Pursuing Uncomfortable with Melissa Ebken

Pursuing the Truth with Judy Foreman

November 22, 2023 Melissa Ebken Season 9 Episode 11
Pursuing the Truth with Judy Foreman
Pursuing Uncomfortable with Melissa Ebken
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Pursuing Uncomfortable with Melissa Ebken
Pursuing the Truth with Judy Foreman
Nov 22, 2023 Season 9 Episode 11
Melissa Ebken

Join host Melissa as she interviews accomplished author and journalist, Judy Foreman. In this episode of Pursuing Uncomfortable, Judy shares about her experiences with chronic pain, passion for exercise, and her journey from childhood trauma to healing, as narrated in her memoir,"Let the More Loving One Be Me." They delve deep into the power of therapy to unravel family truths and generational patterns. Judy also addresses emotional courage, emphasizing the importance of seeking truth in one's life and standing up for oneself. This conversation serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of shared stories in breaking cycles of abuse. Listen in for a profound discussion on healing, courage, and truth-seeking. Don't forget to subscribe and leave your reviews!

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Show Notes Transcript

Join host Melissa as she interviews accomplished author and journalist, Judy Foreman. In this episode of Pursuing Uncomfortable, Judy shares about her experiences with chronic pain, passion for exercise, and her journey from childhood trauma to healing, as narrated in her memoir,"Let the More Loving One Be Me." They delve deep into the power of therapy to unravel family truths and generational patterns. Judy also addresses emotional courage, emphasizing the importance of seeking truth in one's life and standing up for oneself. This conversation serves as a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of shared stories in breaking cycles of abuse. Listen in for a profound discussion on healing, courage, and truth-seeking. Don't forget to subscribe and leave your reviews!

Follow Judy

Support the Show.

More From Melissa and Pursuing Uncomfortable:
fiLLLed Life Newsletter
Leave a review
Pursuing Uncomfortable Book

🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶

🎶 Episode Intro:  Welcome back to the Pursuing Uncomfortable podcast. Today it is a real pleasure to have Judy Foreman as a guest. Listen to her biography. Judy Foreman is the author of A Nation In Pain, The Global Pain Crisis, and Exercise Is Medicine, all published by Oxford University, Press, the novel, CRISPR'd, published by Sky Horse Publishing and the memoir Let, the More Loving One Be Me, from She Writes Press. She was a staff writer at the Boston globe for 23 years, and a health columnist for many of those years. Her column was syndicated in national and international outlets, including the Los Angeles times, Dallas Morning News, Baltimore, Sun, and many others. She graduated Phi beta Kappa from Wellesley college in 1966, spent three years in the peace Corps in Brazil, then got a Master's from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Judy has been a lecturer on medicine at Harvard Medical School, a Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School and the Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was also a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis. She also hosted a weekly call in radio show on healthtalk.com. She has won more than 50 journalism awards, including a 1998 George Foster Peabody award for co-writing a video documentary, about a young woman dying of breast cancer and the 2015 Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers for her book, A Nation In Pain. It is a privilege to welcome Judy Foreman to the podcast. 🎶

Melissa: 2:12

Judy, welcome to the podcast. What a pleasure it is to have you join us today.

Judy: 2:20

The pleasure is mine. Believe me. Thank you.

Melissa: 2:23

So Judy, you are quite an accomplished woman. You have such an amazing career. Uh, you have accomplished so much. You contribute so much to MIT and to Harvard and to all of those who have attended your. Your lectures, your talks, and who have benefited from your spots on boards and influence. So thank you again for being here and instead of me talking about you, why don't you introduce yourself and tell us all a little bit about what you do.

