Today’s podcast is with “Wonder Woman” Joanna Westerholm Linkchorst. Joanna is the spirit behind the effort toward saving Rockhaven Sanitarium.
Rockhaven is a place that was built in 1923 by a woman RN named Agnes Richards who found a better way to care for women with mild mental & nervous issues. Joanna, as founding member and president of the Friends of Rockhaven, has embodied the legends from this historical site and has become its living history. She shares with us a few stories of mental health treatement so ahead of its time: Rockhaven being one of the first facilities to give women, who often were put away for no reason, a homelike setting and dignified safe care. Rockhaven became known as a place for rest and rehabilitation for women suffering from overwork and exhaustion. Rockhaven is a place whose spirit still provide that quiet and respite. And thanks to Joanna and her teams’ efforts, its place in history will still be known for generations to come.
The Power of Place – this particular place – is what Joanna has been dedicating her life to for the past several years. She tells stories of the famous women who found peace here. Joanna also shares her own descent into madnesss with anxiety and depression, and explains how she has been able to triumph with tools and learned best practices. This history buff and storyteller personifies the very essence of a caregiver. I know you’ll love her and what she has to say in this great homage to caring for the caregivers. Let us know what you think by posting in the comments.
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Hi, and welcome to Madness To Magic, and my podcast, I’m with Crazy: A Love Story. I’m your host, Paolina Milana, author of “The S Word”.
This show is for those of us who find ourselves surrounded by madness and wanting to find the magic within. We’re going to come together here as caregivers to those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Maybe it’s someone in the family we’ve been born into. Maybe it’s someone we love. Maybe it’s someone we work with. Maybe, even, it’s ourselves. Whether we’ve been thrust into this caregiver role or taken it on by choice, this podcast is where we’re going to share our stories and learn to realize the magic in all the madness we may have been experiencing. I promise you, it can be done. So let’s get to it.
Paolina Milana: I am here, again, with you for this episode of Madness to Magic, I’m With Crazy: A Love Story. I’m so glad that you decided to join us today, because today we have a very special guest, a very special friend, [Joanna 00:01:21], and I am going to let her introduce herself because I will most likely mess it up, and she’s too important to mess it up. So, Joanna, you want to say hello and let people know who you are?
Joanna: Hi. I’m Joanna. When people ask, I usually say that I am a lifelong Crescenta Valley resident, and I am a mother of two and wife of one. I have been a founding member and president in the Friends of Rockhaven for about five or six years now.
Paolina Milana: Awesome. And that’s good that you are the wife of one, because that would be a whole different podcast, right?
Joanna: Yeah. We are with crazy.
Paolina Milana: Yeah, right, exactly. So, you have been the leader, the spear-header, the-
Paolina Milana: The mover, the spirit of the effort towards Rockhaven.
Paolina Milana: Can you explain a little bit about what Rockhaven is to the listeners?
Joanna: Rockhaven is a beautiful spot in [Verdugo 00:02:21] City, where once upon a time, a woman came out deciding to do something different to give women safe care for mild mental and nervous issues in a homelike setting. In 1923, she came out, and she found the beautiful mountains and the beautiful oak trees, and a beautiful building to be able to keep them in. Her idea, after working for about 20 years or so in mental health, going from World War I out to Patton, out to LA County Hospital and seeing all the different ways that mental patients were treated, and particularly women, that she needed to do something different. And she had learned about cottage care, so she knew that if you give them dignified treatment in a homelike setting, things are going to be different.
Joanna: She had watched, and even had in her care, some women who were put away for virtually no reason, and if they were put into the system, they would disappear. They would be drugged, they would be locked away for unknown amounts of time, and her focus was on getting out, getting active, and getting home.
Paolina Milana: So, I’m going to ask that we rewind just a little bit. Part of the reason that I have Joanna here is because I love to binge watch TV, and one of the programs out right now is called Harlots, and it’s … Do you know-
Joanna: I just saw an advertisement for that yesterday. It’s like, “We’re not even hiding this anymore. We’re just throwing it out there.”
Paolina Milana: Throwing it out there. Well, apparently, during this time frame, turn of the century, women had two choices. So, they were either married or they became harlots. That was kind of it. Or you were better on the street. That’s kind of how they portray this whole series. And so, they show you a couple different families who really go into the business of being harlots. And by that, we mean prostitution, right? so, what did they used to call them? Brothels. And the reason that you really came to mind, had nothing to do-
Paolina Milana: With prostitution, as beautiful as you are. And you look awesome when you wear those period pieces whenever we have those kind of events, but the reason is because one of the characters, who is not a particularly kind person, was recently-
Joanna: This is getting better and better.
Paolina Milana: Yeah, it really is. You should watch this.
Joanna: You come to mind because there’s this character in Harlots.
Paolina Milana: No, it’s not that she reminds me of you, but she was put in a hellhole. That’s what I would call it. And called mentally ill by her son. And right now, they’re going through what happens to people in those environments, what they used to do to people, mostly women, who were deemed mentally ill. So, when we’re talking about Rockhaven and your work with it, first off, the woman who actually created Rockhaven, her name was?
Joanna: Agnes Richards.
Paolina Milana: Agnes Richards. And she was actually, if I remember correctly, a nurse by trade.
Joanna: Yes. She was an RN.
Paolina Milana: Okay, she became an RN. What were the kinds of things that she saw? You kind of alluded to them, but what were the things that she experienced as an RN for women, for people with mental illness? Can you talk a little bit about before she started Rockhaven?
Joanna: Well, most of it, I can only imagine, because she never worked in a … Well, I guess she did. She worked in a Hastings, Nebraska hospital for the chronic insane, and during World War I, she worked with the Red Cross, and that would be the guys that came back with what they called shell shock. You know, give them a shot of whiskey and send them back out again. They had no idea what was really happening to the minds of these people. So she witnessed-
Paolina Milana: So, like today, post-traumatic stress disorder kind of thing.
Joanna: Correct, yeah. Then she comes out to Patton. The stories that I hear, like Rockhaven actually had a woman who was put in there because she was going through menopause. Her husband said she wasn’t acting like herself, and therefore she needed to be put away. Put away. Now, fortunately, they chose a lovely place for her to put. If he had put her anyplace else … It’s ridiculous that for some reason he didn’t think that she could function outside of a hospital, just because she’s going through menopause.
Paolina Milana: Well, even in Harlots, in that day, one of the younger girls who’s in the mental facility, she was put in there by her stepfather because she was caught having sex in the stables with the stable boy. So there were all sorts of reasons, and women didn’t have a voice at all. So, go ahead. So, she experienced all of this, and she-
Joanna: And this is the sort of thing that continues to go on. I heard about a story in the 50s or 60s where a young girl got pregnant, and they didn’t send her to a camp for young mothers. They sent her to a sanitarium to give birth to this child. What an experience that would be. What a different place. What a way to be treated for … Yeah, I don’t know. But there is. There’s just all kind of stuff. And then the idea, like Nellie Bly going and getting herself locked away for several days to find out what it was really like on the inside. She finds out that basically everybody … There’s just so many stories, Paolina, that basically everybody’s getting drugged, that it’s a miserable place to be, and that if you are not insane, you’re going to go insane because of what miserable treatment they’re getting.
Joanna: But then there are the genuinely insane people that are there amongst the people who are not, or at least not yet insane, and the challenges of having to manipulate your way around. And of course-
Paolina Milana: Or keep your sanity and not go mad.
