Failure: Reframed and Renamed

Can failures be opportunities for growth in disguise? What does it mean to rename or reframe a difficult situation? Join the Mental Health Mamas as we explore some of our failures and what we’ve learned from them and share what AFGO (sort of) means.

Notes and Mentions

Episode Mentions:

Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

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Tina: Hey Everyone, I’m Tina.

Serena: And I’m Serena and we are the Mental Health Mamas.


Tina: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.

Serena: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Tina: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.

Serena: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You will find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website,

Tina: We wanted to start today’s episode with some clarification. We’ve received some comments about the “Mental Health Mamas” as creators of this podcast. If I’m trying to understand our listeners, Serena, and capture what they’re thinking, the line of thought seems to be that this podcast is for a female audience and specifically for those moms out there. Do you feel like that?

Serena: Yes. And while our podcast certainly is for moms, it is also for every other caregiver out there in podcast-land. You see, the idea is, we, Tina and I, are the Mental Health Mamas, a name that we coined because, well, we are fellow moms in mental health. And as we have mentioned before, we have connected with lots of different kinds of caregivers out there who share our same struggles and joys.

Tina: I am, in particular, thinking of some sweet grandparents who are now the primary caregivers of a child who struggle and a mom and a dad and many Dad caregivers.

We got some feedback in the form of an email recently that said, “After listening to your easily digestible episodes, I have gleaned that there are many mamas who strive to serve as support systems, and it’s important to realize that you are not alone, to seek help, to be patient with yourself, be real, and set boundaries to take care of yourself so that you can be your best for others – all excellent advice, even for people who aren’t mamas.” I will stress that part. And this person also loved Serena’s holiday letter, real holiday letter that was, is currently on our website. And this person said, “Congratulations on this exciting and impactful new venture.” So thank you for that.

Serena: Yes, thank you. Please know that this podcast is about far more than Mom content. Essentially, if you can relate to the content of our No Need to Explain Podcast or any of the writings on our website, then this podcast is for YOU! And that’s a great reminder that we do love to hear from you, we really do and you can send us emails directly from our website. And again that’s

Tina: Yes. And now that that is addressed, on to the topic of the day. Today we will talk about failure and, always trying to stay strength based, we will try to convince you that when failure is reframed and/or renamed it can turn a difficult situation into one with valuable take-aways.

One of the things we seem to connect with families around is hard moments that can seem like failure. And as frustrating as it can seem to not have the support that you need, I have learned by trial and error, that what might seem like failure can be seen as an opportunity for growth. Kind of like “When one door closes, another one opens”. And I will own that most of that comes from my resolve… I was NEVER taking no for an answer!

Serena: Right, and failure is something we definitely hear about from other families and, well, of course, experience too. But Tina, tell me more about never taking no for an answer. Is there a particular story that comes to mind for you?

Tina: Yeah, so I will use the example of a time we had just moved here to New York. I was trying to be proactive in finding my child support and, since I didn’t really understand how support looked in this state and in this town (and yes, care delivery systems look different in different places), I hit many roadblocks before we got the help we needed. And then, just when we found a practice that could help us, we had a therapist who met with my child, tea party style and all she could say is how lovely my child was, which she is...but also told me there was nothing wrong and that I was essentially misreading the situation! And I guess I could have thrown my hands up and succumbed to my frustration and fell into hopeless despair. But you know me Serena….

Serena: I do know you Tina! And I can imagine that you were seeking help because, well, you needed help.

Tina: Yes! And truly there was a brief moment of despair and then one of our champions, one who had some influence in this particular practice, said, “I am really not sure why you’re seeing Betty when Beverly would be the right person for you! (I did change the names of course). I was so very grateful to this person and really did learn some important lessons with that experience.

Serena: So before we talk about the lessons learned, I wonder if we can back up for a moment and talk about some of the things that stood out to me in your story?

Tina: Sure...Let’s do it!

Serena: So, let’s talk about the differences in care in different parts of our country. Can you say a little more about your experience with that?