Judy: 2:54

Sure, so my name is Judy Foreman, and if you want to look me up, it's Foreman with an E, F O R E M A N, don't forget the E. My website is my name, judyforeman. com, you can go in there. I have old columns from when I wrote for the Boston Globe. Week after week after week for a long time. I have some blogs when I was doing blogs. I have information. I've now written five books and you can find them all there too. Um, my first book was about chronic pain. which I got into because I had chronic pain with a horrible neck situation. I couldn't believe it. And I realize there are 100 million Americans in chronic pain and the government spends nowhere near as much on pain as on other things where people are louder in their protests and demands for money. Pain patients are suffering in silence for the most part. My next book was about exercise, which is near and dear to my heart. It's called exercise is medicine. And I love that book because it has a lot of the, I mean, we all know there are a lot of reasons to exercise, but this really gets into the nitty gritty of the science of it. It's very readable, but it really gets into the molecular biology of exercise and why it's so incredibly good for us. We were basically, we evolved to run around, not to sit doing podcasts and writing stories for the Boston Globe. We evolved to hunt and gather and. And just be much more movement oriented than we are now. my fourth book was a novel called CRISPR'd. That's C R I S P R apostrophe D. It's a medical thriller. And it revolves around this new gene editing technique called CRISPR. C R I S P R. And if you haven't heard of that, the, the, my book is an easy introduction. It's, it's a major development in biology that has the potential to cure a lot of people with inherited gene diseases. and the book that I hope we talk about some today is, um, my latest book is a memoir, and it's called Let the More Loving One Be Me. And that line is sort of taken from a W. H. Auden poem, and it involves a real scene on a hiking trip with my husband when we each actually said to each other, let the more loving one be me. It was a... Very tender moment. and the book talks about my childhood. I'm one of millions of American and non American women, people who were sexually abused as children and, and, or grew up in an alcoholic family. And I talk about my journey, although that's an overused word, but my, my path toward, coming to terms with that and, and healing to a substantial amount from that. So we can certainly talk about that if we want to. That's it in a nutshell

Melissa: 5:57

and Judy, the link to your website is in the show notes. So anyone listening can just click that link and it'll take you right to Judy's website, click on her bio and just read through that. I know you heard it at the beginning of the podcast, but it's just so impressive. And then, of course, click through and look at those books and as a biologist. In the first part of my life, CRISPR is a project that's near and dear to me, I was a molecular biologist, I studied genetics, right as that was taking off, so that's a very exciting time, and I look forward to reading that book, and Boy, the title, Let the More Loving One Be Me, that is such a beautiful title and it sounds like a beautiful moment between your husband and you when, when you came up with that title and spoke those words. May I read the description on the back as we begin? I think it gives people a really good view into what the book is about and what you're about. Okay. And a lot of the passion that you have. Okay. In this compelling tale, Judy Foreman reveals the terror she felt every night as a girl as she lay in bed frozen in dread, listening for her father's footsteps coming down the hall. She recalls his mostly naked body, his stale smell, his silhouette in the bedroom doorway. Worst, in some ways, was her mother's denial, her insistence that this man was wonderful, her refusal to acknowledge his drinking, or his rage. It wasn't until Foreman spent a high school summer as an exchange student with a Danish family that she began to see how unsafe her own family was. It wasn't until she went to an all women's college that she realized women had value. Ultimately, this book shows that with time and therapy, it is possible to heal from serious childhood trauma and lead a life of deep fulfillment, rewarding work, and most wonderfully, love. It is a book about the power of emotional courage to change one's own inner and outer experience of the world and about what matters most in life, cultivating healthy connections to other people. Judy, as I read those words, uh, tears come to my eyes and my heart just opens and I want to read your entire story.

Judy: 8:33

You read that very nicely. Um, tears come to my eyes, too. I mean, even though it's my own story, I mean, it's a human story. And it's a very common story. And, you know, I, I sort of, I'm old enough to be able to look back some on, on my life and I see it in some ways as a search for the truth, the truth of my family, which was denied the whole time I was growing up and the truth that I seek as a journalist, for me, where there was no truth in the family. No, it was like the emperor had no clothes and nobody could say so. except my father had no clothes, a bad metaphor for my family. yeah, I mean, it's, um, I really do think that the truth matters, politically, and emotionally, and in all other, in our human relationships, and anything else doesn't work, ultimately, and, It's very important and it does take a lot of courage to particularly looking inside oneself to try to figure out what the truth is, you know, not to try to be aware of your own biases and, and, defenses and your own parts that kind of protect you from knowing the truth. but also figure out what the truth really is in the situation. And that's true, writ small and writ large.

