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#294: Reclaim Your Power: Serena’s Inspiring Transformation from Trauma & Infidelity to Empowerment & Resilience
4th June 2024 • Inspirational & Motivational Stories of Grit, Grace, & Inspiration • Kevin Lowe, Inspirational Speaker & Transformational Coach
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What if your deepest trauma could be transformed into your greatest strength? Meet Serena Mastin, a woman who emerged from unimaginable adversity to become a beacon of resilience. Her story is one you won’t want to miss.

Who Is This For?

Many of us face overwhelming challenges that seem impossible to overcome. This episode explores how Serena turned her darkest moments into a source of unstoppable strength, providing insight and inspiration for anyone seeking to transform their own life.

What's It All About?

In this riveting episode, Serena Mastin shares her incredible journey from a traumatic childhood and tumultuous adulthood to finding empowerment and freedom. Despite enduring unimaginable abuse and betrayal, Serena's story of survival and strength will captivate and inspire you to find courage in your own life. Tune in to hear how she transformed her pain into power and learn valuable lessons on resilience and self-forgiveness.


Some Key Takeaways:

  • Transforming Trauma into Strength: Learn how Serena overcame severe abuse and betrayal to become a powerful, resilient woman.
  • The Power of Forgiveness: Discover the profound impact of forgiving others and yourself to heal and move forward.
  • Practical Steps for Leaving Toxic Situations: Serena shares her "PREPARE" acronym, a step-by-step guide for safely and effectively exiting harmful environments.


Don’t miss a single second of this powerful and inspiring story—listen now and start your own journey to transform your challenges into strengths!


Mentioned Links & Resources:


Today's Featured Guest:

Serena Mastin

Serena Mastin is a survivor, entrepreneur, and now author who has turned her traumatic past into a mission to inspire and empower others. Growing up in an abusive household and later facing multiple betrayals in her marriage, Serena found the strength to rebuild her life and launch a successful marketing agency. Her book, "Exposed: You Can't Heal When You Hide," details her journey and offers hope to those in similar situations. Serena’s story is a testament to the power of resilience and the importance of self-forgiveness.


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© 2024 Grit, Grace, & Inspiration

Transcripts

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Like so many of the stories shared here on the podcast, we have yet another

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woman who's going to blow you away because, well, she figured out how to turn

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her deepest trauma into unstoppable strength.

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Despite a childhood that more resembled a real-life nightmare and suffering

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even more trauma in adulthood, Serena Mastin, in spite of it all,

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has emerged from the flames like a phoenix.

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Her story, it's sure to grip you, move you, and hopefully inspire you to gain

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your own courage to turn your own trauma into strength.

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You will not want to miss a single moment of this captivating interview with Serena Mastiff.

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My friend, I welcome you to What Is, episode 294.

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What's up, my friend, and welcome to Grit Graceland Inspiration.

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I am your host, Kevin Lowe.

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20 years ago, I awoke from a life-saving surgery only to find that I was left completely blind.

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And since that day, I've learned a lot about life, a lot about living, and a lot about myself.

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And here on this podcast, I want to share those insights with you.

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Because friend, if you are still searching for your purpose,

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still trying to understand why, or still left searching for that next right

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path to take, well, consider this to be your stepping stone to get you from

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where you are to where you want to be.

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All right, you gotta get real with me. I've been asking you if there's anything

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that here on the podcast we can help you pray for.

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We've been doing prayer requests and I would love to be able to help you in

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praying for something weighing heavy on your heart.

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Now, here's the problem. is this only works with participation.

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And I mean, I guess my hope is, is that you don't have anything you need help and praying for.

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That everything in life is just absolutely beautiful.

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But unless you're not living in this world, chances are you're probably struggling with something.

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You're worried about something or there's somebody in your life who is hurting.

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That is exactly what this is here for, is I have a platform reaching people

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all over the entire globe.

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And if we can be joined together, all praying for one thing each week,

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I feel like that can make a positive impact in the world.

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If you have a prayer request, please send to me via text message to 877-749-8178.

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Again, send your prayer request to me via text message to 877-749-8178.

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As always, your prayer request can be kept anonymous. That is totally up to you.

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I am just here to get your prayer request heard by more people who can lift it up in prayer.

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So again, send that prayer request in and it can be featured on a future episode

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of the podcast. Until then, I hope you enjoy today's episode.

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I would say the turning point in my life where I felt that my story was something

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that people needed to hear was really probably in my 30s.

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I had a mentor, and he's actually still my mentor, and he told me,

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he said, your story is so powerful, you need to share it.

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And I kind of brushed it off thinking like, no, everyone has a story.

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Why is mine any different?

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But then I started hearing that same thing from other people.

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And I went back to him and he's like, you should write a book.

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And I was like, no, no, I'm not a writer. And so I denied it for a long time.

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But when I recognized that my story was powerful and real, it wasn't actually

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until I started writing it.

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And that's when I really started to see the depth of my personal story.

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I knew my story was different and unique throughout my life,

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but the depth and the purpose didn't come until I started writing some of those emotions down.

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Yeah. Wow, wow, wow. That's interesting. So with that said, take me back to

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childhood because I know that's kind of when the whole story begins.

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And I would love for you to just take me back to those days and paint that picture

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for me of what childhood was like for you.

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You know, I had the blonde, greasy hair and dirt-stained feet and ripped jeans.

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So I remember specifically, my favorite sweater was a baby blue unicorn sweater,

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and the unicorn was in sequence.

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So it was, you know, that was my outfit that I just never took off as a five-year-old

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little girl. But I can say that my first memory is going through the trailer park that we lived in.

