I Don't Know How You Do It

From People Pleaser to Badass: A Mother Saves Her Son's Life and Finds Herself, with Karen DeBonis

December 19, 2023 Jessica Fein Season 1 Episode 49
I Don't Know How You Do It
From People Pleaser to Badass: A Mother Saves Her Son's Life and Finds Herself, with Karen DeBonis
Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever felt something so strongly in your bones and yet everyone you turn to dismisses your concerns? Maybe they tell you you're over-reacting. Maybe they even tell you there's something wrong with you for not letting go of your instincts. What if your child's life were at stake?

Navigating misdiagnoses and medical gaslighting, Karen DeBonis discusses the arduous journey she embarked on to ascertain her son's actual medical condition. 

Karen began to question herself and doubted her fortitude for motherhood, ultimately needing to overcome her instinct for people pleasing and unleash her inner "she bear" to make the medical community and even her own family take her seriously. Finally, desperation broke through her fear of conflict, and she demanded answers, only to be horrified by the truth. 

Brain surgery and a promise of complete recovery for her son convinced Karen her battle was over. But she was wrong. The ensuing years launched her on a journey of perseverance and personal growth she never imagined, teaching Karen just how weak she is, and then exactly how strong.

In this episode you'll learn:

  • How to learn to trust your own instincts despite persistent resistance
  • Why the weak can be stronger than the strong
  • What post-traumatic growth can look like
  • And so much more...

Karen's debut memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived," was released by Apprentice House Press in May 2023. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, HuffPost, Newsweek.com, Today.com, and numerous literary journals.

Learn more about Karen:

Rate, Review, & Follow on Apple Podcasts

"This is my go-to podcast for inspiration and to discover new approaches to embrace the challenges in my life." If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me reach more people -- just like you -- find strategies and insights to do the things that feel undoable. Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, follow the podcast. Follow now!

Sign up for my newsletter and learn more about these remarkable stories at www.jessicafeinstories.com

Order Jessica's memoir, Breath Taking: A Memoir of Family, Dreams, and Broken Genes

Music credit: Limitless by Bells


Jessica Fein: Welcome. I'm Jessica Fein, and this is the “I Don’t Know How You Do It” podcast, where we talk to people whose lives seem unimaginable from the outside and dive into how they're able to do things that look undoable.

I'm so glad you're joining me on this journey, and I hope you enjoy the conversation. Welcome back to the show. I am so glad you're here for today's episode. I have a big announcement at the end, so make sure to stay tuned for that. Now on to the episode. Have you ever felt something in your gut that you believe so strongly, yet nobody agrees with you?

Maybe some people tell you you're overreacting, or even go as far as to tell you something's wrong with you. What if your child's life is at stake? That's what happened to my [00:01:00] guest today, Karen DeBonis. Karen was a happily married, slightly frazzled mother of two when her 8 year old son, Matthew, developed a strange eye rolling tick.

Matthew then became clumsy and lethargic, a gifted program dropout. Karen tried to get her husband and their pediatrician to acknowledge what was happening, but they dismissed her concerns. For three years, Matthew deteriorated, while Karen questioned if she had the fortitude required of motherhood.

Finally, desperation broke through Karen's fear of conflict. She demanded answers, only to be horrified by the truth. Karen's debut memoir, Growth, A Mother, Her Son, and The Brain Tumor They Survived, documents this story. Karen's essays have appeared in the New York Times, HuffPost, Newsweek, Today. com, and numerous literary journals.

It is my pleasure to bring you Karen DeBonis. [00:02:00] Welcome, Karen. I'm so happy to have you on the show today. 

Karen DeBonis: Thank you, Jessica. Glad to be here. 

Jessica Fein: It's so great to have authors on the show because by the time we get to meet in this context, I already know so much about your story. And when I'm reading books in general, I always have so many questions.

And most of the time you don't get the answers, right? About, you know, what was the author thinking when this happened or when that happened? And so that's just this added bonus of being able to talk to people who have written books. So thank you. 

Karen DeBonis: I agree. And I really enjoy digging into it a little bit more.

