Christine: You are listening to the Your Empty Nest Coach podcast, with Coach Christine, episode number 38: Michele’s Story, Loving Through the Empty Nest, Raped as a Teenager and How it Changed Her Life. This podcast is for you, a mother who years ago walked away from a career to raise your child. Sure, you’ve been busy volunteering, car pools, maybe part-time work and taking care of everyone. But your main gig, that has been your child. Now, that they are in their later years of high school, the empty nest looms ahead for you and it is freaking you out. I’ve been there and I get it. Together, we’ll turn our freaking out energy into freaking awesome energy.
Hello, my future empty nest friend. Before I get started, I have a request. My team and I are planning on taking some time off over the holiday season, and rather than going completely silent for that time, we thought we would share listener favorite episodes, or snippets. That means that we are looking for your submissions for one of two things, something you learned from the podcast that has helped you, or you’re favorite episode. For both of these, explain what they mean to you, and tell us what episode number it is from. You may email your recorded submission with your phone audio recorder or type it out. Send your submissions to email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you, and thanks for your assistance.
As always, a quick reminder that all of my episodes are brought to you by my free seven-day program, “The Empty Nest: A Guide to Uncovering My Future.” To be clear, we are talking about your future, not mine. Hop on over to my website, youremptynestcoach.com and sign up today. Look for the link that says “Uncover Your Future.”
For those of you who need a trigger warning, Michele’s story does include being raped as a teenager, as well as being in a dark time with no future plans. That being said, she’s completely inspirational and I can’t wait for you to meet her. My amazing empty nest listener friend, my guest today is Michele. Full disclosure; Michele was one of my beta clients and it was my extreme pleasure to work with her. I remember one of the first things she told me was that she almost didn’t graduate from high school, and yet she had in her same introduction to me, that she has a B.A. in Psychology, a teaching certificate and an M.S. in Special Education. Do I have that right, Michele?
Michele: That is correct.
Christine: I clearly remember reading through this and thinking, this woman’s tough, has been through it, and must have an amazing story to tell. I’m super thankful that she has the courage to share a little bit about her story with us today. Welcome to the Your Empty Nest Coach podcast, Michele.
Michele: Yay! Thank you! I’m so excited to be here.
Christine: I’m so excited to have you. Listeners, our hands are up, jazz hands, we’re so excited. Michele, thanks for being brave enough to share a little bit about your life story with us. I would love it if you would start by telling us a little bit about yourself, your family, and where you currently are on the empty nest journey.
Michele: Okay. Usually when I think about myself, I think of mom first. That is my first role, but I am also a wife and a teacher. I have twins and they move into college for the first time on August 22nd.
Christine: It’s so close.
Michele: Yes, I have that date memorized. I have been married for 24 years and I am, I guess, what they say a low-incident austic support teacher. A big mouthful. I teach Special Education. As far as where I’m at in my empty nest, my beef stew is simmering.
Michele: I am enjoying the moments right now. The focus of my twins and where we are in the moment. I’m not stressing about where we’re going. I’m not thinking about where we’ve been. I’m just enjoying the moment and simmering. We’ll see what bubbles to the top.
Christine: Oh, my gosh, this makes me so happy.
Michele: It’s the perfect analogy here, really.
Christine: Isn’t it funny?
Michele: It’s exactly where I’m at.
Christine: My editor was like, “Beef stew? Where are you going?”
Michele: But it’s perfect. It’s absolutely perfect. I’ve been trying to like, think about where am I at? Where am I at? That’s ideal. That’s exactly where I’m at. I’m simmering. I’m enjoying the simmer.
Michele: Nice slow, warming up to the ultimate meal, kind of thing. You know what I mean?
Michele: That’s where I’m at.
Christine: Wonderful. Michele, one thing you shared with me is that you have powered through, I think I have this right, circumstances in your childhood/teen years that might shock others. While that may be true, there are other people who may have a child going through what you’ve gone through, and knowing where you are now, maybe just what they need to hear. What is it about your early years that you think will be shocking to some?
