Today I’m chatting with my college friend Helene Masyr about feeling inadequate, the affects and scars of emotional and verbal abuse, the importance of finding a support system, and the meaning of her butterfly tattoo.
As someone who has moved from something so far away from fine, even though she had convinced herself that it really was fine, all the way to now fantastic, Helene shares hope and inspiration. She also shares valuable suggestions you can apply to your life.
Helene DeJong is an internationally experienced teacher, school counsellor and coach. She has a Master’s degree in Counselling and Development and has worked with children, teens, and adults in individual and group settings. She is a certified coach who is accredited by the International Coaching Federation. Additionally, she holds certifications in Applied Positive Psychology and Mindfulness Foundations. She incorporates evidence-based positive psychology and mindfulness strategies into her sessions.
Helene has worked in India, Niger, United States, Uganda, and the Bahamas; she has coached clients from France, England, Scotland, the US, as well as the Bahamas.
Additionally, Helene is a recovering people pleaser who misplaced her identity somewhere between marriage and motherhood. She is the proud mother of four strong daughters who seem so much more put together than she was at their age! Helene is committed to helping others uncover their identity, purpose, and their passion so they too can thrive.
6 months life coaching guaranteed price: $50 per session. Mention Fine is a Four Letter Word.
Helene’s hype song is I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor: https://youtu.be/ARt9HV9T0w8
Come join us in the Fine is a 4-Letter Word Facebook group.
This episode is sponsored by Zen Rabbit. When you’re asking yourself “what’s next for me? Who am I now, in this next season of life? And where do I even start figuring out my purpose?” the F*ck Being Fine Experience is here for you. Go to ZenRabbit.com to learn more or to schedule a complimentary call.
Fine is a Four Letter Word - Helene Masyr Produced Final Mix - 050521
Lori Saitz: [00:00:00] Hey, my friend, welcome to FINE is a 4-Letter Word. My name is Lori Saitz. I'm an entrepreneur mentor, founder of Zen Rabbit and your guide in moving from fine to fantastic. I love inspiring others to listen to their inner voice and encouraging them to take the steps toward fulfilling their soul.
Join me here as we navigate through life transformation. Moving from that place where you say, everything's fine, it's just fine. But you're really feeling a deep undercurrent of suck. How do you move from there to a renewed sense of yourself? You're in the right place for stories and experiences of self-discovery and courage to help you on your journey.
And you'll find each episode has an accompanying meditation. Now let's get into it today. I'm chatting with my college friends, Helene Masyr about feeling an adequate, the effects and scars of emotional and verbal abuse, the importance of finding a support system and the meaning of her butterfly tattoo.
As someone who has moved from something so far away from fine, even though she had convinced herself that it really was fine all the way to now. Fantastic Helene shares, hope and inspiration. She also shares valuable suggestions. You can apply to your life. When she was a child, Helene overheard something.
Her dad said that likely contributed to the trajectory of her life. It led her to believe the lie that as a woman, she couldn't take care of herself for more than 20 years, she lived what appeared to be an enviable international life. In reality, she was trapped in a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage.
Thinking if she could just be a better wife and mother, everything would be okay. It wasn't until her youngest child made a comment that her eyes were opened to what her daughters were learning about women and relationships. And that became the motivation for her to make a change. Listen, to hear the shocking recommendation her first therapist made and how she eventually found her way to someone who helped her discover her power and true identity.
Today, Helene is thankful for everything she went through because it has led her to become the version of herself. She never even knew existed. Quick reminder today's episode is sponsored by Zen rabbit. Want to add more joy to your life? Zen rabbit wisdom gives you the weekly tips for doing just that every Wednesday.
Text the word gratitude to 42828. Hello, and welcome to FINE is a 4-Letter Letter Word today. My guest is someone who has been a friend for a very, very long time. Like she's the one who knows where all the bodies are buried. Welcome to my long time friend going all the way back to college.
Helene Masyr: [00:03:13] Hi, sir.
Lori Saitz: [00:03:13] Happy to have you
Helene Masyr: [00:03:14] Happy to be here to be here. We've come a long way.
Lori Saitz: [00:03:18] We have certainly come a long way since college and who we were then and who we are now. And that's such the amazing thing is that our friendship has endured and it's like, we could just pick up. I mean, there were years that we didn't talk and we weren't in connection.