Jessica Fein: You describe yourself as a recovering people pleaser and aspiring badass. That might be my favorite description of anybody I've ever heard. I love that. Can you tell us a bit about both of those things?

Karen DeBonis: Yeah. Well, many women, I'll talk specifically about women because they tend to be people pleasers more than men in part because of society and expectations and that type of thing.

[00:03:00] Often people come to people pleasing as a learned behavior because of family dysfunction and childhood or abuse or that type of thing. In my case, I was raised by two people pleasers, two very, very nice, you know, I was very blessed to have a really, really nice mom and dad, but they never really quite figured out how to stand up to the world, or it wasn't in ways that I could understand as a child. And so I grew up with the lack of role models in being assertive, learning how to be assertive. And so part of it is nurture. That's how I was raised. And part of it is nature. I'm just a little bit extra sensitive.

I guess I don't like conflict. It makes me very uncomfortable. And so this whole dynamic came together as I was growing up, and I just Never really figured out. I am now, but I never really figured out how to stand up for myself, how to be straightforward with people. So that's the recovering people pleasing part, because I'm really working to [00:04:00] shed all that old behavior.

And the aspiring badass part is, wow, I just look at women activists who stand up and shout what they believe and speak their truth to power. And I'm so in awe of that. And I want to be that person in the world that speaks out against injustice and problems in society. So that's kind of my journey in life.

Jessica Fein: Well, I think naming it as aspiring badass is already a few steps there on the way. It's interesting because I think both sides of this, the people pleasing and the aspiring badass came out in your story and in your experience. So let's talk about what happened. You had quite the diagnostic oddysey. 

Karen DeBonis: Diagnostic dartboard, I call it.

Jessica Fein: I love that. Let's talk about that dartboard. I picked up, and I'm sure I'm missing some, that along the [00:05:00] way you were told your son likely had OCD, Tourette's, anxiety, ADD, depression, muscular dystrophy, schizoid personality disorder, that you had Munchausen's By Proxy, and I'm sure I'm missing some.

Karen DeBonis: No, I think that covered it, but the diagnosis, Quote unquote, that he carried for a couple years before all that dart board stuff started was normal or common or typical, you know, I would throw that into the mix because that was part of this whole medical gaslighting thing that was going on where doctors and family members.

And my loving husband, who's a good father, and just couldn't see what was happening. And I include somewhat myself, you know, my self doubt kind of overran maybe what my gut was telling me. 

Jessica Fein: That's so interesting to include normal, quote unquote normal. Yeah. In the diagnostic dartboard or diagnostic odyssey.

And I haven't heard that before, but I relate to [00:06:00] it because I had a similar experience where I really felt something wasn't right with my daughter. And I kept being told, you know, give it time, give it time. I even had early intervention come to my house to do testing three times. And three times we were told, she's on the lower end of average, but she'll catch up, give it time.

And looking back now, how egregious, you know, but I never really thought about that as one of the quote unquote diagnoses. So tell us about what happened. What were you seeing? What were you feeling? And where did it lead? 

Karen DeBonis: So Matthew was my older son and from the very beginning, he just screamed and had great difficulty nursing and wouldn't sleep and he was always very hard to soothe.

And I thought I'd be a natural. I was the second oldest daughter of six kids. Like I said, I had a wonderful mom, a great role model. I loved babysitting, you know, love taking care of my little brothers and sisters. I don't know that I expected motherhood to be [00:07:00] easy. But I thought I could handle it. You know, I'm a natural.

And so from the very beginning, my son really challenged what I believed about myself as a mother and what I expected of motherhood. He was still adorable. And beautiful, and so smart, and just active, I mean, full of joy. And when he was eight, the first thing I noticed was this odd eye rolling tick. I describe it in my book as an ocular ferris wheel.

You know, all moms know the eye roll you get from your kids, like, Oh, mom, here she goes again. Yeah, but this was different. This was around and around and around, over and over and over. And I talked to the pediatrician who said it was a habit tick. And sure enough, I looked it up. And at the time I was an elementary school counselor and educator.

