Mel Schwartz, LCSW

#96 Transcending Trauma — Defining Wave Collapses

This special 96th episode of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz features a guest who shares her remarkable story of triumph over trauma.

From the age of seventeen and well into adulthood, Jenny’s life was shaped by near-tragedy, disruptive relationships, a shocking and unexpected death, and more.

Listen in as Jenny tells her story of one wave collapse (as I define them in my book, The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast), after another, and how she embraced the power of uncertainty to live the life she wants to live.

I’d love your feedback on our inspiring conversation! Be sure to leave a comment!

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Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #096

MEL: Hello everybody and welcome to The Possibility Podcast. I’m your host, Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book, The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast. I hope to be your thought provocateur and I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking and a new game plan for life.

MEL: I am excited and honored to bring you a live guest today. Her name is Jenny. She wrote to me some weeks ago sharing the story of her life traumas and as a reader of my book, The Possibility Principle, she referred to them as wave collapses. And I’m going to make some distinctions and help you identify what’s a wave collapse, what’s a trauma, and where they both reside and correlate to each other. And Jenny’s been gracious enough to come on the show for the benefit of all of you listeners to help you understand and appreciate the way she navigated those life traumas slash wave collapses. So with that said, welcome to the show, Jenny. If you’d be kind enough to share with us some of the pertinent points of your life history and how they’ve impacted you.

JENNY: First of all, thank you for having me. It’s a real honor to be on your show. When I was younger, and I was a very performance driven person, always trying to kind of fly under the radar by being the superstar, doing the best that I could be because I realized I really received a lot of hats on the back or Wow, aren’t you amazing. And really, it was the only time, shall I say that I ever really felt good about what I was doing. I had an interesting childhood with divorced parents that didn’t necessarily get along so great. Actually, they didn’t get along at all. And growing up with a dad that was very strict and kind of hard to read from time to time. So you kind of learn how to adapt, kind of stay out of the way. I learned quite quickly that to be the overachiever or to strive for perfection or try to be the best, it got me where I needed to be to feel comfortable.

JENNY: You know, for some reason in my life, it always kind of all so many things kind of came back to this one pivotal moment where, you know, my mom had been really, really sick. She was then just kind of out of the picture. She was the more loving and nurturing one. But when she got really sick, obviously, she was unavailable. You know, she actually that year, she had tried to commit suicide. I happened to be the only one there at the house. And so obviously, that was kind of a shocking moment.

MEL: Could you describe the shocking moment? What did you see? What actually happened?

JENNY: You know, I didn’t really know what happened. I was awoken in the morning, in the middle of the morning. It was the day before school was starting. I do remember this. I woke up to some pounding on the door. And at the time, we lived in two different homes, two different houses on the same property. And I looked out to our street to see ambulances, fire trucks, police, and I really didn’t know what was going on. They started asking me, where is this location on the property? And you know, your your mother has attempted suicide. So when I took them to the location that they were asking about, then you know, there she was completely unconscious. When they brought her up to the house, she was not responding at all. I remember the police officers, they had mentioned that she had left a note for me.

MEL: How old were you, Jenny?

JENNY: I, you know, I’ve quite often tried to go back to that. I believe I was 17. Yeah, I really it wasn’t until later that I tried to piece together kind of the timeline. I was living with my mom full time at this at this time. So for all of this to be happening, I just remember how in shock I was. I was so confused there. They’re asking me what my full name was, what address was I at? I mean, I couldn’t remember any of it when I was being interviewed by them. You know, all I can remember is kind of looking down the hallway and seeing my mom laying on the ground with a couple of the rescue workers, you know, trying to revive her. Anyway, so yeah, they took her off to the hospital and I went to a friend’s house. Growing up in a small town, this rumor, this news spread quite rapidly, as you can imagine. So to kick off the new year this way, let’s just say it was challenging. It was a challenging set of circumstances.

MEL: At that time, your mother is the primary relationship in your life.


MEL: You’re an adolescent.


MEL: 16 or 17 years old. You awaken shockingly to your mother’s suicide attempt.

JENNY: Right.

MEL: And not only how do you make sense of it, but how do you summon up the capacity to move forward? Could you describe shock as just a word, shock. At first you’re in a state of shock, which protects you from the trauma. But as the shock retreats, what are you feeling? What are you thinking?

