In this episode, I speak with Sue Bowles, a master certified life coach, trauma survivor, and speaker. And I had Sue on the show because I felt so closely akin to her, her journey, and her mission. I knew that bringing her on would be a difficult...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e351-these-tools-will-help-you-heal-childhood-trauma-with-sue-bowles-trauma-healing-podcast/#show-notes
In this episode, I speak with Sue Bowles, a master certified life coach, trauma survivor, and speaker. And I had Sue on the show because I felt so closely akin to her, her journey, and her mission. I knew that bringing her on would be a difficult conversation, which I assure you it was, so just a little fair warning as we get into this, it's a bit of an emotional conversation. But more importantly, I wanted to bring her on to help solidify and show the truth of the path it takes to go through this journey of healing.
I will not share her story right now because I was hoping you could listen to the show, but the information that she will share about her growth through some incredibly traumatic experiences even impacted me. You have to think how many times I've done this; it's insane. And it impacted me where I got emotional in this conversation because you sit and you watch the power that an individual has inherently to do that thing that we do, the hardest thing to learn, to love yourself, to get out of the vortex, to let go of the past, and ultimately to be unbroken.
Sue is a great testament to that, to what it means to make yourself rise despite other people in the world trying to put you down. And this is a very inspirational conversation, and I hope that if you take anything away from this conversation today, it's this, right now, at this moment.
You have the ability to create massive change in your life, but it starts with acknowledging the truth.
Sue is a phenomenal guest, and this is an awesome conversation!
I'm very excited to share it with you!
Learn More About Sue Bowles at: https://www.suebowles.com/
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Michael: Hey, what's up Unbroken Nation. Hope that you are doing well wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest Sue Bowles, who is a survivor turned author, speaker and master certified life coach. Sue, my friend. How are you today? What is happening in your world?
Sue: I am doing really well, Michael. I am looking forward to doing this show. Thanks for having me.
Michael: Yeah, it is my honor. I'm very excited to have you here for those who do not know you tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you got to where you are today?
Sue: Sure. And real quick, before I do that, although your listeners are well acquainted with trauma, I do wanna give a quick trigger warning. Some of what I'm gonna share has to do with rape and sexual assault, eating disorders, being suicidal, a whole host of unfortunate trauma. Sometimes there might be little ears in the room that may not be appropriate to listen just yet. So, having said that, my first defining moment of my life happened when I was seven years old and I was raped by a classmate, there was a classmate who enticed me into the woods, after school one day. And he held me against my will for 45 minutes. And Bobby's last words to me were, don't tell anybody. I didn't realize the prison, those words were going to put me in because I didn't, it became a 15-year secret. And as you know, trauma literally rewires your brain. So, I didn't have a chance to be a normal little kid at the age of seven when your brain is really just starting to develop, mine, went into survival mode. And how that played out for me was my emotions became frozen in time that day. I just shut down and I learned unfortunately how to wear a mask to make everybody think I was okay.
The problem is, is that I didn't tell anybody for 15 years. I didn't tell anybody until my senior year of college a few months before I graduated. So, you've got 15 years of critical life development from grade school to middle school, to high school, which is its own issue of being a teenager and then to hotbed a stress of college.
