Mental Health Champions: Why & How Mary Firestone of Firestone Sisters Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness
I’m aware of my language. The root of the word spelling is to cast a spell, so I am careful about how I speak and communicate. For example, our brains can’t register the “don’t” so if you say, “I don’t want to feel stressed,” what our brains comprehend is, “I want to feel stressed.” It’s better to think/speak, “I feel peaceful and happy!”
As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Mary Firestone.
Author Mary Firestone, has an MA in clinical psychology and is on a mission to let others know they are not alone and there is light on the other side of the darkness of PTSD. Her forthcoming book, Trusting the Dawn, will be released through Sounds True Publishing on August 23, 2022 and is the story of Mary’s survival and transformation through healing. It is an offering for survivors of all kinds of trauma. In Trusting the Dawn, Mary draws from both her own real-life experiences and her background in clinical psychology and English (she graduated with a BA from Princeton) to offer a radical, integrative handbook for not only healing from trauma but awakening to even more joy and meaning because of your experiences. Mary has been featured in numerous outlets including goop, Well + Good, Santa Barbara magazine, Forbes Travel Guide and Angeleno. Mary, along with her sister Lucy, is also the co-founder of Firestone Sisters, Inc. which aims to provide others with healing and growth opportunities through experiences and products. They produce and curate their Wild Precious Life Retreats which have featured well-known speakers such as Joe Dispenza, Dr. Jennifer Freed, Lauren Roxburgh and the pair also created an essential oil based perfume called “The First,” as a way to capture the essence of their retreats in a bottle. Their second scent, “Open”, will soon be available. She currently resides in California with her family.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in Washington, DC in an environment where academics and being well behaved, high achieving and polished were a strong focus. The message was to be good and look good. My younger sister, Lucy, was and continues to be a touchstone and anchor for me as our parents were often working and/or traveling. I grew up having a lot of opportunity and all of my material needs more than met, yet there wasn’t a lot of discussion or exploration around feelings and challenges, sometimes traumatic situations. I’m not sure if it was the time or the culture, but therapy and mental health were never a part of the conversation or my life growing up.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?
I have my Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and by the time I was finished with the program, I had also discovered and benefitted from alternative therapies that dealt with energy, as well as the physical and metaphysical body. I knew I wanted to offer a way to help people that was more holistic than traditional talk therapy. My sister and I founded our Wild Precious Life Retreats to offer all manner of healing modalities in a way that helps to create positive change in a nurturing and celebratory environment!
My book, Trusting the Dawn: How to Choose Freedom and Joy After Trauma, is an offering to those in the aftermath of trauma to know that they are not alone, and more importantly, that through healing, their trauma can be reframed as a gift to live more viscerally and expansively. An invitation to love and appreciate life and connection more fully.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Following my near-death experience in the Montecito mudslide of 2018 where I was trapped alone on my bathroom counter for five hours believing that my family and community had been wiped out, I suffered in the aftermath of that trauma. As I was healing through various modalities, I would encounter civilians and clinicians who would condemn me to PTSD and years or a lifetime of suffering from it. I found this demoralizing and also frustrating as I was experiencing incredibly wonderful things in the wake of the trauma as well. I wanted to share this hope, this light on the other side, and tools for getting there with others.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
The final trigger was a combination of what I was describing above, an elderly psychiatrist who I met socially, literally told me I would suffer from PTSD for the rest of my life — in casual conversation! A few weeks later I was on a flight back from my 20th Princeton reunion where I had had to recount the details of the mudslide and my recovery many times. It came together on that flight how much my life had been altered for the better because of what I had survived and how I had begun to heal. I pulled out my notebook and started writing on that plane. I wanted other people to know that there could actually be greater appreciation for life, for others, more light and love, evolution and transformation through healing from traumatic events! That if healed, it could be a gift.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Working on the book (and myself!), I tried every healing modality that crossed my path. Growing up in the Nancy Reagan “Just say no” era of the 1980s, I was terrified of drugs. And then in the course of my healing journey, I underwent ketamine therapy! Ketamine is the gentlest yet the most powerful psychedelic. It is legal and is sometimes used as an anesthetic for children. It’s also been an incredibly effective tool for treating depression, suicidality, and PTSD. In my first experience, I felt like all of my senses converged, what I was seeing felt like velvet, light and colors were diffuse and enveloping and somehow more vibrant. I could feel the music. I had an overwhelming sense of how everything is connected and warm and loving. I saw a gorilla come out of the darkness that whisked a 7-year-old version of myself away from a predator and then I was flying on the back of a Pegasus. I watched the mudslide happen from a safe warm place hovering over the Pacific Ocean. The mountains of Montecito looked like a Renaissance oil painting, and I watched as glowing angels poured mud down the mountains and golden streams of light connected them with those who lost their physical lives that day. I had an overwhelming feeling, knowing that there was nothing personal, that those souls were ok, that it was an act of nature, that we are all connected to all of it.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
Dr. Jeff Becker is the psychiatrist who shepherded me through my ketamine therapy. He is one of the most patient, kind, insightful and brilliant people and he helped me reclaim parts of myself I had not acknowledged, such as the gorilla who showed up in my therapy. He pointed out that that gorilla was part of me, a fierce, protective, and powerful aspect of myself which was empowering as I was ready to see the gorilla as some external savior, nope, I saved myself!