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And what I didn't understand is that we were being locked in the trailer and

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that all of our actions and anything that we did were being recorded and we

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were being followed when we would leave the trailer.

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So at the time, I didn't understand that.

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But what I did clearly understand was the amount of fear and trauma and sexual

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abuse that was happening by my father.

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So there's a specific memory that I that I had where he was. I was in the kitchen.

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I had my little bare feet on the linoleum tile, you know, the linoleum ground.

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And I remember looking up and seeing this giant, like, black, like, pot that.

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And he was in the kitchen hovering over, making some sort of what I thought at the time was food.

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But what I found out later was that he was kind of creating a spell.

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My biological father was the leader of a satanic cult.

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Although as a child, I didn't fully comprehend that.

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There were a lot of things like that moment that definitely made it very real

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for me. And so that night he was preparing a spell because he was planning to

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sacrifice my sister and I to the cult.

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And what that means is that it could be a sexual sacrifice.

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It could have been, at that time, sex trafficking was not a term,

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but it could have been something like that.

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And the morning before he was able to follow through on his plans was when my

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mom was able to get my sister and I out and my grandparents came and picked us up.

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We had to go to a public place so we couldn't be running away and then going and hiding.

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We had to be in a public place so that everyone could see if anything did happen

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and my grandparents picked us up that day And by the next morning,

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Child Protective Services came and just ripped me out of my mom's arms.

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So my mom had to earn her rights back as a parent because of the sexual abuse

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and the, you know, the obviously the dangerous situations that we were in.

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So she had to earn her rights back while my sister and I were put into witness protection.

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Wow. Now, so your mom was not part of the cult?

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No, my mom was, it was a time where, you know, in the 80s where a lot of these

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things weren't talked about. out. There wasn't a lot of education about it.

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And so she wasn't very familiar with what was happening.

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And at a certain point, she said that she was brainwashed.

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There's so much manipulation, so much gaslighting.

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It was almost like she couldn't tell the reality from fiction

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because some of these things that she saw or that she was exposed to were just

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so frightening that she went into her own safety mode of protecting herself

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and not knowing how to get out.

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Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Now, what made her finally decide, I have to leave?

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Was it because of she knew what was about to happen?

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I think she had been trying to leave for a long time once she started to see the patterns.

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And And for instance, she would find me hiding in the closet when she would

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get home from the grocery store and I would be,

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you know, terrified and she'd have to kind of get me back into a state of, you know, calm because,

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you know, at that point she didn't understand or know what was happening, but my...

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When she was gone, my father was performing sexual acts and forcing me to perform

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those sexual acts as well.

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So she knew something was happening, but she didn't fully grasp the amount of

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trauma that we were experiencing.

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And so she was trying to get out and couldn't because there was people following

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her everywhere she went.

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There was tape recorders throughout the entire house. And what happened is that

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one of the other cult members that was responsible for watching over us that morning,

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he was the one that was able to facilitate and help get us out between that time period.

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Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Remind me how old you were at this time? I was five years old.

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It was almost my sixth birthday.

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My gosh. From there, I was I went through nine different foster homes.

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I lived with a family member that was, you know, she really believed in cruel

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and unusual punishment and didn't know how to handle me.

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Because at this point, I disassociated from reality.

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I acted out. You know, I didn't have a lot of the skills that a child at that age should have.

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Which would also make her very frustrated. And I also would separate myself from punishment.

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So because I'd endured so much pain at such a young age, I started to really

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separate myself from reality.

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And so it wouldn't phase me.

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And so it became something thing where she tried multiple different things that

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eventually impacted my psyche, impacted my level of confidence,

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and it fueled my insecurity.

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So one of the scenarios that had happened when I was living with this particular

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family member was I remember at this point, I am about eight years old.

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So I'd been in and out of foster homes through this entire period.

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And I was getting into the shower.

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And as an eight-year-old, you're taking your shirt off and it sticks to your

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head. So it becomes like a hat, your shirt does.

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And basically, I'd taken my underwear off, but they were still around my ankles.

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So I'm dancing as a little eight-year-old girl with with the shower running in the mirror.

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And I decided to do mouthwash commercials because I thought that I was destined to be an actress.

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And so I'm doing these little mouthwash commercials and making funny faces.

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And I hear the footsteps coming down the hallway and she burst open the door. And this is my aunt.

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She burst open the door and she says, what are you doing? and I quickly hid

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the mouthwash bottle behind my back.

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Because I knew I'd been in trouble. I'd probably been in there way longer than

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I should have. And I hadn't even gotten in the shower yet.

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I forgot that there's a giant mirror in front of me.

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So having the mouthwash behind my back was probably not the best hiding place.

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And I said nothing. And she said, you know, obviously she was yelling.

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She was angry that I hadn't gotten to the shower.

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And she pulled me by my arm and she pulled me into down the hallway into the

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front room where there was this bay window that overlooked the street.

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And she made me stand in front of

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the bay window with my panties around my ankles and my shirt on my head.

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And at that particular time, my cousin who was a teenager, him and his friends

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were moving things in and out of the house.

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And so I was humiliated standing there as a little eight-year-old girl with

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my shirt on my head and my panties around my ankles.

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The very place that you were placed to keep you safe.

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And yet you were just put right back into another horrible situation.

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Yes. And, you know, the foster system tries to place you with family members

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or with foster providers that that are going to be good for you.

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But you have to remember that there's so many children in foster care,

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and there's so little resources.

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Yes. And so things like, and at that time, I couldn't articulate what was happening.

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So, and most children at that age really can't.