So, when the foundation is shaky, the more you build on it, the further off you get. So, by the time I got the college, I used the word troubled. I was suicidal in high school. There were other sexual assaults from other kids in high school as well, unfortunately. I was suicidal. I just, I didn't wanna live. I didn't feel I mattered. In college, I developed an eating disorder and for me it took the form of learning how to shut off my hunger because emotions and eating disorders, uh, lemme put it this way. Eating disorders have nothing to do with food and absolutely everything to do with unresolved issues and my eating disorder, I got uncomfortable. I got uncomfortable around people because again, I'd worn this mask all throughout high school and college that Sue was good. Sue was the solid one, no problems with Sue she's your go-to gal. And when I started crumbling inside, I got uncomfortable because if I had a natural need, the way our bodies are wired to, and I might have enjoyed an extra serving of food. But my brain, because it was already off base wasn't processing things correctly. So, my brain was telling me that everybody in quotes hear the generality there would find out that I'm a fake, that I'd be found out that suddenly Sue had a need because, so I learned to shut off my hunger because if I didn't have a need, if I didn't have to think I didn't have to feel. And if I didn't have to feel, I didn't have to deal with my stuff, so I stayed busy instead and activity became my number. So, when I felt like I was gonna get found out, I learned to shut off my hunger. I dumped my tray, I got outta Dodge and I started snacking to curb my hunger all because I was afraid of being found out as a fake when really, I was being real unfortunately that charade carried on for a number of decades later. I really didn't even start dealing with the eating disorder until 2016, I am now in recovery from it. It's an eating disorder called OSFED, which stands for Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder. And, you know, there was a lot of other trauma, my dad is 31 years sober from recover from alcoholism, but I grew up in a dysfunctional home. We did an intervention on my dad, which is gut wrenching to start with and you know, there was just a lot of instability. So again, I didn't know how to deal with my emotions. I didn't know how to speak up for myself. I didn't know how to express myself. So, I hit my life at a breaking point. In 2014, I was starting to crumble, I finally found a counselor where I was able to really start digging in and it took us a good six years to get to the point where we were finally able to go back and deal with first grade, over four decades after it happened.
So, my eating disorder was kicking in even harder at that point in time. And then I'm having to deal with the emotions and emotions and eating disorders are enemies. And then I'm having to deal with this rape and everything else in between. And I was imploding and thankfully I found a retreat community where it was okay to not be okay. And that's where my healing started, that started in 2014 and it really wasn't for a few years later, till it really started taking roots. And now after all of that and the hard work of healing, I can now say those events don't define me anymore. I define them. And that's where the power comes from and I've had opportunity to speak across the country and on numerous podcasts and conferences and campuses simply to share the message that you don't, you only have to be a step ahead to help the person behind you. You don't have to have it all figured out. It's okay to not be okay. And that brings me joy to be able to share that message because I now have an opportunity to be for others, what others were for me when I was going through it all as well.
Michael: Yeah, that's super powerful. And I resonate with a lot that you just went through, and I know that many, many people and the unbroken nation listening do as well. And as you're going through this, the thing that I'm, that comes to mind is like, just looking at this process of like rebuilding yourself. And I think that often just because, you know, when you get up to a certain level and you've done things for so long and maybe like you and I are together here, we've coached people and spoken on stages and all those things.
There's always that space that I don't think we go into enough and that's kind of the beginning. And so, what I'd like to do is actually just rewind with you here a little bit and go back to this place and when you start to really notice the changes in your life, come to pass. I was recently speaking and I'd never really said this before, but I brought it up in front of this group, I've like speaking, doing my thing. And someone asked me a question and they were like, well, you know, how long did it take? And I've always been like, oh yeah, it's still been 11 years. I'm still doing the work. But what dawned me and I'm not sure why, but in that moment, I realized like actually, but the thing that most people don't talk about and I had not either was at the first three years that I started getting serious about this journey basically hell. And Sue, where I would really love to start this conversation is let's talk about the beginning because so many people hear where we are today, but I don't think we go into where we were enough.
Sue: That's a great point. And your description is really the only description I have for it as well. It's hell, because, you know, we've been in a place where we found a way to survive and yet we came to the point of deciding for ourselves what I call a tolerable level, a meaningful level of tolerable existence was no longer acceptable.
I'll say that again, a meaningful level of tolerable existence was no longer available. For me, I got to the point with my counselor when I finally hooked up with her cause I had been outta counseling for a while. I said, if we're gonna do this, we're gonna do it then I'm not stopping until we're done and that is a lot of what it takes. Those first few years are hell because you are, we all have wounds and for mine, I had a bandage over my wound and I hadn't changed the bandage, I just kept adding more to it. So, it became gang green underneath there. And those first few years, you're just ripping it off, you're ripping off the bandage and you're ripping off everything that you have used to cover up the wound. And yet that wound is still bleeding underneath because it hasn't received the proper care and attention it needs. So, if we cover it and cover it and cover it, and then we finally say, all right, I'm done playing this game. I deserve better. I need better. And I have an inkling of hope that there's something better out there. You're throwing your life worldwide open and everything that has taken you up to that moment in time, you are now throwing off and that is as scary as it gets because we've been rejected. We've been told we don't matter.