Joanna: Exactly. And then, of course, Agnes made it run by women for women, only. Think of the dangers that women were facing. And I recently heard about a patient that was found to be pregnant by a caretaker, a gentleman who was abusing her. Still, still, the 21st century, this sort of stuff is going on. So, Agnes was-
Paolina Milana: Way ahead of her time.
Joanna: Timely. She needed to do something different to give them an opportunity to recover, not get worse. Not go someplace terrible, not be abused further. And then go a step beyond that and make it beautiful setting and treat them with dignity. As her granddaughter took over and brought it further into the 20th century to the 21st century, making certain that their hair was done, that their nails were done. They were always dressed. They were always brought out to dinner. They were not allowed to just sit in a chair and watch television. And this is more dementia and Alzheimer’s by this time, for the Rockhaven-focused care, and there was, of course, different mental issues there, must mostly on aging issues. It would change their behavior. They would feel differently about themselves because they were being treated as human beings.
Paolina Milana: And they were allowed outdoors, right?
Joanna: Oh, yeah.
Paolina Milana: So-
Joanna: Yeah, they were encouraged, particularly at the beginning. She had … And this is one of those fun things about learning more about her and where she worked … Out at Patton State Hospital, they showed us where the farm was, and like, “Oh, I heard that Agnes had a garden and she had chickens,” because the ladies were supposed to get out and have a purpose. They had facilities for making their own mattresses, for making their own shoes, obviously for cooking and all these things that all of the, at that place, patients, at Rockhaven, the residents or the ladies … That’s what they were called. They were never called patients. All these activities for them to do made a difference in their behavior, in their day to day lives and that sort of a thing.
Paolina Milana: Well, when we’re talking about 20th century, 21st century … So, with my own mother, my own sister, and the places they were committed to, the fact that they were allowed to just further isolate, they were drugged up … And I get it, when someone is way off the deep end to even start the process of what’s really wrong and you need to calm people down. I understand the theory behind it, however, the practice of just keeping people drugged up, doped up unnecessarily, the practice of putting people in those places without real cause, and not even giving them a voice, that has been going on forever, and I do believe still to some extent continues.
Joanna: Absolutely. I’ve heard of them being drugged simply because the orderlies, the caretakers didn’t want to deal with them. You just drug them into-
Paolina Milana: To catatonia or whatever we want to call-
Joanna: That’s exactly it. And then one of the worst things that I just recently heard was up in Camarillo. Deaf children were being put in mental sanitariums and then just drugged to keep them quiet.
Paolina Milana: Wow.
Joanna: Yeah. Yeah, keep them docile. So, yeah. No, it’s twisted. It’s scary and sad, and part of why this place is such a beautiful and kind of tragic story, because of what she was saving them from, if they could.
Paolina Milana: And, not just saving them, but if I can say … So, I stumbled onto Joanna, I stumbled onto Rockhaven … I think a lot of people maybe stumbled onto it and then they’re shocked at what it is, the historical reference, but also in being taken on a tour of the grounds. It’s such a beautiful, tranquil, zen place with rosebushes and … You want to spend time there. And I can only imagine in terms of caregiving for people with any kind of mental disorder, that kind of environment is what should be preserved and encouraged and furthered, verus, gee, I don’t know, turning it into a hotel.
Joanna: Well, yeah.
Paolina Milana: Big surprise.
Joanna: Yeah, and that was my thing as I worked to preserve this historic spot. It wasn’t just to keep it from being leveled and becoming housing. It wasn’t even just to save the stories, which is pretty much what we’re going to be coming up with on our website, is just trying to make sure that all these stories that I have learned over the years, they’re out there for people to read and learn and do research and that sort of a thing. But it is to preserve the space itself. I’m always disappointed, shall I say, when I drive up a historical sign that says, “And five miles from here used to be,” and I would hate for anybody to pull up to this spot … And it’s even going to be kind of weird to go to a hotel and say, “Yeah, this was a mental sanitarium,” kind of a thing.
Paolina Milana: That is true. [crosstalk 00:13:33]
Joanna: But to say a woman came out and began a business for women to give them an opportunity to be treated like human beings used to be here. But right now-
Paolina Milana: Sad.
Joanna: There’s an advertisement that said that this was a place of rest and rehabilitation for women suffering from overwork and exhaustion. And we all raise our hands when I say that. We were all ready for that spot.
Paolina Milana: Sign me up.
Joanna: But for me, it became more than just preserving this place. A lot of people that are saying, “Oh, this is great because the exteriors of the buildings are going to be saved,” and it’s like, “But that’s not it.” Oh, that’s the new term. The power of place. This place has a lot of power, there is, when you actually stand in the spot where Custer stood kind of a thing, there’s power to it. But here in this particular place, there is still that rest and rehabilitation to be found. It’s quieter behind those walls.
Paolina Milana: It is.
Joanna: The trees are so beautiful. It’s just wonderful to just sit and really just be in the quiet.
Paolina Milana: And, in the spirit of those who came before. So, some famous people actually were residents. Do you want to talk a little bit about that and who actually lived there for a while?
Joanna: I can’t remember who came first. I think Marilyn Monroe’s mom was there, and her secretary … Because you know, these people know each other … Told the Billie Burke family, the Ziegfelds, that Billie Burke would receive lovely care there. And somebody came up and said, “Oh, why was Billie Burke here?” And it’s like, “Because this was the best place to be.” If you needed care, this was the place to be. And people have told me how lovely it was to be able to meet her and what a sweet person she was, and she had the bluest eyes, and amazing things like that.
Joanna: And other people from the industry, the fabulous Peggy Fears, who was a Follies girl, who came out to Los Angeles to act and direct and produce and to sing. Her dementia took away her ability to speak, but Patricia just got a real kick out of her. She lived spending time with her and dressing her and she said that she would play recordings of her singing, and she would be able to say, “That’s me.”
Paolina Milana: Oh, wow.
Joanna: The extra cool thing about Miss Fears is that … The way that I like to tell this story is from the front side backward. There was a young girl that told me that there was always a card on her table that said, “Love, Tedi,” and she wondered who Tedi was until the day that Tedi Thurman pulled up on her motorcycle from Palm Springs. And we learned that the two of them were a power couple, that they had a boatel out on Fire Island. So, they created their own safe space for the LGBTQ community out there, and interviews with Tedi Thurman about Peggy Fears are just absolutely … There’s really only one that I’ve been able to find, but it’s just absolutely sweet. It’s absolutely lovely. The two of them were stunning, absolutely stunning human beings, and they had each other.
Paolina Milana: Wow. So many stories. And just for clarification, Patricia is who?
Joanna: The granddaughter [crosstalk 00:16:56]
Paolina Milana: The granddaughter’s Patricia, okay. No, that’s fine. I’m just like … I’m trying to follow along because there are so many stories that I want to make sure that-
Joanna: There’s so many stories.
Paolina Milana: Yeah, and some of this I know from before, so I know who that is, but did she mention it on here? And just to make sure we get this down at least once, these stories and the things that you are capturing, regardless of what ends up happening, right, to the actual physical location, are you going to be putting them on some website? Do you want to give a URL now, just in case people want to check out things have to do with-
Paolina Milana: Okay, awesome. And then, I wanted to ask you … This whole podcast has to do with, really, caregivers for mental health. Either people you love, whether it’s your profession, or it’s family kind of thing. People who care for others who have a mental illness. It’s not an easy game at all.
Paolina Milana: And yet here, Agnes, went ahead and did it, and did it in an awesome way. So, when we talk about the best of giving care for people with mental health, if you had to kind of tick off things that you learned really do matter and really do help people get better, what might those be?