And I went back to my school and I saw, oh yeah, lots of kids have ticks, I just hadn't noticed [00:08:00] them before. It was like, okay, so this is common, is probably a better word than normal. This is common in boys, especially ages eight to 11. And they usually outgrow them. That's what the literature said. And then things kind of started to snowball from there.

He developed other tics. We call them face scrunching was one and wrist rolling. And he started to slow down. He wasn't as active as he used to be. He was starting to have some difficulty in school, paying attention and remembering things. And over the next couple of years, he continued to kind of. regress.

So more difficulty with school, becoming more immature and really silly. And silly is great in a kid, but it can be very exasperating also. And I have wonderful colleagues who are all counselors and many of them licensed social workers. So they had a great deal of [00:09:00] knowledge about kids. And again, everything kind of fell within the realm of normal or common.

And yet there was so much of it going on and I would talk to our pediatrician who we loved. We've been with her since Matthew was born and had great respect for her. And I think she returned the favor. And every time she just said, no, this is just, you know, basically a kid being a kid, boys being boys.

All that time, that self doubt within me was just battling with what my gut was saying, and what my heart was saying, and my head. And when he was 10, he began to have some more severe tics. And we finally went to counseling. He was diagnosed with ADHD. And that was kind of the beginning of all the diagnostic dartboard stuff.

Jessica Fein: One of the things that really struck me was along the way, you're noticing this, and then there were some key people, a neighbor, a guy playing basketball with your kid, who came to you and said, Karen, I gotta tell you, I noticed something. And that really [00:10:00] struck me because I thought, first of all, that's kind of ballsy of them, right?

Like, that takes courage. And I could see if somebody came to me and said they noticed something about my kid, I could see going into protective mama bear mode and be like, how dare you? But I think you found it more of a relief. Like somebody else is seeing what's happening.

Karen DeBonis: Really validating.

And I think it depends where you're at as a parent with your child. How you respond to that type of information. So if you're thinking everything's fine with your child, or maybe they're a little bit quirky, but you're not worried or whatever, if someone mentions it to you, it can be really insulting and very upsetting.

But I think I was at the point where it had been so long that I kind of started to doubt my sanity. Am I the only one that sees what's going on? Am I really just overreacting? Am I making too much of this? And fortunately in all, there were basically three cases where people came to me. They were [00:11:00] all friends and respected colleagues and people that I think felt comfortable opening up to me about what they saw.

So for example, the one guy, he was a colleague of mine and we were at a work family picnic and he was playing basketball with Matt and I was sitting in there watching Matthew just seeing him struggle. Oh, he just. He couldn't keep up with the ball in terms of hand eye coordination and his reaction and physically.

And it just broke my heart. And he knew also, because he was a colleague, so he knew that I had been concerned about what I was seeing and very troubled. And so for him to come over and say, I just want to let you know that I observed Matthew really struggling. It was so validating. Because I thought, okay, so I'm right.

You know, there is something going on. So yeah, I think for a parent, so much depends on where you're at in your own journey with your child, how you respond to that type of thing. 

Jessica Fein: Yeah, and I guess who's delivering the news, as you say. [00:12:00] Exactly. So, here you are trying to figure out what's going on, and one of the things that struck me a lot was that you said with teachers, with therapists, with doctors, you wanted them to like you, because you felt like if they liked you They would try a little bit harder, like you even, you know, would dress a certain way when you were going to the appointment.

You wanted to be liked because that would equate to people trying harder to figure out what was going on with Matthew, which was so fascinating. And I also related to that because I always felt that way. You want to be that mom who makes a connection so they don't see you as somebody who's, you know, hysterical or whatever, right?

Karen DeBonis: Yeah, it's a fine line parents walk. I felt I had a great deal of pressure on myself to walk that fine line and not come across as you said, as being hysterical or overprotective, but to also be knowledgeable and [00:13:00] concerned and loving. I mean, it's exhausting. It's exhausting. You know, I think all parents face that.

And when you have a child with some difficulties and you spend a lot of time with the doctors, it takes a lot of energy to kind of nurture that relationship. So you get the best outcome. 