JENNY: Yeah. I mean, one of the things that went through my head is what are other people going to think? I mean, I couldn’t believe that there would be any reason, for example, to even write me a note and apologize. I mean, thank God she ended up being revived and she went to the hospital. All of that kind of went rather quickly. So then it’s like, OK, she’s safe. But now what is my life look like? Because we knew that she was probably going to be entered into a mental hospital of some sort, which means I couldn’t stay with her any longer. There were a lot of questions in my mind. You know, obviously, this is a pivotal moment. You’re coming up on finishing out this year strong so you can apply for colleges. And these last two years of high school seem to be.

MEL: Of course. They’re critical without trauma.

JENNY: Yeah.

MEL: And as you mentioned, the thought of also what would other people think term that I refer to as other esteem, which is rather than being connected with self, what will others think of me? So you’re 16 or 17. Your mom is no longer in your life available. What happens? Who do you live with?

JENNY: So when she was then sent off to a mental institute, then the decision was made that I had to then return to my dad’s house. I didn’t end up leaving his house on the very best of terms. So it was kind of an uncomfortable situation.

MEL: So when you get to your dad’s house after your mother’s suicide attempt, is your dad solicitous, caring, nurturing of you?

JENNY: No, not really.

MEL: How would you describe him?

JENNY: Yeah, it was kind of almost like, yeah, well, here you are. You don’t have any other choice. So it wasn’t caring or empathetic or as I mentioned, they didn’t get along at all. So maybe his reaction was more because he didn’t like her. What I was going through or what I had gone through was kind of a non-issue.
Like I said, really on both sides.

MEL: So he was detached emotionally prior to your mother’s suicide attempt. You didn’t feel his nurturing, his love or his caring. So your mom, arguably through no fault of her own, having a psychiatric disorder, can’t cope with her own life, but makes a decision that she’s leaving you.

JENNY: Right.

MEL: Right. There’s a sense of abandonment there. He cares for you and loves you, but she’s leaving. You can’t handle it. You get to your dad’s and he’s indifferent. You’re just like a commodity more or less. He has no choice for actually, but you need a home to live in. Okay. So for listeners who aren’t familiar with the term wave collapse, what I write about in my book is that there are things that happen in our lives that which are very acute, like a suicide attempt or drip, drip, drip, like your dad’s message of you’re not worth my love and attention and devotion, which is a more chronic wave collapse. Suicide is acute. Wave collapses are when our identity becomes frozen in the moment in time and it shapes and informs us. And typically, regrettably, it limits us and confines us. What I call confining wave collapses. Clearly your mother’s suicide goes beyond that. It’s a trauma, trauma to your being. So let’s move forward now with what’s your life like with your dad and what’s the next trauma or wave collapse to come?

JENNY: So I continue to do what I normally did when I lived with my dad prior, just stay under the radar and be the best that I can be. I think the next or the confining wave collapse, the way I would see it as a wave collapse, because it was a very defining moment. It did keep me frozen and still from time to time does. In that same year, as I had mentioned, it was a big year to be submitting college applications and whatnot. I had performed and excelled to a point that I was at the top of my class with a lot of my friends. Everybody else is also excited about sending off college applications. And I’ll never forget, because again, my mom’s still sick and my stepdad is taking care of her. So I’m just kind of doing what I need to do to survive. And I remember bringing to him a few of the college applications. I think that fee for submitting them was somewhere around $25 to $30 per application. And it was at this point that he told me that I would not be going to a four-year college with no discussion. There was just…

MEL: Just matter of fact.

JENNY: It was matter of fact. And it had nothing to do with me living with my mom full time. It had nothing to do with any of that. The agreement had always been that he would pay for college. And I had performed in such a way that I could have gotten into many different colleges with the right support. But to have somebody just completely shut you down, I didn’t have any words. And I could never really talk to my dad, even if I had these feelings inside of, well, this is… what do you say? This is not fair? And yeah, I was completely…

MEL: So you were literally speechless. You couldn’t summon your voice and express how you felt. So that’s significant. There’s this harsh, cruel reality. I’m not paying for a four-year college. But then there is the subordination, the loss of your own voice, like, what? That’s not fair. In other words, the voice of a 17-year-old or anyone in that moment to say, can we talk about this? How do we work this out? He had no feeling. He just delivered a one-sentence statement of fact, as though you’d have no feelings or he had no regard for your feelings.

