Welcome to trail angels powered by care in the load. We are thrilled today to have dr lease the year with us. Please welcome thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be with you tonight at least as a clinical psychologist in private practice. She is the lone surviving child, a gifted, unsettled and iconic elastic parents after being severely burned in a fire. She spent most of her childhood in the hospital undergoing countless surgical procedures. She is the award winning author of her memoir, flashback girl lessons on resilience from a burn survivor with I I'm in our, I am an R with what you've experienced and what you've accomplished moving forward in your life. She has received degrees from university suba commode and she also earned her doctorate in clinical psychology um from Haman widener University.
And you have so much to share so much that we can learn from your experiences and just starting right off I as Mark and I discussed, we thought, you know, let's just have you share your story and then we'll go from there. Okay, great. Thank you. Um, so my, my story starts when I was four years old, my family went on what we thought was a brief vacation up to the beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. And it was the first night of our vacation. My mother decided to light the barbecue to cook our dinner and she took a can of something that she thought was lighter fluid, but it wasn't, it was a highly flammable household songs and she reported on the coals went to light it, nothing happened. And I'm standing right next to her. She's doing this and she takes the can again. She pours it on the coals. And at that point there was a huge explosion, an eruption sort of this ball of flame that enveloped both my mother and myself and we were kind of trapped behind this wall of flame onto the wall of the porch.
My mother, uh, was who she was. And she realized immediately that the only way to save herself was to run through that flame and right down into the lake, which was right there and that is what she did. But she left me in the fire. So I was trapped on fire alone, age four and my father managed to rescue me. But by the time he did, you know, sort of at the end of that, I was burned 65% of my body, third-degree burns. Um, I lost my, my lip, my chin, my neck, my face was sort of fused to my chest. My arms refused to my body. And I was hideously and horribly disfigured. And then I went through, you know, um many, many years of wearing reconstruction and surgery and many more difficulties after that. But I think I'll just stop here because that's the beginning of the story. Anyway, the beginning of the story of a lifetime of lessons, I'm sure.
And as, as I'm hearing yours, you share your story. I'm thinking what I would have done as a mother and it's not the reaction of your mother. I pray that that would be the case if I ever experienced that. But I also know that they, yeah, these lessons, this trauma, this pain has taught you so much and has led you to where you are today in so many ways. What what would you say was your greatest take away if you will from this whole experience, we're starting probably the last question that somebody would ever ask you. I want to ask you at the very beginning. What was the greatest lesson? Mm So just just to kind of add in a little bit more there before I answer your question, the story I just told you was only the beginning of a very messed up childhood with a very weird, God bless them.
Very weird family, very troubled and limited. That's like what I just told you is just the start. Um, so I have led an incredibly unusual and challenging life, but I have a wonderful life now. I've I've come through all that I have built a beautiful life and we can get to that too. And so the lesson for me. And I think really very much the reason why I wanted to write this book is to let people know that you know you two can go through terrible things. Maybe not quite as dramatic as my terrible things, but just the same me and maybe more, who knows? Right. Um life is incredibly challenging and difficult for many people even though we may not talk about it much. It is And that the idea that you too can be the most unfortunate person you've ever known which I was at one and that doesn't mean your life can't turn out beautifully with my house and my book is about how it did and what I did to get there.
And I wrote it to hopefully give people hope and integration and a sense of like don't count yourself out, I appreciate that so much because so many are feeling broken. So many are feeling that those experiences they had as Children has put them on a path that they are not going to have this beautiful life. That's not true. Each of us can learn lessons and can progress and but it's going to take work just like you did to learn to heal emotionally physically. I think your physical um therapy and surgery and all the things that you needed to do physically was maybe not even as demanding as what it took emotionally. Yeah, I did a lot of work to get well and you know one of the things I always say when I talk to people about this is yes, I am healthy now and I am, I have a beautiful life and it took me decades.
So just you know getting there doesn't mean it's going to be easy, It's just I'm just saying that it's possible. Um yeah, and we can learn along the way and and that beauty might be a little seed to begin with, but we can watch it grow, we can watch that plant grow as we're going along that journey of getting well and we can help each other along with that. one of the stories that I often read when I when I do readings from the book is this one little story that you probably haven't seen. But it's a story about this older man who um I guess watched me walk back and forth from school when I was a little kid and when I was a little kid, I was horribly horribly boat by other Children. Children made fun of me. Yeah, it was horrible. They called me names, they shouted out cars. They pretended to gag when they saw me.