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But that was just a defining moment

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that really impacted my self-esteem throughout my life, which then...

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You know, when I did actually, when my mother finally earned her rights back

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as a parent was when I was 10 years old.

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And by that point, yes, I was elated and excited to be with my mother because

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I had prayed every night that I would be with her again.

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However, on the other side of that, I had just so much damage that I had to

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work through. And so it was constant counseling sessions and things like that.

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But by the time I was 16, I ran away and I lived on the streets.

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And so even though my mother worked so hard to get me back, I just had this

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level of independence. independence and it was like trying to find my own identity

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based on some of the things that I experienced.

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And then my choice to live on the streets and go through that was,

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you know, a whole different chapter in my, not only in my book,

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but in my life that opened up, you know, other doors that created more trauma.

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So I struggled with addiction.

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You know, I was raped by two different I was in fights on the streets with men

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fighting for my own protection.

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And so that definitely led to some even more horrific experiences that I faced as a teenager as well.

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I want to back up a little bit to younger, and I have two questions.

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My first question is, talk to me about the difference between a kid being in

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the foster care and you being in foster care, but also in witness protection.

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I mean, what does that mean?

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So what that means is that no one is able to get the location for the child

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and witness protection.

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So for my personal situation, if a family member was trying to find where we

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were because they were concerned or, you know, whatever it was,

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the moment that they found which foster provider, you know, we were with,

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we would have to be moved in the middle of the night.

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So not even a family member that was a good family member, grandfather,

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grandmother, it didn't matter.

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If anyone found out where we were, we would be moved immediately.

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My sister and I were separated on multiple occasions because the foster providers

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just didn't have enough space for both of us.

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So yeah, it's an interesting experience. There was not like a name change or

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anything like that. I think we were too young at that time.

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But it was constant moving into new places in the middle of the night,

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into unfamiliar places that you've never been before with different cultures.

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There was an Asian family that didn't speak English at one point.

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And I remember it was like a six-year-old little girl.

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I'm trying to communicate and I

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don't understand why they can't clearly articulate what they're asking me.

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I don't know what language they're speaking because as a child,

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you don't comprehend those things.

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And I just remember for that particular family, I wouldn't eat anything because

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I wasn't familiar with their food.

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So they would have me peel potatoes and I would peel potatoes.

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And then the the man, you know, the husband and wife, the man would would cut

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the potatoes and make me French fries for breakfast, lunch and dinner because

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that was the only thing I would eat.

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Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Very wild. Wow. Now, all this time, were you also going to school?

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Yes. So that that is another interesting thing is that you you're enrolled in

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all these different schools.

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But at six years old, you're so young that you go into the kindergarten or the child care.

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And so it wasn't until I was placed with a family member that I was really going

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through the full elementary classes and had a teacher.

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Most of the other time, I was kind of being tossed around.

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I remember going to school, but I couldn't tell you a lot of memories around it.

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In fact, one of the things that I did as a child was I blocked out specific

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memories if they were too hard for me to process.

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So some of those memories didn't actually come back until I was much older.

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Wow. Well, when you finally got to reconvene with your mom, which you said,

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I believe you were 10 years old.

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Yes. Yeah. Why do you feel like you then six years later would run away?

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You know, I think that, well, let me let me go back because one of the foster

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homes that I was at when I was six years old, I ran away from the foster home.

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So I have to say that it was my coping mechanism was to run away.

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And which completely aligns with some of the patterns of my story.

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You know, we had to run away from, you know, my biological father.

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I ran away from, you know, one of the foster homes trying to find my mom at six years old.

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And then as a teenager, I ran away because I couldn't adapt to a lot of the

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restrictions or rules that I felt were unreasonable.

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But every teenage, you know, especially every teenage girl believes that,

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you know, they know everything.

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And so by that point, I was just too far gone.

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Hmm. Yeah.

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How long did you live homeless?

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I lived on the streets for about a year and a half.

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And so at first, it started with staying at friends' houses and kind of bouncing,

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you know, from one place to the next.

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But that quickly, it ran its course.

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And so there were some nights where I slept in abandoned houses.

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One night that I specifically write about in my book is I slept on the park

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bench across from the high school because I didn't have a place to go that night.

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And then I woke up in the morning on this little park bench with dew on my face

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because that's how cold it was.

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And as soon as I heard the, you know, the chain link fences opening on the campus,

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I snuck through and went into the girls locker room to shower and get ready

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because I still attended high school.

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I still wanted to make sure I seemed like or I pretended to have it all together.

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But even when everything was falling apart, I still pretended like I was strong

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and I had it all together and and that I could do this on my own.

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Yeah. Wow. What about your sister? Did she follow a similar path or no?

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No, we went in completely different paths.

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So my sister actually loved living with the family member that that I,

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you know, was mistreated with.

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And she ended up staying with her instead of going back with my mom.

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And it's also because my sister was 10 when we got taken away and I was five.

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So she saw a lot more and she had a lot more anger towards my mom.

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But on the flip side, she had more of a desire to follow a certain structure

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and kind of create, you know, safety. Whereas I, I really ran towards getting away.

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I was running away and she wanted to stay and find, you know, reprieve.

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Yeah. I mean, basically, you're basically your entire childhood was spent running.

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Yes. Either running or hiding.

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Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Back to where you kind of left off on on this,

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this journey of your life when you talked Talked about being on the streets,

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but still going to high school.

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What happens from there? How do you get off of the streets? And where does life

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go maybe after high school?

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You know, so my my mom, as much as I tortured her as a teenager and I was a horrible child,

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my my mom, she's always loved me unconditionally and given me the space to make my own decisions.

