Serena’s father was the leader of a Satanic cult, and sexually abused Serena as a young child.
She spent the early years of her life in the witness protection program, 9 different foster homes, and experienced teenage addiction, homelessness, and – just last year – her husband’s suicide.
Despite her challenges she has found her purpose.
On This Episode:
• Learn how Serena has helped others find their purposes.
• Find out what purpose through pain means to Serena.
• Hear about Serena’s struggle to connect with different foster families and her inability at a young age to adapt.
• Learn how childhood trauma impacted her adulthood.
• Serena shares how she met her husband and the betrayal that she experienced.
• Learn how fear became the driving factor in Serena’s decisions.
• Discover how you can actually unpack.
1. Forgiveness is for you.
2. You can’t earn love, it has to be freely given.
3. Don’t drown in other’s expectations. You have to fill your own void.
4. Pain and the journey behind the victory is where the inspiration lies.
• “You find joy in the suffering.”
• “You’re never really alone.”
• “Healing is an ongoing process.”
• “You can’t heal when you hide.”
• “We are as sick as our secrets.”
You've survived the worst, trauma, loss, rejection. The reality is your pain can be a crutch or it can be the thing that launches you. You're listening to The Purpose Through Pain Podcast. A podcast dedicated to helping you experience true freedom and breakthrough. Tune in each week as guests share their incredible life lessons from their personal stories, and hear from experts who can give you the tools you need to stop surviving and start thriving. Here to help you find purpose through your pain is your host, Joseph James.
Joseph: Welcome to Purpose Through Pain Podcast. On this episode, we have an amazing friend of mine, Serena. This lady right here has gone through some stuff and as we promise you guys, we are bringing the best of the best on our episodes. This lady has gone through some extreme obstacles, personally and professionally in her life. She started her life in a witness protection program, nine different foster homes, teenage addiction, homelessness, her husband's recent suicide. Things that she faced were unimaginable for most people that they've seen in their lifetime, in their life hood. But despite her challenges, she has found some real sense and purpose along the way, and I think she's an amazing fit for our podcast Purpose Through Pain. And she is going to share with us today how she's taking these trials and this painful experience that she's gone through in life and has not only just found a purpose, but is helping so many other people find their purpose to include myself. And I just wanna welcome you so much, Serena. Thank you so much for coming on.
Serena: Thank you for having me.
Joseph: So tell us, I don't, it's so, this is so where do you start? You've gone through so much and just to hear you laugh, brings so much joy to me, but you recently went through the death of your husband and in the midst of all that, you found out a lot of other things that not only went on throughout your marriage, but surfaced up during your marriage from your childhood. I don't know if pain is even the word to describe what you've gone through. Tell us some of the experiences that you've gone through in life that was painful, stemming all the way back to your childhood, even into your marriage, and even now where you're at, how, what is, what exactly does purpose through pain mean to you?
Serena: Oh, purpose through Pain actually means a lot to me. It's, I like to describe it as we have a tendency to look at, like the fight to never give up as being painted as victorious. And so all of us are fighting towards something bigger, and we often emphasize victory as someone overcoming something great and being happy as they stand strong. But the truth is that pain and the journey behind the victory is really where the truth and the inspiration lies because, through all of that pain. That's where you gain insight and understanding, and I have a little mantra or saying that I've said for probably 10 years, is you find joy in the suffering. And it's not because the suffering is joyful by any means, but because there's some sort of hope, knowing that after you get through all that suffering, that something beautiful is gonna come out. And so that's really what I believe is purpose through pain. And to share a little bit about some of the things I've experienced and so that the audience knows I know, but as a child, my biological father was the leader of a Satanic cult, and he sexually abused myself and my sister. We couldn't get out of the environment that we were in because he was constantly recording or having people follow us everywhere. My mom at many times tried to get us out, but there was no way out. He was always had a member of the cult following us, there was always something that was holding us in this dark environment. In fact, my sister was his stepdaughter and didn't even realize that he was sexually abusing me because he was sexually abusing her, and she thought that by her complying that he would leave me alone, and what he would tell me is that I, there's many times I would see him fighting with my mom and putting a gun in her mouth when I was five years old. And what he would tell me is if I didn't do what he told me to do, that he would hurt my mom. And so as this like young little girl, I'm exposed to so many things. He took my virginity before the age of five, in that environment, not only was it dark and lots of things through the cult, what make it very scary was also the fact that we were surrounded by drugs and sex and abuse in that environment. I apologize, my dog is here. But what made that really the start of the story was that the only way they knew that something was wrong was that, I would hide in the closet as a five-year-old little girl, and I didn't know how to articulate some of the things that I had been going through. And when finally we were able to get out of that environment, we were ripped out of my mom's arms and put directly into witness protection because they looked at my mom as she put us in that unsafe environment. And so she had to earn her rights back as a parent, as my sister and I went through these foster homes and that was the beginning of my story.