Melissa: 9:53

I couldn't agree with you more. SO Judy, can you recall a moment, if there was one, and if so, what was it like when you knew deep inside you had to write this book?

Judy: 10:07

One moment. I'm in a program at Harvard called the Harvard Institute for Learning and Retirement. It's one of those lifelong learning programs. And I decided to take a memoir class, and it was taught by this fabulous woman. and actually the first memoir I wrote in that class was the one that I start the book with, it was about my father coming down the hall and he would come every night to my room and stand there with only a t shirt on. And I thought he was going to rape me, night after night. He never did, but that was my fear. Uh, I, and it was like a, what they call a mock execution where they pretend to shoot somebody and don't. The fear that that generates is intense and it doesn't go away just because it didn't actually happen. It's kind of like a psychological rape. and so I grew up terrified of my father. You know, I, my husband had a good father and was a good father. And when I see people... Being good fathers are talking about their good fathers. I think, God, I really, really didn't have that. And same with my mother. She was much nicer than my father, but emotionally not able to deal with the truth. The truth of what her husband was really like. And that was, turned out to be even harder in some ways than the actual sexual abuse by the exhibitionism. The emotional non contact is sort of like a form of neglect. And that's really hard to, to deal with. You want someone there. We're, we're mammals. We, we are programmed to have attachment to important people or we don't survive. And, obviously I did survive, but with some broken pieces that had to be healed. When I started to get out of the house, and went to college, that was great, because I did go to an all women's college, it was Wellesley, and I'm so grateful because, women matter there. I mean, it was not despite being a woman, it was because of being a woman, which was terrific. and, you know, I made friends, and it wasn't all about catching a man, it was really having. Your own worth. And that was just an incredible antidote to the little family culture that I grew up in.

Melissa: 12:28

Absolutely. And though there wasn't physical contact from your father, the threat was the same. I am in charge. You are submissive to me. I can do whatever I want, any time I want.

Judy: 12:44

Yes. And you are powerless. And, you know, it was the, the other weird thing about some forms of abuse, maybe all forms of abuse. I don't know. that this was normal to me growing up in this family. I didn't think there was, I felt terrified, but I didn't know that other people weren't terrified of their fathers. I thought that was sort of normal. it was normal in my family. We were all terrified of my father. Uh, we tiptoed around him. It was like walking on eggs. And it was stunning when I would talk to friends and they would cuddle up to their fathers or really love their fathers and, and be loved by their fathers. It was, uh, you know, if you grow up with something, that's what seems normal. And it takes sort of multiple epiphanies to realize that is not normal and should not be normal.

Melissa: 13:37

I recall one time when I was a camp counselor, and I was a camp counselor for many years, and you'll soon understand why I chose to keep doing that. But one particular year I was working with a partner in a cabin and they always paired US adults together, two per cabin in this instance, I was in the cabin greeting the girls as they would come in and help them find their bunk and unpack. One particular summer, two sisters came in. They were assigned the cabin together. They wanted to be together for the camp. They came in, dropped their bags, and with a big sigh said, Oh, thank goodness, there's no carpet. Immediately, a red flag went up for me. And I said, you don't like carpets? And they said, no, you cannot hear when someone comes in the room if there is carpet. And I knew that they had a very challenging and most likely abusive situation at home. So when I welcomed them into the cabin, they got to choose everything about where they slept and how they would feel safe that week. We didn't discuss safety. I let them take the lead. They never volunteered anything. I never asked them about anything, but they chose where they wanted to sleep. They wanted to share the same bunk. Sure. Absolutely. And Judy, for the first time, perhaps in their lives, or at least in a very long time, they were able to sleep. Soundly and safely. Every night, they would fall out of that bunk probably two or three times and I would hear them. I'd go over. I'd pick him up and put them back in and they never did once wake up. They were finally able to feel safe and to sleep. Obviously, I reported this and higher ups took action on this, but for that week, the safety they felt was life changing for them. So I feel that when you share your stories and let other people know that abuse isn't the norm, that terror isn't the norm, you create, you open up a crack of what a safe space might look like for someone else.