I mean, I was in fact that repulsive, but still they were horrible about it. And I used to walk to school back and forth alone and just be tormented. And there was this old man who one day was like, hi, I'd like to I'd like to show you something and I know that sounds kind of like weird now, but back in the day, I wasn't scared of him at all because we weren't scared of people in that way. And I went into his yard and he gave me a bouquet of flowers of these roses from his garden and he sent me home with this bouquet of roses? And he did that for me many times and at the time I just thought, oh, what a nice guy likes to give me flowers. And as an adult at some point I remembered him and I just started to cry because I realized like, no, this guy was watching me and he felt bad for me and he was doing what he could to lift me up and it worked and you know, I don't even know his name, but that's I guess we can do that for each other is my point.
So, so the fire occurred back in 1967 Is that right? Uh you were four years old. You probably you probably, I I don't know, I don't want to put any words in your mouth there, but you probably don't remember everything, but you probably remember enough that as we hear it in your voice, it still brings back very strong emotions as you're sharing what happened. Can you can you kind of give us a little bit of an idea of what it was like emotionally. We I can't even imagine on the uh on on the physical front there. I think I read that you've had over 50 surgeries and yeah, and I can imagine the physical part of that, but as you're talking about being bullied as you're talking about the difficulty, emotions so strong one way and then having someone else uh share kindness with you than that man in the neighborhood there. What was more difficult getting over do you think? And when I say getting over we never get over.
Do we completely over our difficulties were able to manage them. But what was more difficult for you? The physical side or the or the emotional side and why? You know, I honestly, I feel like they were equally difficult and I can't really say one or the other. I think normally one would say the emotional side. I'm a psychologist. So normally I think one would say that because it's very hard to be bullied and disfigured and be away from your family and and and all the things that I went through. But the pain of burn recovery is like no other pain anyone knows unless you are also burned. It is it is really just widely known to be the worst pain on earth. And um I went through that and the reconstruction part from the pain from the burns is also extremely painful. And back in the day when I had it done, they didn't believe in giving pain relief to Children.
I don't know why, but they didn't. So it was it was it was brutal. Um, and so both were very hard. I can't pick they were both. So uh, that's and that's a great answer because I can't imagine either of them uh so difficult. But going back for a second to your introduction that I read there, she she indicated that you came from an iconoclastic home and I you know, I consider myself a pretty educated guy, but I had to go to the dictionary and ask mr Webster what kind of plastic meant. And as I did so even after reading, I still wasn't convinced or sure whether being iconoclastic is good or bad. Uh And when I came from that was that uh someone that is a kind of plastic uh contradicts established beliefs, is that fair? Yeah, yeah and and I think you are absolutely right mark the idea that it could be good and or bad or even good and bad.
Uh My on the positive side, uh my mother was I a concert pianist, he had perfect pitch, it was an incredible musician. Uh And later in life when she gave up being a pianist, she became a gourmet cook, and she was an incredible baker and she was a gardener, she made stained glass, she sang, she played, I mean like she was an amazing, amazingly talented person. Um My father was um also a gifted musician, he was a music professor, he could play anything by ear on the piano, he was a riot, he was a hoot. My parents were really cool interesting people and they had no business being parents. Mhm. Uh for various reasons that you know, I get into a lot in the book flashback girl, they were both really emotionally limited and particularly my model and not able to oh take care of their Children and keep us safe.
They really couldn't do it. They were too meaty for their own. Yes. So on the one hand, you know, they were like really cool. If you met them on the street and just talk to them you would love them. But if you had to depend on them, watch out. So you basically took care of you had to depend on your yourself, you are your own. I mean and how do you do that as this little four year old who has such severe burns and pains and hopefully along the process. And I haven't read your book yet and I'm sorry that I haven't, I hope there were nurses or you know some people along the way that became trail angels to you to help you through that rough road of recovery. Yeah. So um first of all um the trail angel for me in the hospital was my was my surgeon dr constable.