Jessica Fein: It is exhausting. I like that description. So tell us then about what ultimately happened and how you got the diagnosis.

Karen DeBonis: Well, it was a progress, so when the ADHD diagnosis did not really pan out, so Matthew had kind of a burst of improvement and then that went away and he continued to decline and it was the psychologist who really, thank goodness, recognized something more was going on than this and he really pushed me to push the system.

I wished I could have been that badass and done it on my own, but I didn't. And I was really thankful to have a professional who believed in me. So I pushed the pediatrician and [00:14:00] we got some blood work, which came back fine. Everything was negative. And on my own, I got in occupational therapy and physical therapy evaluation, which came back fine. You know, nothing was wrong. And so I continued to get this feedback saying, yeah, Karen, you are crazy. But then we went a little bit further. So Matthew was seeing a psychiatrist because he was on a trial of Ritalin and that was the way it worked. And we ended up seeing a couple of different ones because the first one believed we found out it was that he had schizoid personality disorder, which just blew my mind.

I just didn't even know how she came up with that. And then we finally got in to see a neurologist, and she said to me, It's muscular dystrophy, but don't worry, it's not the bad kind. He won't be in a wheelchair. I did my best in this book to recall as closely as I could conversations that happened. And of course, memory is very elusive and finicky, so I'm sure I didn't always get it right, but [00:15:00] those words I will never forget.

And then when the test came back negative, she left a message saying, well, it's not muscular dystrophy. So I guess we'll see you back in six months. Of all the doctors in the book, she was the one that I really think was just very unprofessional and inappropriate. And so we saw another neurologist and that's where the Tourette's and OCD and depression and anxiety circle of diagnoses came about.

And finally getting back to people. outside of our family commenting and how that affected me. So Matthew ran to his third grade teacher in a social setting and word got back to me that she was, again, a quote, I'll never forget, horrified by his deterioration. And it was that comment that I brought to the second psychiatrist that got him to order an MRI.

And it was the MRI that discovered the brain tumor that explained it all. 

Jessica Fein: I can only imagine the swirl [00:16:00] at that point of emotions, right? Because it's got to be terror and relief mixing together. 

Karen DeBonis: Exactly. And we were very fortunate that they didn't say brain tumor, the radiologist. They said growth. We found a growth, which is where the title of my book comes from in part.

But in that same breath, they said it doesn't appear to be malignant and we think it's not serious. So yes, swirl is a great word because I was validated that everything I had experienced and worried about for three years was coming true. And that's how long it took three years to get the diagnosis. And and yet, horrified.

I mean, growth? In his brain? I just truly never suspected it. I don't know why, but I never suspected that. And yet, malignant. Okay, that means cancer, but not malignant. That's good. And not serious. But it's a growth in his head and the MRI showed the severe hydrocephalus that the growth had caused. 

Jessica Fein: So now people are [00:17:00] listening and saying, okay, so what ends up happening?

And I don't think it's a spoiler alert to say Matthew is now how old? 

Karen DeBonis: Right. 37. Yep. 37 and doing well. You know, once you have some damage to the brain, people very seldom, if ever come back 100%, but he lives alone. He owns his own house. He supports himself. He has some struggles with short term memory and organization and that type of thing, but he works a professional job and again, supports himself.

So I'm just so grateful that this is our story to tell that he did survive. And I put that intentionally in the subtitle. A mother, her son, and the brain tumor they survived because it is an important part of the story. 

Jessica Fein: Yeah, and I like that for two reasons. One, this isn't a mystery. We know that he's going to survive.

And two, it's not the brain tumor he survived. I mean, this is your story. It's the brain tumor they survived. Yeah. You wrote in the book. that you felt your child destroyed your [00:18:00] image of what you thought motherhood should be. And I was so taken by that because what a vulnerable thing to share. Can you tell us what you meant by it?

Karen DeBonis:Yeah, and that was one of the harder Scenes to write and harder admissions. But again, I had a somewhat naive expectation of motherhood. I thought I would be good at it. I, it wasn't entirely unrealistic. I didn't think, I'd never lose my temper or anything like that. I didn't think. I would never get frustrated, but I expected to feel competent.