Have we even seen each other since college, I think you're right. We haven't that's. And through the beauty of video chat, we can do that, but no, I don't think, Oh my gosh, that's insane. But it feels like we have yes. Yeah, yeah. We can just kind of pick up and go. Yeah. Yeah. It's really amazing. To have that, and I'm very grateful for it.
So let's get into the fine to fantastic chatting part. And I'll start with the question that I always start with people. And the reason I start with this question is because I I'm interested in how. The beliefs that were instilled in us when we were younger, when we were growing up, then play out in keeping us, or putting us in that position where everything's fine and then keeping us there for so long.
So what were the beliefs that were instilled in, you were, as you were growing up. Yeah, and that's such a great question. And it really had me reflecting about that. And I think, you know, my mom was a stay at home mom and her life was the kids, you know, so I never saw her as a professional or really doing anything for herself.
It was all about the kids. And she was that way until she passed away, went from the kids to the grandkids. And I also remember overhearing her, talking to someone saying that my dad. Said that he would pay for my brother to go to Harvard, but not one of his daughters. And I didn't realize like how much that stuck with me.
I never asked my dad about it. I don't think I ever will, but that was the belief that I grew up with was I think women were inferior in some aspect to men and it wasn't as important for women to have a career and be powerful and reach for the top. So I think explicitly taught, but I lead that's the messages I believed I received as I also look back at some of the decisions I've made in my life.
And I don't think most of the beliefs are explicitly drilled into you. It's things like that, that you overhear or comments, actions that just play out that create those beliefs. So then what did that lead to? I mean, obviously you went to college cause we went to college together. Not at Harvard though.
Wait, it was Harvard on the Potomac though. I believe I was where I was supposed to be. Cause I went into have met you and all the other groups and a lot of other people that I know you're still friends with. Yeah. So I, you know, I that's, it was fine. I had, I got my university education. And I actually, and I don't know, I've ever said this out loud to anybody and you were my friend at the time I met my then ex now, now, um, my now ex-husband I met him.
He was, you know, at university as well, and I had this. Fear that I would not be able to find a job and make it on my own. And my ex is, you know, like six years older than me. So he was finishing grad school and on, you know, doing his thing and I made the decision to get married. And part of that decision was this fear.
Like, I can't do this. I can't do life on my own. I need to have, you know, this, this man. To help me and, and wow. That impacted it. I did, you know, so I got married. I did have a job. I've been working pretty much. Consistently, other than when I took some time off to raise my daughters just a few years. But, um, you know, fortunately I did, you know, finish university and pursue careers and I'm still educating myself.
I got a master's degree and I'm getting different qualifications and certifications. So I'm very grateful. That that love of learning, um, stayed with me. But those lessons that were kind of, or those things I saw growing up did impact a huge decision in my life when I was, you know, 22 years old. The interesting thing about that story that you just shared, and I can only offer this insight.
Because we have known each other for so long, and that's not the case with a lot of the people I'm interviewing, but I would have never in a million years guessed that that's how you saw yourself, because that is not how I saw you or how anybody I know who knew you saw you again, it comes back to the way we see ourselves is always so different.
We're always so much harder on ourselves and have so little belief in ourselves. Compared to what other people see. Right. Yeah. And I, you know, and we hide it, you know, w and, you know, kind of have to portray something else, but yeah, inside I was a terrified, terrified child. Yeah. So then you found safety and security in that relationship?
Yes. Yeah. I safety, security, some stability. Um, And then, you know, and then once that was there, like I had my jobs and I loved my career and the things that, that I did, but the thought of paying bills. And honestly, I didn't even start doing that on my own until I was in my mid forties. Yeah. And that's not unusual either.
Yeah. A lot of women do that. Like they just kind of give, I'll say, give up control, but it kind of. Yeah, but at some point it makes a little bit of sense because you have a division of responsibilities, you were raising four children. And so it would be that completely makes sense that he would manage the financial part of things.
But now, like, I love you. Probably one of the few people in the world, like when I have to pay my rent, that's awesome. And maintaining my home and paying my rent and all my bills and taking care of my car and all these things that at 22, like I, I could, I said, I couldn't do. I had told myself this lie, I couldn't do it.
And in my forties I realized it was. One big fat lie. W what was it that made you realize that it was a lie? Well, I had no choice. I separated, I had to leave my ex-husband. He was abusive verbally and emotionally abusive. So I finally got to the point where I just couldn't live with him anymore. Um, it was, I was dying inside and afraid that I would actually physically.