We've been marginalized because we're told we're less than, and now we're literally throwing ourselves open and saying, somebody helped me and bail me out because I can't live like this anymore. And I don't know what the hell to do the first step through, that's the step that it requires to get to that next, to take, start that healing journey. It is not for the faint of heart. You can't do it alone. And I'm not saying only having counselor or therapist, I mean, need a support system, but it is gut wrenching for a number of years, I would look at my counselor and she asked me a question like, it just doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter. And she called me on it every time and I hated it at the start. And she said, what you're really saying, Sue is that you don't matter; that pierces to the core. But that's the depth of the first few years that really needs to happen because you are going into that moon. Think of, if you're having a burn and they're debriding that burn in the emergency room, they are scraping and they are scraping and they are scraping and it's hurts like hell because the nerves are getting exposed, that's in essence, what you're doing is you're breathing your wound. But here's the good part is once all that trash gets off, everything that you thought was helping and it's not, and it's only making it worse. Once you can start getting that proper treatment to that wound, little by little, you start seeing the healing, you start seeing the scabs, and then over time, the scabs end up coming off because the skin underneath has totally healed and that wound becomes a scar, and that scar becomes a story for hope. That's what those first few years are like is it's just gut wrenching, that's the only way to describe it.
Michael: Yeah. And I agree, and I think, if I could give people a magic pill and just be like, here's your life 15 years later from that moment, you decide to go and create your life, I'd be a freaking billionaire, right? But there is a paradigm shift that must occur in this journey in which you recognize a truth. And I don't know if this was true for you or not but I want to go into it. The mask that I wore were very much in like drugs and sex and money and cars and I would even say I had an eating disorder as well, undiagnosed, cuz I was freaking 350 pounds. Right? And you look at that and you go, okay, wait a second, I'm doing all these things to try to validate myself in the world while also, and this is the weird juxtaposition of what I learned about myself, it's the validation, hopefully from others of let me go and create access while simultaneously trying to be invisible by doing all these things that are detrimental to my life and the hope that people don't see me.
Sue: Right? And it is weird, and I use a phrase saying it's a weird warped and whacked out world in the mind of an eating disordered person or in the mind of anyone who's trying to figure out how you go on when you really don't know how. When I talked about my time in college activity became my number, because if I was seen then I knew I mattered because up to then I had been told in word or deed that I didn't matter, that I wasn't seen, that what happened to me didn't matter and that I had no worth. So, here I was in that place of juxtaposition of screaming from the outside while dying on the inside, of somebody tell me, I matter. So, for me, I found it because if I was seen, if I was doing all these campus activities and leading all this stuff, then I was seen. And I had value because someone knew I existed and that's where that activity became my number, because it kept me from having to deal with my stuff. But yeah, and yet you're still you're dying on the inside because you're like, I know I mattered, but I need somebody to tell me that and I don't know how to ask for it because we have not known how to speak up for ourselves. We've not known how to, ask for what we need or even know what we need. We know it on the inside, but we haven't found words for it. And it comes out through behavior.
Michael: And I feel like a lot of the knowing what we need, it's turned off because growing up for me when I stepped into, and I know this to be true for many people. Stepping into trying to express our wants, needs and interests, boundaries, whatever that may be was always met with some kind of suffering. And in that we learn how to turn off and by turning off and not asking for what we need, we step deeper into this idea of masking ourselves so that we play a trick on ourselves. We're like, I'm giving myself what I actually need. And then what you come to realize is that thing that you're actually believing that you need is actually not a need, but it's something toxic and poisonous that you go towards because we grow up in chaos. And so, growing up in chaos made us feel like, oh, if my life's not chaotic, then this isn't how it works. And I would argue probably one of the more difficult aspects of this journey of healing is being able to find peace in your life and be like, you know what? This is where I'm at and letting life's events not define you and not letting those effects define you but instead, moving through them and having the willingness to like, like you said, acknowledge them, open them up. But I Sue my fear is so many people listening to this are, are sitting here and going, yeah, but I don't even have the courage to tell my therapist the truth.