I never expected that I'd get so frustrated that I'd wanna harm my child. Which I did. 

Jessica Fein: Just to clarify there, you wanted to, you didn't, but you had those feelings in your moments of frustration. 

Karen DeBonis: Right. Correct. Thank you. So from the very, very beginning, I had postpartum depression, which wasn't talked about back then.

Then we're talking 1986. And so I had these terrible thoughts about harming [00:19:00] my child. And again, thank goodness I never did. But that, right there, I thought, what kind of monster am I to have these thoughts? I didn't know that that was something that happened to women, and I didn't tell anybody because it was so scary and I felt so terrible.

And then later, by year two or three of this undiagnosed period, I just was so frustrated and exhausted and spent. I didn't expect that of motherhood. It just destroyed what I thought motherhood was going to be.

Jessica Fein: It seems like the whole notion of this is so joyful and beautiful, but that was missing.

Karen DeBonis: Yeah.

Yeah. I had a subscription to Parents Magazine. You know, everything always looked wonderful there, even if they talked about some frustrations or child behavior or whatever, it still just all looked, you know, perfect and loving and things worked out. 

Jessica Fein: Yeah. You know, it's interesting because you think back 1986, obviously there's no social media and social media, we [00:20:00] all see the pretty beautiful pictures of things working out, but we are very much able to connect with other people who are in similar situations.

And I've seen that across the board with, you know, rare disease and other challenging parental situations. So. Social media being a mixed blessing, but you didn't have the good part of that in terms of finding other people who might be struggling in the same way. 

Karen DeBonis: Exactly. And, you know, that's a really good point because I wonder with my book how hard it would have been to tell the story without social media, without knowing.

That there are other parents out there for whom my story would resonate. I never thought about that, but I do think because of social media, I know that there are parents who have been through similar experiences and have that frustration and exhaustion. And so I know that parents will understand.

Jessica Fein: Yeah, there is so much that's relatable in your book.

One of the things that I [00:21:00] totally got was when you talked about that you weren't in the moment as aware as you are in retrospect of the disparity in the way you and your husband, Mike, parented. Mm hmm. And I loved what you said about it because you said that would have required me to step back from the day to day drudgery to get a clear picture.

And I was too bogged down to do that. And I described that in my book and talking about the intensity of what we were going through. I talk about it as being really up close to a painting that's pointillism, you know, made from dots and you can't see the big picture. You just can't. And in certain respects, it's a good thing you can't see the big picture because it would just blow you down, right?

But when you're in these intense situations, you're so up close and personal that you don't see the bigger thing. And I think writing, it sounds like for you, as you reflected back and wrote this memoir, and for sure for me, I can say you do see some of the big picture themes that you just can't see when you're in it.

[00:22:00] Exactly. 

Karen DeBonis: Boy, that pointillism is a wonderful metaphor. It just hits me, absolutely. 

Jessica Fein: One of my favorite parts of the book, and I bet you know what I'm going to say. 

Karen DeBonis: I don't. I don't. Surprise me.

Jessica Fein: Okay. When you transform into the she bear. And you describe this as the she bear commandeered my physical body from my powerful stance, a handful of minuscule physicians now materialized before me.

I love that. Minuscule physicians, they trembled and cowered in their ridiculous white coats, stethoscopes dangling about their necks, fearful eyes cast upward toward me. The quaking doctors represented all the wrong diagnoses, the naysayers, the disbelievers. Now they saw the truth of my power. They understood it was me who saved my son.

Hanging their heads in shame, they realized they had let us down. Never again would they doubt me. I, She Bear, knew my strength.” I'm sorry, that [00:23:00] sounds like a badass to me. That does not sound like an admiring badass. So how did it feel to be the she bear and why didn't she bear stick around? Because it seems like she bear was kind of a momentary thing.