JENNY: Yeah, I just felt completely crushed. All my aims, all my goals, everything had just been thrown right out the window. And riding on top of everything that had happened with my mom just some months before, I mean, yeah, then I started thinking, like you said, what are the others going to think? All my friends are talking about colleges. I mean, it was a total feeling of humiliation when somebody said, oh, well, what colleges are you applying to? And maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal to many that I explain the story to, but I just know that for me, it changed my life. It really did. I completely went from high achiever, teacher’s pet, whatever you want to call it, to completely rebellion. I was angry. I was just angry. I had no voice. I had nobody to help me. I had nobody to say, hey, maybe there’s another solution or, you know, there was no support, nothing. And I held on to that for a really long time.

MEL: You rebelled, Jenny, and actually found a voice through the rebellion. You didn’t express your anger or your upset to your father. You took that energy and externalized it as a rebel, which in some ways we can look at as your resilience. You didn’t self-defeat and cave in and go into depression, right? You reconstituted yourself and became rebellious.

JENNY: Yeah. I mean, I was partying all the time and ditching school because at that point I thought, what’s even the point? Why am I going to school? Because at this point also, you know, like a junior college, because that was pretty much my option, a junior college in my mind was that was for the people who didn’t like barely passed. And then I was going to be lumped in with this group. It just it didn’t seem right. And I completely rejected the whole idea.

MEL: So let’s talk about identity for a moment. The identity you had, which gave you buoyancy and resilience through your mother’s suicide attempt and the absence of her actively as a mother was your passion for academics and academic achievement, how you identified yourself. And then again, without warning, without knowing it was coming for the second time in your life, that sense of identity was stripped away from you without real explanation. And it’s left again with this question of who am I if I am not the successful high achieving student and that’s been removed through no fault of my own, not that my grades changed. Who am I? So trauma number two in your life and you partied that was the rebel you’re speaking of. So did you end up attending junior college?

JENNY: No. You know, I wanted nothing. I just wanted to leave. I wanted to be as far away from everybody as possible.

MEL: I think this is a natural and natural desire.

JENNY: Yeah, because I was young and it was all very confusing. And as you mentioned, my identity was completely stripped. I didn’t even know what to do with myself. So yeah, I mean, I ended up working, not in any positions that I thought were amazing. But just to be out on my own and not have to rely on anybody.

MEL: Did you move away from the town you had been living in?

JENNY: Yes. So I bounced around and lived in a couple different locations, mostly, you know, beach cities, always in and out of relationships.

MEL: This was also interesting. I would imagine it would be hard for you to trust relationships.

JENNY: I did have a huge issue with trust.

MEL: Okay, so that’s part of the wave collapse and the shaping of your identity.


MEL: You couldn’t trust people. Your mother and your father abandoned you in different ways. Your mom may not have been responsible, but your father certainly was. So your core experience in life is that your parents didn’t care or traumatize you in one way or the other. So as a result, you didn’t trust relationships and your self-worth suffered.

JENNY: Oh, my self-worth was, I’m going to tell you honestly, I really struggled with that really a lot up until this last year when I read your book. And it was a simple concept. But you know, when you really recognize that your self-worth is struggling, and that it’s keeping you stuck. I was stuck for so long. It’s like even carrying it on into my work experience. If my work ethic was in question, if I thought people didn’t think I was doing a good job, or if I was up, you know, at the top of my level, it really affected me in really bad ways. Like I would be hijacked for like three months at a time in kind of a depression and not really even understanding what was going on, what I was even responding to. So this was really kind of a deep dive in this last year. It’s like, okay, so why does this continue to keep happening, whether it’s one month or three months of just really feeling bad, really badly about myself.

MEL: I’d love to show you my appreciation for your subscribing to and rating this podcast by offering you a gift to one of the following the power of mind, a live talk that I gave or one of my digital ebooks, creating authentic self-esteem, overcoming anxiety or raising resilient children, and lastly, cultivating resilient relationships. Once you have subscribed, please send an email to Mel at and just let me know which gift you’d prefer. Thanks.

MEL: How did that feeling badly about yourself then impact you? I know you have much more to your story now, which is how did that impact you in terms of choosing a partner, choosing a husband?