Judy: 16:00

I'm blown away by that story. Um, and of course, it makes me think I could hear my father's footsteps. I couldn't stop him. but, uh, that's just incredible. And there are other stories that I talk about briefly in my book. You know, I have a friend whose grandfather raped her. A living grandfather raped her. I have another friend whose father... was a university professor and an M. D., a doctor, and he first raped her when she was three. And presumably her sister as well. The sister committed suicide. I mean, this stuff is out there, and I find it, you know, it took courage for me to write my story and tell my story, and I've done a number of, book presentations at bookstores, and it's... It's a showstopper to talk about this stuff, and there are people, I think particularly men, who hear this story, I mean good men, and they can't fathom that this is really happening. It's just so unimaginable to them that this could be happening. Just somebody who looks normal, you know, I look normal. and so do most women. You know, what's normal? Women tend to believe it more. But I think there's some very naive good men who have trouble believing this. Yet the statistics and the statistics are all underestimates for sure, because most people don't report it. I mean, I was in high school. I was a teenager. I, I had no idea that it was a crime or that it was bad. I felt bad, but I didn't have any cognitive wherewithal that I had any power, you know, you just, you're, you're just a helpless person, you know, you're a child, basically, and in one of the statistics, I quote in my book, I remember 90 percent of the children who are abused, people who, women who are abused as children, it was one of the parents who did the abuse. So that means home is never safe. And my heart goes out to those two girls. Thank God they had each other. Oh my God. That's, that's such a story. Such a story.

Melissa: 18:18

Judy, what was it like for you that first moment? Or that first week or first month in your high school experience? Your student exchange experience when you were in a safe place?

Judy: 18:31

Well, you know, it just, well, it was it was unfamiliar on many counts. I mean, it was Denmark. They all spoke Danish. Uh, they also spoke English, which was good. They ate five meals a day. The pastries were unbelievable. We'd have afternoon tea. And as we were cleaning up from tea, which involved pastries, we'd start cooking dinner. Have dinner, clean up from dinner and pretty soon it was 10 o'clock in the evening tea. Uh, so we ate like crazy and it was wonderful. It was a totally different experience. People, nobody got drunk, nobody was angry. It was, it was like being on the moon. It was a totally different experience. And going to college I think I was mentioning this before going to an all women's college was fabulous. I didn't do it for that reason. I went to Wellesley because I wanted to marry a Harvard man which I did, but it turned out to be the best decision of my life to to go and be be taken seriously as a woman. I wasn't supposed to do anything with my life. None of us was at that point and it was eye opening just totally eye opening. But if people are looking for, What helps move on from things like this. I am a big fan of of meditation and exercise and perhaps most of all psychotherapy and I've done different kinds of therapy and one in particular I have found particularly useful, which is called internal family systems therapy. A lot of people haven't heard of it, but you can Google it. You're nodding your head. You've probably heard of it. I think it's brilliant. And a lot of people agree. So there is a message of hope. I mean, to do the kind of therapy that can unravel the truth of your family, a person's family, it, it takes a lot of courage to face those feelings and face those facts. But it pays off 10 times more than you put in, really does pay off.

Melissa: 20:28

Absolutely. And I have a lot of training in emotional family systems and use it not only in ministry but in a consulting business with organizations to help people that have. Uh, conflict in their families or to feel stuck, just identifying those generational patterns. Yeah. A transformative practice of in and of itself. Yes, all the other aspects

Judy: 20:51

of that. Yeah, yeah. No, I agree. And it, um, it sort of helps detoxify things. I mean, you can sort of see, they use the language of parts. I have a part that feels anxious, a part that feels, uh, sad, a part that feels angry. And so it's not your whole self. It's okay. Yes, I'm. I'm stuck in this angry place. I'm stuck in this anxious place. And then you sort of learn to almost talk to that place. You'll be compassionate to those feelings in yourself instead of trying to run away from them. Which I still do, I have to say. It's not a one, one shot thing. You're, you're fixed forever. It's a process and it keeps going on and on and on. But it, it improves along the way.

Melissa: 21:33

Absolutely. Judy, who, For whom did you write this book?

