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Losing the Atmosphere

A Baffling Disorder, a Search for Help, and the Therapist Who Understood by Vivian Conan
Afterword by Jeffery Smith, MD

"A potent, heartfelt life story." -- Kirkus Reviews

On Sale 9/29/2020

Born in 1940s Brooklyn to a father prone to rages and an emotionally erratic mother, Vivian Conan grew up in two different worlds: Outside and Inside. Outside, she had friends, excelled in school, and was close to her cousins and brother. Inside, she saw faces that weren't hers in her bedroom mirror and was surrounded by an invisible Atmosphere that bathed her in the love and understanding she craved. Moving between these worlds enabled Vivian to survive her childhood but limited her ability to live fully as an adult. To others, her life seemed rich with work, friends, music, and boyfriends. But her mind and soul were filled with chaos and pain. Neither she nor her therapists could figure out why.

Losing the Atmosphere is Vivian Conan's riveting account of her journey toward self-understanding and wholeness; her encounters with a string of more and less helpful therapists; and her unconventional relationship with the therapist who was finally able to guide her through the courageous, messy work healing required.

Told with honesty, humor, and grace, Losing the Atmosphere is a never-too-late story about the growth possible for anyone with the guts to pursue it, and a testament to the redemptive power of love: not the perfect kind Vivian experienced in her imaginary world, but the imperfect kind that connects us, flawed human being to flawed human being, in the real world she lives in now.

Praise for Losing the Atmosphere

"Vivian Conan has written a real-life medical mystery that is as resonant and profound as an Oliver Sacks case study -- but in her case, we see it from the inside. Losing the Atmosphere is, at heart, a book about what it is to be an imperfect human walking through an imperfect world." -- Dawn Raffel, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Couney

"In razor-sharp prose, Losing the Atmosphere traces one woman's lifelong journey to mental wellness. Misdiagnosed time and again, Vivian Conan tells her story with poignancy, determination and fierce intelligence. You will cheer for this survivor." -- Sally Koslow, author of Another Side of Paradise

"Vivian Conan's memoir is what genuine self-help feels like. Sensing the problem. Grasping the problem. Grappling with the problem. Overcoming the problem. This is quiet heroism." -- Mark Goldblatt, author of Twerp

"Losing the Atmosphere is a must-read for mental health professionals. It is a remarkable story and a fascinating read for everyone else." -- Elizabeth F. Howell, PhD, author of Trauma and Dissociation-Informed Psychotherapy

About the Author:
Vivian Conan is a writer, librarian, and IT business analyst who lives in Manhattan. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, Lilith, Narratively, and She received a 2007 fellowship in Nonfiction Literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts and a 2019 Simon Rockower Award from the American Jewish Press Association. Losing the Atmosphere is her first book. Learn more at


losing the atmosphere

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