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And when I was living on the streets, I had three jobs, I would take the bus to each job.

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And my only way of being able to, you know, survive, at least is what my excuse

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was at the time, was that I was abusing methamphetamines.

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And so I would take them to stay up at night so that, you know,

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wherever I was, I was alert.

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And then I would need to continue the usage throughout the day to get through my classes.

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And then, of course, I would be taking the bus to one of the three jobs that I had at the time.

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And so there was a point where I had a breaking point and that I'd probably

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gone for several days, if not over a week without recovery.

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Proper nutrition, and I fainted at one of my jobs.

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And at that moment, I knew the only person that I could call was my mom.

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And she came and she picked me up and really just nursed me back to health until

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I was able to finish my final coursework to graduate.

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And so I graduated. I was off again, but this time I was off with a purpose.

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I stopped, you know, using drugs and I started really focusing on my dreams and my goals.

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And from there, that's when I, once I graduated high school,

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it was almost like a clean slate and I started over and that's when I started

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to climb the corporate ladder. Wow.

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I mean, that's incredible. I mean, the fact that we just went through the story

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you've shared pretty much your entire childhood to then all of a sudden,

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things just taking off for you.

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Was there anyone who you would say was a mentor, an influence,

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who helped you and even coming from where you came,

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but knowing that there's more and to get you to where you are today.

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Was there anybody back then that you look to for that influence or support?

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You know, the one person that continues to still be that pillar in my life is

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my mother. And despite of my choices, she loved and accepted me unconditionally.

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And that was just a beautiful thing. And to surround myself with people that

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really a sense of community of people that were.

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Encouraging me to do the right thing and to course correct my path.

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That was really the way that I was able to kind of get myself out of that darkness.

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And once I entered into the corporate world, then, you know,

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I had mentors that, you know, were leading me, whether they were managers or, you know, executives,

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I was in a place where I was, you know, I admired them and I wanted to be like them.

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And so I was willing at that point to do whatever it took to now shift the course of my life.

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And that's, that's why I started climbing the corporate ladders because I was

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inspired by all these people that I saw doing great things.

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And I wanted to be one of those people.

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I love it so much. I want to ask you one more question before we continue is

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at At what point were you able to get out of witness protection?

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Probably when I was about eight years old, when I was placed with the family member.

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Once I was placed with a family member, and that's because during that time,

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that few years was going through court hearings and, you know,

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my biological father was incarcerated at that point.

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So that's really the thing they were trying to protect us from was him finding us. Yes. Okay.

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Wow. Wow. Wow. Okay. I just had to, I just had to answer that,

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get that answer because I was wondering.

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So here you are climbing the corporate ladder.

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I guess I would love to know, I mean, what dreams did you have at that point

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in your life and kind of where did life end up taking you? You know,

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at the, at the time, it's so funny.

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People ask me like, what did you want to be when you grew up?

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Like as a child, you know, and the one thing that I had in my vision and don't

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ask me where this came from, but I wanted to be this,

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you know, business woman in a business suit.

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And I didn't know what direction I was going to.

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I started in real estate, but I was just too young for that and kind of evolved

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into customer service and sales, which then led me into marketing.

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And that's where I found my passion for marketing, which is why I founded my

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marketing agency in 2013 was because it became something that,

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you know, was my passion.

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But remember, I tried to go to college.

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I tried to do those things, but I had to survive still. I was still,

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even though I graduated from high school, now I wanted to actually provide for myself.

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So trying to squeeze in college and working more than one job became really challenging.

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And so I found myself fully emerged and working, you know, through and climbing that corporate ladder.

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And during that period, I had my son and then my daughter.

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And then it wasn't until about 2010 that I met my husband, Kyle. Okay. Okay.

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Talk to me about that. Talk to me about Kyle. He was the kind of person that

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was just charismatic and charming and just this beautiful spirit.

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And this sounds so cliche, but he could absolutely light up a room with his personality.

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And he swept me off my feet. I'd never experienced a love that I was so,

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it felt like it was all consuming.

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He played the guitar and he would sing to me and he would make,

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he would change the words in some of the songs, you know, to include something

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special about me, even if it was like a song you would hear on the radio.

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He painted this large canvas, you know, of my, basically of my side profile.

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And it was just like this beautiful canvas. And I was like, who does this stuff? Like, this is insane.

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Like, he was just this amazing person. He had like this adventurous spirit.

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And I just fell head over heels.

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Like I couldn't even describe to you the type of love that I felt for him.

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And so we were together for two years and we got married.

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We did like a beautiful wedding in Napa, California.

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And with literally the entire Napa Valley in the backdrop. drop.

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And he sang and played the guitar as I walked down the aisle.

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Oh, wow. Yeah. Like just the most amazing person you could ever imagine,

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like your ultimate soulmate.

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But when things started to turn was about two weeks after our honeymoon.

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At this point, I'm a VP of marketing for a large organization.

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And I'm sitting in my office and it was an executive suite.

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So typically only the executives were in the office. And at this point,

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it was in the middle of the day.

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And I was working through my lunch because I had just gotten back from my honeymoon.

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So I was working through my lunch, but the remainder of the executives were

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out. and a woman comes in through the office reception area and the receptionist is gone.

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And so I look up and I was about to notion her like, you know, how could I help you?

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And she said my name. She said Serena.

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And at that moment, I just felt like my stomach dropped and I knew that this

::

was much more than just someone, coming to meet with somebody in the office.

::

And she came into my office and she closed the door behind her and she sat in

::

the chair across from my desk.

::

And she said, I've been with Kyle for the last two years.