Joseph: Wow. Was that a leading to you getting involved in addictions and things like that? What changed when you went from foster home to foster home, what you were experiencing there? You had to get close to some of these, you had to have some sort of relationship with these foster homes, did you not?
Serena: No, actually they were very toxic. The challenge with the foster care system back at that time specifically was in the 80’s, and what would happen is the moment that somebody found out where we were, we would have to actually be moved in the middle of the night. So there is a lot of, there was, remember back in the 80’s, there's no computers, there's, they're literally placing you with random families. In some cases, families wouldn't even speak English. So there was no way of connecting with these families because I literally came from a completely different world. And now remember as a little girl, I didn't know what was happening to me, wasn't normal, it was the only thing I knew. So being ripped out of that, whether good or bad, in my perception, I didn't know like how to adapt to all these different types of homes. One of the families that I was with was an Asian family, and I remember because I wouldn't eat any of the food that they would make, they had, my sister and I peel potatoes every day and they would make us french fries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because they couldn't communicate with us to, and I had no idea what environment, what I was in. So there would be very like a huge cultural differences, also in some of these environments, they were squeezing six kids to one room. And so you're exposed to all these different kids in all these different places, and the minute you start to get comfortable, you're ripped out in the middle of the night and put in a completely different location, and then you're like at six years old, I remember there was one foster home that I was in that they had a hallway, and in this hallway they had one of those accordion doors that they had a little latch on. So they would lock us in this hallway, and we were only allowed, and the rooms were in the hallway, so there was three rooms. And so we were only allowed to come out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and each time in between, they would put us back in our rooms and latch this door so that we couldn't get out of the hallway. And I remember in my mind I was thinking like, why am I being locked up? I didn't even do anything wrong. Remember, I'm also in a whole different environment from where I was a few days prior and one night they forgot to latch that door in the hallway, and I remember I'm six years old, I had a light blue sweater on with sequence, it was a unicorn, okay, on my shirt, this I remember, like it was yesterday, I had a Stater Brothers bag, one of the old style bags with my naked Barbie and a pair of jeans, and I ran away. I left right outside that hallway that they left open that night, went out the big giant double doors, which was the doors outside, and I was determined to go find my mom. Now, could you imagine it's midnight and a little six year old is walking around like she owns the street. The neighbor had saw me because they came home late that night, and as they were pulling into their driveway, I was like a deer in headlights standing there with my Stater Brothers bag just marching my way away from this foster home. And they called the police, of course, I didn't know at the time, but the number that I first gave them was for my biologicals father's house, ‘cause that's the only number I knew at six years old. So when they called him, his response was, thank you for letting me know where she is, I'll come get her. And they started to start get worried, they called the police and I promise you was six years old, I was at this person's house and I had at least three or four police cars surrounding the house, and they asked me, why did you run away? And I was so young at the time, I couldn't articulate why I was running. All I could say is I want my mom and I want her now. And at the time, they couldn't give me that. And so I was either running or hiding as a child, that was how I started my life.
Joseph: How did that seem into adulthood?
Serena: In every way imaginable and still today, unfortunately, I still have to be highly sensitive and aware. So fast forward to when I was in high school, my mom had finally earned her rights back as a to as a parent, my biological father was incarcerated by this point and I at this point, I had already been so independent that I couldn't even connect with my mom. Now, today, my mom is my best friend, but back then, as a young teenager, I left home and I ran away and I lived on the streets for over a year and a half and enrolled myself into high school. But that was another example of me running, I was constantly running away, and then it then interprets to now.
Joseph: How much of that did you blame on your mom?
Serena: What's interesting is a lot of people look to others to blame, but when you are a child that goes through so much trauma, you become highly sensitive of everything around you. In fact, you start to blame yourself for everything that happens. So a lot of my childhood and even my teenage years, I actually blamed myself, I blame myself for putting myself in bad situations, when I was raped, when I was living on the streets, I was raped by two on two different occasions, one when I was 16 by a 40 year old man, and one when I was about 17 by a 22 year old man. And so what did I do in that point? I blamed myself, I put myself there. If I didn't choose this path, then I wouldn't have been in that situation. So even with some of the things that had happened with my childhood and growing into a young adult, I actually had to learn how to forgive myself more than I actually forgave all the people that hurt me, but the person I didn't forgive was me. And I had to learn that over time.