Uh, di so I just had to bite the bullet and, and leave. It was all right. I stay and I die or I go out on my own and see what happens. And like all of a sudden I had these wings that I didn't know I had. And, and, you know, I look around even today, like every day it's like, this is my place. Like, we'll need anybody to help me make my decisions.
So was there like a specific incident happened that made you go, okay? No, this is the wine and I am done. Absolutely. So I knew from an, uh, you, you all remember, like I was cautioned by my friends, are you sure you want to marry him? Don't marry him, but, you know, um, and so I knew early on, but you know, you think I'm a, I'm a fixer.
Um, and so, you know, you think you can change or fix somebody. And then at some point I knew like I couldn't stay, but I was going to stay until my youngest graduated high school. Cause I didn't want to put my children through, you know, a separation and divorce. But when, um, something happened and my youngest who was probably nine or so at the time said to her dad, you know, daddy, you need to take care of mommy.
I was like, Holy crap, what am I showing my daughters if I stay in? Cause they're seeing this isn't right. Yeah. So that was my like frying pan over the head moment. No, I, I, as hard as it is only figuratively. Yes. Yeah. The worst thing for me at that point, I realized was if my daughters ended up in the same kind of relationship that I was in, because of looking at me, they saw it was okay.
Me was like, no, this is not okay. And, um, having four girls, I realized I needed to stand up for them and for myself. So that was, that was when that line was like, Nope, no more. Okay. How long ago was that? Oh, that was probably like 2008, 2009. Okay. So 12 years ago. Yeah. Yeah. So since that time I was separated.
I've been divorced since. 2013, early 2013. And my youngest just graduated high school three years ago. So I would have stayed then in that marriage still till three years ago. And I can't even imagine, like I am so same person I am now as I was then. And I'm so happy. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so much growth has happened since then.
And I'll just say too, again, like. Nobody knew. I mean, maybe cause we weren't really in touch that much. When you were, you were living all over the world. Different countries all over the world. So we weren't in touch that much, but, but none of us knew that that was going on. Okay. Well, some saw it. I found out later, like people weren't surprised when I left him, but for the most part, no people didn't know because that kind of abuse really takes place behind closed doors.
And I, you know, was this actress I had to put on this face for my daughters and my family that, you know, everything was fine. And I had to convince myself. Yeah, that's the biggest thing, convince yourself. But when we did, when we talked before this, before we started recording a couple of weeks ago, you said something about your belief around, uh, why you kept trying to what it was that you had.
You had a belief that you could make it work if. What if something you said, do you want me to alright, I'll remind you, you said you thought you were a bad white. Yes. Yes. Well, I did. And I thought it was a bad wife and a bad mother because that's what I was told. Sadly, I had actually gone, I had some very dear friends when I was living in one country, American friends and they were very concerned and they cornered me one day at the gym and they said, you need to go for.
Help you need to go to counseling. They were afraid like I was going to get sick and have cancer because of everything I was dealing with, they, they saw. And so I did go to a counselor, an American counselor in this other country, and basically she had me working on it. Doing things to be a better wife, right.
For his lunch, call him during the day, you know? And, and I would do that. And I called during the day and he wouldn't answer or he'd hang up on me, so, wow. So it just compounded and made it worse. Yeah. Um, because I think there's this emotional and verbal abuse. Like I used to wish people could see, like I had scars if I had black eyes or something, people would know, but I was living this great life.
We were moving all over the world. I had beautiful houses and house help, and it was a good life. And so how, how could, you know, I would not be happy in this marriage. Um, and so outsiders, you know, who were not really closer, who didn't understand the dynamics of emotional and verbal abuse. Yeah. So for a long time, I thought it was me.
That's just, I mean, that just breaks my heart to know that you thought that, and that there are. So many women who think that it's just me, it's my issue. Everything is look at all. I have like, I have nothing to complain about because I have all of these materials, things, and life looks so good. Good from the outside.
So I have nothing to complain about or nothing to be concerned about or like I should just stuff it down. It's it's my problem. It's my issue that something's wrong with me. And when you're in this kind of relationship with a narcissist who is abusive, if I would say, you know, I I'm, I'm feeling sad, you know, we're not communicating well, I'm feeling sad.
I would get, no, you're not, you're not sad. Or, you know, well, I would be denied any of my feelings or told that that wasn't my reality. So it really had me questioning what is reality. Um, So it was, I compare it to when, when you're in a situation like this, it's like being a frog in a boiling pot. So when you're in it, you don't realize as the temperature turns up, the frog doesn't know.