::

And she sent me over 300 emails, text messages and photos between the the two

::

of them for that time period.

::

So the entire time that we were together, he was also with her.

::

And I found that out two weeks after our honeymoon.

::

Wow. Wow. That is horrible.

::

What made her come and tell you this? You know, it was, it was a really interesting

::

moment because I, I felt so much empathy for her when most people would probably be angry.

::

It almost felt like she felt that they had this relationship and that I had ruined it.

::

It was a very odd moment for me because she was crying and she was...

::

You know, she said, well, we need to confront him.

::

And I thought to myself, like, well, I like this is remember,

::

I just felt like I was in an out of body experience, because I,

::

I felt like this was not my story.

::

Like I was watching this happen, but I wasn't there.

::

And she's like, he's gonna deny it. He's gonna say that nothing happened.

::

And I want you to know the truth. And so I agreed and I followed her to his

::

place of work in my vehicle.

::

And we went in the back where the employee entrance was.

::

And she said, text him and have him come out here and we'll confront him together. other.

::

And I'm in this state of comply and concede.

::

Like I can't even process this amount of information in this short of a period of time.

::

And I just followed whatever she told me I just did. And so I text him and I

::

said, I'm outside, I need to get something out of your car.

::

And he came out through the back employee entrance.

::

And she grabbed my hand in this moment, we're standing in the alleyway.

::

And he looked up and saw the two of us and fell to his knees on the cement and

::

just started screaming.

::

And that's when it became real. Like when she told me about it,

::

I felt like I was listening to someone's story.

::

But when he fell to the ground, And that's when it just, my whole world shattered.

::

Wow. Wow. That is...

::

Completely devastating. You think, especially the relationship that you talk

::

about with him, this amazing, amazing relationship.

::

And the fact that you think you know this person, and then to find out that

::

at the same time, he's having that kind of relationship with somebody else.

::

I can't even imagine. It was indescribable. And I had mentioned that she sent me over 300 messages.

::

And some of those messages were talking about how they got away with doing something

::

in our home when I was away. way.

::

So that was even harder to realize that not only do you know that this happened,

::

but now I'm reading their interactions and looking at the photos that they sent each other.

::

And at one point there was a, I was taking a video of him while he was singing

::

and playing the guitar and he was singing to me and he sent that video to her.

::

So it was like, my mind was just trying to, it was, it was something that I

::

couldn't comprehend fully.

::

I was, I had put this man on a pedestal, which is very unhealthy,

::

obviously, but I learned through that experience. I put him on a pedestal for so long.

::

And it was like when all of this happened, I just was so broken.

::

But what started to unravel and started to unfold is he...

::

Became suicidal and said that, I never loved her.

::

You're the only one that I've loved. I'm going to do whatever it takes to be a better person for you.

::

This is just something I was struggling with. It's behind me now.

::

And so we went to counseling. We went to intensive.

::

Marriage workshops or seminars where we were there working through our childhood

::

trauma and working through the issues and working through the infidelity.

::

And I forgave him and I, I forgave her.

::

But what I recognized is I didn't forgive myself.

::

And so that was something that I had to learn along the way.

::

What do you mean? Forgive yourself?

::

What I started to do was to blame myself for not being enough,

::

for not doing enough, for maybe I was working too much.

::

I wasn't prioritizing him.

::

I led him to this because I didn't give him what he needed.

::

Those were the unhealthy, distorted thoughts that I was really believing at the time.

::

And the beauty, though, is that the forgiveness, when you learn how to fully,

::

authentically forgive,

::

it really, it really helps relieve the pain that you're feeling inside.

::

And so once I forgave him, and once I forgave her, I started to feel the layers

::

of pain start to subside.

::

And then once I started to learn how to forgive myself for putting myself in

::

that situation, right, for even for blaming myself for it.

::

That's when I started to really identify like my strengths and come out of the

::

darkness in that circumstance.

::

And we started to thrive. We stayed married and I was determined to work through it.

::

But I still really didn't tell anyone about what happened because I was so embarrassed

::

that it was right after our honeymoon.

::

I was so humiliated that I kept that private.

::

And what that ended up

::

doing is that it just kind of created this snowball effect of me hiding situations

::

or me trying to protect others from any pain or harm or me trying to protect his integrity.

::

It didn't help me truly let go of the pain and put it behind me because now

::

I was in this hiding mode,

::

pretending everything was okay to family members and the people around me,

::

but still working through these issues, you know, on my own or with counselors,

::

but not really speaking about it.

::

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Wow.

::

Now, during all this time, what is the dynamic between him and your kids?

::

It was beautiful. He was an incredible father. He accepted them as his own.

::

He also had, when we first got together, a six-month-old.

::

So his son and my two children were inseparable.

::

And he was the epitome of the most amazing father ever.

::

You know, encouraging them, joking with them, guiding them, teaching them how

::

to do silly things like change a tire or go fishing.

::

And with my daughter playing Barbies and letting her put makeup on him,

::

the epitome of an amazing father.

::

And really that was the only father that they really knew.

::

And so they looked up to him and admired him and adored him,

::

which also made me continue hiding when three years later, I found out about the second woman.

::

Again. Yes. This woman was a completely different woman, but this was after

::

I had started the agency.

::

So by this point, I had left the corporate world.

::

I started the agency and he quit his job to come work in the agency and he oversaw

::

all of the sales and I oversaw the operations and the creative.

::

And so he would travel a lot for different events or trade shows or sales meetings.

::

And when I found out about the second woman, I didn't fully recover from that, that.

::

But I hid that because now it not only would impact my children,

::

it would impact my business.