Joseph: Yeah. What was it that, at what point did you learn that? What point did you grasp the concept of, I've gotta forgive myself for me to go through healing? How do I go about this?
Serena: So I knew at my core that forgiveness was for me, like, when you forgive others, it really is for you. But what I didn't realize is that when I was forgiving others, I wasn't letting myself like actually, off the hook, I would take ownership and accountability for what everyone else was doing. And it wasn't until I was in my late twenties that I actually was in some more intensive therapy, I'd found a therapy my whole life, so I was actually the therapist to my therapist. But when I was in my late twenties, I went to an intensive, like really individual self-healing workshop. They had us look in the mirror and actually say the things that we were ashamed of, say the things that we've done to hurt others, and looking at yourself in the mirror while you say these things. And then they had us like talk about some of the negative things that we say to ourselves. And they stopped us and they said, if you were looking at that five year old little girl, instead of the woman you are today, would you be saying those things to yourself? And it's all those negative things that we say, I'm not enough, or it's my fault, or I did this, or how we shame ourselves and blame ourselves. And I was like, God, I would never say that to a little girl that, and they said, then why are you saying it to yourself? And I learned at that time that I had to let go, because I was just bringing up that little girl over and over again, and I was just hurting her more by not letting that pain finally forgive myself and let that pain aside.
Joseph: Wow. That's good, that's good. You reconnected with your mom in high school, okay?
Joseph: What happened after that connection? You said you were, you had that independency life already, what stemmed from there?
Serena: I was wild. Imagine you grew up in nine different foster homes and when I did live with family, there was cruel and unusual like types of punishment because no one could handle me. My mom, through all of this was my saving grace, but because I was so rebellious by the time I was 15 years old, I wouldn't accept anything from anyone. And so I looked at it as I, it wasn't about my mom when I left, it was about me. I needed to face some of these things in life, and she knew that she couldn't hold me back because I'd already been through so much. And so it was one of those things where I know that she had to make a conscious decision to just let me fly. And even though I was flying right into a bunch of trouble, she knew that there was nothing that was gonna hold me back at that time, I was so rebellious, I had in that, you know, time in my life, I had started using drugs, started living on the streets, even though I was still going to high school, I had three jobs, there was no Uber back then so I took the bus to all three jobs and yeah it was incredible in the, if you look at it from, I have a 14 year old daughter now, and I couldn't even fathom my daughter living the life that I lived on the streets. There was nights where I stayed in abandoned houses on old mattresses because I didn't have a place to sleep that night or I would sleep in someone's shed in the back of their house because it was raining outside and I needed to find someplace warm. But then I would still get up the next morning and go to school so I could finish my education because I knew that would just be more on my plate if I didn't. Now having a 14 year old daughter, I look at that now, oh my gosh, I couldn't even imagine what my mom was thinking or feeling in that time when she felt like she had no control because I had chose my path.
Joseph: Yeah. So you get outta high school, you've done drugs, you're finding your own way in things, let's fast forward to your marriage, okay, with Kyle, all right? How did and the reason why, not that I wanna skip over anything. Your childhood has led up to this moment. Everything that you've gone through has led up to this moment. Now you've already got two kids at this time, okay? And what, just kind of go from there because this is, to me, this is like, not the saying everything else wasn't painful, but this is really a benchmark in your childhood set the stone. But now this is a huge middle chapter, so to say, of your life that has brought you to the point where you're at now. So how, tell me how all that, what all happened.