Michele: I think shocking, when I read that, I’m like, well, it’s relative, because shocking to some is not to others. For me, when I told my story, I’m just kind of like, well, it’s mine. You know? It is what it is. Others have been like, “Wow, that’s an amazing story.” My story, I guess, starts with at 15 I was raped. I was raped, and it did a number on me. I tried to commit suicide. I didn’t want to live. I did not want to live at all. It was just like, there was no feeling whatsoever. If you could feel numb, that’s what it was. Complete and total numb. All I wanted to do was sleep. You know, I sit there, I look at my kids now, you know, they’re just graduated, and I think when I was their age, my goal in life was to stop living at 21. I had nothing planned after 21, because I figured okay, 21, I get to drink, and then, there’s nothing to live for. I lived my life without what I would call purpose. I just was there. I guess that’s pretty shocking.
Christine: Yeah. It’s real. It’s a lot.
Michele: It is. It is. Do not get me wrong, as I’m laughing, it was hard, you know? I would never want anybody else to go through it. At the same time, I can’t dwell on it.
Michele: Because if I did, I wouldn’t see all the good that is now. There are teenagers that go through some really, really tough struggles and the key is they can overcome.
Michele: I’m an example of that. My kids know my story. They know my story probably more detailed than what some would want their kids to know. My husband knows my story, and they are amazingly supportive. It’s kind of like, this is kind of odd, but it’s kind of like a scar that you have, that’s kind of like a badge of honor. I know that sounds odd, but it’s there. You wear it. It doesn’t bother you anymore. It’s just there. I don’t know. I mean, I feel like I should be sad, but it’s hard for me to be sad because I’m not living in that spot any more.
Christine: That’s really good. I think, in the moment though, when you were 18, 19, 20, obviously, I guess you could never imagine you’d be where you are today?
Christine: Have a future planned?
Michele: No. I mean, literally, I was making choices that, when I look back on it now, I think, oh, my gosh, I’m surprised I’m not dead.
Michele: Literally, I’m surprised I’m not dead. Jumping in the back of stranger’s cars, making poor choices as far as illegal things, like drinking. I drank in high school. That’s what I did. The things that kids did in college, I did them in high school.
Michele: You know? It was kind of like, when I got to college, because I made that choice, and had gotten through all the gunk, I’d like to say I had my head on straight more. It was almost like my high school and college were flipped.
Michele: That’s the best way I could describe it. But there was no feeling there. I mean, literally, there were no dreams. I was never that type of person where I dreamt of who I would marry, what my wedding dress would look like, having kids, none of that. It was literally like looking into a black hole. I saw nothing. That’s how I lived, because I didn’t want to wake up every day. When I would lay my head down to sleep, I did not want to wake up.
Christine: I’m so sad for younger Michele. I want to hug her.
Michele: Younger Michele had it tough. I mean, she really did. I’m okay with it now. I can be honest with you, it took me 15 years. I was raped when I was 15. For 15 years, subconsciously, because I was raped in January. I was raped literally two weeks after my 15th birthday. You’re talking about a very young 15. January would come and I would become an evil, miserable person. Just nasty and hateful, and depressed. I never realized that I was that way. Even after the birth of my children, January was the most hated month. When I turned 30, I’m not really sure exactly what changed, but something happened and I was able to step back and say, “Oh, that’s why I’m acting that way. Do I want to continue to act that way?” I was able to say, “Okay, you know what? I see this, but this isn’t how I want to be.” From then on, things started to shift. It was almost like the realization and the acknowledgement, and it’s like, okay, I see it. I don’t want to be that any more. I want to move on. I’ve already come 15 years from that moment, and now it’s time to move forward. It did, it took me a long time, a long time. I’m not perfect yet. There’s still definite remnants there, but not enough to hold me back any more.
Christine: I would think we’re all cheering you there.
Michele: Yeah. Yeah.