::

It would not only impact my family and my friends, but it would impact my employees.

::

So I confronted him about that. We went through a whole nother slew of chaos

::

and challenges and and counseling and all of that.

::

It was like I was reliving the first two weeks of, you know,

::

being of our marriage all over again.

::

Three years later, after I worked so hard to rebuild trust and so hard to forgive,

::

now I had to start all over again and go through that process again.

::

Wow. I struggled again.

::

I fell deeper into my depression. I started having health issues.

::

I couldn't sleep at night. It was starting to eat me alive.

::

And I turned to alcohol at this point where I would pretend during the day everything was great.

::

I would run the company. I would pick up the kids from school,

::

do the dinners, get them tucked in bed.

::

And by the time they were in bed, I would have as many drinks as I could to

::

fall asleep or I would go into the closet and cry just because I was having

::

such a hard time letting go of the second time.

::

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Would that be the last time or were there more?

::

I was determined to be an amazing wife.

::

I was determined to keep fighting.

::

I was trying to fight not only for our family and our marriage.

::

I was also trying to fight because of the amount of loss.

::

I mean, everything I'd worked so hard for up to that point, I would lose everything

::

if I chose to leave. So there was a part of me trying to safeguard all of the

::

work that I had done up to that point.

::

I worked through my own personal issues. We went to counseling together.

::

I went to counseling alone and I started to gently and slowly work through those through that pain.

::

But it was the third time when a completely different woman,

::

when I found out about the third woman was when I finally had the courage to walk away.

::

And the turning point was actually

::

a few days before I found out about this third

::

woman I was talking to my counselor and I said I just I feel like I'm never

::

enough like I feel like no matter how hard I work or no matter how much I try

::

to heal or you know I'm I'm an amazing wife I'm an amazing mother.

::

I'm a business owner. I'm successful.

::

I'm doing all these things. I'm amazing in bed. I mean, geez.

::

I was like, I just don't know why I'm just not enough. And he said,

::

Serena, you, you may be all of those things, but you can't earn love.

::

It has to be freely given. And it was like a blindfold came off.

::

Like my whole life, I felt like I had to earn approval, earn love.

::

And it goes back to my childhood is that's what I was taught.

::

Thought my biological father is you have to do this.

::

And, and so I really believed in my mind that I, it, the more that I did,

::

the more successful I was, the, the better I was or whatever in my mind at the

::

time, the more that I did, I felt like I was earning love and approval.

::

And when he said that statement.

::

You can't earn love. It has to be freely given.

::

It literally was the moment that I knew that I had to leave.

::

And that was even that was just a few days before I found out about the third woman.

::

Wow. So talk to me about the story when you finally did leave. leave?

::

So he had been on a trip and he was scheduled to return in about three days when I found out.

::

And so remember this whole time I had been not telling anyone.

::

So no one knew about all of these things.

::

All they saw from the outside was this power couple that owned a business that

::

worked together, that were, you know, just this perfect family.

::

And I went to my mom and dad and I, and this is my stepdad, of course.

::

And I went to my kids and I said, I need everyone to pack up. We're leaving.

::

And that's when I, that's when I told my truth. And I said, it's,

::

we're leaving. It's time to go.

::

And so we packed up all of our things and moved out before he returned home.

::

And because I'm an overachiever, I even cleaned the house and left all of his things.

::

I did. You love it. I cleaned the house. I left all of his things in the right place.

::

Just so that he knew his things were there, my things were gone.

::

And I put my ring on the nightstand.

::

And then I sent him a message once we were completely moved out,

::

knowing that he was going to be home that day and said, I've hired a divorce attorney.

::

I've listed the house for sale. I've informed our staff.

::

And I just want you to know that I'm leaving. Well,

::

meanwhile, before he has a chance to really respond,

::

I've literally done all these things and made sure that I had everything taken

::

care of, including changing the locks on the office so that at any point he

::

couldn't go back and make a scene or do anything.

::

When my employees were there, I had to tell my employees.

::

And so I brought them together and I said, you know, Kyle and I are going through

::

divorce and, you know, I'm so sorry.

::

I know how this impacts you, but I want you to know that we're going to get through this.

::

And this was in October of 2019.

::

And I was going to get through this and I opened a bottle of champagne and I

::

toasted to them like 2020 is going to be a much better year.

::

And you have nothing to worry about.

::

We all know what happened there. But they they cheers. They believed in me.

::

They knew that I could lead them and that I had been leading them.

::

So they supported me. And after we after we did this little cheers,

::

my son at the time is now, you know, 17 years old.

::

And he had been working for us in addition to my my staff. So he was,

::

he was in the room and I hear my, my team kind of bantering back and forth and, and whispering.

::

And I said, Hey guys, like, let's make this a positive thing.

::

Let's put negative things, you know, out of our mind and let's look forward.

::

And I said, no gossiping, you know, like let's just not gossip.

::

Yeah. And my son says, Mom, they're not gossiping.

::

And I say, my stomach just dropped.

::

And I it was almost like the whole room stopped.

::

And I looked at my, my team. And I said, What did what did you say?

::

And they had told me that that my husband had also been with one of our former employees.

::

And that they, many of them knew

::

that he was cheating and he told or pretended that I was okay with it.

::

And so the humiliation for me was more that so many people knew around me.

::

They were all, it was like I was standing in a glass house and everyone's looking

::

in. And I think that was one of the hardest moments for me.

::

But it also reminded me that I was doing the right thing by moving on.

::

And I had to let go of the idea that I could protect him, that I could protect

::

his character, his integrity, even if he didn't have any, that I could pretend

::

that I had it all together.