Serena: So at this point I'm a single mom of two a son and a daughter. At the time, my daughter was three and my son was seven, and I meet Kyle and he is charismatic, he's good at everything, everyone loves this guy, he can sing, he can play guitar, he could fix a car, the most like amazing person you'll ever meet, sweeps you right off your feet there. I was blindsided and I was a little skeptical at first, of course, but there was something about him that drew me in and as much as I even tried to run from him, there was something that really kept a hold on me, and he had a six month old son at the time, he was going through his own situation, I had just been a single mom of my two kids, so it was already messy starting, but we were so wrapped up in the excitement and the passion that messy didn't even matter at that time. We had dated for two years and then we had gotten married and at the time I was a VP of marketing in a Mormon based company, even though I don't have that same belief system, I was living by their rules and what had happened is about two weeks after we just got back from our honeymoon, we just blended our family, a woman walks into my office, and I was in an executive suite, so no one just walks into the executive suite unless like they'd already seen the receptionist or, but she just walked in and she looked me straight in the eye and she said my name. And in that moment, my like, heart literally dropped into my stomach and she sat down in front of me and shared with me, she described my kids, she described my house and said that she had been with my husband for the last year and sent me over 300 messages, videos, photos, text messages of their conversations, their interactions, and I literally, in this moment, I had just gotten back from my honeymoon, I was in my office at the reason why I mentioned their religious beliefs in this company is because you could imagine that all of this is going through my mind oh my goodness, what am I about? What am I gonna do? And I wasn't angry with her, what was odd is that I felt sad for her in my mind at that moment, I thought, like from her perspective, I was the other woman and he chose me even though I had no idea that she existed. And I was so blown away at that moment, I couldn't even articulate what I was feeling or going through because it was so intense. And when I confronted Kyle about this, he just fell on the floor and just was crying and it just became a huge tornado of emotions and mess, and that was the first time that he had shown signs of trying to hurt himself, and at the time I thought like he's trying to take the attention off of what he did, and he's trying to put it and redirect that attention somewhere else. And so I was just trying to retain what was happening because it was so much in such a short period of time. And that was only two weeks after we were first married. Now, fast forward, we healed from that, we got stronger, we went through marriage counseling, marriage bootcamp, marriage, everything. We were the strongest like you could ever imagine, like we were counseling other couples, because we got through it. But there was a lot of sides of Kyle that were very dark, and when he would fall into that darkness or depression, I would try and fix, I would try and protect.
Joseph: Which we both love and have talked about.
Serena: That's true, right? Like I would, if there was anything that you could totally nail me for is I literally was trying to hide everything that he did. And only so that people would see the good side of him and not see on that I saw and I didn't tell anyone about the time that he had been unfaithful. Then three years later, he was unfaithful again, and this was a completely different woman, and at this point I had found out about three months into their relationship. Now this was a complete accident, I wasn't even seeking out the information, I was sitting at the pool with him and his phone went off. So I went to go hand it to him, I didn't even think about it, and I looked down and it said, I thought you were leaving her, I thought we were gonna be together, and then my mind, I just lost it. And that was the second time, and that night, as the emotions unfolded, he was drinking, he was driving drunk, he left where we were at the time, was sending me photos of him cutting himself, telling me that he can't live without me, and that she didn't mean anything to him and that this was a mistake, and so coming from my perspective, I'm like, now in this whirlwind of emotions, I can't even deal with my own feelings around this because all I'm now worried about is his safety and him like, what do I do at this point? And instead of really like facing the pain like I did the first time I retracted, I started get depressed, I started to hide in the closet again. As an adult woman, I was hiding in the closet, I would pretend like everything was okay during the day and after I tucked my kids into bed, after I ran the company, during the day, after I did all the things I was supposed to do, I would go in the closet and I would cry and it just tore me down. It started to impact my body, my health, everything about my life because I just kept hiding all the pain. Now, I was talking about this with my counselor and I was trying to work on our marriage, but there was something that was underlying that wasn't getting fixed, and I didn't realize that fast forward to the third time, that I find out that he's unfaithful, that he had chosen this path and these choices, and throughout the entire 10 years of marriage, I was just trying to fix, I was trying to protect, I was trying to hide, and I wasn't really being fully like vulnerable and honest with myself or with anyone else because I was trying to cover up all the things that he was doing, because we owned a business, I didn't want anyone to see this dark side.because I thought that our kids, I had to keep them together. By this point, they're 12 and 14, and his son by this point was 10. Like I was trying to look at it like I have to protect my family, so I'm gonna hide all this stuff so that it doesn't hurt anyone. And reality, what it was doing is it was tearing me apart, and when I finally got the courage to leave, and it took a lot for me to leave because I can endure a lot. I was like, I got this, I'm gonna keep fixing.
Joseph: I mean, you were ultimately, until I realized you were ultimately using survival because of what you had to face as a young kid, but yet at the same time, you were still trying to not only fix things, but you were also trying to take, you were taking the for all the blame.