Joanna: Oh, the things that I witnessed … One of my first tours, a woman came and she said, “Can I see the spot where my mom died?” I was up in San Francisco. I wasn’t able to be here. And it’s a building that’s normally closed, but they let us go in to show her the room. It was kind of emotional, and she says, “You know, when I dropped my mom off … Patients with Alzheimer’s aren’t supposed to know that there is a world outside of here. So you don’t get to talk to them for a couple of weeks. “But after about a week, I called to check on her and I said, ‘How is Mrs. Smith?’ And they said she’s doing very well. And they said, ‘No, I mean Mrs. John Smith.’ And they said, ‘Yes, we’re really enjoying her company, and we’re very glad that she’s here.’ And she said, ‘When I dropped her off, she was biting, kicking, screaming, utterly belligerent, but by living there and having her hair done and all those thing that I listed about being dressed and being treated with dignity, changed the way that she behaved.’ She didn’t have to lash out anymore. Things were answered. Her needs were met. She was being treated well.
Paolina Milana: She felt valued.
Joanna: Exactly. Patricia also said that made a difference with the visitors. If grandma looked good, then you’re more likely to come and visit grandma. If you’re ina beautiful spot … People have told me, “I love to come and visit grandma because I was able to sit out by the fountain with the little fishing gnome and the little castle and the amazing faux bois furniture.” These people hadn’t been on the property for decades, but they remember the faux bois furniture.
Paolina Milana: Wow.
Joanna: Yeah, so stuff like that is really … Forethought … They were just so smart. What they witnessed, what they learned in their experience, and the things that they implemented, what a difference they made. And I’ve met people that came … Grandma was there and I came to volunteer to help out with all of the other ladies, so that I was able to hang out with my grandma.
Paolina Milana: Wow. And I also know, just even from my own personal challenges that when I, even to this day, feel overwhelmed, stressed out, the voices in my head, kind of won’t be silenced-
Joanna: Totally know what you mean, yeah.
Paolina Milana: Ad I’m not diagnosed as anything other than a little bit cuckoo, but I know that for me, going outside, going for a hike, touching the ground, flowers, things like that, just completely changes my perspective and my attitude and how I feel. Same thing here seems to have been employed by Agnes, getting people … I remember on the tour you said that they would go out and they would kind of tend to the garden, and they would make sure that they had that time outside under the trees. I want you to talk a little bit about that whole kind of philosophy of, again, not keeping them locked inside, not keeping them … It wasn’t just how they looked, but the fact that they actually were allowed to go out in nature, and what that means when you’re giving care to people who have a mental illness.
Joanna: Well, at the time, the chamber of commerce, or the Crescenta Valley advertised that we had the most healthful air in the world. And from [Big Tonanga 00:21:27] Canyon over to the [Aroyo 00:21:29], there were as many as 24 sanitariums, both tubercular and mental.
Paolina Milana: I did not know that. You know that where we’re at right now, my house, [Sister Eslie 00:21:38] that this was an asthma. This was for children with asthma.
Joanna: Was it up here?
Paolina Milana: Yes, Sister Elsie was an actual nun who actually, like who actually … Yeah, it was right here.
Joanna: Oh, yeah. [Dunsmore Park 00:21:47], the walls. They were built and decorated with all these incredible bits and pieces of chain and spoons and cannon and all sorts of stuff.
Paolina Milana: I’ve seen that.
Joanna: That was a gentleman who bought the sanitarium from the [Kimbles 00:22:01]. It was a drug rehab center and his therapy for losing his wife and child was to get out and build those walls. Yeah, so obviously, you can turn a sanitarium into a park. Dunsmore Park is proof of that. And as a kid growing up, you just saw these cool walls. You didn’t know the actual impact behind that. But there is a picture … I like to think, after hearing that story of the woman whose mom just behaved better after she got there … I’d like to think that everything was perfect once they got behind those walls, and of course, that can’t be possible. We have a photo of a woman who is sitting in a swing, and she’s leaning off to the side, and kind of the catatonic look. And it makes me kind of sad. But then you really look at the photograph, and she’s dressed really well. She is outside. She is in a swing. She has somebody sitting there with her, but like I said, she’s not in a house dress in front of the television inside. She’s not allowed to be. They take them out.
Joanna: If they had the ability, they went out to lunch to local places. They would have family picnics in the park. They would have trips to [Gardens 00:23:09]. Keeping them active in as many ways as they could think of was very, very important. It just made things better for everyone, for the caretakers as well as for the ladies who were taken care of there.
Paolina Milana: Wow. And so, for you personally … And again, on this podcast, if anyone wants to talk about something, they can. If they don’t, they don’t have to, so that’s totally cool. But you have been pretty up front about your own challenges. Can you talk a little bit about that? Is this why you got involved with Rockhaven? What was in it for you, so to speak?
Joanna: Well, as we came about … I don’t even know if it was a diagnosis, just kind of a figuring out that the descent into madness that I was feeling was actually anxiety and depression, and untreated.
Paolina Milana: Back then, you would’ve been locked up.
Joanna: Totally. And there were times that I wished I was. Particularly Rockhaven. But just thinking that these were things that were wrong with me and I can’t talk to anybody about it and that sort of a thing. I just kept it to myself. It just got darker and darker and deeper and deeper. And I remember being in a group and a woman said, “I can’t stand all these people that are so nice on the outside,” and it’s like, no. It’s the truth. I was black on the inside. I was thinking the most miserable horrible thoughts while I was taking my walks, but a huge smile on my face on the outside, because it was like, “What a really pretty yard those people have. What a nice tree that is. Look at the kitty,” kind of a thing.
Joanna: So, yeah, I’ve gone through a bunch of my own self-awareness and trying to get to a good place, but that has absolutely nothing to do with me being involved in Rockhaven.
Paolina Milana: Really?
Joanna: Yes. It’s one of those things that you can’t explain. I just dig history.
Paolina Milana: Okay, but there’s a lot of different historical things you could’ve gotten involved with, and this-
Joanna: But this is the one that fell in my lap. So, when the city was purchasing Rockhaven, my kids were too young for me to be able to do anything more than look after the kids and say, “Once I tuck them into school, if you need somebody to come and help pain, I’m available. But when they’re around, I’m with them.” And they got older, and the city kind of started to ignore Rockhaven for a while. The city of Glendale purchasing it, back in 2008. So, Rockhaven operated under the [Richards Travis women 00:25:31] until 2001, when Patricia sold it to the [Ararat 00:25:36] company. Ararat closed it in 2006. They were going to … Of course, who’s going to want to buy three and a half acres, but a developer that’s going to want to level everything and put buildings and housing there. So, the city steps in with this grand plan of moving the library over, expanding the fire station where it is, put in Traders Joe’s at the end of [inaudible 00:25:55], use the money from that land lease to be able to afford to support the park. And at that time, the recession hit.