He took excellent care of me for many years and he was really a very kind man and he was my constant person who looked out for me because my parents were not often, they're in the hospital. They left me alone there most of the time. So it was my doctor who became kind of a parent for me a parental figure and at home, the person that we left out in. My older brother Mark was the best parent I ever had. He was five years older than me. So not that much, but older enough that he, you know, was in a different developmental stage and he really did look out for me. Um, he was, he was an amazing parent actually, uh thoughtful and insightful and helpful and um in tuned and uh, so I had him for some time. Anyway. I had him and and then other people to other trail angels as well.
You know, I appreciate you bringing up your brother Mark. Uh, you know, and when I think of what you had to go through, I think of other siblings as well and how important a sibling is, I think of our Children that that rally around their brother Read or someone who passed away at the age of 21 uh from a, from the effects of a brain tumor. And, and and that's a difficult, that's a difficult thing to ask a sibling to do, let alone not having maybe the parental support that perhaps that perhaps would be expected in that kind of a situation. But what we're on Mark, there are, there are memories that we all have in our lives. And sometimes those memories are a major contribution of life as they saw it in that age in their lives there. You, your brother Mark isn't with us anymore. Uh, but while he was young, he had a memory of your life.
That was very, very but to the point that you have something that you hold very, very dear to you today, Can you tell us about that? Yes. So uh my brother Mark um did die many years ago. We can get into that. Uh he was there when the fire happened, he witnessed the whole thing, I should say that and he was only nine. And um from from there, you know, I was in the hospital for five months and and our mother was in the hospital for about three. And uh my father would come on the weekends and wheel me around the hospital because I was bed bound and he would wheel me around the hospital in this tiny little cart. And so my brother for his art class at nine years old, he made this incredibly precious and beautiful statue. I hope you can see it well, I'm trying to turn it so you can see it. So this is this is my father, uh that's me and the little Go kart, and that's a little statue my my brother made of, you know, what was going on with this little sister at the time.
He was a very sensitive human being and he was a sensitive child in a family that was not looking out for him and things didn't turn out well for him. We're sorry, I can feel a sense of, of your love. Yeah. For Mark and and just knowing that he did all he could for you. And I'm sure as I reflect on our Children how they tried to help their brother who was older than, you know, our youngest, He was in between him anyway, it was so hard on them when they couldn't take the pain away. Yeah. And so I imagine the pain that Mark felt yeah, in in seeing you in pain and then also the pain of being that sensitive kid.
But he had no parents to talk to him about and I doubt he would talk to you about it either when you're younger, but he doesn't want to build on your sadness or your pain by sharing his load with you. Yeah. And that is very astute of you, my brother, I had my brother to lean on but he did not have me to lean on other than the fact that I adored him. And you know, I mean it's nice to be adored, right? And I would have followed him to the ends of the earth. So he knew that, but he didn't have me to support him and his problems in the way that I I had him and I am really quite certain that by the end of his life he was very upset with our mother. Um for there are good reasons, but he never told me why or what happened or why he wasn't really talking to her so much anymore. He never really told me because he wouldn't burn Britain me in that way.
Um, but he did meet a very tragic, um, and I guess I'll share it. Um, My brother took his life when he was 19 And I was 14 and that is actually the worst thing that ever happened to me. My story starts with a fire because that's how it all began. And you would think that that was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But it was actually the loss of my brother that's still to this day can make me cry like that because he was the one that loved you. Yes. So you could you could really check all the boxes in the fact that you've had, you've had physical issues, you've had emotional issues throughout the years because of the fire. You've dealt with with suicide in your family. You've dealt with so many different things. A lot of people, a lot of our listeners might say, how was she able to do it?
What we'd like to do is kind of transition a little bit talking about hope. Uh, you know, because we can sit here and we could we could talk about all these terrible things and I we are so sorry. You know, we we hear stories from our, from our listeners and from our instagram readers telling us a little bit about their stories and what they deal with. But it always comes back to one thing, it's this is what I'm doing to improve my life, this is what I'm doing to recognize that I know that I am responsible for my happiness. So let's talk a little bit about that and maybe maybe even talk a little bit about what you're seeing on a professional level right now. We've we've gone through some difficult times. I would suspect that what's happened during the last year and a half or so is just a culmination of things that were happening before with people that have just been brought out because of the changes that they've had to deal with. Tell us a little bit about professionally, some of the things that you're dealing with now maybe that you weren't dealing with two years ago.