Serena: Oh yeah. I was owning all of it. Yeah, I was, in my mind, I was like, what could I have done differently? What could I be a better wife if I did this? And maybe he wouldn't cheat if I did that. I was constantly trying to, what my counselor would say is, you're on a hamster wheel. You're just on this hamster wheel trying to like constantly like manage all these unrealistic expectations and in my mind, I really believed that I was trying to be like overachieve at being a wife and overachieve at being a mom and overachieve at owning a business. But in reality, what I was doing is I was compacting all of my fears and pain instead of facing it. And when I finally got the courage to leave, it was only because my counselor had said, you can't earn love. it has to be freely given. And in that moment I said, what do you mean I can't earn love? I'm awesome, I can earn it, I am an overachiever, I could do anything. And he said, no, you cannot earn it, it has to be freely given. And in that moment, I knew, okay, I said, I know it's time to leave, but I'm scared. He said, what are you scared of? I said, I'm scared that Kyle's gonna be suicidal, I'm scared that I'm gonna tear my family apart, I'm scared that I'm gonna lose my business and my house and all the things that I work so hard for, and he said, okay, those are valid fears, but what's stopping you from facing those fears when you face so much? And I said, me.
Joseph: What was it about you that was stopping? What was it about you itself?e to leave, it was October of:th,:
Joseph: So just right out a year ago. So before we get into how you've moved on, ‘cause you're definitely in a better place and we've had some talks behind the scenes, how did you're dealing with rejection, you're dealing with abandonment, you're dealing with the fear of loss, all these things that you suffer as a child, your mom and dad not being there for you, the molestation and things like that, and then of course, the rape and then you were always turning towards something else you were running and because we ultimately, when we don't know what to do, what do we do, we run and, but in the midst of it, you're trying to find your worth.
Serena: Yes, which my worthiness remember for my whole life was based on serving other people. So the more that I gave of myself, the more I found my worth ut in reality, that's selfish because you think that giving to others is selfless unless you're doing it for the wrong reason. I found my worth by sacrificing my needs for the needs of others. And in reality, that would only be healthy if I was doing it with a good intentions, but I was doing it to feel worthy. I wasn't just doing it to serve.
Joseph: To our listeners that are going through, even myself, we've talked about this, the fear of loss, losing my wife, the fear of my, you know, losing my mom, things like that, and then rejection from my father, which stemmed into a lot of other things, and my young adulthood to even, I'm in my forties now, and how would you say that's a key thing about finding your worth because there's definitely women out there that have gone through similar situations or even husbands unfaithful, and now they're like, they're blaming themselves, why? If you were a better this or maybe even feeling I should have been better. I should have done this, I should have done this. And because I look back at my own marriage and knowing that my wife passed away, I ran across journals of her and unbeknownst to me is there was a disconnect there. And I look at it now, I'm like, oh my God, and it's hard not to blame yourself, especially when nobody's there now. I can't apologize, I can't. But the only thing that we can all do is give that self-reflection, be like, you know what? I am worthy of things, of being a better person or not being treated. But how do, what would you say to people that are listening that have gone through similar situations or even things, you had the rejection, the abandonment, that the loss, the control, the need to fix things to find their worth without being selfish.
Serena: So we often worry so much about the perception of others that we change our behavior or we hide ourselves in order to earn approval. And when we do that, we blame and we shame ourselves to justify or victimize our behavior or we justify our past as our trigger to our current behaviour, and what we're doing is we're just continuously cycling through, trying to gain approval, trying to gain acceptance instead of stopping and truly accepting ourselves. The biggest thing about finding worthiness is if we choose to look inward, identify our patterns and our behaviors, and focus on our own healing, that's when we will ultimately rise above and rise through it. It's when we stop focusing on our own healing or accept our own behaviors, that we will constantly be in that approval cycle trying to get and receive everyone else's approval, you have to step back, accept your imperfections as opportunities and beauty within. It doesn't mean that when I accept who I am and my worthiness that I'm perfect, I have billions of imperfections, like I am the queen of imperfections, it just means I've accepted them and I've looked inward so that I know that I need to work on these things and I'm aware of them. Not that I'm looking for someone else to make me feel better or someone else to validate me. I have to work on those things.
Joseph: Yeah, and we've talked about this and it goes into people filling the void.