Karen DeBonis: She was. Yes. And I'm really happy to talk about this. This is actually the first time anyone has approached that particular scene to discuss with me. I don't know if maybe it freaks people out too much or something. So I'll just fill in a little bit. So, you know, we got this diagnosis and it was a relief.

But it was horrifying. And I just had this, as you said, so well, this swirl of emotions and I was sitting there and we're just in shock. And as I was sitting there, I had this very supernatural experience that I've never had before and never had again. My body transformed and I'm saying this as if it really happened because it really happened.

I mean, if someone was watching me sitting in my chair, [00:24:00] they might not see it, but it was so real to me. It felt like this happened. It happened. So my body kind of started to grow and expand. And I became this towering mammoth creature and the creature was She Bear. I didn't make up that name or think about what I would call this name.

I knew that's who I was. I was She Bear. And as you read, all these doctors in white coats kind of materialized before me and they were tiny. They were just tiny because I was so powerful. I looked down on them and I knew what they had done to us as far as ignoring me and doing a great disservice to my child.

And I knew that I had saved my son and even my husband who sat next to me. He couldn't tear off those blinders of denial and look at what was happening. In fact, after we [00:25:00] got the diagnosis, we went into the hall, and I was sobbing, and my husband said to me, Thank God you kept looking, Karen. Thank God you kept looking.

So, I think that's what I was feeling. Like, I knew I had done this badass thing. I had saved my son in my own kind of quiet, people pleasing way, but I made it happen. And then for a moment, I kind of like came back to my body and I looked at Mike who was sitting right next to me and he didn't know anything was going on and again, I was just like, poop, like I was this she bear and I have no idea if it lasted a second or five or 10 minutes.

I have no sense of reality and that respect and. I never said anything to my husband because I really thought, okay, now I've really, I've really lost it. Yeah, I really am off the deep edge. And I had started writing this book and then I set it aside for a long time and then I returned to it around seven years ago.

And I sat him down at one point and I said, [00:26:00] um, there's something you got to read. That was the first he knew of it. And so, this is the thing about this whole she bear thing and my story. In a really kind of great but cliche story, it would end there. I became she bear, and that was me from now on, and no one was ever going to mess with me, and I had saved my son, and he was going to survive, and that's the end of the story.

Jessica Fein: And they all lived happily ever after. 

Karen DeBonis: Exactly. And it didn't. In the book, I struggle to understand, so why did she bear come to me? I didn't know at the time, but some people would say that this was a shamanic experience and this was my spirit guide. I do believe that that's who she was. But why did she come to me then?

Why didn't she come to me the night Matthew was born? When he was so colicky and wouldn't start crying and I felt like a terrible mother. You know, why didn't she come to me then? Why didn't she come to me when Matthew was [00:27:00] first experiencing these tics and I needed to stand up to doctors? I don't know, but I think she came to me because at that moment, and I'm getting kind of upset now, at that moment, she was validating.

That I had done it. She acknowledged that, given who I was, that was an incredible accomplishment. You know, for the badass woman, it might have been easier than expected. Still a good thing, but eh, you know, that's who she is. But for me, it was monumental. And I think she was validating that. And I think she was also telling me that she was within me, and she was always going to be within me.

And unfortunately, I couldn't always bring her forth for the 20 years of Matthew's recovery. Fortunately, you know, once you're diagnosed with a brain tumor as a kid, then people kind of jump to respond. So he did get good support and good medical care. But in terms of [00:28:00] myself, I didn't need to fight anymore.

And so I went back to who I was for a long time, and it's really in the writing of this book that I have realized, okay, enough is enough, I have to figure this out, I have to change, and I have had tremendous growth again, you know, where the title comes from. 

Jessica Fein: You coined what, to me, was a new phrase. I'm going to give you credit for it.

I had never heard about this idea of post traumatic growth, and I loved it, PTG. And of course, we all know about PTSD, and I feel like when you're in ongoing complex parenting or other situations, it's not post traumatic stress disorder. It's chronic traumatic stress disorder. But I loved the idea of post traumatic growth.

And it sounds like that's something that you really experienced in a powerful way. 