JENNY: So I was married.

MEL: At what age did you get married?

JENNY:I was 31. This was my second marriage. I had gotten married at a really, really young age. Imagine that. I quickly realized that it was not working. And so I carried on with my life in a confused state, just living, just surviving. Finally, it was about…I was 31 and I got married. I had remembered 2 years prior to that, I was thinking to myself, wow, all my sisters are married. They’re all having kids. Some of my sisters are younger than me. And it really made me look inside and go, wow, nobody’s going to want me. I’m not lovable.
And wow, I’m the only one that’s not married. So you almost just start looking. And so I ended up getting married. I ended up getting married to someone who I just thought was absolutely amazing. And then shortly after we were married, you would start seeing a few little red flags here and there, but we’re just going to push those to the side and ignore them. But I have 3 wonderful kids, and we were nearly married 10 years. But really having a hard time the last couple of years, yeah, prior to another major trauma, I had found out. And once again, even in the marriage, and even with kids, I really had taken what I had learned in my adolescent and younger childhood stages is to really excel, be the super mom, be the super wife, do everything perfectly. So from the outside looking in, how amazing everything is. And really on the inside, I felt like I was falling short. When I had found out that he had cheated on me for really because of a sixth sense, it was that little voice. It told me something is off. There was no major incident. I just knew something was off.

MEL: You just intuited it.

JENNY: And I followed that intuition. And lo and behold, here’s some messages that I really didn’t need to be seen. And this was a crushing moment for me, because I really felt like I had done everything to hold everything together. I was the glue for the family, so to speak. And so when it came down to the simple fact that he just didn’t get enough sex, that’s what it came down to.

MEL: That was his explanation.

JENNY: This was the explanation that they had actually, this woman and him had made a decision that they really both just love sex, so they would just have a ton of sex. And so, you know, now that I think about the conversation, it was just, wow. Once again, there were no words. I mean, how do you…

MEL: Had your former husband ever complained to you that he wasn’t having enough sex?


MEL: Oh, so it was a secret that he was discontent.

JENNY: So after this, I mean, once again, I really went into a depression. I mean, I was really drinking a lot. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that, wow, I’m just nothing.

MEL: So the third time in your life that there’s this wave collapse of, I don’t matter. I don’t count. Your words, I am nothing. Right? Your mother tries suicide. Your father shunts you aside and says, junior college, don’t care about your talent, your intelligence, your perseverance, irrelevant. You’re not going to four-year college. And your husband, former husband, creates a story, wasn’t having enough sex. So for the third time in your life, now you’re in your 30s, 40s at this time?

JENNY: Yeah, it was actually, I found out, I remember a couple months before my 40th birthday.

MEL: Pivotal, just like your mom trying to take her life at the age of 17. Pivotal moments, applying to college. So just before your 40th birthday, you’re left again with this acute horror of, I wasn’t having enough sex. That’s why I did it. No accountability or responsibility on this part. No compassion or empathy or feeling for you. Third trauma, third major acute wave collapse in your life. So please continue from there to what happens next of significance.

JENNY: Yeah, I tried. I tried really my best to get over it, to work on the relationship. I didn’t know exactly what I was working on because he’s the last person now that I want to have sex with after pretty much, you know, there’s just nothing there. It was about, I’m going to say a year later that maybe his guilt kind of started wearing off. He was a little bit of a narcissist. The guilt kind of started wearing off. So then it’s kind of like a few of those kind of red flags kind of started coming back. You know, in terms of just how he would speak to me and kind of cut me short, just completely disrespectful like you would never speak that way to someone you love, period. And you know, we had been to a marriage counselor. And so I ended up going back to this marriage counselor and I said, do you mind if I just kind of start meeting you one on one, because I’m really trying to work some things out. And this is kind of what’s happened since we went to marriage counseling, you know, the whole thing. And I was really trying to just work my way through it in hopes that I could get past my fear or mistrust or whatnot. Well, what ended up happening after, you know, going to the same therapist for about 10 months is I finally had come to the conclusion, not that I wanted to work on the relationship, but that I was really done. And for me, it was a big, it was kind of a relief. You know, you feel like you’ve really worked through it, you’ve put the energy and effort and just yet to come to the realization that I was done. So moving forward, I had a business trip coming up. So I hadn’t really talked to him about this revelation that I had. And so I went on this business trip and I ended up meeting somebody who did make me feel special in so many different ways. I mean, on a professional level, I already knew him. It wasn’t like it was just a one night thing. At the end of the day, it was just it was almost the conclusive, okay, I really am done. Now I can’t go back because now I’ve done the same thing that my husband did to me. Okay. So this is kind of a child’s game, so to speak. But I felt really bad about what had happened. But I didn’t regret it, if that makes sense.