Serena: Yes. And it goes exactly into that, is that when we have a void, we have a tendency to numb, we use alcohol, we have a tendency to become like isolated, we have a tendency to push people away to run, or the opposite, we have a tendency to ask others to fill our empty void. And what happens is that when we have a void, the only person that is responsible and can fill that void as ourselves. And we cannot do it with other people, and we cannot put those expectations on other people and being healthy enough to come into a relationship, you have to have two healthy people that identify that they're responsible for their own identity, their own filling, their own voids, and then coming together in a healthy way. But no, that's your typical co-dependent relationship is I'm gonna fix you, you fix me, or you gotta fix you in order to be with me. And the truth is that you can't fill that void with other things or people, you have to fill it yourself with healing.
Jospeh: And that's something that I think sometime around this time last year might have been even the summer that you and I talked about where I was filling the void of and not sanking that I had a void, but ultimately, okay, my wife is deceased now, I'm raising three kids, I'm ready to start venturing out there, and of course there comes the barrage of rejection that I still didn't realize I had. But ultimately, I wasn't trying to find a relationship, I was just simply, I felt like I was empty, I didn't have my wife anymore. So just having a companion, I wasn't even necessarily looking for a new wife, but I wanted somebody to sit on the couch with, I wanted somebody to go out to dinner with, I wanted to have an adult conversation with a 12 year old or, you know, a one year old at the time when things like that, it's just, man, my profession is training dogs, it was either having conversation with dogs or kids, like there was no adults in there. And but you had mentioned to me about Joseph, all those things are, even if I would've got married at a good time, if I was still in the same position that I'm in, finding marriage or finding a relationship wasn't gonna fill the void because I had to fill it within myself, I had to do internal work, and I'm at a place now in my life, it's just going through different things, instead of worrying about, and this is one of my biggest life lessons right now, is there are questions that I will never get answers to and understanding that has allowed me to say, what if I did get an answer? I may not like it, and if I did, what is it going to solve? Versus just saying, you know what, I don't have the answer to that question, because a lot of the questions that we start asking ourself are never about us, it's about the situation.
Serena: And well, and the more that we look at our ourselves and our interpretations of our experiences, we create stories. And it's only our version of the story and sometimes those stories can make us a little crazy, but they're all stories. So one of the things that I think really stands out for me is when people say they're lonely. So being alone is a state of being, loneliness is a state of mind.
Joseph: Ooh, that's good.
Serena: And so you have to change your mindset because being alone is actually healthy and it's beautiful, and you learn so much about yourself in that timeframe. It's just that loneliness state of mind makes us feel like we need to fill that void. And the truth is that, that fear, whatever's holding us back from our state of being alone, is the stories that we create in our mind that I'm gonna be alone forever, that I do, I have to do this forever. So these are all continuous stories that we create, and once we get past that, being alone actually is healthy and beautiful, even when you're in a relationship because you're two independent people coming together.abusive. When my mom died in:
Serena: Oh yeah. Any monumental change in your life makes you question not only who you are but what are you doing?
Joseph: A hundred percent.
Serena: Because we spend a lot of our lives, especially as young adult, you're trying to achieve so much that you don't stop for long enough to see, like with or to look within. You're running so fast trying to achieve this, achieve that because that's what is perceived as the right thing to do, but when something hits you as big as the trauma that you're expressing, , it makes you question everything, none of that stuff matters anymore. None of the achieving or over, yeah, like overworking yourself or running in circles and trying to add so many things to your plate, everything stops.
Joseph: Yeah, yeah. And what was so crazy is I didn't realize how much I sought for my dad's approval until he was gone, and this, I would go to call him up to ask for, I'm 30 years old, I'm 35 years old, I'm 40 years old, I'm like, Hey dad, what do you think about this? I'm like, dad's not there to call. And I started realizing how much hurt I had, not even just hurt, but damaged trauma I had in me that I had never healed from was still completely unresolved. And then I got to thinking, I'm like, I just had a 14 year marriage that I had brought all this into. We talked about not only the void, but when you get into a new relationship with somebody is the baggage, and I want you to share that analogy with me because I'm like, well, that's a no-brainer about where baggage is.
Serena: It's a funny analogy when you think about it.
Joseph: And I'm such an analogy kind of guy, I love analogies. That's how I teach everything as analogies. But share with the listeners what you talked about, baggage, because it's not just, it's not just going into a new relationship, but it's life in general because it could be going into a new job, it could be raising your kids.