Judy: 21:38

Wow, you're the only one who's asked me that question. And do I know the answer? I think I mainly wrote it for myself, but also for a sort of an indeterminate audience out there of kindred spirits, people who've been through similar things. And people who are sort of on the same path, on the same journey of sort of discovery.

Melissa: 22:07

And what's your dream

Judy: 22:08

for this book? Oh, wow. Uh, Pulitzer. Bestseller. More modestly, um, that people will read it and say nice things about it on Amazon and, and share it with other people. Buy a copy and give it to a friend. I think

Melissa: 22:26

deep down. You're not saying that. You know, the awards always matter, obviously, you want to sell more books, but I'm guessing that for you, given the person you are, that you're wanting this book to connect with the people who need it most.

Judy: 22:44

Absolutely. And, I tell you these little talks I've done at bookstores have been so gratifying. because it does connect, and then people start telling me their stories. Which, uh, it kind of opens the door in a way for people to tell their stories. And, these stories are everywhere. They're everywhere. And it's really important that they not stay hidden. Every, everybody with a story like this should be telling it. And people should be listening. It's not just the telling. People should be listening. Yeah, no, you're completely right.

Melissa: 23:19

I was a child in the 70s and a teenager in the 80s. Life was a lot different then, than it is now. A lot of things that happened then, many people would be surprised. To hear now as normal practices and I use air quotes around normal practices for people in authority when I was growing up, those practices have changed a lot from what we expect and hold people accountable to now. Not to say people break those all the time. Absolutely. I'm talking about those behaviors that are out in the open for everyone to see. The way when I grew up, uh, for, well, I won't get into all of that, but I had many encounters. Outside of my family, I joined the military at a very young age, and those encounters when I was in a man's world as a woman, there were some really difficult times there and some times where I had to stand up for myself and demand within that I would not let myself be perpetrated. In that way, or that there's a line that I would not allow anyone to cross. And those are difficult moments. Those are moments that can define us if we let them, or they can propel us if we allow them to further growth. But those moments are significant. And I don't know that men especially appreciate the significance. Of those moments. And how they can impact our lives moving forward after we experienced them.

Judy: 25:02

Yeah. I can't believe you did that. I mean, More power to you. I mean, it's. It's physically dangerous to be confrontational or stand up for yourself. I mean, that's, that's what, that's a truth. You could die, if you fight back or if you, if you confront someone verbally, uh, you know, there, there's anger. A lot of, a lot of authoritarian men and certainly not all men are. My husband isn't, my son isn't, you can pick good men, uh, but my father was. Trump is, I don't know who you're, what your listeners believe, but um, you know, authoritarian personalities are dangerous. whether they're the president of the company, or the father in the family, or in the military. The military in particular, I can imagine, is hard to stick up for yourself in. I mean, there's, you know, you don't rat out your superior, you don't rat out your, your bunkmate or whatever, you know, the, the, the powers that tend to believe each other or not. Not the voice crying in the wilderness kind of

Melissa: 26:08

well And it goes back to what you said earlier and what is also written on your website that it takes good men, and there are so many good men

Judy: 26:16

There are

Melissa: 26:18

it takes good men to also stand up to be a part of that process to make these behaviors stop Yeah, I am so thankful for the many good men that I was raised by good men as well. You're lucky brothers as family friends. I'm absolutely lucky and I know it. Oh, that's great. I was shocked when I encountered men that weren't like that. My experience is, in many ways, opposite of yours.

Judy: 26:48

Right, right. We need the good men

Melissa: 26:51

in our world. We do. We need them to hear us, to believe us, and to help us. When we ask

Judy: 26:58

for it, and this is your talk. I keep thinking about that. The soccer thing in Spain where the head of the soccer league kiss the woman. She did not want to be kissed, you know, he thought there was nothing wrong but there was she didn't ask for that or consent to it. She was, she did not consent. It was not a joke. It was. An intrusion, an invasion, and she didn't want it. And it's so straightforward to me, but clearly, you know, culturally, that's, that's a shift for people to say, oh, you know, that's, it's not, you shouldn't be flattered when that happens. It's, uh, it's an invasion of your being. Yeah, and so

Melissa: 27:42

many people dismiss it as well. That's just nothing. Why are you so upset about? I know I know Well in ministry, I've had that happen I have had a male member of the community come and ring my doorbell and when I answered it But both hands on the side of my face and kissed me. I did not want that Right. Those aren't welcome

Judy: 28:04

gestures. Right. Right. And there's a huge generational thing. I think, you know, older people, older women and older men sort of were used to that culturally and didn't even see it as anything, but, but it is, it's, um, and a lot of pregnant women find people touching their belly, you know, what, what gives people the right to touch a pregnant woman's belly? You know, it's crazy.