Tina: Sure. We had come from a town with a very large hospital system and we received all of our healthcare through this system. When we first started seeing an issue with my child, we got a referral and went to a therapist. When things escalated, we were referred to a psychiatrist within the system. Very easy. It seemed easy and seamless and I guess I am not sure if this was because we were new to all this and any help we got was appreciated or because this system was just that good at taking care of its people, which it was. Models across the country can range from these large healthcare systems to private practice to county team approach models. And after running into our very first roadblock with a family serving agency in this town who refused to see my child because, “she was not currently in crisis”, which was awful, we settled on a county agency with a team approach and while that was a different thing for us, it is a great model and worked well once we got used to it. It was really the right fit. What has your experience been?

Serena: So I moved a lot growing up and certainly had the perspective of lots of different places as a child, and then as a parent, I’ve lived in three different states with my kids. In fact each of my three kids was born in a different state. There are so many things that I could talk about, about the differences between care and states and cities and towns, but the story that stands out to me at the moment is about my middle child. As I’ve mentioned before, she began struggling from a very early age and while we asked her pediatrician repeatedly for help and support, we were then placed at the bottom of a very long wait-list for a specialist. And when I say long, this was like a nine-month wait list and my daughter was under a year old and we weren’t even sure if this was the right person to see for what was going on. Thankfully we moved to another state. We moved here and on our very first visit to a new pediatrician, I began describing our struggles and she immediately said she was going to refer us to Early Intervention. My response was, “Early Intervention? What’s that??”

Tina: Right? Until I started doing this work eight years ago, I had no idea what that was. Our daughter was our first, and everyone around us thought she was brilliant (which she is) but no one really saw what we saw until we really needed help! And I agree. Early intervention is an amazing resource and I am so glad you got that referral. It turns out that Early Intervention, according to the CDC website, is available in every state and territory in the US and does not need a doctors referral. And although the CDC states that it is, “available to babies and young children with developmental delays and disabilities and their families”, another site suggests that, “Although all states offer early intervention, not all states do it the same way. States define developmental delays in different ways and provide services for different health conditions.” (

Serena: Yes, exactly. While it’s “available” in every state, it’s not something that is known about by everyone who might benefit from accessing those services. I had never heard of Early Intervention before and honestly, I have no idea where we’d be today without it...for my middle daughter and her younger sister. So, getting back to your story, you mentioned roadblocks to care. Can you say more about that?

Tina: I guess I’m surprised by the fact that early intervention does not need a referral, yet, how are parents supposed to know about it? I guess we’ll just start there, right? We have a child, she struggles, we seek help and rely on the people in positions of power to tell us what’s available. And often, we aren’t aware of the higher level services until we hit the wall, often, a few times

Serena: Right and I think about all the barriers or you might call them roadblocks that exist to care for ourselves and others families like ours. Some quick examples are transportation, child care (perhaps for other kids while seeking care for your child), and the expense of therapy. And then there’s the more deeply rooted barriers like stigma around seeking and receiving mental health care in our communities or maybe even in our own families.

Tina: Right. Stigma. That is surely a BIG one as is the financial burden of therapy every week even at $20 copays, adds up quickly and some people have way higher copays and some people have no insurance at all and so that is a huge barrier. And I just want to circle back to the access and knowledge barrier. We had some wonderful providers and school supports but the playing field, if you will, never really seemed level in that these providers had all of the information and power to get us help get into these programs and we had very little power. And yet….I had the power of persistence! So I want to mention the book Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski and they talk about persistence and how exhausting it can be to continue to persist. Our brain chemicals can only take so much before we end up defeated and we give up.

Serena: Right, persistence is exhausting, especially when that persistence doesn’t pay off. And so the last piece I wanted to pull out of your story was the idea that one of the providers you saw felt that you were exaggerating the situation. That one really hits home for me because I have certainly had that experience more than once. The fact is, if I as the primary caregiver am asking for help and think that there’s a problem that needs to be addressed, then there’s a problem!

Tina: Yes! And please remember you are the expert in your world! WE cannot tell you that enough. You see your people every day, especially now.