Serena: It could be everything. Imagine you're going on a week long vacation and you just packed all your bags, right? So you typically carry your luggage behind you, especially when you have a large load of luggage. Think about it differently, and imagine that now that luggage behind you is 40 years, but you still have, and when you try and come into someone's life or start a relationship and you haven't actually unpacked all that luggage or all that baggage, all you're doing is bringing it in between you. And so the amount of space that that creates and pushes you guys apart is because you guys haven't individually gone through and unloaded all the baggage from the last 40 years. And so what's gonna happen is it's always gonna create a wedge and until each of you individually, that 40 years of vacation baggage, right? Like, not that it was a vacation at all, but until you unpack it, you will never be close to anyone, including your kids, you have to unpack it and it's painful, it's not fun. No one likes to unpack after a vacation because what do you have to do? You have to wash the clothes, you have to put them away. It's life, and imagine the things that you have to unpack from your childhood that you've never unpacked. And those are things that really matter, that we continue to tuck away and hide. And instead of unpacking our bed, we just keep putting it back in the closet, and that's when we talk about, you're just hiding and you're running away from the things that you need to face because you keep just pushing things away. And what's gonna happen is it's gonna always create a wedge between you and the people that you love.
Joseph: Wow. How would you, what advice would you give to the listeners about, I don't know if I wanna, not just going through the baggage, but to, yeah, how does somebody go through the baggage by themself?
Serena: So you're never really alone, you have to seek out resources and support in order to help you, otherwise, you're just hiding. So there's. The Bloom app is all about cognitive behavioral therapy and how to work through some of those thoughts. The therapy, there's all types of different therapy, not just counselling, that helps you like really unpack some of that stuff because you can't always do the unpacking alone, you just can't count on someone who's not qualified to help you unpack , right? So, and you can't put it on their plate to do it for you. You have to get the support and help you need, whether it's writing, whether it's painting, whether it's getting that outlet to bring you back to a place where you actually look internally and identify, okay, these are the things that I'm aware of, these are the triggers I have, and this is the conscious effort that I'm gonna make to work through this so that I'm a whole person, when it comes to the next person I have in my life, I am wholeheartedly going to be ready for that, it doesn't mean you're healed like you're fully healed, right. Healing is an ongoing process, forever and ever, but it just means that you are in a place where you're healthy enough to have a healthy relationship.
Joseph: And there's a difference between moving forward and healing versus running away, hiding.
Serena: Absolutely, a hundred percent.
Joseph: And people think sometimes that when we start to go through the healing process and some things you get healed of right away. And some things, there are a journey.
Serena: There's not a timeline to healing, its own timeline right there.
Joseph: Its own, absolutely. But there are things that we get over fairly fast and we don't have problems with those things anymore. And then they're saying it's just, oh, I didn't even know I still had those things, you know?
Serena: Or there's things that you thought you healed from and then they come back and you're like, darn it, I have to do this again?
Joseph: Absolutely, without a doubt. So you have something that, a project that you're working on, a book.
Joseph: Tell us a little bit about that.
Serena: This has been something that I just went in kicking and screaming. I am not a writer, I'm not a speaker, I'm none of those things, I am just a mom and a business owner, okay. Like, I am not a writer, an author, any of those things. But I really felt like, after all the things that I've been through, if I didn't invest a little bit of that time to give back, like my whole purpose in life is to help others heal and why not use my story and give some of my experiences an opportunity to help others. And so I'm writing a book and it's called You Can't Heal When You Hide.
Joseph: That is so cute.
Serena: And, yeah. It's all about coming out from our, whether we're hiding behind a Facebook feed or we're actually hiding in the closet, like I have a tendency to do. Like, I knew that the more you hide the best way to say this is we are as sick as our secrets, because the secrets are what keep us from healing. And the moment that we start to bring those things out and up to the surface, the moment they lose their power.
Joseph: Yeah, absolutely. And I think this one thing that has helped, honestly, has helped me in my own therapy or my own healing is sharing my story.
Serena: Yeah, and every time you share it, you heal a different way.
Joseph: Absolutely. Because there's, I've gotten what I thought was past a lot of the emotional part of sharing the story, until I started doing the podcast and I started sharing it all over again, and in my mind I said, this is a whole brand new bunch of listeners.
Serena: You have to hash it out all over again.
Joseph: Yeah. You know, because it's also when I first was gonna start the podcast is, okay, this is about the death and the journey of my wife and her cancer and me and the business and the three kids and journey in life from there. But then it, I got to start thinking about all the things that I've been going through over the last, you know, two years since she passed away, has all made my childhood things from my childhood resurfaced that I'm just like, oh, I didn't think about bullying having any impact, I didn't think about the abuse from my family having the, you know, impact of rejection. It's those things right there that as I have began to share, I've also began to heal in my own self.