Karen DeBonis: Yeah, so much. And what I think is so, if I may say so myself, beautiful in this book is that it was [00:29:00] my son, Matthew, who we call Matt as an adult, who introduced me to this concept. So he heard it on NPR and he came over and he said, mom, did you hear this?

And I said, no. And he told me all about this post traumatic growth. We opened my laptop and looked it up. And he said, he believes that that's what he's experiencing. And when I looked at that, I thought, wow, I am too. You know, again, we were fortunate that we both were able to grow from this in so many different ways.

And part of my post traumatic growth journey is sharing this story with others because I believe others can have their own experience of personal growth through what I've shared. 

Jessica Fein: Yeah. You say sometimes the weak are stronger than the strong.

Karen DeBonis: Yeah. I coined that one. I'll take credit.

Jessica Fein: Okay. Yeah. I guess we have to give NPR or whoever was being interviewed credit for post traumatic growth. But. Right. How is it that the weak are stronger than the strong?

Karen DeBonis: I use the [00:30:00] analogy about in the wild, you have a lion and you have a deer, let's say, or an antelope or something. And the lion kills the antelope all day. I mean, that's how nature works and that's what the lion is.

That's what they do. But if an antelope, you see this sometimes on nature shows, you know, the antelope escapes. and not as common. But then what if the antelope were to turn around and kick the lion so hard that the antelope kills the lion? I mean, that's extraordinary. They'd have all kinds of nature shows about that where the lion killing the antelope.

We see that all the time. It's just to be expected. I feel that very much within myself. Where, again, going back to kind of the SheBear experience and what I was able to overcome to save my son. I saw myself as weak. I've since learned I'm a lot stronger than I thought. I got a lot more in me than I thought.

I'm that aspiring badass. But I was not a strong willed person. And so [00:31:00] for me to have accomplished this, where I did save my son, is worthy of a nature show. Hello, PBS. 

Jessica Fein: You write that you don't know what you want to be when you grow up. I love that, but I'm wondering if, A, maybe you do, because apparently you want to be, you want to be that badass that I think you already are, but, has the process of publishing this book and talking to people about it given you more of an idea of what you might want to be when you grow up?

Karen DeBonis: Yeah, good question. People often ask me, Oh, when's your next book coming out? And what's your next book going to be about? And I doubt seriously, there will be another book, I don't mind saying that I'm 65. So this book came out when I was 64. And it was a lot of work. So I don't think I have that in me. And I don't think I have another story, a book length story in me, I think I've told the story that I was meant to tell.

But I just recently got my writing bug back. And I feel like I do have a lot to say I don't I don't need to write book length story, but I have things [00:32:00] that I do want to write about. And so I do see myself being a writer. I know I want to be that when I grow up. 

Jessica Fein: Well, I would venture to say you already are a writer.

You already are a badass and you're a tremendous storyteller. So thank you so much for sharing the story with us today and for writing the book. And I hope everybody goes and reads it. 

Karen DeBonis: Thank you so much, Jessica. I love this conversation. We touched on some things, as I said, that I haven't really discussed.

And so it was a great opportunity for me. 

Jessica Fein: Here are my takeaways from my conversation with Karen. Number one, the people with the degrees do not always have all the answers. Trust what your gut is telling you. I think in this case, That's takeaway number one, two, and three. Takeaway number four. The magazines and social media highlights often don't tell the real picture.

Do not use them as a gauge of how successful you are or are not. Number five. I believe we all have a she bear, or he bear, as the case may be, inside of us. Knowing they're there can help us find the [00:33:00] courage we need. Number six, PTG, post traumatic growth, is a real thing. And number seven, sometimes the weak are stronger than the strong.

And that is a show worth watching. 

Okay, here's the announcement. Next week is a huge week for the show. It is my 50th episode, and I've invited my very first guest, Effie Parks, host of the “Once Upon a Gene” podcast, to return to the show and interview me. I hope you'll tune in for that. I'm so grateful for what we've achieved here together over the last year.

If you'd like to help make sure the show continues to grow, please tell your friends about it, rate, and review it. These things really do make a difference. Have a great day. Talk to you next time.