MEL: Yes. Let’s pause for a moment there. You felt really bad about what happened. That’s on an objective level of conscience and behavior. But you didn’t regret it because it gratified a deeper part of you. You were feeling affirmed. So that dissonance is important and important for our listeners because there’s a complexity there where things are not simply at times right or wrong, black or white.

JENNY: They’re not black or white. And as you said, not either or. It just it felt really good to be affirmed and to feel really–

MEL: Yeah, I’m better.

JENNY: Exactly. And I came back from this trip with a with a different energy. I just wow, there is hope. Not that I thought I was going to move halfway around the world, you know, to continue a relationship. But I remember I’d even called my sister, my best friend, and I had told her I was quite honest with what happened. This is how I knew also that I didn’t regret it. You know, if I was really ashamed and whatnot, I wouldn’t I don’t know that I would have told anybody that I. It was a good feeling. And she knew already all the problems that I had had in my marriage and the struggles. So so anyway, so everything in the next couple of weeks really kind of took a very downhill spiral. I don’t even know. I can’t even find the words to explain. But I ended up telling him what had happened because I just thought, OK, this is going to be I’ve already made my decision that I don’t want a marriage, but this will be the finite. There is no like I’ve now you know how it feels kind of thing. Yeah, this is what I did. And it really rocked his world. I don’t think he expected that from me, nor did I expect that of myself. But, you know, so he really flipped off the handle. And one night he decided that he wanted to write everybody in the company that I knew who this is the business trip I was a part of. So he included everybody in the company that he knew that I knew in this email, along with all of our family parents.

MEL: So he was going to sabotage your entire world and life.

JENNY: Basically, this was the aim. There’s no other way you could look at it, because it was my whole professional world. And it’s my family and his family. And yeah, he proceeded to, you know, address the other male involved. And you need to stay away from her. And by the way, did you know, you know, she has mental problems. She’s on antidepressants. And, you know, she has also a drinking problem. And my mom had called me and she said, Okay, you need to check your email, but just stay calm. Everything’s okay. I was terrified, horrified. There are no words to describe how really somebody could just try to destroy you in this way.

MEL: You know, the word unimaginable becomes overused. But in this case, it is truly unimaginable. Here’s a man who callously cheated on you. You stayed with him. He was never accountable or really apologetic. And yet when you go out and do something similar, only you had cause, whereas he didn’t. His response is he’s going to essentially try to evaporate your life, make you persona non grata to everyone, nullify you. So here we have the recurring wave collapse in your life, which is you don’t matter. And worse, he’s going to hit the delete button on your life. Right?

JENNY: Pretty much.

MEL: Wow. Please now come to the next acute event that happens.

JENNY: Yeah. So I ended up going home. I packed everything. He said, Where do you think you’re going? And he said, Well, I’m sure as hell not going to stay here. I can’t be anywhere near you. You have the kids for the next day. You figure it out. So I left because I at this point, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Five days later, I ended up coming back to the house and I had already made plans with my mom to go out, go to a concert, you know, with this would have been on the books for a long time. And so we did that. And then I came home that evening. And my mom, she never stays the night. She never stayed the night and she decided that she was going to stay the night that night. Yeah. Thank God, because I went to bed and it felt like I was sleeping for a couple minutes. But then I grabbed the pant legs of my pajamas and basically just said, I’m fucking done. And the gun went off. Thank God the kids were with my cousin.

MEL: So at this moment, just for the listeners are clear, the gun went off. He was not aiming the gun at you. He took his own life.

JENNY: No, he took his own life and he was laying next to our bed, dead.

MEL: Wow. So this starts with your mother’s suicide attempt at the age of 16 or 17 for you. And now as you’re approaching your 40th birthday, your husband awakens you and kills himself. I guess I can’t even ask a question like, how did you feel? Because the way we normally communicate and organize feelings, they wouldn’t even correlate to that experience.