Joanna: So they said, “Okay, we’re just going to shutter this for a little while, and we’ll put it into a state of arrested decay …” Which, you can … Obviously 11 years later, it’s not arrested any longer. The decay is starting to take over. But five years into their ownership, the new city manager says that he is interested in this space. The city wants to tour, and at that time, my kids were starting to move on to other things, so I was looking at what I was going to do next, and I trained as a docent down at the Autry Museum of the American West. So, I am a trained docent when the Historical-
Paolina Milana: [crosstalk 00:26:36]
Joanna: Society of Crescenta Valley contacts me, and they say, “We’re going to be giving them a tour. Do you want to be involved?” It’s like, “Well, yes, I am a trained docent,” kind of a thing. And he says, “Great, I hate doing that.” So, I have to learn everything that I can, and what’s cool is, it turns out, none of it was true. Agnes loved to tell stories about herself, because she wanted to look, I guess, more important so she could fit in with the society that she had come to be a part of. The town [inaudible 00:27:05] and the Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles Breakfast Club, and so incredibly philanthropic, all these people. So she’s telling these stories about when she got a degree in psychotherapy and she traveled … No. She was 10 when she emigrated here with her family, and as soon as she was old enough, got the job at the hospital for the chronic insane. So maybe she was 14 when she started working.
Joanna: And she builds this unbelievably beautiful empire, is incredibly generous, has a beautiful life, is a blessing to all of those who come in contact with her … And I have no idea where I was going with that.
Joanna: Oh, I was talking about me.
Paolina Milana: Wait, before you go to you-
Joanna: Oh, okay.
Paolina Milana: Hold on one second, because you triggered something else for me. I believe … And I could’ve gotten this wrong … You had told me … Or, during the tour, that she was not just everything that you’ve described so far, but also brilliant in financing, right?
Paolina Milana: Okay, so tell a little bit about that, because that’s pretty incredible.
Joanna: It’s a short story, because everybody says, “Wait a minute. How was she able to afford all of this?”
Paolina Milana: During the Depression, right?
Joanna: Yeah. It was 1923. She shows up with a little bit of the money that she’s been able to save. Now, she’s married at the time, and her husband is required to sign the papers, but he is never there. He stays out at Patton and they divorce shortly after, because women couldn’t do this. So, she’s got six women. She’s living there in the house with them, but inside of a year, she now has more than 20 women. So, she buys a house that’s right next door, and from there, buys other houses that are around there that she then starts having buildings built, starting in 1929, all the way up until 1939. And so, people say, “How did she have the money to be able to do this?” So I asked her granddaughter Patricia, and she says, “You don’t make money off of owning a sanitarium. Gram was really good at investing.” And I’m like, “Tell me the secret.”
Paolina Milana: Yeah, really.
Joanna: Because she-
Paolina Milana: [crosstalk 00:29:10]
Joanna: Was investing at a time that the stock market crashed, but she was able to keep people employed and building, and housed and taken care of during the Depression. She had still created this safe haven that was able to operate. And from there, not just the three and a half acres that is Rockhaven Historic District. Across the street, and back behind. So, people that worked for them were able to live in houses right nearby. There was a dentist that was cared for towards the end of life, one of the first women to graduate from the SC Dental School, and she had a little dog, but the dog couldn’t come with her. So, the dog was kept by a nurse who lived across the street, and then when the nurse would come to work, the dog would come over and visit with the dentist. So, she still had her dog.
Paolina Milana: Oh, that is such … Those are awesome stories.
Joanna: There’s a bunch of them.
Paolina Milana: Yeah, absolutely.
Joanna: But so, I take what little bit of information that I’ve got, and I give as much of a history and a tour as I can, and at that time, it’s not just … Everybody’s like, “Oh, at least the exteriors of the buildings are going to be saved,” and it’s like, “Forget that.” I walk all over Pasadena, Glendale. I was in a great spot in Glendale today. That architecture is able to be seen all over the place, Los Angeles, Hollywood, everywhere, there’s these beautiful Spanish colonial revival and craftsman style homes. You can’t see the inside. And right now, at Rockhaven, you can walk into those buildings and see tile from 1931 in vibrant and beautiful colors that aren’t possible without the cancer-causing agents that were put into them to make them that stunning and last this long.
Joanna: So, it isn’t just a matter of trying to save the veneer, for me. It’s saving that sense of place, giving a place where people can come and see and not just go, “Oh, isn’t this nice that somebody got to stand here under this tree.” It’s like … But inside. Look at the beautiful wood. Look at this amazing tile. Look at the details that she put into … This archway faces this way, and this archway actually has tile. It’s not just, “Here is a block building.” It’s beautiful architecture. Beautiful design. Details everywhere. I have never been to a house where I see a screen door where you turn the handle to the left to the right, you pivot it left or right. And that’s how you open the screen door. And I think that’s so cool. I’ve never seen that anywhere but in Rockhaven.
Joanna: So, what I wanted to save wasn’t just exteriors, and then the gardens disappear because the gardens were as much of the treatment as any of the rest of it. So, I get on there and I walk them around, and I don’t want to leave. I’ve left my heart behind. This is such a beautiful spot. And then I start learning stories. We just went on a trip up the 395, and on the way back down from [Bishop Creek 00:32:07], my daughter wanted to stop at Manzanar, and we stopped there once when she was really little. Manzanar being the detention center for Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II. And it was very interesting to me, very challenging for me with my mom being brought up in Los Angeles during World War II, to see the sorts of things that went on and the decisions that were made, and the reasons, and that sort of a thing.
Joanna: And we’re about to go outside and start looking at everything else when I went, [Tomayai Shudumascu 00:32:35]. And I go zipping past my family in the bookstore, and my son comes running after me, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” And I said, “Tomayai. I’ve got to find Tomayai.” I’m getting emotional just thinking about it right now. Tomayai Shudumascu lived in Manzanar, met her husband there. So, here I go, and I take pictures of the names of the Shudumascus. I didn’t get Tomayai’s, because she was under her maiden name, darn it. So now I’ve got to go back up.
Paolina Milana: Another road trip.
Joanna: But to make that connection with somebody who had been at Rockhaven and had to go through this, and life went on from there. I was told by a nurse that was there when Tomayai moved in that … She followed her walking around the walls and gates of Rockhaven for hours, as Tomayai had to process the fact that she was behind fences again.
Paolina Milana: Oh.
Joanna: Yeah, right? When I say there’s so many stories, there are so many stories. It’s just a beautiful spot to be able to … To see the architecture, yes. But to see the details as well, but to see that the way that women who would take care of other women, to see that there are mental issues that need to be treated in a different way, to see that a woman who goes to school to become a journalist can then, during World War II, fly fighter planes, training men how to fly the fighter planes, and then end up here, and then one day walk into a closet and see her name stuck up inside. That her clothes … This is … Getting chills just thinking about … This is place where she was cared for at the end of her life. Amazing, amazing women. Amazing stories all in this one little center. It’s just so many things in three and a half acres. It’s too big for me to hold on to.
Paolina Milana: Well, and have to hold on to them, right? Continue to share those stories [crosstalk 00:34:38]
Joanna: Well, yeah [crosstalk 00:34:40]. Go on and on and on here.
Paolina Milana: Story time all day long. What I love is the connections. This entire kind of ecosystem that just continues on and it’s not just .. Like you said, not just the architecture, the brick and mortar. It’s the spirit. It’s the people. It’s those connections in time, those connections of who knows who, who runs into who, who … Things that are lost in great part because we don’t have oral history anymore. We really don’t. And things that are lost because people … There’s that famous song, they paved paradise, put in a parking lot. Same kind of thing happening here. [crosstalk 00:35:24] I know. Did you want to just mention what’s happening now with Rockhaven?
Joanna: As the Friends of Rockhaven were allowed to start giving tours, never considered public tours that they were … We were allowed once a month to go on with a group of people, specific group of people, to take on and show around-
Paolina Milana: And when you say allowed, who allowed it?