Serena: And you can learn a lot about talking your past trauma. That's why counseling is so impactful, because all you're doing is finding the answers in your own story. The counselor is just listening and asking questions, but you are actually the one finding the answers.
Joseph: It's so funny that you say that because when I recorded one of my episodes this morning, I talked about the answers that we need in life, the direction everything's already within us. When we go to the counselors, they just help bring it out because what do they ultimately do? Tell me what happened, let's talk about it. And as we begin to talk about it, not only do we start healing because of releasing emotions, but then we also start finding direction in it. And you're like, oh, I didn't even think about that or, oh yeah, otherwise I did that. And because it was like, when I was asked the other day, it's like, why do I want to fix everything? Why do I wanna fix relationships? Why do wanna fix people? And I was reverted back to my background's in medicine and sports medicine and, and things like that. But then I got to thinking like, no, this went all the way back to my childhood and lived and wanting to get outta trauma, wanting to get out of those situations led to me always wanting to fix things. And so I'm realizing now I can't fix anything, I can't fix people, I can only work on myself.
Serena: And some of the times, like when people have trust issues too. Think about like trust issues. It's typically an indication that they don't trust their own judgment because of their experiences. It's the same thing, it's past experiences, whether it's childhood or even recent past experiences that impact our behavior because we question ourselves. And that's what creates those trust issues, that's what brings back up old pain and talking about it helps us to not only release it, it helps us to find the answer within ourselves. And we convert that pain into purpose by following that.
Joseph: Yes. And there's something I've always said when I hear people say, well, why can't, or especially women, I can't trust men, I can't trust men because of this, and I'm like, it's not that you can't trust men.
Serena: And then what I hear is I can't trust my own judgment.
Joseph: Exactly. And that's exactly what I say, I said, it's not that you can't trust men, it's like you can't trust yourself to make the right decisions, when it comes to men.
Serena: Or you don't trust your intuition, right? Or from whatever experience you've had, you've made some choices that have led you to the wrong experiences of the wrong people, and now you're afraid to trust others because you're scared to feel that way again. Those are all common things. The biggest, like the biggest component is a wareness. Once you're aware of why you're doing things, and once you see it when you're triggered, you can practice working on it and fixing it. But if you are blind to those things, then you'll never be able to pass them. Like they'll always be in front of you, and once you start to acknowledge the triggers and work through it, it's not a pretty picture. You're still, it's still work for, it's called Work for a reason. You still have to work through it. It's just now you're aware and now you're changing your behavior and now you're intentional.
Joseph: Absolutely. That's good stuff. Serena, what would you, if you can give a couple pointers or some nuggets to our listeners on the things that they've gone through and even let's say they may be at a point now that they're just like you and I where they have found some things to move out of, or even people that are like, I'm stuck, I don't know what to do. What would be some things that you can leave with them on how to move forward?
Serena: So one thing I've learned is to own my story and own my circumstances, good or bad, and love myself through it, giving myself grace, change can be good and change can be bad, but most often change just is and change teaches us that valuable lesson that sometimes we have to dig deep so that we can see the beauty in the suffering. We can find purpose in that pain. And then the other part is our relationship with ourselves sets the tone for our relationship with everyone else in our lives. And so if we don't take the time to invest in ourselves, and our own healing, and our own growth, and our own development, whatever it may be, If I don't love myself, then how could I teach my children to love themselves? And so you have to take the time to look at your heart, look within, and really be aware and intentional about making those changes. Because you have two choices, you can live with it or you can fix it.
Joseph: Absolutely. That is so great. Serena, thank you so much for coming on, we're gonna bring you back. I know everybody's just gonna be so excited about this. I'm gonna be able to go back and listen to it, but I definitely want to have you back and talk about, since the death of Kyle, what have you and your two children been going through and how you are making it through this, because ultimately we want to be able to find that purpose, we want to be able to get through the pain, the agony, the struggles, and things like that. So thank you so much for coming on, and I just, I can't, I'm honored to have you on here, I'm honored to be your healing partner ‘cause we are healing partners and so thank you so, so much.
Serena: Thank you so much for having me. I am completely humbled by this experience because I'm really not good at this. So I appreciate you giving me the chance to practice and to share my story because I think it's important.
Joseph: Awesome, thank you so much.
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