Navigating Self-Compassion After Trauma With Margaret Galvin Johnson


Margaret Galvin Johnson is a multi-passionate artist who has spent the last twenty years writing her family story. A story of shame, denial, secrecy, abuse, and mental illness. Margaret Galvin Johnson's family story, which was later handed off to author Robert Kolker, has since become a New York Times bestseller and Oprah's 84th book club pick.

Hidden Valley Road is a true story of rejection, pain, trauma, abandonment, neglect, and physical and sexual abuse. However, hidden within the chaos of mental illness lies another story—a story of a girl who grew to be a courageous woman. In today's episode, the spotlight is shined on how Margaret Galvin Johnson navigated her way through years of trauma to a place of self-compassion.


Life isn't always how it appears, especially inside a home nestled on Hidden Valley Road. Margaret Galvin Johnson grew up in an American family with twelve children. Six of them being diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Behind the illusion of perfection, good looks, and athleticism hid a secret. A secret that would later become medical's greatest hope for understanding Schizophrenia.

The reality was, the Galvin Family was far from the illusion of the American dream family. Robert Kolker explains, “The Galvin home became a place where two different realities existed at the same time: the wrestling pit and the church choir; the wildness of the boys and the model family Don and Mimi believed they had. There was a growing sense of being lost in the shuffle, even neglected, feeling less than safe, treated like a number and not a person, raised to take the illustration of protection as a real thing. The private and public faces of the family were sometimes hard for others to reconcile, too.”

  • Can you paint a picture of what the Galvin family looked like? (7:06)
  • What did it feel like growing up in a home and witnessing someone in an active state of psychosis? (13:13)
  • Can you tell us about when your parent sent you to live with the Gary's? (16:18)
  • What negative emotions did you carry with you when you went to live with the Gary's? (19:06)
  • Can you tell us about the sexual abuse and how that started in your family? (23:43)
  • Were you able to make peace and find closer with your brother after being sexually abused? (27:51)
  • What was it like to learn that Donald attempted to kill his wife and Brian murdered his girlfriend? (29:14)
  • What did therapy and healing look like for you? (35:48)
  • How did growing up in the Galvin home shape how you showed up in your nuclear family? (41:03)
  • Outside of your brothers, has anyone else in your family been diagnosed with schizophrenia? (46:10)
  • How did it feel to hear other members of your families viewpoints on the family? (50:55)
  • What advice would you give someone who is going through any of the traumatic experiences you experienced? (54:39)
  • What it looked like growing up in a family of 12 siblings with 6 of them being diagnosed with schizophrenia (4:00)
  • All about the domino effect of Donald, Jim, Brian, Joseph, Matthew, and Peter's onset of schizophrenia (11:43)
  • About the time Margaret witnessed Donald trying to kill her mother (14:29)
  • How Brians murder suicide resulted in an opportunity for Margaret to move away from the trauma (16:30)
  • How trips to Aspen with the Federation of Rocky Mountain felt like heaven to Margaret (21:15)
  • The two bad choices Margaret was faced with (24:14)
  • How trust distorted her understanding of what love is (25:14)
  • How being cognitively available can lead to increased shame around sexual abuse (27:12)
  • What happened when Margaret told her mother that she was being sexually abused by her brother (28:30)
  • What Margarets relationships looked like and why I am so excited she married Wiley (30:58)
  • How Margarets journals turned into Hidden Valley Road (34:33)
  • How brain spotting helped Margaret recover from growing up in trauma (38:44)
  • What Margaret had to do for her own mental well-being (41:39)
  • What Margarets relationship looks like with her siblings now (44:22)
  • What courage looks like to Margaret (55:18)




Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

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