Right. And so it was getting hotter and hotter and hotter and it wasn't until I got out and I realized, wow, like that was so wrong and everything about that, like I truly lost. My identity. I truly lost my ability to think clearly for myself. I doubted every thought. I second, guess myself for every decision I made.
Um, yeah. Yeah. And so cons you go ahead. No, I started off in this marriage because I needed that security and I became even more dependent over the year. And so once you made that decision, To get out. What did you need to go through in terms of taking care of yourself, of it in terms of having to, you know, that personal self-care that you had denied yourself for so long?
I would imagine you had to do some things to get yourself to a point where you're like, okay, I got this first thing I had to do was go to counseling and find a good person to help me. And I found this beautiful counselor here, uh, a male, you know, and I, and I didn't even think I could find this in it. I thought, okay, I have to look for a female counselor who would get it, but I got it.
And so, you know, I remember going to him like saying, I know what. I want to do, I just can't make my legs do it. I need to leave physically felt so, so that helped. And then he threw him, like I learned, I got my power back. He helped give me back my power. Um, so, so that, that was the first step, I think, like real self care didn't come until later because I really feel like I was operating, you know, get up in the morning, work, you know, take care of my kids.
Um, like kind of trying to get to the light at the end of the tunnel, but, but I did like music through songs like that would inspire me and feed me. Um, I would find like quotes, um, that were inspiring and I would put them on the sticky notes around my bed because some mornings like, just didn't want to get up.
I was like, I can't get up, but having those quotes or those words of inspiration helps me to get up. Were there exercises that the counselor gave you to do? In the very beginning I have, since that time become a counselor, you know, myself and I've worked with, uh, women who have gone through similar things.
And so, you know, my thing is to find time, you know, every day, like for yourself, whether it's to take a bath or walk on the beach or read a book, just something to nourish yourself into, you know, to, to pour into yourself because. Moms and spouses and whatever we do for professions. If we interact with people, we're always giving so rarely reef filling.
Right. And so, like it's important to find something to refill. I don't recall him. Giving me specific exercises, but I think instinctively, like, I, I, I knew because there, there were days I would just be walking across the parking lot at school and be like, I just want to lie down. I just want to lie in this parking lot.
I'm done. And I can't, but yeah. Being around my friends and having people to talk to that was huge. Sure. Um, I had a really great support system. Um, so, so those kinds of things where I guess my nourishment at that time, you know, people in my life, uh, encouraging words, um, music, that those all filled in my soul.
And that's such a key point too, that having that support circle, even if it's just one or two people. There were some statistics I read a few years ago about how few people have even one person that they could potentially call in the middle of the night. Like somebody who they were, they are such good friends with that.
They could do that. And that shocked me because I am very fortunate, I guess, to have pretty big circle of people that I could put in that box or put in that role. But that feeling of isolation, I can't imagine having to pull yourself out without having some other kinds of support beyond just a counselor.
Right? No, and I agree, 100%, like I would not have been able to, to get through the way I did without, you know, those few people that I can call in the middle of the night, or I knew that had my back and one of them, I remember she moved away from here devastated. I mean, we were still able to communicate, but yeah.
Than here. And I just felt like this rug had been pulled out and was like, I can't do it. I can't do it, but there were others. So yeah. Relationship is so key, you know, for sure or anything with wellbeing, you know, anything that we're going through life. And I tell my, my, the students that I work with, like, um, all you need is really a couple.
Right. You know, I am fortunate. I have more than one or two, but you know, if you've got that one or two, you know, people that have your back, it's a blessing. It is, it is. And that's the, the great thing about to, if even if you don't have that much, there are support groups that you could find of, of people who can, you know, all different kinds of organizations that can provide that kind of support.
And it's a matter of. Looking for them and reaching out. And, and that, I'm glad that you mentioned that because I didn't go into any groups. Um, I just did individual later as a therapist, I've led groups, I've facilitated them and I'm like, wow, this would have been so powerful in the myth of my pain and trying to find my way, because the sharing the stories, like I had wonderful friends, but they had not walked my walk.
Yeah. Right. Um, but the power of having somebody with you who's walked in who's felt it is like amazing. And it's um, yeah, there are all kinds of support groups, no matter what you've gone through it, there are other people. Who have been through it too, and that are willing to help you move through to the other side too.
Yeah. That's just, that's a really important thing to mention. And that, I mean, that's kind of the purpose of this podcast too, is that to share these kinds of stories, to help people who are listening to know that did the you're not alone. This is, and there's no shame in whatever it is you're experiencing.