Sue: Yeah. And that's hard because when I speak my parting thought, my parting challenge is dare to believe that you matter. And for your listeners who are, are struggling right now of saying, I don't even have the courage to tell the person I'm supposed to. I get it. I get it. I played the same game, but that's just it, it is a game you're playing. You're shadow boxing with yourself.
When I told my dean of students, what happened? And it came out in a conversation that was not planned, he had become my counselor, my confidant for three years, for four years of college. And yet he also could sense something wasn't right. And he knew he had his student and wasn't ready for the work world. So, he had given me different assignments. We were talking about him one day and I don't remember Michael to this day, I don't remember what the question was, all I know is I'm like inspecting the weave of his carpet pattern because I couldn't eyeball him and I start off on well, when society tells you not to say anything and my voice trails off. I had not said anything to this man for three years, because one, I didn't know it needed to come out and two, I didn't have the courage, so, I get that. I don't have the courage to tell my therapist. And yet he was very astute and just asked a couple questions and we talked and that was the first time my secret came out.
I was 22 years old, 15 years secret. I get it and yet I asked him to go with me to my counselor in town the next week cuz he'd asked if I told him, I said no, and even then, I'm shadow boxing. So, I get that part too, but it comes down to daring to believe that we matter. And not only matter to somebody else, but to ourselves because we probably wouldn't be sitting in that counselor's office if we didn't have some whisper in our head going through, I want something better for myself and I'm scared to death, to what it's gonna take to get it. But I can't quite bring myself to cancel because I still kind of wanna come back if something's happening and unfortunately, nobody can do it for you, that is the first and the hardest step and it is the one step you have to do yourself. And yet it gets you it's the springboard to freedom. It is the springboard to freedom, but I get its but it it's a game we play with ourselves and it's a mask we're wearing still for ourselves. Oh, maybe I can still handle this, maybe I really can't. You know, maybe it's not that bad. We play that game with ourselves, but until we're willing, like I said, to rip the band aid off and then say, okay, now I'm bleeding. What can you do to help me? When we're finally ready to take that step that's when that freedom starts happening, that's that first step that no one can do for you.
Michael: In that first step, it's fucking terrifying, and anyone who says otherwise has no idea what they're talking about, cuz they have not done it.
Sue: No. When I told my counselor, you know, I came out in the first few sessions, she asked me, she said, Sue, this is huge. Have you ever worked through it? And I started meeting with her in 2008. And I said, I looked at her said, I wouldn't know what it looked like to say to know if it, if I worked it through, I don't know what it would look like to be able to say that, so, I guess that's your answer. And yet it took us six years to get to the point where we could do that. And we've talked about it since I have a fantastic relationship with her, we went through a lot of hell and we went through a lot I mean, I was about this close to having to go to eating disorder treatment. So, she was very good at what she did, but we have since said that we had to get me stronger in the present before we could go back to the past and that's an important part. Michael, you talked about boundaries earlier. I didn't know where to bound speak up for myself, I let everybody walk all over me and I was letting myself get manipulated, and then I'd walk away seething because I let somebody out because I knew what was going on and there was nothing I could do, I didn't know what to do and that's one of the stuffs we had to work on. So, if you're you have a listener who is going to a counselor, maybe, you know, you have that secret you need to tell. It is okay to kind of take that step back and work on stuff to get you stronger in the present, but don't allow yourself to avoid it forever either.