Joanna: The city of Glendale. It is not open to the public, and we get two days, right now. Two days a month access. One for cleaning days, and one for tours if we find an interested group. We request, can we be there on this day from this time to this time. And the caretaker is there. They make sure that he’s there to make sure that nobody’s getting hurt and everything is fine, that sort of a thing. The then caretaker walked up and said, “Yeah, they were touring developers yesterday,” and it’s like, okay, we can’t just operate as a little group anymore. We really need to form into something serious. So, we became a nonprofit and began learning what it was that the city was looking into doing what they were now calling surplus property.
Joanna: In spite of the fact that it’s being taken care of by the parks department, that the parks comes and looks at it and takes care of it … Well, sort of. They were sending out gardeners every now and then to make it look like it wasn’t abandoned, kind of a thing, and not becoming a fire hazard … To try and let them know, yeah, five years ago, you guys did a really important thing by purchasing this property, and it should be treated with this kind of respect. And you guys, right now, in your hands, have an opportunity to create a historic park where these stories can be preserved and told. And I was always saying, where people could come and enjoy the rest and rehabilitation, whether or not they could afford it. Because back then, you had to be able to afford it. At a $300 a night hotel, you would have to be able to afford it.
Paolina Milana: Which is what they’re planning on.
Joanna: Which is where they ended up. So, we spent all these years learning more than I wanted to know about politics and all that sort of stuff. Finally coming down and around to them settling on a gentleman who was a beautiful and sincere human being, who will bring in a powerhouse team of women. The lady who worked on Griffith Observatory and Dodgers Stadium … And I’m like, “Why are they interested in her little three and a half acres?” And you know why they’re interested? Because it is a significant spot. Now, it still will not be a public park, which is unfortunate, and it will have to be gutted, which guts me because right now is the opportunity to see the way that they lived back in the 30s. But, to make it any kind of functioning place, if I can’t make that a museum where nothing is touched and you can see it exactly the way that it is now, then it has to be changed and brought up to code and take out the asbestos and all that sort of stuff.
Joanna: So, it will be a place for people to be able to come. It’s not … The very first time they talked about the hotel is only if you were there for … Eating at their restaurant, would you be able to be there and only if you paid $300 a night, would you be able to be in these buildings? Now that we’re about to talk to them ourselves, he has brought it back from 45 rooms down to 30 rooms. He’s focusing more on an accessible restaurant that people in the community are going to be able to want to come to, and accessible gardens and space, too, where you’re going to want to bring your kids. Where you’re going to have a glass of wine, and sit and look at those oak trees. So, it is a lot closer to the original hopes that we had, but it’s still a money-making place where the buildings and the interiors are going to have to be irreversibly changed. So, it’s sad for me to have been able to experience this, and not be able to continue it and share it. But I guess that’s the world, isn’t it? Things have to change.
Paolina Milana: And some call that progress, and sometimes it is, and sometimes maybe not so much. All right, and so, … What I have to say is thank God that you have been so involved, because it wouldn’t be even at this point … Them kind of rethinking what they were going to do with it.
Joanna: Right. [crosstalk 00:39:59] When we first sat down, yeah, they were drawing housing across what the Friends of Rockhaven got designated as historic gardens.
Paolina Milana: And what happens to it … I know that the intent was for to get landmark status. So, what happens to it if they start messing with it?
Joanna: It depends on how much they change. There has to be a certain amount of historical element left behind to be able to get listed. What was fun about getting it listed on the state, and then from there the national registries of historic resources, was … We were very anxious about going up there and having to convince these people that this place really needs to be … And we were just thinking the buildings are going to get designated, but we hired the Historic Resources Group who said, “No, no, no. The gardens are as much a part of the healing as anything else there, so they’re part of the historic designation.” And so, that’s how it became a historic district.
Joanna: We get up there, and there was only one letter written in opposition, and it was by the then city manager. He wanted the city of Glendale’s own Historic Resources Fellow to write the letter saying, “Please don’t designate it.” He said, “There’s no way I’m writing that letter, because you can’t say that you don’t want it designated because you wouldn’t be able to develop it. They’re not going to listen to that.” And I’m like, “Cool.” And so, he had to write it himself, and they read it out loud, and they said, “Is there any discussion?” And a fellow raised his hand and says, “I move that we place it on the registry.” No discussion, no anything. It was a slam dunk. Everybody knew that this deserved to be placed on the registry. And then, once the state of California does it, they automatically apply to the national, and we got listed on that as well.
Joanna: Now, unfortunately it doesn’t provide as much protection as we hoped.
Paolina Milana: Yeah, it sounds like it would, but-
Joanna: No, and be says, “Well, it’s got to be registered as a landmark,” and it’s like, “Well, really all that does is, it helps the owners with taxes.” They get tax breaks and various funding opportunities and things like that. So, it’s a good thing, and it’s encouraged, but it doesn’t really protect anything if somebody really wants to take it down. Particularly in Glendale, I go to complain to the state about something that’s going on, and they say, “Well, you know, the city of Glendale has their own historic resources guy, so you go talk to him.” And I’m like, “But that guy works for the city of Glendale. Are you not understanding the conflict of interest, here? And I know it takes the weight off of your guys that you don’t have to look at everybody if somebody has them on their own staff, but it doesn’t mean that they’re doing the job that you guys would do.”
Paolina Milana: Wow.
Joanna: Yeah, so that was a blast. But one of the things that I did, is as I cried to this group, as they were taking it away from me, as it were, the one lady said, “Oh, yeah. Three years ago when I toured it, all that time, I’ve been thinking about and planning how to decorate the hotel rooms.” And I said, “Yeah, during those three years, I’ve been planning a museum.” So, to lose that hope and all the beautiful plans and excitement that I had was really hard. I said, “I want the artifacts looked after,” and the lady immediately wrote things down, so I’m hoping that they will be looking after the artifacts in the best way possible. I said, “I want it to be a landmark.” And she looks at her notes and she says, “It is, isn’t it?” I said, “No, it’s just on the registry. I want it to be a California state landmark with that sign on the freeway that says, get off here and you’re going to go be able to see this place.”
Joanna: And somebody said, “I think the guy running the hotel is going to want that, too.”
Paolina Milana: [crosstalk 00:43:24]
Joanna: Free advertising. So, I’m really hoping … And like I said, he’s a standup guy who really seems like, if that’s going to be good for the community and good for business, then he’ll probably be preserving as much as … Plus, he has these groups, these women that have done remarkable things in historic preservation. So, if they’re looking out for the place as well, then hopefully it will be able to be a landmark.
Paolina Milana: There is hope. And I want to come back to something, because you had mentioned a couple of times, a healing place, or what’s right for healing, et cetera, and how now, your hopes of what you had envisioned … Not going to take that route. And then you had talked a bit about, early on, your own kind of depression, anxiety, and that you’d walk around and there was a darkness inside, but outside everybody saw you as, “Oh, it’s Joanna. Here comes the smile.” So, I am curious to talk a little bit more about that, about you and your experience falling into that dark hole, and how you got yourself out of it. Because right now, hope are not being realized, and yeah, there is some hope on the other end, but it’s got to be a little bit kind of depressive and kind of even bring up a bit more anxiety of what does the future hold. How did you bring yourself out of it back then? And how are you coping with it now?
Joanna: Back then, medication.
Paolina Milana: Really, was it medication back then?
Joanna: Oh, totally.
Paolina Milana: Oh, really?
Joanna: Yeah, something that quieted all of the voices and all of the anxiety and feeling of yuck. Absolutely, medication helped.