There's no shame and people are around to help you. Exactly. And what helped me was finally, I went to a therapist who gave me a book about verbal and emotional abuse. And it was like, wow, this is real everything I've been feeling. It's a real thing. It's not in my head. And I read, you know, little stories of, uh, of survivors, of verbal and emotional abuse and that, that really helped.
To, you know, make me feel like I'm not alone. And there is something about this sense of like this shared humanity. And even though somebody's story might be a bit different, you know, it's the shared humanity. And I have a friend who used to say no pain is wasted. And I truly believe like walking through these hard things, just, it helps us to be able to then turn around and kind of help somebody else through it.
Um, it's not a wasted. It was hard. I really wouldn't wish it on anybody, but I don't think I would trade it because it's really helped me realize my strength and define who I am. And now I can be there for other people. Great. Makes you who you are today, which is an even better version of yourself than ever before.
It's, it's a version that I didn't even know. That was there right from my childhood beliefs and everything. So, um, I have, uh, uh, one of my tattoos is a butterfly and I had a friend say Helene. You're like, you're like the Caterpillar in the cocoon. And when, you know, the butterfly is getting ready to come out, it's like shaken up and, and, and it's uncomfortable, but when it comes out, it's a beautiful butterfly.
And when I finally felt like I've come out. As that beautiful butterfly, you know, I got that tattoo to always remember like that. That's who I am. I love that. That's such a fantastic analogy too. All right. So we will end it there. But before we wrap up the question, I always ask, what is the song that you listened to?
That gets you hyped up, gives you energy whenever you need it. Like you can't sit still. When you hear this song, what's your song. So the song is I will survive by Gloria Gaynor. Yeah. It, it just, I feel like it's my story. Um, perfect. So I would also say not just survive, but I will thrive. You got to take it that extra step.
Yeah. Cause surviving is not living so survive. And in my mind, I think thrive and I. I feel like it's just such a powerful, a powerful song. We'll put a link to that in the show notes. And if people want to get in touch with you, where can they, where's the best place for them to find you? I have an email and I'm on Facebook, so.
Okay. And you have a website too, right?
No, not, not yet. Oh, you're still working on that. Okay. No problem. And the website, but Facebook and then email. I do have Instagram, but I was just telling somebody this morning, I'm not on it so much. I'm trying to balance my, uh, like getting sucked into social media.
Completely understand. All right. Well, we'll put, we'll put that in your, in the show notes, too, whatever you want to share. And, um, so people can reach out to you if they want to.
That would be great. Cause I'd love to hear from other women or men who have gone through something. All right. Well, thank you for that.
Joining me today on FINE is a 4-Letter Word.
Thank you for having me.
One thing that's important to mention before we get to the key takeaways from this episode is that this kind of abuse is not exclusive to women. I've known several men who have suffered from emotional and verbal abuse as well. It can be even more shameful for them because they feel like they're men and they're tough and they should be able to handle it.
That's not true. It's harmful, no matter what gender you are. So while my listeners may be mostly women recognize and reach out to your female and male friends, if you think this is going on, encourage them to seek help now onto the key points for you to take away from what Helene and I discussed in this episode.
Number one, we are great at lying to ourselves. Despite the fact that we appear outwardly confident and competent, we still convince ourselves that we are inadequate. We believe there must be something wrong with me. Number two, if you don't find help in the first place you look, if your first counselor or therapist, isn't a good fit.
Keep looking. Find someone else who can help you. The right person is out there and does exist. Number three, having a support system, even if it's only one or two people, even if it's a support group of people you don't know, that is crucial to getting through to the other side. Most of our issues can not be handled alone.
We're designed for shared humanity. Number four. You are not crazy, no matter what you're experiencing, if it doesn't feel right, get quiet and listen to your inner, knowing that voice inside you always knows the truth. Thanks for being here and subscribing to FINE is a 4-Letter-Letter Word. Please share this show with a friend.
If you're feeling especially generous, leave a review. So other women like you can discover the show too. It's on Apple, Spotify, Google podcasts, Amazon music, Stitcher, and all the major podcast directories. And I'd love to hear what's happening in your world. Join me on social. On Instagram, it's Zen underscore rabbit.
You can find links to the other platforms, Zen rabbit.com. Before you go, remember to take a moment to think about what you're grateful for today. And lastly, you can find this week's meditation queued up right after this episode, or maybe it's just before, depending on where you're listening, look for it.
You'll find it because you always find exactly what you're looking for. Remember that.