Christine: I have so many questions. Here’s one, for those of you, when you were in the moment where you couldn’t see your future and you didn’t want to wake up, did you have a lot of people reach out to you and try to help you; and if so, how would you respond to them? Did it come across as help? I guess there’s like four questions in there.
Michele: Yeah. This is tough to hear. I was raped and I’m 15, so I go to my two best friends. There were three of us that we were real tight, and they didn’t believe me. They thought I was lying. They thought that I was trying to break the friendship up, the triad, up. That was really devastating. I questioned whether or not it happened to me. I really did. I had told one other girl, and she believed me, but I had already told myself it didn’t happen. Now, I’m black and blue. I have bruises from my neck down. I wore a turtleneck and didn’t take gym class, because I didn’t want to change in front of people. There was physical evidence there, but I hid it and I told myself that this didn’t happen to me. That I was lying to myself because my friends didn’t believe me. I remember trying to talk to my mom, and she was so busy, such a busy mom. She had twins of her own, and I don’t want to say couldn’t hear it, but for whatever reason, it just wasn’t meant to be. I wasn’t meant to be heard, I guess. I don’t know. It was just meant for me to feel it. Does that make sense? I don’t know, and I can’t answer those questions.
Christine: Right. Right.
Michele: Because they were other people’s experiences. But for me, what I chose to do was, I chose to suppress it, and it came out as failing grades, and erratic behavior, and I was always tired. I was just a mess. Basically, some people would say a typical teenager, but internally, I felt dead. Literally, numb and dead. I sit back and I think no, there wasn’t anybody there to help me. For whatever reason, that was the way it was supposed to be. That was how my story was written. I don’t know. I’m not here to blame anybody else. This is my story.
Michele: I can sit there and say it was my fault. I could blame the individual. It’s my story. Those are my demons to deal with, so to speak.
Michele: You know? Everybody’s story’s different. Even in my situation, even people that have lived similar lives. It’s all different.
Christine: That is very true. I guess if they reached out to you for the failing grades, and all the other stuff, at that you point, you just —
Christine: It didn’t matter. None of it. Nothing mattered. You know? I mean, literally, there was nothing that mattered at all. It was so all consuming of void, that even when I think back, it’s very hard for me to find happy moments in those times. Do you know what I mean? People say, “If you could go back and go back to high school, would you go back to high school?” Hell no.
Christine: Right. I’m thinking no.
Michele: Would I change it? No, because my future would be different.
Michele: I can accept that. I lived it once. I’m good, you know? Move on kind of thing.
Christine: Yes. Okay. What are some of the most helpful things that you found over your life, in helping you to get to where you are now?
Michele: You know, when I read that question, I thought, oh, my gosh, what have been the most helpful things. You know, I’d like to sit here and say there were pivotal moments.
Michele: I always think, I dated this guy after my whole struggles. I dated this guy who was 18, and he hit me. You know? I didn’t have healthy relationships. How could I? I didn’t know.
Christine: I don’t know how you would.
Michele: Right. For whatever reason, he came to my house and I slammed the door in his face. It was the most empowering moment, that I can remember in my teenage years. I mean, literally, it was probably the first time that I ever felt good. From that moment on, I started making decisions. I started going to college. I started finding joy. Why did that happen in that moment? I don’t know. But for whatever reason, I had enough power in me, enough umph to care enough about myself, to say, “No, this is not what I want.” That was one of the biggest moments in my life. That’s where it started to change. Don’t you know, a few months later, I met my husband. I shared with him, because I was starting to have nightmares because I had suppressed this for so long. I started talking to him, and all he did was hold me and accept me for me. It was like, oh, my gosh, there are people in this world that just care.
Michele: It was then that I was able to start healing more and feeling, and growing and that was truly amazing. Then it just exploded. It was just absolutely amazing. But it wasn’t always easy, because now you’re really starting to feel those emotions and I had to deal with the self hate and what’s wrong with me. I mean, I had anorexia. When my husband met me, I was 114 pounds. I’m 5’8”.