Michael: And one of the really beautiful things that happens in that strengthening yourself in the present and looking at the scars that you carry is that eventually, and the timeline is different for everyone, but eventually you're able to share the story without the emotional impact and that is growth, that is healing. As we're talking, you know, I'm sitting here, I think about, I'm been asked, a million times what happened to my finger? So, for those who don't know, my mother cut my right index finger off when I was four years old, I've had multiple skin grafts fusions, sutures, you name it. And as a child, I would make up every possible outlawish freakin idea you could think of and like this thing has happened, right?
I literally remember one time being like, oh, I had to save my dog from our house, cuz it was on fire. Right? Just like trying to like, because of the terror of telling the truth, like my mother, I was a drug addict and alcoholic did this to me and what happens is, as you go through, you start to solidify who you are in this process because as you said, you're opening this scar and as you open it, and you suture it and time it will heal and then that scar that's left you have the story that you get to tell that you, if you do the work, which I know for many probably sounds insane right now, but if you do the work on a long enough timeline, the emotional impact of it will be removed, and that's healing and that is growth. And I think a big part of that in my journey was looking at and trying to measure like who is just right in front of me in this journey? Who is a step ahead of me in this journey? Who can I go and learn from? But then also what happened is the reciprocation of that and me saying, okay, who can I be a step of head for. Talk to me about the role that idea has played in your journey?
Sue: That is huge for me. And I wanna echo what you say about over time, the emotional impact of it does not come out as much. I'm getting a little weepy right now just because of the emotion, that's so well up at times. But for longest time I would wonder how can, you know, Simone Biles when she came out with her story that had a huge impact on me and gave me permission. And someday I would love to be able to tell her that in person, because that has such a huge impact on my life, it gave me permission to not be okay and to tell my story. And little things like that. And a conversation a friend of mine had when I was ready to kill myself and my parents were divorcing all came into my step ahead and what it has come down to, you know, first of all, you talk about needing to have somebody ahead of you and then how can you help out, that is the essence of, of healing and recovery. When we heal and recover, it's not just for ourselves. We've talked about how the scar becomes a story. That story is then something that can be told. We tell our stories because there are others who are still struggling, just like you and I are sharing our stories right now is because there are others that are still out there struggling that maybe are taking that first gut wrenching, fearful step of having to tell somebody their story for the first time. And that's the power of healing because I'm still reaching out to my counselor because she's self-helping me through things. And yet I can still reach back with the healing that I now have and the story that I've been able to form now through that healing, I can reach back and help somebody else. And between us, we form a human chain of support. I said earlier, you only have to be a step ahead to help the person behind you, that's where my business name came from, because that's what it's about is helping people realize you don't have to have it all together right now. You don't have to arrive whatever that means wherever you are in your story right now is perfect because there's still somebody else that can help.
We lost my mom 18 months ago, I was her caregiver for the last eight years of her life, she lived with me for 23 years and it was about six months after she passed somebody at the office tragically lost a parent to suicide. And this person found the coworker was the one that found, found her dad and couples went out to the house and there was concern expressed for me, if I was gonna be okay, because I'd only lost mom six months ago and I was a mess, I was an absolute wreck. And I looked at my friend and said, I guess we're gonna figure that out, aren't we? And I didn't know. So, we got there and yeah, there were a lot of tears, especially that first hour, but as things started talking more. This coworker was able to start asking me questions, they were going to the funeral home that afternoon and he said, well, what will they do? What can I expect? What do I need to bring? What about this? What about that? I had only been through it six months prior with my mom. And yet I was able to take that little bit of information that I had that experience, that part of my story and share it with her, from my experience to help lower her anxiety and help equip her. So, she could better handle what her next step was going to be, that's the essence of what it means to have support systems, to have somebody, like you said, who's right there at your next step with you. We have others that are gonna be further down the line, yes, but there are others that are literally going through what we have just walked through and we can at least reach back and help them while we're still figuring out our next step, that's the joy of recovery, that's the joy of healing and we don't have to have it all together before we can do that.