Melissa: 28:30

So Judy, what other books do you have within

Judy: 28:32

you? Well, I am working on another thriller that involves offshore wind farms and an evil, I like evil guys that get caught by journalists. That's sort of the theme for my talk today. An evil guy who wants to build a wind farm off of Cape Cod and wind farms are, we absolutely need them and they're good. Um, but there are some unscrupulous characters, especially in my book. so I, you know, writing fiction is totally different from being a journalist. I mean, as a journalist, you, you tell the truth right up front, ideally all in the first paragraph, and then you get the details. You leave nothing unsaid, no mystery at all. Writing fiction, you dole out the little breadcrumbs and try to confuse people and red herrings and everything. Very different. It's quite a challenge to shift.

Melissa: 29:25

Have you revealed the title to that yet?

Judy: 29:28

I have a title it's called scalloped like the scallops that a female scallop fisher woman, uh, is involved in catching the bad guy. So I can't wait to read. Well, you have to wait a while. I'm still just starting the rewrite phase.

Melissa: 29:45

Okay. Did you ever do any investigative journalism?

Judy: 29:50

Uh, not, not in the sense of real investigative journalism, you know, like the Globe, the Boston Globe, my, my paper did a huge, wonderful piece that did get a Pulitzer on, uh, on the sexual, the pedophile priests, and other people do investigative things into government. misdeeds and stuff like that. I mean, those, I didn't do that. I did do a very long story that took a couple of years, uh, about hospice care, but it wasn't uncovering bad things about hospice care. I just followed a, a woman who was dying of cancer in hospice. And it was a very, Moving story. She was young and, um, she got the best care of her life in hospice and so much emotional support. I became a big fan of hospice after that. So that's probably the story that sticks with me the most. And

Melissa: 30:40

you helped write a script about that too for a documentary.

Judy: 30:42

Yes. Yes, I did. We did. Partway through the reporting, I realized, you know, this is, this would be a good film thing. So we brought in New England Cable News. And they filmed a lot of the interactions, which, which were very nice. I mean, by the end, my, this person, her name, her name was Nora, she, she had, had a huge support group and the photographer and I became part of that. so it was, it was very interesting and very, very life changing, um, for me as a reporter. So I, I feel good about that one.

Melissa: 31:17

You've had some amazing experiences in your professional life.

Judy: 31:21

Thank you. Yes, journalism is a wonderful career. I mean, it's just, um, I'm an extrovert, as you can probably tell, and it's a perfect career. I mean, you talk to people just in the course of your personality being out there, and you get stories without even trying, you know, people tell you things. so it was, it was, it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun. Judy, it's

Melissa: 31:44

been such an honor to have you here today and speaking to us. I would like to let you have the last word. What is it you would like to leave the listeners with today?

Judy: 31:56

Well, I'm blown away by your stories and your podcast and your background. So, um, big kudos to you. And, I guess for listeners, uh, really don't be afraid to follow the truth, to look for the truth. That would be it. And good luck.

Melissa: 32:18

I mean, the truth will set you free, as they say, right?

Judy: 32:22

And as Woody Allen said, but first it will make you miserable.

Melissa: 32:27

Oh, there is that. Family systems would agree with that.

Judy: 32:31

Exactly. Thank you very much. I've really enjoyed it. Me

Melissa: 32:36

too. Thank you, Judy. Thank you.

🎶 Episode Outro: Thank you so much for tuning into today's episode. If this encouraged you, please consider subscribing to our show and leaving a rating and review so we can encourage even more people just like yourself. We drop a new episode every Wednesday so I hope you continue to drop in and be encouraged to lean into and overcome all the uncomfortable stuff life brings your way. 🎶