Michele: I was passing out. I wasn’t eating. I mean, there was a lot of outward trauma that was manifesting and I was very unhealthy. In fact, I remember I passed out at work, and my husband was like, “you know, you need to go to the doctor. You need to start eating. You need to be healthy.” I argued with the doctor. I’m going to be 111 pounds. Here’s a girl, who’s 5’8”, and I was going to be 111 pounds. Because if I got smaller and smaller, and smaller, maybe I wouldn’t be noticed. I don’t know. That’s what I thought. I mean, it was just another way I was manifesting how I can be done with life at 21. Then, I didn’t want to any more. You know?
Christine: I’m really glad you met your husband.
Michele: I know. Yes.
Christine: Give him a hug for me tonight. Because I like you and I’m really glad you’re here.
Michele: Yup. Yup.
Christine: Wow. Here’s a question, so keeping in mind, this is for my listener’s, neither of us, Michele or I are therapists. If you, though, Michele, could talk to a parent whose child is experiencing something like this, maybe any area of it, do you have anything that you would like to say to them?
Michele: As a parent, I can’t imagine what it would be like, as a parent. You know, I’m pretty lucky that as a parent, knock on wood, I have not had to deal with a child like myself. But having to deal with other situations with my kiddos, and probably because of my life experience, I choose to love unconditionally when it comes to my kids. I know they’re not perfect, but I choose to hear them. I listen to what they’re saying. I don’t have to like it. I don’t even have to accept it, but I will still love them for who they are. I think that’s the key. Like I said, every situation is different, but sometimes you just need to be heard. Like my husband, he just listened, and he just loved me. He loved every single part of me. He walked up that journey with me, and still is, 24 years, still walking the journey with me. That’s the key. Just being present.
Christine: So powerful. Oh, my goodness.
Christine: I would think your teenagers, do you feel like that has made you be that parent?
Michele: Oh, yes. Oh, yeah, absolutely. Rebecca tells me I’m like crazy involved. I’m just there around, and every time she turns around, I’m there, and it is. I want to know what kind of music they listen to. I want to know what they’re watching on TV. I want to be a part of every little thing. I want to be a part of the mistakes they make. I want to be a part of everything, because they’re such a big part of me. I want them to know that no matter what happens, that they are always loved no matter what. They will always be my kids. They will always be welcome, and they will always be loved. There will never be a judgement. It’s not my job to judge them. It’s my job to love them.
Christine: Wow. Well said. Well said. All right. Here’s a heavy question, in this moment right now, what are you most proud of in your life?
Michele: There are so many. There are so many. I mean, I’m proud of my kids, first and foremost. They are amazing young adults. They’re so excited about their future, which is amazing. I love that. I am so proud that my husband and I will be married 25 years next May. That is just huge to me. I’m looking around, yeah. I’m proud that I have been able to go from barely making it through high school, to having a Master’s degree and helping other kids. I think I’m fairly darn strong.
Christine: You are. Yes. If you ever doubt it, you call me, because I have no doubt.
Michele: Yeah, you know, I think I’m doing pretty good. I think I am.
Christine: You really are. You really are. Is there anything at all, that you would like to share with my amazing listeners?
Michele: Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. We are human, we are not perfect, and it’s okay. You know what? Sometimes in this world we’re all we got. If we’re lucky, there’ll be somebody else, hopefully there is. But you’ve got to love yourself. You really do.
Christine: Yes. One hundred percent.
Michele: You know? Yeah. Be patient, too. You know?
Christine: Yeah. Good job. All right. Shall we lighten it up a little?
Michele: Yeah. Probably.
Christine: Okay. Before you go, I have my four questions that I ask every guest of mine. You probably have them memorized by now. Waffles or pancakes?
Michele: Waffles. My husband makes the best homemade waffles.
Christine: He does?
Michele: He makes them on my birthday every year. I love them.
