And so as a 30 something year old matriarch, I’m learning, I’m growing.
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Tamika: I have adult telling me, “you’re wrong,” “you’re right,” “help me,” “don’t help me.” And so I started writing as a way to help me grow and learn. Then also I realized it’s a way to help other people grow and learn. And I’ve always really, really enjoyed psychology and therapy, and I always say if I didn’t go to law school, I would’ve gone to become a therapist, but nobody’s going back to school after law school.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: Instead of doing that, I decided that I’m going to play therapist in my books. And so my books go from various issues to aging, grief, mental health, social issues, just the full gamut. And a lot of it is they are my experiences, but they’re also experiences of women that I know, not only from my family, but from when I worked full-time in the legal field and even in some of my civic and volunteer organizations.
Dr. Taz: I love that. I think that’s incredible. And that role of the matriarch, I think that’s so interesting because there’s always one in every family. I can relate to that a little bit. I think that I kind of took that role as well as a very young girl because there was so much friction and tension in our childhood family. But that comes with a lot of responsibility. And then from a medical standpoint, it wears down yourselves, honestly, very quickly.
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As you’ve written these books, well tell us a little bit about the first one “Anytime Soon.” Tell us a little bit about what’s in that book and then kind of your experiences thereafter that’s leading to the next book.
Tamika: “Anytime Soon” is a coming of age story. It’s about a young woman who very similarly is while she has a mom and a dad in the house, she’s sort of this matriarch because like you said earlier, she sort of bridges this gap between family members and she’s trying to find herself amid the chaos of her family. So there’s judgment, there’s criticism, there’s help me, there’s issues with these different people, and she really is trying to find out who she is. And as she’s going along this path of dealing with these issues of family, with every other woman it’s you have family, you have self and then you have career and educational aspirations, and that’s what she was trying to figure out is what her next steps were. And in the middle of that, she’s navigating these friendships and you have to find this spot of telling the truth and keeping a friend. And so that was her journey as a young woman in her thirties.
And I was led to write that book, I actually started that book when I was in law school. We had a break and I just started kind of writing. And what I noticed about a lot of my journal entries early on is they were short stories. And so I started this and it morphed into a novel and I had no idea that that’s what I wanted to do or that was the direction that I wanted to go in. Because I figured I went to law school, this is my career.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: But I knew that I enjoyed writing and so I’ve just kind of kept doing that.
Dr. Taz: So I love to journal too, but you’re journaling stories, you’re not journaling your own personal emotions, you’re journaling stories of the day. I am trying to visualize you journaling. What are you journaling when you’re doing it?
Tamika: I do both. So I am very creative and so as I’m journaling emotions, my journals don’t come out as, “Today I felt X, Y, Z.”
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: “Dear God, your lost soldier is walking through the grocery store and she couldn’t find this item,” that’s how I would journal. Even when I was little, I look back at my journals and they were very, I guess poetic maybe in writing.
Dr. Taz: Yeah, yeah.
Tamika: And so that’s how my journals were. And so when I was writing my story, it was an easy transition for me to go from writing journals to stories. Because in college, I majored in English, I had a creative writing option, but we mostly focused on literature and we wrote short stories. So the idea of a novel was just like nobody’s doing that. Right?
Dr. Taz: Right, right, right.
Tamika: That’s never going to happen. But it did. And I realized how much I enjoyed writing. And that was after that first book, I was like, “Wow.”
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Tamika: And so I submitted it fully expecting nothing and I ended up getting it published, and that was in 2013, and I was still working full-time.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. I think all women have a creative side and we’ve just learned to suppress it because we’ve been trying to make it kind of in a more conventional structured world. I see so much creativity and I feel like so many women are doctors or lawyers or financial analysts or you name, CPAs, and all of a sudden they’re producing beautiful works of art or designing or they’re really tapping into this other side of them. I’m almost wondering if it’s in every woman and we just have it and we suppress it because we’re all trying to go along this other road for a period of time. But the mental health component, where did that enter the picture? Really trying to call attention to mental health awareness in particular. What inspired that for you?
Tamika: It started with early depression after losing my mom and not even realizing what I was experiencing, just kind of having those symptoms of depression but not recognizing. So going untreated for a long time and then years later, experiencing it with my daughter who started off with depression and anxiety and she was eventually diagnosed with depression, anxiety and psychosis. So she had a severe mental disorder.
Dr. Taz: Got you.
Tamika: Watching her transition over the years from being this bubbly, vibrant college graduate who had the world in front of her to barely recognizing her when I looked into her eyes. And I think we hear about it and we know the importance of mental health and making sure that we’re taking care of our mental health and recognizing the signs in other people, but when it’s staring at you in your face, especially in your own child, and you’re looking at a person and you don’t recognize, you’re like, “This is different.”