Serena: Exactly. Feel confident in your title of “Expert by Experience”. You have totally earned it! So, Tina, tell me about some of the other lessons learned.

Tina: So a big one is to trust and lean on your champions! We talk about champions a lot, Serena. Our champions are those people who get you, with whom you connect, and those with some knowledge and ability to support you in getting what you need. Those people do not have to be professionals. We have had champions who, yes, were doctors and psychiatrists and school nurses. Also school secretaries and counselors and neighbors and friends. People who truly care about our family’s well being and want what is best for us.

Serena: We too have had some great champions and they are literally why we are where we are and I really mean that. Every single step of the way we’ve been fortunate to find someone to support us on our journey. And it’s also important to note that sometimes, champions are not the people we might have expected. You might not find them in what we would consider a “professional” role. Like Tina said, they might be a neighbor or a friend who is perhaps also an Expert by Experience.

Tina: Yes! And I will say the school nurse was someone who was a champion, not because of her nursing skills. Because of her people skills. She was compassionate and kind to my child and to me and I am grateful to her.

Serena: It’s interesting that the school nurse was one of your champions because she was one of ours too! Not the same nurse, a different nurse. I think that school nurses do not get enough credit for all that they do. Ours always knew what my daughter needed and she could tell whether she was actually sick or not and she saved me so many calls from the school.

Tina: Yeah. So, yes! Shout out to SCHOOL NURSES! Hooray for you! And another lesson learned: road blocks are not permanent but often temporary. Learn what you can from these growth opportunities. They are often hard lessons. In fact someone we both know introduced us to the acronym AFGO, A-F-G-O.

Serena: Uh oh, here it comes!

Tina: Oh do not fear, I will keep this G rated, let’s just say it stands for Another Funky Growth Opportunity.

Serena: Ok. Another Funky Growth Opportunity. Yes, we’ll go with that. AFGO.

Tina: And another important lesson is to TRUST YOUR GUT, we cannot tell you that enough and be confident in what you know, especially about your child. We so very often look to professionals because we don’t feel confident and lose that “trust your gut” feeling.

Serena: And please know that none of this is easy. These are things we have learned the hard way, through failure (or perhaps what we thought of as failure), right Tina?

Tina: Absolutely. So do you want to add anything about the reframing or renaming of failure Serena?

Serena: Yeah, I will just say about the term reframing which is, I’m aware, is a term that is used in therapy and it’s something that you and I have learned to do over time. At first it’s really hard, and then it does become easier over time. So, to give an example of this, might be using the term mental health instead of mental illness. And you’ve probably noticed in our podcast that we talk about our kids, when we talk about our kids, we use the term, “struggle” and we don’t use the term “problem”. Really they’re the same thing, right? But it feels better to me (and my kids) if I say they struggle with something rather than they have a problem. A problem seems so very permanent. Does that make sense?

Tina: Absolutely. And it also feels like normalizing right?

Serena: Yeah. It just always feels so much better to come at challenges from a strength-based approach and in my family, it is how we get through challenging times. I tend to refer to our mishaps, or well, you might even call them disasters (or failures)...I refer to them as adventures. It really helps lighten the moment.

Tina: Your Ward-ventures! I love it!

Serena: Yes, exactly. Yeah, so, we are always learning and want to learn from you as well! We would love to hear about your failures and what you have learned from them. You can send us an email directly from our website, While you’re there, we hope you will check out the Things we Love section where you’ll find books and other self-care items that we love. These items do contain affiliate links that will take you directly to Amazon. If you happen to make a purchase through one of these links we might receive a nickel or a dime. It doesn’t cost you anything to use these links and it will help us continue bringing you this podcast.

Tina: So podcast friends, if you like what you’re hearing continue to listen, please! We would love for you to leave us a rating or review on Apple podcasts, subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts and please, share with others. You will also find more content on our website, as we’ve mentioned a few times,

Serena: And as always, this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while also taking care of your people.

Tina: Thanks so much for listening!

Serena: Bye!