Michael: And another great reminder of the truth that like, look, I don't have it all figured out. The people that coach me, don't have it all figured out. There's no rule book for this thing called life that we live in and day by day, we're going through it and trying to make meaning of the experiences that we have and in a practical way that we can apply them to our lives so, that we can continue to move forward. You know, I think about this all the time, I have all these certifications, written all these books, all the podcasts, all the speaking, every, and I'm like, I'm still screwing up, I'm still learning, I'm still growing. And I think probably one of the greatest things that I've done is, you know, going back to this idea of mass. I took my mask and what I recognized about it was it is simultaneously my greatest superpower and my flaw and that of being a stubborn person. And in my stubbornness through being able to sometimes tap into the dark side of this, I'm able to go and create, but also through my stubbornness, I also know that there are times where it's detrimental and that's the thing that comes in this journey as awareness is being able to look at who you are. And part of that is also being able to take this step back and, and have these moments of grief about the things that have happened in your life and just saying, yeah, my action related and created that, okay, cool. Now I understand that I can learn from that, I can grow and move on or grieving. Wow. I didn't have a childhood and reconciling that because I did not period. I have no good memories of childhood and I know a few people that are feel the same way.
When you step into that level of grief, it's like, okay, good, you can mourn the loss of the thing that you didn't have, because I think, unfortunately it's like, you know what I used to say, going back I'm painting a picture here, going back to this idea of the stubbornness I would go my childhood. Did it impact me? Are you sure? Smoking two packs a day, drinking myself to sleep. And so, what I wanna talk about and move into a little bit deeper here is that place of acknowledgement in the beginning, right? For 15 years you kept these secrets and then longer you've gone through this process of healing, you continually stepping into it. And I think that there's some truth the truth will set you free. And I want to go into that a little bit deeper here, because I wanna know about the impact that going on, this journey has actually had in your life.
Sue: If you had told me eight years ago, I'd be doing today what I'm doing now, I would laugh you off the face of the earth because I've mentioned a retreat program. I went into that first retreat, calling myself the holy exception. I'm a Christian. So, my life's based off the Bible and I went in saying that everything in the Bible was good enough for everybody else, but me, I was too screwed up too far gone, I was a waste of space. I was imploding again. And I went in with that mindset and just through the opportunity to be real to kind of start taking off those masks. And we talked a lot about having to forgive ourselves and that's a hard part, that's a critical part of this healing and the grieving. You talked about needing to grieve our stories. I did not realize how much loss my story has and some of this, I learn about myself the more I speak. You know, when I say I didn't have a chance to have a normal childhood, that's more of a realization that's come up in the last year. And I think I knew that, but I didn't know how to put words to it, but it starts making more sense. So, I think the whole grief journey is a critical part of our stories that cannot be bypassed. I had different times where I just totally lost it, my greatest fear was realized, and my greatest fear was shattered all at the same time. My greatest fear and probably the same for many of your listeners, if I tell somebody I'm gonna cry and I'm never gonna stop. And that was my greatest fear and yeah, I cried, and I cried hard and I'm like heaving crying for 10 minutes. And yet that circle of friends, you talked about came upside me, they knew it was going on and they just, they just loved me and accepted me and let me cry, and they grieved with me. And then my greatest fear stopped. I did stop because at some point in time that well of grief will empty. It may not fully empty, there's still little things like now, you know, when it comes back, but it's not a debilitating grief, it's more of a sadness and a thankfulness for the healing that has happened. I never want to be disconnected from the emotion of everything I have gone through because I disconnected myself emotionally for decades - for over four decades. Because again, I just went into recovery from an eating disorder in 2016. So, I had all that time where I didn't know how to deal with emotions, I never want to disconnect again, but because of the hard work, those emotions don't overtake me to the point that I can't control them, the anger I feel at the injustice that was done to me is no longer rage. I have reached a point and for some, this field sounds really weird, but I have reached a point where I am able to have compassion against my rapist not everybody gets to that point. But I get, I'm able to get to that point now because my situation happened in the early seventies, rape was not on the radar, it wasn't something be to be discussed. No one knew to ask anything and I didn't know to say anything. So, if it wasn't on the radar for me, what was Bobby experiencing where he acted out on it? That was an angle it took me a long time to get through and to get to, and not everybody gets there and you're not expected to get there, that's just where I've ended up with my work. But that is the power of grief because until we own our story, we can't grieve our story.
