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Sept. 25, 2020

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Camas mom embraces ‘unnormal’ in mental health podcast

By , Columbian staff writer
5 Photos
Kimberly Berry, right, records a conversation about domestic abuse and sexual assault with Rebecca Lomeland, a licensed mental health counselor, for her podcast “Being Unnormal” in her dining room in Camas.
Kimberly Berry, right, records a conversation about domestic abuse and sexual assault with Rebecca Lomeland, a licensed mental health counselor, for her podcast “Being Unnormal” in her dining room in Camas. Samuel Wilson for the Columbian Photo Gallery

For Kimberly Berry, this is personal.

Berry, a 41-year-old Camas single mother of two, hosts “Being Unnormal,” a podcast that traverses topics related to mental health. It was born from the experience of raising two daughters with mental health special needs, both of whom have been in mental health crisis care.

Berry came up with the podcast idea in February. Her first episode, dropped in June, was about suicide, following the death by suicide of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Their deaths were the push Berry needed to finally make the podcast a reality. She has since done nearly 20 episodes, which come out on a weekly basis.

“I know there are other people out there in pain that feel isolated, alone. That feel clueless, dealing with the same stuff I’m dealing with,” Berry said. “As I started connecting with people online, and within the community, I knew that there was a missing component, here locally and nationwide.”

The podcast hits a range of topics, and Berry always has a guest who’s trained in the field of the topic. The guest is generally from the Portland metro area, since Berry says she tries to keep the podcast “as homegrown as possible.” Berry prepares some talking points ahead of time, but the tone is always conversational, and Berry tries to mix personal experiences with professional expertise.

She’s discussed attention deficit disorder and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and depression with therapists, substance use recovery with an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and even adultery with a relationship counselor.

Want to listen?

Kimberly Berry’s mental health podcast “Being Unnormal” can be found here:

Berry tries to keep the podcasts around 50 minutes, but many of the topics are so involved that it can be difficult to be brief. She always includes her expert guest’s contact information or resources so people can use the material from the episode even after it ends.

The podcast has more than a thousand listeners worldwide, but Berry feels like it’s an important tool for the local community, especially Camas, an affluent city with a highly ranked school system. Camas just recently hosted its first Wellness Festival, which Berry helped organize.

“When you start talking about more affluent or upper-socioeconomic families, they tend to be very secretive, and they tend to be very guarded about what’s happening in their homes,” Berry said. “The problem is, you think you can protect it in your home, but it’s coming out in school. Educators are seeing, their community members are seeing it, their peers are seeing it, other parents are seeing it. You start seeing these problems that become really apparent when you have multiple suicides happen at a high school like Battle Ground and Camas did.”

Berry said she does the podcast partly because parents can be a barrier to care when they’re trying to suppress their child’s mental health struggles. She said mental health ownership falls on the entire family, and especially on the parents. They play a role in how their child copes with mental health.

As far as the name “Being Unnormal” goes, Berry said it’s connected to everyone’s desire to strive for normal. She calls it the “fallacy of normalcy” and wants people to embrace their unnormal and realize that perfectionism isn’t real life. The goal is self-acceptance. Being unnormal is normal.

“In the mental health space and with parents of children with mental health issues, there really is, ‘I really just want to go back to normal,'” Berry explained. “There’s this drive for parents to go back to what they perceive normal to be, which was before the symptoms of the behavior started happening. And that won’t happen in mental illness. So how do you embrace what is now? And grow and cultivate a new culture for yourself and your family? How do we do that in the community? And how do we do that in the nation?”