Paolina Milana: But when you … Okay, so hold on a second because this is something new that I didn’t know.
Joanna: Oh, yeah.
Paolina Milana: Because from my own experience, my mother and my sister were on so many meds that we could’ve opened our own dispensary. At my own falling into very deep, dark bunny holes, my shrink wanted to put me on meds. I, at the time, refused because I equated those with what I had seen them do with others.
Joanna: Oh, sure.
Paolina Milana: And so, for those for whom they work and … I’m totally on board with that. If they don’t, I’m totally on board with that too. For you, they decided this would be something that you might want to consider. You did consider it. Can you walk us through a little bit of what was going on when you decided to take that route and how much it did help? How long were you on for it? Because I’m not saying that it’s not needed in cases, or that it’s not a catalyst to get you out of … So, talk a little bit about your experience with that if you’re willing to.
Joanna: Yeah. What sent me over the edge is a bunch of personal information that perhaps my family doesn’t necessarily want to be mentioned about, so I won’t say, “Yeah, I went nuts over this and that and the other thing.” But I will say that it just did reach the point where I called up my health provider and I said, “This is not an example of a woman that I want to be for my daughter. My daughter can’t see me being crazy all the time,” and I had just reached such an extreme point. All of my efforts to make the world of those I loved better didn’t necessarily work, which made things darker, which made me work harder, which made it not work, which … And it just kind of became, now that I’m at the bottom of this well, as far down that bunny hole as I can get, now what do I do? And it was so removed.
Joanna: They asked the questions, you know. Are you talking about suicide? Are you talking about self harm, harming others, and that sort of a thing? And I said, “No, I’m a mom.” So, as dark as things were, those little lights were keeping me from knowing that I was never going to do anything drastic. The time that I said, “All right, I want to take the mattress out on the front lawn and burn it, but my kids would have to come home and see that. Help me now.” So, they got me an appointment. I got in and they said, “Yeah. This is going to be a process.” So, they start me on one medication, and then that doesn’t work for this reason, and then another one doesn’t work for another reason, another one … And my favorite one was Prozac, because that’s the one that everybody talks about. I was suicidal on Prozac. And they said, “Well, you’re supposed to be on it for three months.” I said, “I will be dead by then. This is not a medication I can be on. Give me another one.”
Joanna: So, we found a medication that was just right for the amount of time that it took for me to get equipped with the tools that I needed. And believe me, I still use them. It’s been a tough couple of days, actually, where I go, “Why am I feeling this way? What’s going on? I don’t quite understand. Oh, wait a minute,” and I remember the things that they told me. I am having a feeling. I am not this feeling. I’m just having this feeling. And so, I take a breath and I move on. So, I had the medication to help me get through the dark times. I then had the support in my family and my life around me where things then improved on the outside as I worked on the inside, so that I reached the point where the side effects from that medication that worked … I said, “I’m kind of done clenching my jaw. I would like to stop doing that, now. Is there another medication, or what?” And they put me on another one and something else went wacky, and I said, “You know, I think I’m at a point right now that I want to try and get off of it.” And they said, “Great,” because that is the goal, is to give you the tools to equip you to be able to handle it without the medication. Some people can’t. Some people need to be on it.
Joanna: I want to say, I do not. But that is also with the realization that I do have these really dark days where I feel lost and out of control and have to rely on that one little part of my brain that says, “No, no, no. There’s something going wrong here. Stop. Pull it all together, and then we’ll move on.” And understand that this may last for a little while too, but that we can get on and get through it. And today is a beautiful day, and it’s really, really nice to know that, yeah … It’s been a couple of really tough ones, but I personally, fortunately, have the ability … But yesterday, I was starting to think, “Do I want to go back on medication? Because this is not good.” But the side effects were things that I wanted to give up. And maybe in my future, I might have to go back on, but right now, I’ve got the tools. I’ve got the support system, and I’m able to go on in a functional sort of a way.
Joanna: But, I will tell you, Paolina, that one of the struggles about this … Like I said, learning about politics, how politics works, and you hear all these wonderful things about grassroots efforts and it was a woman who saved Olvera Street, and all those little isms that you see, those memes that say, “You can do this. You’ve got it in you. Go for it, you’re going to win,” and it’s like, not necessarily. I carried a bunch of little Wonder Woman icons, because I wanted to be Wonder Woman. I wanted to make this happen, and I couldn’t. It was beyond my control, and I lost it. And it has made me kind of bitter, and I want to say I am not as pleasant of a person as I was five years ago. Maybe even two years ago. And it makes me sad, because I always thought that I was a really nice and friendly person, but now, I can be kind of grumpy and kind of snippy, and I don’t like that person. But it’s part of that experience.
Joanna: It’s kind of like … Well, like you say. This sucks.
Paolina Milana: It sucks.
Joanna: It shouldn’t have happened, and we’re going to-
Paolina Milana: Well, I’m going to say a couple things to you. Number one, I adore you. I know millions of people who do adore you. Millions more, once they hear this.
Joanna: The dark side inside says, “I’m going to introduce you to the ones that know different.”
Paolina Milana: Right, but you know what? And here’s the key point, at least for me. Part of why I so connected you from the second we met, and I so adore you, is because you have a voice. Number one, you had a voice championing yourself. “No, this is not the drug for me. Take it off. Three months, I’m going to be dead.” You were your own advocate, number one. Number two, you took it upon yourself to rise out of that darkness to protect your kids. You remind me so much of even my mom, who was in a very, very horrible place for a long time in her life. And I learned later in life that part of the reason she used to take us for walks as little kids was because she was trying to run away from the voices telling her to kill us. So, what I’m saying to you is, as much as you-
Joanna: She had that little light.
Paolina Milana: She had that little light, exactly like you. Finding that little thing to hang onto, that little spark of hope that’s deep inside, and letting that grow and not letting all of those voices, the darkness kind of take over. What is awesome about you is … I’m not even going to say the word awesome. What I think you might be exploring now, even more and more, is embracing not just the nice Joanna, not just the happy Joanna, not just the, “Oh, she was so much fun to be around five years ago,” but maybe, embracing the bitch Joanna, and embracing the bitter Joanna for a while. Giving it, too, a voice, until it’s heard, and until it knows, yeah, you know what? This sucks. But … And like you were telling me earlier today … It sucks, but look at what came of it because you were involved, right?
Paolina Milana: One thing that I have learned: not everything that we want … Few things that we want really end up being exactly how we want them to end up, right?
Paolina Milana: They come in different packages. They come-
Paolina Milana: Right? And granted, I do think to myself, often as you do, but my way was better. And yet, what I’m trying to embrace and learn is, no it wasn’t, because if it was, it would’ve been that. There is something with what is happening now that you still don’t know. You still don’t know the end of this. You don’t, Joanna. Right?
Joanna: And it could be a lot worse. Once they get into it, they could just start pulling back and trying to make more money and taking more of the history away from it, right. But-
Paolina Milana: You also don’t know what this is-
Joanna: But it could-
Paolina Milana: For you, either personally.
Joanna: Oh, indeed.
Paolina Milana: But it also … What it is for you personally, and what it is for you and your historian self and your storyteller self, and what this could be in the future. Our whole life, if we could live it backwards … Hindsight’s 20/20 … Then you can be like, “Oh, that’s why this happened.”