Mm Well, you know with the pandemic, there's been so much more isolation and you know, humans are social creatures were not meant to live alone. Some of us do and maybe some of us even enjoy it, but you know, the people that I know some deep introverts and even then at some point we're like I've had it, you know, we're not just meant to be alone all the time and and I also think that life is challenging and hard and we need things to look forward to and there's been a lot of all the things we look forward to being canceled, no vacations were visiting relatives or seeing the show, we're going out to dinner. All these things that are little treats that get us through the week or, or whatever and, and they're not there. Um I think it has been hard for people to maintain a sense of hope.
That has very much been my job with my clients is to um you know, I talk about how we will get through this and and you know, the vaccines were coming and that we will, we will manage this and uh, but it's it's been incredibly challenging. And then of course there's the people who suffer from anxiety or maybe people who have always had an anxiety about their health, like they haven't been having a good time, let's be clear on that. You know, they were always afraid maybe of getting sick and now it's so easy to get sick. Um and then there's the economic problems and businesses, oh my goodness, it has been as a clinician this year, a year and a half Now, I guess it is has been extraordinary. There's no therapist, I know who isn't completely full completely booked. You know, if you imagine that, like, hopefully you were like, you know, lucky enough to be reasonably busy to start with. Well, all those clients that you had to start with, none of them are leaving therapy because they all need help, like nobody's ending and then everybody else is coming in.
So it's, it's been um it's really been a heck of a time to be a therapist. This may be a nebulous answer to a simple question, but I'm curious what does hope look like to your clients? Mhm. Mhm. So what I try to do with people and let me just stop to say that you talk about hope. My word for that is optimism. I think it's the same thing um when I am with people who are suffering and feeling hopeless and in despair, my I feel like my role is to help people envision that it could go okay. That, you know, it might take a long time. They might go through a great deal of pain. But in the end, things could turn out okay. And I that might sound very minimal, but in the beginning, when a person is in great despair, the idea that anything could ever turn out ok, is like, seems ridiculous to people, but just to allow that little glimmer of possibility that it might be okay.
And that is so important, because if you don't have the idea that it could be okay, you're not going to work towards it being okay, you're just going back and say, oh, well, it's enough for me, we all need that little candle of flickering lights saying keep going. And when you mentioned that it could turn out okay and to envision that it did something different for me inside. And it was like, oh, you know, it could versus you know, and it changes. And I really like how you present that to to your clients and to all of our listeners and in life in general, it is optimism. It is that it could turn out okay, whether it's the pandemic, whether it's a job, whether it's our health, it leaves that hope, that optimism, but it also is very honest, um, when people are in pain, they don't want to hear you say, oh, it'll be fine because it feels so fake and it's so disrespectful of the pain that they're in.
You know? So I think the word optimism can, can sometimes even get a bad rap because it's like, well you're not being real here, you know? No, this is actually dreadful. Like, so when I talk about optimism with people, I don't, I'm not minimizing any of that. Like I really get that. Sometimes you are just in the pits and that is how it is. But it could turn out, okay, wait, it just adds the possibility that it does, it doesn't have to say terrible. So, so let's talk about that for a second. You you talk about being real with your with your clients there. How can the average joe or Joanne be real with those that they're dealing with. Sometimes the easiest same thing to say is nothing when someone is dealing with an issue or or a pain very often that person will be isolated because not because there's not a love there, but because the person that might be a supporter doesn't know what to say. How can we be a better support to someone else that's going through major trials?
Yeah, I I think that you're absolutely right that a lot of times people shrink away from people who are undergoing horrible things. Um I have a very good friend who lost her son. She found him, he woke up in the morning and he was in his bed, passed away And he was 14 years old. And she described to me going to the grocery store and seeing somebody who knew her what turned down the aisle where she was. Take one look at her turn around and go the other one because they didn't want to face her. And I think, you know, a lot of people who are going through suffering, we get that reaction. So I don't I think we put too much emphasis on what we say. I think she just show up. You know, I think you can just show up and you can literally say, I don't know what to say to you, but I'm thinking about what I want you to know that's great. You know, they're you've seen the caption before. Probably that I don't know what to say, but at least I can put my arm around you.