And then in addition to dealing with that, you have all of these resources and organizations that are set up to help you and none of them can help. And that was when I realized this is so much bigger than us because I can’t tell you the number of organizations and outreach and authorities that I reached out to help me when my daughter was in crisis and they simply were not able to help her. They could not help us. There were times when I watched my daughter walk away from me down the street, out of my reach, with the authority standing there and because she didn’t want help, they let her go.
Dr. Taz: Wow. So what are we supposed to do? I think mental health is a rising issue, it’s rising amongst women, it’s rising amongst our young girls. I have a 15-year-old. And what is a parent supposed to do? What would you like to see change? What can we do maybe on the early stage? And as you had to walk this journey with her, what could have maybe happened for you differently or what could the community have done a little bit differently? Is there anything that you would’ve liked to see change or you just want to let another mom know what to look out for?
Tamika: Well, I will answer all three. The first one is when I recognized her illness, I was right on it. I wasn’t in denial about it at all because I knew who she was and I knew how she was. And once I realized that something was wrong, we were in a program, there was therapy, she had a psychiatrist, there was medication. I would hospitalize her when I had to and when I was able to. So I felt like after learning about her illness, I had equipped myself pretty well to deal with her. What I would like to see changed is the responses. One of the things I’ve learned is that these responsive organizations, even the police, they have to recognize that there are varying degrees of mental illness. Right?
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: My daughter could walk down the street and have a conversation with you and you wouldn’t even know she was in a full-blown psychosis because you don’t know her.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: So she walks up to you. And so I was raised, I was a foster kid and I didn’t have any parents. And I raised my daughters by myself very well, very articulate, you wouldn’t know that. So when we would encounter these resources and different people to help us, she’d simply say, “I don’t want help. I don’t want to be bothered,” and they would let her go. And it was, “Well, she’s not in crisis, she’s not hurting herself and she’s not hurting anybody.” And I think that’s a very low standard because you have varying degrees of mental illness. Everybody is not going to hurt themselves or hurt other people. But she was a danger because she was walking the streets by herself unsupervised, out of her mind and unattended. And because she said that she didn’t want help, she declined services, they let her go.
To the point that after they let her go, she ended up in Mexico by herself. And we made a police report, a missing persons, and they called her and they talked to her on the phone. And we’re sitting there at the police department and they got off the phone and I said, “Well, where is she?” And he said, “Well, she’s safe, but I can’t tell you where she is.” And I said, “She’s missing.” And he said, “Well, she said that she doesn’t want you to know.” So I asked this officer to call his superior. And he called his superior, told his superior the story, and he said, “Yeah, she has rights. We don’t have to tell her.” It wasn’t until later that night when I got a notification on my Netflix account, and this is when multiple people could use your Netflix account, and it said, “Your Netflix account is being used in Baja, Mexico,” and that’s how I found out where she was. But because she’s able to articulate and decline services, there was nothing that could be done. And so I think if there are tiers to the responses.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: I recognize there are opportunities for abuse.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: But I think there has to be a tiered system in a way for those responses, for those people to respond in a way that’s helpful. And all of them said to me, “I can tell something is wrong. I can tell she needs help, but because she declined services, we can’t do anything.”
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: So that I think needs to be changed where there’s a tiered response.
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Tamika: The third one, and I’ll go quickly, is when I started finally being able to open up and tell the story, I have had so many moms reach out to me about their own struggles with their children, and so that, I’ve been able to help them in that way.
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I think, and I know you watch the news and the headlines and all that other stuff, and it just feels like, I’m not looking at numbers right now, but it just feels like the statistics on mental health in youth are just going up. Systematically, what do we need to do early? Let’s even go earlier. What can we do? What is happening to our youth? What is happening to our girls? What would you like to see happen maybe even earlier than to the point where they’re in full-blown psychosis and stuff like that?
Tamika: Well, I think with some mental illness, you can do all that you can, but if it’s going to develop, it’s going to develop. But with some of the other things, I am a big fan of holding off on devices and social media as long as possible.
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Tamika: I do believe in old-fashioned outside time, conversations, affirmation, and I do believe in believing in something. Whatever your belief or whatever your faith system is, I strongly encourage you or encourage a parent to give that to your child because it can feel hopeless. And if you think about what life is, if I didn’t have a belief in something that this is out of my hands in some kind of way, if you just take one look at the news, it’s almost like it’s disheartening.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: So I think affirmation and kind of holding back a little bit on some of that social media and the media that we’re giving our children. Because I’ll be 50 and when I was growing up, whatever my parents gave me, it was good enough for me because I couldn’t see what Michael Jackson had in his house or I couldn’t see Janet Jackson’s room.
Dr. Taz: Right, right.