Paolina Milana: So, again, I say to you, everything that you have experienced and the strength within you to actually rise up and give voice and actually be this kind of superwoman … Surprise. You are Wonder Woman. I wish for you that you would just see yourself as others do, because I promise you they’re not saying, “Five years ago, Joanna was so much nicer.” They’re not saying that. They’re like, “Who the fuck is that? Because I want to be her when I grow up.”
Joanna: I don’t know about that, but-
Paolina Milana: Yeah, well-
Joanna: And it’s like when I try and have discussions with people, they look at me like I’m arguing with them, and it’s like … How do I change that so that I’m actually discussing and I’m trying to communicate to you what I’m thinking, and then you can communicate to me what you know, and so that I can change my mind or something. But people are like, “Quit arguing with me,” and it’s like, “Whoa, that’s not what I meant to do at all.” So I want to change that.
Paolina Milana: Yeah, but is it possible? I have that issue, too. People get intimidated, or they’re like, “Why are you … Relax. Stop being so passionate.” And in my mind, what I have come to realize is they may not be at a level where they’re able to have frank conversations. And I have stopped thinking to myself, “The issue is me and I need to change how I do whatever.” I’ve stopped that. And, what I do now is try to ask more questions, draw things out of them that make them a little more comfortable. But I never cross that line of not being true to myself, because the issue is not you. The issue … It really isn’t you, me. It’s not. It’s not. It is, quite often, who we’re talking to and what level they’re at. And for us to expect them to be anything other than what they are, that’s not fair either.
Joanna: Which means I need to learn when to shut up so it doesn’t look like I’m arguing or pushing them too far beyond who they are.
Paolina Milana: But let me ask you a question.
Joanna: But I get passionate about … No, I really want you to tell me why I should think this way. Tell me why I shouldn’t be feeling and acting this way, because it makes sense to me. Why doesn’t it make sense to you? And then they look at me like, “Shut up,” and it’s like …
Paolina Milana: Well, maybe because they can’t really explain their point of view, right?
Joanna: Yeah, that’s really possible.
Paolina Milana: And that should tell you … Yeah. I think, too … And this is just my own kind of thought process … When you are creative, when you are somebody who’s open to new ideas or a thinker … People have said to me, “You just think too much,” I probably do. I think [crosstalk 00:58:02] that when you’re like that, you present things to others who maybe aren’t like that, and you open up a little door for them that maybe they are just not ready to handle or open up. And so, the truth of it is, you’re giving them an opportunity to grow, because I’ll guarantee anybody who has said to you, “Just stop. Just stop,” they’re going home and thinking, “Wait a minute. Joanna said … Okay, wait.”
Joanna: You think?
Paolina Milana: Oh, I think. [crosstalk 00:58:35] I would bet my bottom dollar. I have had people come back years later and say to me, “I learned more from you than I ever have to date, so I want to just thank you.” People that I never … I have had people-
Paolina Milana: Well, it’s special and then I’m sort of like, “Well, I don’t remember what the hell I said.” Do you know what I mean?”
Joanna: [crosstalk 00:58:55] It was important to them.
Paolina Milana: Clearly, it mattered to them.
Joanna: That just means you have to be careful what you say, because you just never know-
Paolina Milana: Right, you never know.
Joanna: What’s going to stick in someone’s head.
Paolina Milana: You are given a voice for a reason, and you already know that your voice has had huge impact on several different people, several different ways. You don’t even know to the extend of what it has been. If you silence that voice, you are stopping others from growing. If you even think of it that way … And I’m not saying … Don’t misunderstand my, anybody who’s listening. I’m not saying that everything we say is brilliant and everybody ought to listen to it.
Joanna: [crosstalk 00:59:34] Right, yeah. Forgot about them.
Paolina Milana: Yeah, out there. But, I am saying that you never know. One of the upcoming podcasts is with my shrink of more than a decade, and one of the things that has been … Not weighing on my mind, but I’ve always wanted to ask her … She took me in late night, a fluke, just kind of a friend of a friend, and I was in a really bad place and needed this intervention. I wanted to know from her, what she saw in me to even continue.
Joanna: Oh, wow.
Paolina Milana: I mean, why … Because she saw me for months without me paying. What was it? So, I wanted to ask her those questions. I also wanted to kind of figure out what is her first memory, what is my first memory? And so, for me, it was … I kept telling her … She kept asking me, “I understand you’re having some challenges. What is it? Et cetera,” and I basically said, “Nothing, nothing’s wrong.” That was my line for everything. Nothing’s wrong. We all do that, right?
Joanna: [crosstalk 01:00:48] don’t worry about it, yeah.
Paolina Milana: Exactly. She asked me a question that changed my entire life, and she said … Not even asked me a question. She just came out and said, “Okay, so tell me about nothing.” And suddenly, I was like-
Joanna: What a beautiful human.
Paolina Milana: Beautiful. Just beautiful, and I … So, what I’m saying is, say whatever is coming up for you. Say whatever your voice is telling you to say without that filter of how they’re going to take it, because I really believe we’re each here to either learn something, or to teach. So, I have a feeling … Look what happened. Let’s just take this tactically, or tangibly. Not even sure which is the right word.
Joanna: [crosstalk 01:01:32] say.
Paolina Milana: Well, here you are. You have shared your truth. You’ve shared the experiences. You’ve shared the stories. Here’s a guy who had no knowledge of that, would not have had any knowledge of that had it not been for you. And now, he’s having you come to the table and little things are changing. If you had said, “Why bother? Nobody’s listening. Doesn’t matter. I’m not going to get my final way exactly the way I want it.”
Paolina Milana: And there’s wisdom in that, to think of that. Everybody has power, and you, actually, throughout your life have really exhibited that, and maybe your depression and anxiety maybe, maybe comes when you try to squelch it.
Joanna: Absolutely. Yes. And it’s interesting. As we were talking, I was thinking about how years ago when my world was just … My world. It was just my family, and that was it, and trying to make my family happy. And then the kids go to school, and I start making friends. I said, “Wait a minute, people like me? No way.” And then they volunteer, and I’m like, “Oh, no. I would love to, but no.” Then I find that there’s things that I can do. Then I take a position of helpfulness and it’s like, “Whoa, yeah, that’s what I want to do. I want to be helpful.” And then I take a position of leadership to try and be even more helpful, and it’s like, “I can’t lead, but maybe I can make some things possible by taking this position.” And then from there, going to be a docent and how everything built upon each other to lead to this one … I don’t want to say this one thing, because hopefully there’s a lot more in my life to go.
Joanna: This was this time. And honestly, this helped too because it gave me something to focus on other than myself. I didn’t need a job, but this was my job. I never got paid for it, I volunteered. But I loved every minute of it. I loved being on the property. I love the things that I learned, the people that I’ve met, the experiences that I’ve had. And everything has its time, and perhaps it’s time for this to be done. It’s not what it should be, but it’s what it could be. And it’s not what it almost was. By going through this fairly miserable … The ecstasy side had the miserable side of, “Why do I have to fight you people on what … It just seems to make so much sense to me. This isn’t privately owned. This is publicly owned. It’s already a park. You just have to take that last step to be able to show this off and share these stories with the world. And people from France, and England, and all over the country are going to come to see this place, so that means they’re going to see Glendale.” And it’s like, “No, we’d rather have it be a business.” And it’s like, “Okay. But at least it’s not going to be leveled and be housing and lost.”
Paolina Milana: And, thank God that there’s somebody named Joanna who’s actually going to share these stories with the world and let people know about this, regardless of what happens. I bet Agnes put you in place on purpose. No joke. I believe in that kind of stuff, I really do. I know, now people are like, “Okay … Cray cray.”