::

It was that moment that I realized that I could be fully 100% vulnerable and

::

authentic with my, not just my friends and family, but my staff,

::

that they could see me as a human.

::

And they still loved and honored and respected me. It was a beautiful moment for me.

::

But it was devastating to hear that they knew and all these people around me

::

knew, but I was in the dark.

::

Yeah. Wow. That is very tough.

::

How did your children handle you guys leaving in all of this news?

::

You know, I think that they could feel the anxiety.

::

They could feel the difference of, you know, my behaviors since the second woman.

::

So I think they knew it was time to go.

::

Yeah. And that period when he was out of town, his son, who I always tell is

::

my son, I always would say, that's my baby.

::

He was with his mother at the time. And so it's obviously I was being very sensitive of that situation.

::

And so I only told my children and they were supportive and they said,

::

whatever we need to do, we're going to make it.

::

And so that was in October of 2019. And by March of 2020, he committed suicide.

::

What? Yeah. Okay. You're going to have to fill in the gap. I know.

::

So, and I kind of left this out because I wanted to go back.

::

So in every experience that he was unfaithful, he would revert to suicidal tendencies.

::

And so it would send me in this tailspin of trying to protect him from hurting himself,

::

which is one of the reasons I continued to stay is because I thought I could

::

protect him from himself.

::

And he would beat up on himself and he would, you know, say all these things

::

and then he would start cutting himself. And these types of situations were

::

happening throughout our marriage.

::

And I also hid those things, which is purposely why I waited to fill back in

::

the story, because I wanted you to see that my tendency was to hide.

::

And I was hiding everything. I was trying to protect him.

::

I was trying to protect my family.

::

And in that, when these suicidal moments would happen and he would be trying

::

to take a bunch of pills or drinking until he passed out and I wasn't sure if

::

he was, you know, like I didn't know what happened.

::

And these moments were so chaotic that I was just trying to survive.

::

I was trying to make sure that he was okay, getting him the right help that he needed.

::

And I lost a sense of myself during that period.

::

So when I chose to leave, when I built up the courage to leave after that third

::

woman, I also had to recognize that it was not my responsibility to protect him.

::

That that was his responsibility.

::

Yeah. I mean, you're right. You are so right. How did you find out?

::

Well, I got a call from his girlfriend that morning.

::

One of the many. You love it that I could laugh about it now because it's just

::

so crazy. Of course, of course.

::

That night, I had gotten up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night,

::

and I saw a message from him on my phone.

::

And this was the first time he'd ever apologized. And he said, Yeah.

::

In his text message, I'm so sorry for all the pain that I've caused you.

::

And I'm so grateful for all the memories that we shared.

::

And I was kind of groggy, you know, just getting up to go to the bathroom and go back to bed.

::

And I looked at it and I was like, wow, that was the first time he's ever apologized.

::

And that like means so much.

::

Like it's been so long and we've been, I mean, this is a 10 year marriage.

::

We've been through a lot. And I said, thank you so much that that means the

::

world to me. I'm just so grateful.

::

Thank you. And I went back to sleep.

::

And I woke up that morning to like 15 missed calls and voicemails and all these

::

things. And I was like trying to figure out what was happening.

::

And I listened to the voicemail and it was his girlfriend at the time.

::

And I couldn't understand a word she was saying because it was all tears and I was confused.

::

And so I called her back to figure out what was happening.

::

And somebody got on the phone and said, Kyle's in the hospital.

::

You're the next of kin because you're his wife. Still, it was only a few months.

::

And you're the only one that can get information. Can you go to the hospital

::

and find out what happened?

::

And I just happened to live in, we had moved out of the house and moved into

::

a condo. And that condo, my balcony to my bedroom overlooked the hospital that,

::

he was at. So it was less than a block away.

::

Yeah. And I running down the stairs, scrambling to try and get myself together.

::

And my daughter runs out and she's 13 at this time. And she's like, mom, what's happening?

::

And I said, you stay here. You can't come.

::

I was like, I don't know what's happening, but you stay here.

::

My son is like 18 at this point. and he's jumping up like, I'm going with you

::

no matter what. And I'm like, that's fine.

::

And so my son and I go to the hospital.

::

And at this point, remember, it's COVID. Like everything is shut down. That's right.

::

It's a ghost town in the hospital.

::

And I tell them, you know, who I'm here to see. And they take my son and I and

::

they put us in this private waiting room. And I was completely confused as to

::

why they would put us in a private waiting room.

::

Why would they not just take us to go see him?

::

And a detective and a nurse walked in and they said, last night there was a

::

fight between the girlfriend and Kyle.

::

Kyle, and he had shot a bullet or he had shot a round off into the fireplace

::

or something of the sort because they were fighting and she ran outside and she called the police.

::

And when the police arrived, they stepped into the house from the backyard.

::

And before they could say to Kyle, put down your gun, he shot himself in the

::

head in front of the police officers. Wow.

::

How devastating. Yes.

::

Talk to me that point moving forward.

::

And I'm wanting to touch on the emotional side because I'm wondering,

::

do you immediately go to guilt?

::

Or what emotions were you feeling? Yes, that's a beautiful way to kind of segue. I felt relief.

::

Not something that you would think that I would feel in that moment.

::

But I had spent 10 years trying to protect this man. And I was exhausted.

::

Yeah. I had nothing left.

::

And it was almost like everywhere he went, And there was a circle of chaos because

::

he was so charismatic and he swept people off their feet and everyone loved him.

::

But it would always lead to this chaotic environment and to where I could no

::

longer carry the weight of his story.

::

I couldn't carry the weight of protecting him.