And I can yeah, you know, I can be the can be the kind of friend that we began our conversation about as we were talking about the importance of friendships and you know who your friends are. Yeah, mm hmm. Well that leads us right in into a conversation about why is we choosing our friends? I like you have friends and her family and and I am so grateful for those relationships and the influence in my life. Would you explain a little bit more why you talk about this in your book? The importance of it? I would be glad to um I want to do a little preamble here because you've got the lessons a couple of times and I want to explain that to people who haven't. I'm going to say hopefully yet read my book flashback. Well the flashback girl the subtitle is lessons on resilience from a burn survivor and what that alludes to is that every chapter at the end of every chapter there was a very brief lesson I literally entitled Lesson one Lesson to Lesson three and that is me as a psychologist stepping out of the content of this memoir and saying, okay reader, I would like you to think about this as a parent or I would like you to think about this about loss or about suicide or about suffering.
It's like a little takeaway for each reader to come away from the chapter and think about something for themselves. And it's a little bit of an odd format but I will say that readers like adore these lessons because there is sort of like a little gift so that there are in fact two lessons on friendship in the book. And the reason for that is that friends have been very much my savers. Um, my, my my family, as I think I've pretty clearly explained was incredibly dysfunctional, not there for me. I was very much on my own by the time my brother died for them on and my friends became my family. Um, and I have, I'm in touch actually with almost every best friend I ever had and I've had quite a lot of them because I was forced to move a lot. So I have leaned down those friends to be there for me and I am also there for them. I'm very devoted to my friends.
And so I talk about picking your friends wisely, you know, not just for fun and a good time, but for character and for compassion and reliability and the traits that you really need to help get you through life. That's what I talk about. Want to talk about picking friends and why it's so important to me. I think about an experience and I've shared this before on the podcast, but the evening after our son had passed away and some friends of mine that we were working together doing some things with the girls camp. They all showed up together and that evening in our home in the living room, it became very sacred because of that, the friendship we were more than friends if you will and and I would do anything for them and and and they have for me.
But it didn't just start right there. You know, that wasn't the beginning of that trust and that that vulnerability and that compassion and that connection. You know, the character started long before but I knew the caliber of women that they were and that's why I wanted to associate with them. And then when the tragedy struck, they were there, they came and helped pick up the pieces. If I would have known before that account, which you're absolutely right. I can't think that any any other way than a sacred evening in our home. I would have bought stock in the Kleenex company because there were a lot of Kleenexes that were gone through that that night. But it was a defining moment in our home after what had happened. And up to that point, all we could think about was the tragedy of losing a child until those friends came and as they, as they knew their role and their role is to uplift their role is to give hope to maybe and I don't want to discount or say this the wrong way.
But even there was a little bit of levity there that night as well. And it was, it was good liberty. It was something that we needed after the many tears that had gone On during that previous 24 hours. But I, I don't know if you can't underestimate the importance of friends in life. Yeah. Can I ask what was your son's name? Read Cream? And he um was an incredible young man that suffered his life with the effects of this tumor. And so he was, he taught me a lot about pain, the physical pain and how to deal with with pain and how to still be able to function and to go on and live a beautiful life And, and um, and now, you know personally for me, when I'm my help isn't the best and when I'm in pain, I'll reflect upon read and it gives me hope.
It gives me courage. It gives me strength that you know what I can go do this too and I can live this this beautiful life and and that's really what we're talking about. You know, friends who are listening is that each of us have our own personal experiences and some are very visible that cause a physical star. Others cause an emotional scar. But we all can heal from those scars and they actually bring out the beauty and the strength within us as we go forward. Mhm. And, and just to build on what you're saying, which I think is so beautiful and so important when we are not in pain when we have healed or we are not in pain at the time. We can be, we can be those friends for other people who are going through those dark times. It's uh that we can lift each other up.