Joanna: That one.
Paolina Milana: No, I’m dead serious. I do believe in energy in another world, and spirits, and all of that kind of thing. I’ve had too many experiences for it not to exist, and I believe that there are things in motion that we just can’t know about, can’t see. And for you, maybe this was always going to happen, that they were going to turn this into something that wasn’t ideal. But you are here. And because you’re here, and you have all the stories, you’re like the living history of this place. Isn’t that awesome?
Joanna: And now that I’m not out there [crosstalk 01:05:32] fighting, and I’m going to have to sit down at the computer and write this all down.
Paolina Milana: Exactly.
Joanna: And get that on the website, and make sure that I’m not the only person that is saying this. But now that I’ve said this, more people can tell these stories, too. I have gone and talked to nurses who have worked there, and Patricia, who’s worked there, and gotten these verbal stories, the oral history that they’re not necessarily writing down. And now it’s in me, but now I’ve got to get that out. And I’m not necessarily writing it down like they didn’t, but I’m saying it in as many places as I can, so hopefully it gets out there and gets shared.
Paolina Milana: Okay. So-
Joanna: So, what’s next?
Paolina Milana: What’s next? Well, we don’t know. But whatever’s next, I think it’s going to be pretty exciting. And-
Joanna: Hopefully not too exciting. I’m kind of done with exciting. People are like, “You need to run for city council,” and it’s like, “Oh, no.”
Paolina Milana: Hey, there’s an idea.
Joanna: Not in the least. Not in the least. It was so gross to experience the way that it was. And to be sitting there … It was bad enough that I have to sit there and wait until 11:00 PM to say, “You people should do the right thing.” How miserable is it for them every Tuesday night to be sitting there until 11:00 PM having to go through all this? God bless these people, to the extent that they are genuinely interested in helping this city, and willing to sit there week after week after week.
Paolina Milana: How do you know that [crosstalk 01:07:01] if you don’t get on that council, how do you know that you’re not the one who’s meant to change it? If nothing changes, nothing changes. What if you’re the change.
Joanna: Not on council. That’s not the place to change it. I learned that going through this.
Paolina Milana: Then, okay. Find another way.
Joanna: But I also learned that … And I want to say, speaking of didn’t work because we don’t have our public park. And it’s like, “Yeah.” But speaking of did work, it got the process to be drawn out and closer to what it should be.
Paolina Milana: Right. Well, I don’t know. I look at you and I’m like … I’m glad that we met. I am grateful-
Joanna: Me too.
Paolina Milana: For someone who is so bold and courageous-
Joanna: Oh, God.
Paolina Milana: And has such a voice. You are. Someone once said to me, which I love this saying: You can never see the label from inside the bottle. And the thing is, we need to all start looking at ourselves from the perspective of what other people kind of see, because we are our worst critics.
Joanna: Well, hopefully you find the right people that-
Paolina Milana: Well, that’s true.
Joanna: Because there are some people that are going to tell you that what’s inside-
Paolina Milana: Yeah, I know.
Joanna: Isn’t so great. So you’ve got to be careful about those people.
Paolina Milana: I have a logo that was created for me, which is not too kind. So, I do know all about social trolls and things like that. But, my lady, is there anything else that you want to share with the scope of mental health, caregivers of mental health, keeping the best practices, what really does work, doesn’t work? Is there any last takeaways that you want to share or speak to?
Joanna: Thank you. Thank you for being a caretaker, because I know that I would have a very hard time taking care of somebody that I am not equipped to, and that sometimes, the way that you take care of them is by putting them someplace where they can be taken care of better. A lot of people … One of the fellows that I work with on the board kept his mom at home going through Alzheimer’s, and it was miserable. It was absolutely miserable. And it was important to them that she stay in her home. To me, depending on the situation, I think I would rather them be in a situation where people who know what’s going on, who have handled this in other people, and do it right, obviously take good care of them. So, thank you to the people who are taking care of their family at home. Thank you to the people who were able to put those family members someplace where they can get the help that they need by people who know how to do it. Thank you to the people, who do know how to do it, for doing it.
Joanna: Meeting these nurses and listening to their stories and the things that they did … I mentioned to Patricia that I saw that there were those little banner posts, and I said, “Those didn’t face the street. That wasn’t … When we put them on our houses, they’re for people out on the street to go by and see how cute the house is.” She says, “No, no, no. That was all for the ladies.” And it was to help them know what time of year that it was.
Paolina Milana: Oh, wow.
Joanna: The forethought, the little things that she knew, that she implemented, that she made sure were in place. And Agnes went and got a limousine and picked up a bunch of her nurses and drove … This is not going to be politically correct … Drove them downtown and got them all furs. At the time, that was … Took care of the caretakers. So I just thank those people who are able to do the things that I can’t, and not everybody can.
Paolina Milana: And for caring for yourself, putting on your own oxygen mask before you try to help other people.
Joanna: Right? I remember when i was on a flight, and that one finally clicked for me. Oh, my gosh. Like with when I called them up and I said, “I don’t want my daughter to see me being crazy.” I needed to put my own oxygen mask on so that I could be a together person to be a better example for her.
Paolina Milana: And, no stigma. That’s the thing that I’ve also … I was telling my shrink I didn’t even want to go and see her, because in my mind, that meant I was crazy. I was just like my mom and my sister. There is such stigma attached to it when, in reality, if we were just open and honest and practiced self care, a lot of this other stuff would resolve itself.
Joanna: And I was watching someone close to me struggling with stress greatly, and the doctor recommended going on a medication that was actually going to take care of a chronic pain, but it was actually meant for anxiety and depression. She refused to take it, because she’s not crazy. And I had to try and get her out of that mindset, like you said, the stigma. No, understand, that’s not what they’re saying. They’re not saying, “You’re crazy and you need to be medicated.” You and I live this now. We understand what that world is. What this is, is something to help you get by. And if it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work and you don’t keep doing it. You find what’s going to help get you through it, and do the self care.
Paolina Milana: Agreed. Well, thank you for joining us on this podcast. Do you want to give the URL or the Facebook page or anything?
Joanna: Oh, yeah. Everywhere. You can hashtag Friends of Rockhaven, save Rockhaven, Rockhaven. We’re on Instagram. We are on Facebook as Friends of Rockhaven. Our website … We just got a beautiful new website, but because it’s new, it’s not fully hooked up to everything, so that if you go to or donate or buy something that we have, it doesn’t hook up to the right store, yet. But, we do have some fun pictures on there, and a couple of stories and things at www.friendsofrockhaven.org.
Paolina Milana: Awesome. That is awesome. Well, thank you very much. And anyone listening, if you have any of your own stories to share, or you want to somehow get a little more involved, please do so in the comments. We would love to hear from you, and so, until next time, this is Madness to Magic, I’m with Crazy: A Love Story. Bye bye.
Paolina Milana: Thanks so much for listening to Madness to Magic, and my podcast, I’m with Crazy: A Love Story. I believe we’re all here for a purpose, and I know that this is part of mine. Please share this with anyone you think might benefit, or might even have a story of their own to share. You also can visit me at madnesstomagic.com, or check out more of my stories, including information on my book, The S Word, at paolinamilanawrites.com. I hope to hear from you, and to join forces with what I consider a unique, caregiver tribe as we all learn to embrace all of ourselves, to have compassion for others, and to come into our full power by the grace that is both madness and magic. Until we meet again, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite mantras. Be bold, and mighty forces shall come to your aid. Thank you.