Christine: Awesome. I like that. Okay. What is one item you can’t live without, and why?
Michele: Caffeine. I tried once. It was the three worst days of my life, and I just decided I don’t want to live without it. I love coffee too much.
Christine: I totally agree. Totally agree. I’ve given up everything else, I’m keeping that.
Christine: I love it. It’s worth it. What is your all-time favorite movie, and any particular reason?
Michele: You know, I was trying to think of this, and I don’t have a particular movie, I have people or moments that I’ve seen movies with. Like, I love “Star Wars” because it was a movie I saw with my dad at a drive-in theater when I was younger. I love “Wayne’s World” because it was my husband and I, it was our first date. I love “The Piglet Movie” because it was the first time I ever took my twins to a movie.
Christine: That’s a great movie.
Michele: Right. I don’t have like, movies that I — like the moment of the movie.
Christine: Like the emotion and everything around it?
Michele: Yeah. Yeah. The experience of the movie, that’s what it’s all about for me.
Christine: I love that. That’s great. All right. You have an hour of alone time, no one will bother you, not even the ferrets. She has ferrets, listeners. What is your go-to thing to do?
Michele: I’m lucky because every day that I drive home, I have about an hour commute, and it is my time. My go-to is my Audible and right now, I am learning about mindfulness. I love to learn and grow and listen to lectures or whatever I can on Audible. That’s my go-to. That’s my hour of bliss.
Christine: That’s wonderful. Do you remember what you’re reading now? Did you tell me?
Michele: Yes. I did. Let me look.
Christine: Because I’ll put it in the show notes, because you like it, right?
Michele: It is so good. It is called “The Science of Mindfulness.”
Michele: I love it. Love it.
Christine: All right, listener, there’s a new book recommendation. Okay, so my empty nest friend, thank you for listening to Michele’s story. I would like to challenge you to think of someone who could benefit from hearing her story, and please share this episode with them, because she did her part by being here. She’s amazing. To see where she was and now where she is, is so inspiring. I’m so glad you shared that with us. My wonderful empty nest friend, should you have any follow-up questions for Michele, please feel free to email me at Christine@youremptynestcoach.com, and I will be sure that she gets them. Michele, thanks for sharing your life with us. You are one tough cookie and an amazing lady.
Michele: Thank you. You, too.
Christine: Awesome. Please don’t hesitate to fly on over to our Facebook group. Our name is Green Popsicle Sticks. Want to know why? Listen to episode number 17, or head to my website, youremptynestcoach.com/community for links to join our flock. Why should you join our group? The adjustment to not having your kiddos at home full-time isn’t always easy, but it sure can be a ton more fun with a flock of friends. We look forward to seeing you there.
If you are ready to begin the journey to find future you, and use her as your GPS, definitely sign up for my free program, “The Empty Nest: A Guide to Uncovering My Future.” Episode number 13 covers the high-level concepts of that program, if you would like to check it out. If you like what you hear there, and are ready to deep dive into the concepts, then take my free program, as I provide videos and worksheets to assist you on your journey.
Oh, my goodness, did you hear? I have an online program, “The Empty Nest: First Steps Toward Success.” I now offer GPS Reset Weekend Retreats, Unplugged and Charged Up, and I am available for speaking events. Seriously! What are you waiting for? Visit my website or see this episode’s full show notes.
The questions I have for you in this episode are number one, what have you had to overcome to become who you are today? Number two, how are you telling your story? As always, I provide content to make you think, my empty nest friend. My hope is that I am able to provide you with thoughts that positively impact your life. You’ll find the show notes for this and every episode on my website. My next episode’s title is “Courage Addiction.”
Don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast. It is free and you’ll be notified when I post a new episode every Friday. If my show has helped you in any way, please share it with one other person you think it will help, too. You’ll be giving them a free gift. Thanks for your time and energy with that, and thanks so much for listening, my empty nest friend. Remember, you are amazing!