Yeah and that's the gift of all of this. That's the gift of what with you, with your work and and what you're doing professionally is to help lift the others up. And that's why we have Karen the load and trail angels. This isn't about Annette and markets about how we can lift, it's about how we can help take the trauma and the life lessons and in turn that and you know that into this joy in this beautiful life and each one of us have those opportunities. You talked about a trail angel in your life. Are there other trail angels in your life that did what we just talked about of being there being present. Maybe they didn't speak the best words of wisdom but that they were there and they were able to give you the help and the hope that you were looking for at the time including now yes I want to so I would definitely say you know dr constable was a trail angel.
My brother marc Camille was a trail angel and um and many other people too I honestly I could go on and on. I have been very blessed, truly blessed with a lot of people who have helped. I really it's sort of astounding actually but the person I wanted to mention by name is my friend Cindy carter. So Cindy was an M. I. T. Student where my, just where my brother was going to college and where he took his life and we had, we have met and I liked her. We had met once before a few months ago. But after my brother died, my father and I came up to campus to get his things and um, and the dean said there's somebody who wants to see you and we stepped outside in the hallway and Cindy carter came running. I can still see her running down the hall with her arms outstretched, just barrelling towards me, pulling me into this hot and she took care of or I'm going to say to you to the point where I was in the hospital having surgery after that.
She was the one who took care of me. My mother was nowhere to be found after that surgery. I went to her house to recover Then he changed my bandage. He was 20. So yeah. And I could go on and on about everything that she did for me. But I, there are definitely trail angels. I can tell you that I've known quite a lot of them and thank God and I, and I hope I believe that I've been a trail angel for other people. I certainly hope that I have, I'm sure that you have and you have for me in this this short time and I think of Cindy and I think wow, you know, she was raised in a way that she, she knew how to be a friend and she knew when to show up and she knew when to show up and I would, I would tend to believe that Mark talked to her. Mark told her how he cared for you and how much he loved you and that's why she wanted to be there for you because he couldn't.
So you know, we, we, we could go on and on and on. We we've talked about some, some tragedies. We've had chance to smile and to laugh a little bit here along the way as well. But like every podcast, they always come to a conclusion and and, and and that's that's usually a sad time for us because again, we, we find so many people that we consider friends on on these podcasts. We have literally talked to hundreds of people who are trail angels who have put their lives in such a way that they've been able to probably many times, if not most without ever knowing the impact that they made on someone else's life. And and I know that's a case for you professionally as well as individually with your book. I I am really looking forward to reading your book. Ii you know, it's it's rather clever cover, there was a match and you can see the book behind lisa as well there and and we we look very forward.
There you go. Yeah, flashback girl. And we look forward to that and we'll put a link as well on our, on our notes. But before we conclude our conversation and, and then that night we talk about this all the time that our, our conversations we have with people, maybe they're not always clinical, maybe maybe they're not always uh, you know, as one professional would speak to another. But there as if we were sitting on the back porch just sitting and talking and with that in mind lease, they're closing thoughts that you would have that you would like to share with our listeners something that you would give them that might help with their hope as well along the way of truth and the trials and they're having in their lives. Yes. So I think I touched on this already, but it's so important. I'm gonna yes, it's the most important thing I have to say, which is that it is entirely possible for you to be the most unfortunate person.
You know, because I was, I was burned. I was disfigured. I was bullied. I had, I was neglected like, like I have been through it all and there was a time that you would have said I was definitely the most unfortunate girl you would have ever met and its decades later when I've worked very hard and I've had luck and I've worked hard and I have a beautiful life. I'm married, I have Children, I have a career, I wrote a book, it's winning awards. I like I have wonderful friends, I I have everything and so I'm just here to say that that is possible and not to give up on yourself or on the people that you love. It isn't it is entirely possible to still have a beautiful life, even if you've gone through something gut wrenching horrible and maybe many things gut wrenchingly horrible, like just please just keep going okay, incredible words to end on because it is entirely possible that no matter what it can be a beautiful rick friends, thank you for joining us today.
We hope that you've enjoyed our conversation with dr lise. We have discussed many, many personal things, pain into passion, trauma in the lessons, choosing our friends wisely and and listening that it could turn out okay. Each of us have a story to share. Author Burn A brown reminds us that owning our story is the bravest thing you will ever do. The stories and experiences our guests share will inspire us as well as help us to grow and connect with others. We invite you to become a part of carrying the load community through social media as well as to share the site with those. You know, we are stronger together, keep caring Yeah