JENNY: The crazy thing is I found out and I didn’t even know this, but I found out the counselor that I had been going to see, coincidentally, also was a grief counselor. Thank God, because I was paralyzed. There was nothing that I could take. There was no Xanax. There was just nothing, nothing could take away just this numb, shocked feeling that I felt for quite some time. I just didn’t understand. I still don’t understand.

MEL: Did your thoughts ever go toward feeling any responsibility for his? So you were you feeling guilty?

JENNY: Absolutely. I mean, to think that, wow, I, you know, I really just pushed it too far.

MEL: So you pushed it too far because you had an affair or you pushed it too far? Had you told him you wanted to get divorced?

JENNY: Interestingly enough, he said he had been looking at divorce attorneys kind of in between this time. It was a very confusing time. It was like he wanted a divorce, but he didn’t want a divorce. So even when I opened up his computer, I found several tabs open for divorce attorneys.

MEL: Were you thinking you wanted a divorce?

JENNY: Oh, yeah, I knew it was over before the whole email that was sent out.

MEL: So I suspect that he knew that you knew it was over.

JENNY: Yeah, he could feel it was over.

MEL: So he was going to beat you to the punch, not actually ultimately by hiring a lawyer and suing you for divorce, but he was going to beat you to it by ending his own life. Therefore you couldn’t divorce him. Wow. There are so many places to go with that. But again, it’s a nullification of his own life, but the nullification of you. You don’t matter. You don’t even have the right to divorce him. He’s going to remove that right from you by removing his own life.

JENNY: Once again, thank God I had somebody who was familiar with grief and he had never heard of a situation like this. My grief counselor was quite in shock, he said, because normally it doesn’t work out well for both parties involved. So he said, yeah, not so many words. This was kind of a screw you in a much bigger way, clearly. But yeah, I mean, it rocked everybody’s world, everybody’s world around us. Nobody that saw anything wrong, he never talked to anybody about his up and downs and whatever. And the funny thing is he had always told me that I needed to go get help. I was the one with all the problems and and and.

MEL: So Jenny, let’s turn from this horrendous continuation of trauma and nullification and obvious challenges to your own self-worth. How do you begin to summon up resilience? How do you begin to turn a corner with I matter, I count? How do you start to shape an identity for yourself that is in any way positive?

JENNY: I think part of life’s circumstances shortly thereafter and kind of forced me to start walking a different path. I didn’t really have a choice because I found out four months later I was diagnosed with cancer. And when I heard this, many things happened in my life. A, it’s quite obvious there’s one parent here for the kids. So the kids come first. And wow, I have to beat this thing that became my main priority. So it kind of threw me out of any grieving stage that I was in. And yeah, I’m right back in the survival. You know, I’m going to beat this and that was my main goal. It’s terrifying as it was, you know, thank God I had a decent protocol. I had decent results from all the tests that I could survive through this. Was it easy? No. Yeah. One year chemotherapy, double mastectomy, radiation, you name it, all while just trying to deal with life. But as I mentioned, I think that was kind of a slingshot out of the grieving, paralyzed, stumped, shocked feeling into, okay, now you have to step up. You really have to be present for this because now we’re not joking around. Now this is like your health and your future.

MEL: And the love and responsibility you felt for your children.

JENNY: Exactly.

MEL Right. Which ironically is what your mom was incapable of because of her depression. And your father just was devoid of that capacity, as was your former husband.

JENNY: Exactly. You know, as I mentioned, our whole community, everybody was just in a world of shock when everything happened. Then when they found out I was diagnosed with cancer, it was kind of like I was just surrounded by many loving people who just wanted to help and be there because when everything happened with the suicide, I think people felt paralyzed. They didn’t really know how to help. They didn’t even know what to say. But with cancer, okay, we can be there for you. We can do this. We can do that. I really felt the love and support there. And this just helped me grow through a lot. As I mentioned, grateful for the therapy and the therapists in the world, you know, and having that relationship with a therapist prior to all of this happening, because I don’t know that I could have gone through it and come out the way that I did with some resilience. Because my current therapist that I have now, she just quite often says like, wow, you’re really one of the most resilient people that I’ve met. I don’t honestly know how I was able to get through a lot of what I got through.