Tamika: So there was no, so I think there’s this overextension of, “I need to do this and I need to be this. And there’s this pressure and this person.” My daughter would tell me, she’s like, “Well, my friend is right out of school, they got a job at Google.” And there’s this perception that life is great, and it is in some ways, but I think there is a lot of pressure on these children to be and to do. And I think responsibility helps. I think it makes you stronger, being responsible for something and somebody other than yourself, whether it’s a pet, dropping food off to a grandparent, giving them a sense of purpose and something to do other than, “This is my world and I’m entitled and everything is for me.”
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: Because I feel like it makes them weaker.
Dr. Taz: Yeah, I agree with that. And I think there’s something in working with your hands too and being outside.
Dr. Taz: And really just getting out of this mental place, the metaverse, wherever everybody’s going, getting out of all of that and really getting grounded back into reality. Your next book is coming out soon. I don’t know how much you want to talk about it, but what are you hoping the messages in that book that will resonate with others?
Tamika: So my third book is “Roux.” And very similarly, it’s heavily focused on family dynamics and family culture. And in this book, I am really hoping that people, particularly women, get the message of transformation. Right? Because we learn so many things from our parents and our friends and just from our cultures and how we grow up to be. And the one thing, phrase that bugs me is this is how I was raised or this is what I was taught or that’s how my mom was. And I really want to resonate the message of transformation. And in this novel, each one of the women experiences something that makes them into the person that they are, but through just their own ideas about who they are or different experiences, they begin to transform. And it’s through their own volition and by seeing themselves.
And I’m really hoping that we can kind of step outside of ourselves sometime and just say, “Hey, this is okay, but this can be better” or “This doesn’t make me happy and so I’m not going to do it.” That’s the main message that I’m trying to get across in this. And of course, there’s all the other fun stuff. There’s drama, there’s a little bit of addiction, relationships. I always keep it fun and I always sprinkle elements of humor because I feel like life is hard enough. And I learned a long time ago in a communications class, I said, “It’s hard for me to hurt people’s feelings.” And the instructor said to me, “Well, if it’s hard for you to communicate in that way, sprinkle it with humor.” And so I’ve always kept that. And so while a lot of my novels are, they can be serious, they’re always sprinkled with humor. So you don’t leave out of the book like, “Dang,” you leave just kind of like, “Okay, that was a good story. It was funny.”
Dr. Taz: I like that. I like it. It’s almost like the Barbie movie. I don’t know if you saw that or not.
Tamika: Oh my God, yes. I saw it yesterday.
Dr. Taz: So a lot of humor and darkness kind of sort of mixed up together in that. But anyhow. Well, what are you hoping for women and girls next as you continue to shine a light on things? I know you’ve talked about transformation, mental health awareness, you’ve had your own trauma. What do you hope that all women listening today understand and walk away with?
Tamika: That you are enough, however you are, wherever you are. And while there is always room for improvement, if you choose to or choose to grow or shrink or whatever your thing is, wherever you are now is good enough. And the one thing that I will take from the Barbie movie, I hate to quote the Barbie movie.
Dr. Taz: Yeah, I know, right.
Tamika: When she was talking to Ken and she was like, “I don’t want you here. This is my house.”
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Tamika: And I was like, that is amazing. How many times in family relationships or work where we have to bite our tongues and not be able to say how we really feel.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Tamika: And I thought, “Hey, Barbie.” She’s, “I don’t want you here. This is my stuff.”
Dr. Taz: Yeah.
Tamika: So I want us to realize that we are enough and we can speak our truths without hurting people, but stand in your space, take up your space and speak your truth.
Dr. Taz: I think that was brilliant. The other thing I liked was just how everyone owned their accomplishments, “Yeah, I wrote that book,” “Yeah, I’m the president, “Yeah, I’m the judge.” We’re so busy going like, “Yeah, I’m sorry,” “Oh, yeah, yeah, it’s okay,” “Oh, I know, just a little thing I did.” They were just like, “Yeah, I did that. So thank you.” But yeah, we have a ways to go. But I feel like women are incredible as you’ve demonstrated, creative geniuses, but also able to really get things done and merge the two and really move through some tough traumas that families carry with them over generations. So thank you so much for your work and your books to entertain and uplift and do all the amazing things. We just need more of it, obviously. How can people connect with you? How can they find you? How can they hear your stories? What’s the best way for them to do that?
Tamika: My website is tamikachristy.com. You can find me there. I blog and there’s also a newsletter signup. I send newsletters every week. I mostly talk about writing and writing books, but I do sometimes talk about personal things also growing. I’m on social media, I’m ourwritesmatter on Instagram, it’s O-U-R-W-R-I-T-E-S.
Dr. Taz: Okay.
Tamika: So it’s ourwritesmatter. And on TikTok, I’m writerlady1, so I have a lot of fun over there on TikTok.
Dr. Taz: Awesome.
Dr. Taz: Awesome. TikTok is fun. I love it. Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk to us about your story. And for everybody else watching and listening, thank you. We will see you guys next time.