Dr. Jennifer Freed has also been a champion and an inspiration for me. Jennifer is a psychological astrologer who uses the astrological chart of the client to help guide the therapeutic discussion. Jennifer has taught me astrology, encouraged me to write this book and introduced me to my amazing agent, Coleen O’Shea, another wise, savvy cheerleader on this journey.
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
I don’t think enough people know how common mental health issues are and how many options there are for help and healing. Mental health awareness is becoming more a part of the mainstream conversation, but not in all circles or places in the world which is part of the reason I wanted to write my book. The incidence of depression and anxiety has been increasing as well as the incidence of men committing suicide. I think that men especially may falsely perceive a mental health issue as weakness.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
Although I grew up in an affluent educated family (my mom later became an Art Therapist working with kids!), therapy wasn’t a thing that was talked about or offered even though I had several instances of sexual abuse in my childhood. I found my own therapy at the age of 18 my freshman year at Princeton where they offered free counseling services. Offering and promoting these kinds of free services in schools and community centers, etc. is key. Also promoting emotional intelligence programs such as AHA! in schools and building it into curriculum at an earlier age would be wonderful. I find my kids (ages 4 and 9) are much better able to identify and express their feelings, so hopefully these younger generations might be more open, collaborative, and supportive.
What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
I have several daily practices that are important for me to stay as grounded, clear minded/hearted as possible!
- Each day I practice qigong to keep my energy flowing. During the pandemic I was experiencing some neck pain, I tried a few movements following along on a Facebook video and the pain went away. I’ve been practicing daily ever since!
- I also have a “morning meeting” each day where I read something inspirational and then journal for all of the people, things and experiences I am grateful for, it helps to set the mood for my day.
- I began meditating years ago with a TM meditation teacher in a Venice bungalow. During the pandemic, I deep dove on Joe Dispenza online classes and meditations. I later interviewed him for my book and have since co-hosted several events with him!
- I exercise every day, even if it’s just 20 minutes of dancing around with my kids. Shaking and moving your body is a great way to release stress.
- I’m aware of my language. The root of the word spelling is to cast a spell, so I am careful about how I speak and communicate. For example, our brains can’t register the “don’t” so if you say, “I don’t want to feel stressed,” what our brains comprehend is, “I want to feel stressed.” It’s better to think/speak, “I feel peaceful and happy!”
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
Joe Dispenza is a great resource and support. His meditations changed my life. His books are a great place to start or continue your meditation journey. Florence Scovel Shinn was a woman very ahead of her time. “The Writings of Florence Scovel Shinn” are inspiring. Dr. Edith Eger is a brilliant psychologist and Holocaust survivor who has written two wonderful books on trauma, “The Gift” and “The Choice.” And I love Oprah’s Super Soul series. Who doesn’t love Oprah?
If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
We’re all energetic beings. You effect each person you come into contact with. That effect can bring others more joy, light, hope and happiness or the opposite. By simply being kind, you can begin to change the world. Think of your kindness as a ripple in a pond- it gets bigger and bigger.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Mental Health Champions: Why & How Mary Firestone of Firestone Sisters Is Helping To Champion… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.