Vivian Conan: Losing the Atmosphere


Vivian Conan felt unreal and disconnected. She spoke to faces in the mirror that were not her own. And after years of therapy and multiple hospitalizations, she had a diagnosis: dissociative identity disorder (once known as multiple personality disorder.) On this episode of Big Blend Radio’s Quality of Life show, Vivian discusses some of the stories covered in her memoir, “Losing the Atmosphere: A Memoir, A Baffling Disorder, A Search for Help, and the Therapist Who Understood.” Listen to her interview here in the YouTube player or download the Podbean or SoundCloud.

Excerpted in her widely shared New York Times column, Vivian Conan’s “Losing the Atmosphere” is a memoir of mental illness and healing. Growing up in a large Greek-Jewish clan in post-WWII Brooklyn, Vivian yearned for connection. In her teens, she began talking to faces in the mirror that were not her own. She felt unreal, separated from the rest of humanity by a plexiglass wall. By high school, Vivian knew something was wrong. But it was only after years of therapy, hospitalizations and medications that she received the correct diagnosis.

VIVIAN CONAN is a writer, librarian, and IT business analyst who lives in Manhattan. A native New Yorker, she grew up in Brooklyn and holds master’s degrees from Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute. 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. Vivian sings with the Peace of Heart Choir, which performs free for communities in need, and has mentored teenage writers as a volunteer with Girls Write Now. “Losing the Atmosphere” is her first book. Learn more at

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