Losing the Atmosphere: Vivian Conan on Mental Illness & Thriving
November 12, 2021
Hosted by Diane Dewey
A journey through misdiagnosis, intellectual capabilities and professional accomplishments, this memoir traces Vivian Conan's stages and mis-steps toward wholeness and healing. As a person with mental illness who is competent in the world she inhabits, Vivian tours us through her states, her illusions, and phobias, as she regains autonomy over her wellness. Born in 1940s Brooklyn to a father prone to rages and an emotionally erratic mother, Vivian Conan grew up in two different worlds: Outside and Inside. Outside, she had friends, excelled in school, and was close to her cousins and brother. Inside, she saw faces that weren't hers in her bedroom mirror and was surrounded by an invisible Atmosphere that bathed her in the love and understanding she craved. Moving between these worlds enabled Vivian to survive her childhood but limited her ability to live fully as an adult. To others, her life seemed rich with work, friends, music, and boyfriends. But her mind and soul were filled with chaos and pain. Neither she nor her therapists could figure out why. Losing the Atmosphere is Vivian Conan's riveting account of her journey toward self-understanding and wholeness; her encounters with a string of more and less helpful therapists; and her unconventional relationship with the therapist who was finally able to guide her through the courageous, messy work healing required. Told with honesty, humor, and grace, Losing the Atmosphere is a never-too-late story about the growth possible for anyone with the guts to pursue it, and a testament to the redemptive power of love: not the perfect kind Vivian experienced in her imaginary world, but the imperfect kind that connects us, flawed human being to flawed human being, in the real world she lives in now. Drop In with us to speak candidly and honestly with Vivian Conan about her journey, her self-exploration, and discovery in the context of her family, therapists, and friends' network.
Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time on VoiceAmerica Variety Channel
At Dropping In we’ll explore diverse stories about identity. By listening to others talk about their own path, ours becomes less fearful. Where are we now and how do we meet the challenges? Dropping In is a place of discovery. We might believe that our life experiences are uniquely our own. Yet there’s a community of people that are here to bear witness, to relate to, link arms with and support us. They join us on Dropping In, tackling subjects like breaking into your dream business, cultural differences, child abuse, mental illness, shamanism, gender search, religious shunning, and fitting in as a marginalized outsider. These can feel like lonesome tasks. How do others find their power? Listening to their personal truths validates our own. Drop into the conversation to find the common threads, your uniqueness and our shared experience as humans.
My most pressing question has always been about identity: Who am I? Growing up near Philadelphia with my adoptive family, my genetic identity was hidden. Then, my Swiss biological father, Otto, contacted me when I was age forty-seven in 2002. I’d been told by my adoptive parents that my biological parents were dead, supposedly to protect me. Meeting Otto upended my life. Through him, I met my German biological mother’s family to discover that her story too, had been changed; that she’d not wanted to surrender me and she’d searched for me all her life. Finding my truth was essential.
Based on my experience I am excited to talk to people about their own search for identity. My education includes a BA from Villanova University, a certificate from the Art Institute of Philadelphia and a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Capella University. I’ve worked for The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The SoHo Partnership and the National Academy of Design and have studied writing through New York University’s Continuing Education program. As an entrepreneur, I founded my art appraisal business, The Realization of Art in 2006. My non-fiction writing has been published in Shared Space, a monograph, and in Artes online magazine. Writing workshops worldwide have given me the chance to learn and hone my craft. My first book, “Fixing the Fates,” was awarded the National Non-Fiction Author’s Association Silver Medal and the Living Now Award.