MEL: So in that resilience, it seems like it’s not just getting through. It’s not simply being a survival. It sounds like there’s a piece to your personal narrative in which you’re able to reach down somewhere in yourself and start to create a new sense, a better sense around the question of who am I?
How do I want to experience my life? You know, I’ve written that who am I is the wrong question, because it provokes a fixed specific answer. And in your life, to a certain point, that would have been a negative answer. The turning for you was who do I choose to become? How do I want to experience my life? How do you free yourself from the trap of these traumas and the wave collapses? And you, it may be an unfair question, because you may not be able to pull it out and identify it. But you have an adaptability in terms of your own identity and self worth that allowed you to rethink who I choose to be. Do you have any sense of how you do that?

JENNY: I mean, I think even in the last recent years, I really struggled with, you know, when I felt that I was being judged when my work ethic or ability to perform, if any of that came into judgment, I felt crippled. I didn’t really know where it was coming from, until after therapy. And then, you know, once again, then reading your book, it kind of put everything together. I really did go back to that moment, when my whole world was crushed with college and my mom’s suicide and all of that and realized that had such an impact on my life moving forward. And then I think what I really, really recognized is that after all of these traumas, wave collapses, I was running, I was constantly afraid. I was constantly afraid of what the future holds for me, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So maybe I was just running really fast to where that was part of my resilience. You know, I just didn’t want to stop. I knew something else bad could happen. This is really where, just coining the phrase here that you said, you know, the embrace the uncertainty.

MEL: That’s just what I was thinking at the moment, which is your shift was instead of running from the uncertain in fear, you turned and welcomed it in.

JENNY: Right.

MEL: So that’s your answer.

JENNY: This was the pivotal moment for me. And this is all within the last year. I mean, I’ve had lots of therapy since everything happened. And I always was, I would do well and then really come crashing down, really do well and really not know where these crashes were coming from. And they were a little terrifying. I would find myself in really dark places. But then, like I said, just realizing that I was a my self-worth was really my self-worth, my well-being, the who am I? It all depended on this identity that I had for myself around what I did, not who I was. And so when you take that piece out of the picture and realize that I’m loved by so many people without that, and then you stop running for a moment and just be present. This was life changing for me.

MEL: Your message then to others is don’t run, slow down and welcome it in. And there’s another piece here, the judgment piece, which comes up often in your narrative, which is the awareness, I suppose, that you’re not going to grant to other people the right to be your judge. They can think what they will. You see, it’s really that you were judging yourself and then projecting that judgment onto others. People have opinions. We all do, but they’re not your judge. And so freeing yourself from the illusion of judgment allows you to embrace the uncertainty. Just be and navigate your path. It’s a remarkable story, Jenny, of resilience and courage in the face of trauma after trauma after trauma. You should be not only pleased, but proud of yourself. You should be giving yourself a big hug and pat on the back and saying, wow, look what I have done and I look forward to the rest of my life to see how much more of that I can bring in to my relationship with myself. It is both a horrific, life defeating and life enhancing, beautiful story. You’ve had, perhaps you ought to write a book or give a TEDx talk or something to share this with more people. Of course, coming on to my podcast and sharing your story with my listeners is a wonderful start. But my thought at this moment is, there’s more for you. I encourage you to just let it percolate and think about what does more sharing look like for you? What’s the path? Because remember, the more you open into that vulnerability, which is a positive vulnerability to share, the stronger you become and the more you benefit others. I can’t imagine how many people listening to this are going to find hopefulness and courage in their own lives. It’s a blessing you’re providing for them. So thank you so much for sharing your story.

JENNY: No, really, thank you for having me. And if this sharing provides one listener hope for their future, that really means all the world to me.

MEL: Well, I promise I will stay in touch and share with you all of the positive feedback we get and thankfulness for your sharing. And let’s you and I stay in touch.

JENNY: Yes, absolutely.

MEL: I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Possibility Podcast. I welcome your feedback on this and any episode. Please send me an email at mel at or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at If you like what you’re hearing, please take a moment to rate and review the show at Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Your reviews really help boost the visibility for the show. And it’s a great way for you to show your support. Finally, please make sure to subscribe to the Possibility podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. And that way you’ll never miss an episode. Thanks again, and please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life and embrace new possibilities.

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