That first year at retreat, that's what happens, I owned my story. I was in denial about my story, I hated my story and I hated myself. And I didn't think I was lovable because I had no experience saying I was lovable far as I knew nobody cared because they sure had a funny way of showing it. And I left that experience of being around these people, knowing that I had some value, but mostly I learned to forgive, start forgiving myself not that I did anything wrong that day, but forgiving myself and letting myself off the hook for not dealing with it up to. And healing when Michael and I were saying that those first three years of healing are hell, this is what we mean, this is some of the stuff that gut level stuff that has to be worked through in order to be able to start building on that foundation, because you're not going to believe that you're worthy if you're still blaming yourself for something, and you might be blaming yourself for something that's a total lie. But it's truth to us because that's all we've ever known until we have other people in our lives come in and help shatter that lie and start speaking that truth to us because just like Michael said, it's the truth that sets us free and we have to set that story straight. We've told ourselves a story about what happened ever since it happened, but that story isn't fully accurate, and that's what has to get worked out. And that's where that gut wrenching first few years comes in because you're facing your story. And that means letting somebody challenge you to the different characters that are in it and did this person really play that role. And what role did you really play? And you, okay. So, for me, it came into blaming myself. I would've should have and would've should have land for so long. And I learned that I was putting 50-year-old expectations on a seven-year-old, and I wasn't being fair, I wasn't helping that seven-year-old little girl heal, that seven-year-old little girl was just, you know, thinking, hey, the cools, there's something to see in the woods, childhood curiosity. But I had to forgive myself for that because again, not that I did anything wrong, but the story I had told myself is what was wrong. And that's where I had to let myself off the hook so that I could then own the real story of what happened. Put the responsibility where it really belongs and continue to own that and then start feeling that grief so that I could work through that. And finally realize that the rape was not my fault, that was the hardest homework my counselor ever gave me.
When I first told her when we were first dealing with it was 10 times a day, look in the mirror and say out loud, the rape was not my fault. Up to then I had said it wasn't my fault. And she's like, no, not it names it. The rape was not my fault. And the first two days it was the rape was not my fault. The rape was not my fault, you know, very dispassionate. And then I started changing the rape was not my fault. The rape was not my fault. The rape was not my fault. And it became emphasis on different words, and now, its truth, it was true before, but now I believe it, that's some of the stuff that we're talking about.
Michael: There's a line I wrote in my first book, it said you can own your story or let your story own you. And I think in this journey, like, to really step into what's next in your life there is a threshold that you must be willing to cross and that threshold is the discovery of the unknown and the willingness to step into it because we know pain, we know suffering, we know chaos, we know hurt, right? But do we dare know the other? And in this process and in this journey, that's way more freaking difficult, staying where you are. And that thing about ownership is not culpability. Right? I love what you just said. It's not your fault. I went through the same experience about many, many different things, and it came to realize the truth. Like you cannot be held culpable for your experiences in childhood. Right? I mean, even shit, a lot of the bad things that happen you today, like the world happens and there's a huge canvas that is painted in our day-to-day life of all the things that happen. Some of them are not on you, but I can promise you that a lot are and the ones that are in my experience and my belief, the only way that you can really start to solidify, creating and stepping into the person that you want to be as by acknowledging them, and just simply saying, yeah, I did that, and not beating yourself up because the truth about this is we have never done this before. I've never done this before. I've never, ever been in this situation and so, every single day I'm learning. And that's not to be used as a scapegoat, but instead, just to simply acknowledge like, shit, this is brand new and whereas most people, I'm gonna generalize here, whereas most people get the experiences of failure in creating their identity in youth, we didn't. And so now we're doing it in real time and by doing it in real time, you find yourself in this really interesting place of constantly falling down, and in those falling downs, you learn who you are. And one of the things that I know has been really important in my journey was having community, was having coaches and, and just by pure dumb luck didn't happen that I would become one. Right. And what I'm curious about here is now you're in this position so much changed so much growth, why help people, like, why does that matter to you?