::

I couldn't carry all that any longer. And so as devastating as it was in that moment,

::

the first feeling I remember having was I could breathe because I was so afraid for so long.

::

And I had already accepted when I left that day a few months earlier that I

::

was no longer responsible.

::

Yeah. That I knew there's nothing I could do that he was responsible for for his life.

::

And I could no longer hold that responsibility. And yet it went through the emotions of disbelief.

::

It went through the emotions of just sadness

::

because he was still that person I fell in love with that played guitar and

::

sang to me and painted these beautiful paintings for me and wrote me amazing poems.

::

And took me on adventures, he still was that person.

::

And a lot of times during our marriage, I looked at his infidelity as his version of addiction.

::

And I tried to relate to it in that way and understand it that way.

::

And so I didn't look at the decisions he made as they defined who he was.

::

I looked at those decisions as that's what he needs to work through,

::

what he needs to overcome,

::

what he needs to move past, but he still had this person inside of him that

::

he wanted to be, which was all of the good things that I saw.

::

And so it was a period of sadness and depression, but then it also was a feeling

::

of weightlessness that I no longer had to carry that weight. Yeah.

::

A total mix of emotions. Yes. Yeah.

::

But I would almost venture to say maybe for the first time in your life, you felt free? Yes.

::

Yeah. That's the best way to say it. The first time in my life,

::

I was no longer running and I was no longer hiding and I felt free. Yeah. Wow.

::

Here today, I mean, it's not been but four years since then since the time we're recording this.

::

What brought you to the point that you decided you wanted to write a book,

::

that you wanted to start coming on podcasts?

::

What was that decision? Why did you decide that my story should be heard?

::

Well, at first I started writing the book and I was going to hide it under my bed when I was done.

::

But then I recognized that my pattern wasn't just running. I thought for a long

::

time my pattern was running.

::

But when I recognized that my

::

pattern when I was writing the book was not just running, it was hiding.

::

I would hide in the background. I'd be behind the scenes or I didn't want to

::

be in the spotlight or I would hide to protect or I would pretend I had it all together.

::

All of those moments of hiding were uncovered while I was writing.

::

And so I knew that I had to face my fear and I had to I had to publish it.

::

And that was the first big fear that I overcame. And I had to self-publish it

::

because I knew that I had to face it alone.

::

I didn't want a publishing company. I didn't want all these things.

::

I knew that I had to step out on my own and face my fear.

::

And that's when I published it.

::

But what made me realize that I needed to start doing podcasts and start sharing

::

my story was to also overcome the fear of being exposed, which is what I called my book.

::

So my book is called Exposed. You can't heal when you hide.

::

And it goes into much more detail of the moments in my story.

::

And I clearly articulate not only the way the carpet felt or the things that

::

I was wearing, but how the room felt and how I was emotionally feeling in that

::

moment. So you feel like you're in it with me.

::

And I knew if it took me this much time to finally step out and find the courage to share my story,

::

that tells me that that is the gift that I need to give someone else is giving

::

them the encouragement or empowering them to find their own courage and to find

::

their own voice to share their story.

::

Yeah, absolutely. I love it.

::

Where is the best place for somebody to find your book or to just get plugged

::

into your world altogether?

::

So they can go directly to my author website at serenamastin.com,

::

or they can simply go on to Amazon.

::

I have an Audible version, a Kindle version, and a soft copy of the book as well.

::

Okay. Okay. Amazing. I will be sure that any of the links and stuff to access

::

your book to get plugged in will be left in the show notes for easy access.

::

Thank you. Yeah, I have one last question for you. Of course.

::

And I would love for you to speak to the woman listening today who's maybe a few steps behind you.

::

Maybe she's back in a situation, in trauma, when she doesn't feel free. Right.

::

What would you say to her to encourage her having gone through what you have?

::

It's such a tough thing when you're in a place where you feel stuck,

::

that you can't get out, that you've hid for so long that you're terrified to tell your story.

::

Whether it's the perception of others that are judging you or the opinions of

::

others or whether you're afraid to lose your home or lose something bigger.

::

So for the woman who is in a place where they need to get out, I would say prepare.

::

And what that means to me is I made prepare an acronym.

::

And it stands for P stands for plan your next steps. R stands for identify resources.

::

What do you need? Who can help you? Who can you trust?

::

E is for create an exit strategy.

::

How do you get out of that situation safely, whether it's yourself or with your

::

children? The next P is make those preparations.

::

You already have your plan, but now you need to to put it in place. A is for take action.

::

Don't allow your fear to cripple you into that moment where you are frozen in fear.

::

And then R is for release the responsibility. It is no longer your responsibility to own everything.

::

And E is for evacuate. It's your time to move on.

::

It's your your time to start investing in you. Wow.

::

Serena, you are so amazing. Your story is so crazy.

::

And yet I look at who you are today, sitting here, talking with me,

::

and I see nothing but this amazing woman of pure just grit and strength.

::

I just thank you so much for just sharing your story and for letting me get

::

to meet you and to hear your story of understanding more about who you are. And thank you so much.

::

I am so honored.

::

I'm one of your biggest fans, and I am just honored to be here in your presence

::

and to share my story with those who are ready to hear it.

::

Yeah. Amazing. Amazing. Well, I will turn it over to you listening today.

::

My hope is always is that this podcast leaves an impact on your life.

::

I can only imagine that you heard many things that were shared today that can

::

be an impact on your life.

::

And so please be sure at this moment to put it into action, to prepare, just as Serena said.

::

My name is Kevin Lowe. This is Great Grace and Inspiration. I'll see you next time.

::

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