Sue: Great question because that's the driving force of everything. And when each of us can drill down that question, why do we do what we do? Then it helps everything else, it just makes everything else feel natural. For me, I now have the privilege and my driving force is to be somebody be for somebody else what others were for me. I've walked the road, I'm still walking the road, just like Michael and yet I can live in the both end and I'm walking the road and I can help somebody. It's that step ahead thing we were talking about, I do it because I understand, and yet I can help, I can now help others see what they might not be able to see for themselves just yet. A lot of people they might think there's a dream out there and I just can't get to this anymore, it's just not gonna happen for me. And yet it can, you know, when we get out of our own way and I know that sounds harsh, but that's what it boils down to. So, what I do, why I do it is to help others and that know that sounds general. But when you have walked that road and when you have gotten to, I don't wanna say the other side but you're across the valley at least and you find finance in spring and your step, then it's almost like there's a responsibility to help the others because they may not have the same experience or access to resources that you may have had. But then maybe I can be a resource to them, that's why I do what I do.
Michael: Yeah, I totally resonate with that. And I think we all, I hate to use this in this terminology, but I think it's fair in this context, we all have a responsibility to help create the world that we want to live in. And when I think about this company and what we do with Think Unbroken, not just the podcast, but everything is to end generational trauma in my life and if I don't have other people helping me because I'm helping them so that they can help other people so on and so forth, they never get to that mission and it would be awfully selfish of me to be like, I just want to help one person. I don't, I wanna help everybody.
Sue: I wanna reach the masses, that's my goal, that's my purpose. I wanna reach the masses.
Michael: Yeah, and I believe that's the only way we actually create foundational change in the world. So, my friend, that's been amazing conversation before I ask you my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find you?
Sue: Sure, you can go to my website, which is suebowles.com and you'll find my social media links there. I've got a book out you'll see that there, but then also I have a just a thank you that I send out to people who've listened to the podcast. You have a choice of a couple different things. You can catch that there it's either a three-part hope bundle or a tip sheet on being unstoppable. So, I'd be happy to get that to you.
Michael: Brilliant. And of course, we'll put the links in the show notes for the unbroken nation. Sue my friend, my last question for you, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Sue: Getting a little emotional, because to be unbroken means that somebody tried to break me and yet they didn't succeed, that doesn't mean that they didn't try hard it just means I tried harder and I was successful. I was successful at defeating the damage they tried to put into my life. I came up on top. I did the hard work. I realized my value. I owned my story. I did the hard work of grieving that story. And now I'm using that story as a springboard, that's what it means to be unbroken. You can have cracks; you can glue those cracks together. Think of kintsugi, the Japanese art, you know, that's unbroken, it's put back together, now it's a beautiful piece, that's what unbroken means is that no matter what happened, there's always one more step and I came out on top every time.
Michael: Brilliantly said my friend. Thank you so much for being here. Unbroken Nation. Thank you so much for listening.
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Master Certified Life Coach / Speaker
Sue Bowles is a survivor turned author, speaker, and Master Certified Life Coach. Having done the hard work of healing from a childhood rape, an eating disorder, other sexual assaults, and being twice suicidal, Sue now defines the effect the life-altering events have on her. The events no longer define Sue; she defines them.
Sue leads My Step Ahead, an organization committed to breaking the stigma around mental health struggles. “You only have to be a step ahead to help the person behind you” is the bedrock to the value Sue brings. She helps stuck people get unstuck by discovering Hope, journeying together for the next step ahead. Whether speaking on a podcast, a stage, or one-on-one, Sue's enthusiasm is contagious, shining the light of hope wherever the listener needs, cheering them to see their dreams become present reality.
Sue's award-winning first book, "This Much I Know...The Space Between" is available on Amazon and Kindle.