Notes and Mentions
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Tina: Hey everyone, I'm Tina
Serena: And I'm Serena, and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Tina: Welcome to No Need to Explain. We are so glad you're here.
Serena: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Tina: We come to not as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.
Serena: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You'll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, noneedtoexplainpodcast.com.
Tina: Serena and I have done a ton of work over the years with families, and one thing that she and I know to be true is that while no family experience is exactly the same struggles, the struggles we as parents go through are incredibly similar. So as caregivers, we take care of our people, and it is often at the detriment of our own needs and our own struggles. We take care of everybody else before we take care of us. So part of our mission here on the podcast is to bring awareness, give permission, and to urge those of you caring for others to find ways to take good care of yourself despite all the other things that you have going on in your life. In other words, here comes our tagline, how to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people, right, Serena?
Serena: Absolutely, and today's guest is a fellow Mental Health Mama whose family was in turmoil and as she says on her website, after experiencing financial, business, and serious health challenges, she learned to navigate herself through the process, learning many valuable lessons. She is an author and a fellow podcaster, Marsha Vanwynsberghe, welcome to the podcast!
Marsha: Oh, thank you both for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.
Tina: Well, we are thrilled to have you. So as parents of young adults, we know that their stories aren't our stories. So what we want you to do is tell a little bit of your story.
Marsha: Absolutely, and I love that you've led with that because that's probably one of the first misconceptions or where people get stuck is how to share a story without sharing someone else's story. And I think this is really important and valuable because their story is not our story and I think that we owe them the respect to keep it that way. So my name is Marcia Vanwynsberghe and I am a parent, a whole bunch of other things, but I'm a parent who dealt with teen substance abuse probably about 11 years ago. And when it came into our life, it literally became a roller coaster that just never stopped. It just kept going and amplifying. There was no phase of just trying it, seeing what happened. It just, it seemed to come in and never left. And during those years, we found ourselves so obviously frustrated, confused, trying to figure out what to do next, trying to get help. And at that time, I really believe that we were in a bit of a perfect storm time wise to be honest, but at that time, very many people saying, it's just a phase, they're gonna go through it, it's gonna happen, the school's like, it's okay, don't worry. We don't fail kids, police are saying, that's okay, they?re minors, don't worry. So really what it came down to is the only people who had a problem with what they were doing was mom and dad. And I mean, when I share that we were having a problem, we were hitting a point at 13 and 14 years old that they stopped going to school. They were not coming home. We couldn't find them for days. Money was missing. Like we dealt with things at a very young age when they were in their developmental stages. So long story short, we really did invest in a lot of help. My husband and I openly went to group programs, counseling programs, trying to find a solution, trying to find a way to be honest at that time. I was looking for a way to fix them. I was looking for a way to change them, to make them stop. That's what I was doing. And I had so many encounters with counselors and crisis counselors who were amazing. And I remember a turning point where, you know, I took my little piece of paper as if I'm a student and I've checked off everything they've asked me to do. And I'm so proud of myself that I've done every single thing they've said. And they're like, yes, good job. And I'm like, but I still have all of the problems. Like I don't understand what I'm supposed to do. And I remember her saying because it's not your problem to solve. And I didn't understand that. I really couldn't understand that because, again, they were minors, right? And that was my job. So it was very much a very traumatic time of trying to find solutions, changing my identity, finding my voice, learning to juggle the judgments and criticisms of everyone else, and eventually learning how to share my story, which blew up in ways I could have never projected that led me to here.
Serena: Yeah, thanks for sharing all that. I'm gonna back up just a little bit and I want to point out something to our listeners here and have you explain it a little bit. So you're in Canada.
Serena: And I would say we have Canadian listeners, but the majority of our listeners are in the US. So I can imagine somebody out there listening, saying your kid was 14. Why didn't you just make him? Right. So talk a little bit about that.
Marsha: This is, it's a very important point and I can't even tell you how many people messaged me a family where like just make him. And I'm like, how do I do that? We unfortunately, again, a perfect storm of what times were like here. They, as my husband, loved to say it and he was so right in the sense that they had all of the rights but no responsibilities and we had all the responsibilities and no rights. So over the age of between 12 and 13, depending on who you ask, in Canada, I can't make them go to a doctor. I can't make them go to a psychiatrist. There is no treatment program. I can take them to. They have to 100% consent to everything. And so at one point, my husband was like, okay, so we have teenagers who are going through all the hormonal changes that they're going through. They're trying to figure out their identity. They're using substances that are changing them and they get to decide what happens. Like, how is that even possible? But that's what it was. And even so, I mean, I remember at one point, really running into some legal issues with my son who was 13. So understanding how young that is and the police saying, there's nothing we can do because he's a minor. But you're saying what he's doing is okay and they were saying, no, he's a minor. There's nothing we can do. You don't want to do this. You don't want to give him a record. You don't want to do these things. And they would talk us out of it because for whatever reason. And so I really had a hard time finding my voice to advocate for them because everyone kept shutting it down.
Marsha: Even to the point, I do want to share even to the point that I can't say if that's what it's like now, but during our time, they would pass our kids in school even if they never went to school. And I'm like, oh, great. So they get to pass and they don't go. Like, I just can't. So I actually, I openly share this, but there was a point in time where I said, what do I have to do for them to fail? And they said, well, you're going to have to sign a lot of legal documents that you're not going to go after the school for that. And I'm like, set it up. Let's do it. And we created this huge round table. I'm not kidding. There was eight of us in the room, including police, social workers, counselors, the principal, vice principal, teachers. And we had to sign documents saying we would not go after the school system for it. And I remember at that time just knowing, like let my 14 15 year old fail at something now as opposed to 25. And the principal looked at me and he goes, I want you to know we have 800 students in this school. Your son is by far not the worst one that we have. And this is the only time we've ever done this. So I'm not saying that as the badge, I'm just saying like think of think of the scenario and how volatile it was because nobody had a problem with what they were doing except for mom and dad.
Tina: I think it's such a good point about the failure thing, right? Like I think sometimes we think as parents, we just want success, right? We want success, but failure is important. It's important to learn, right? It's important to learn how to fail and how to pick yourself up again.
Marsha: It's so incredibly important. And I think the other piece to add to that is that there is no human alive that will change a behavior if there's not a consequence. I don't know why. You just will not change a behavior if there is no consequence. And that's really at a point. I was like, there has to, how can this not be a consequence? They don't go to school. Like it's just such a time. So the turning point, really there's a number of them, but as I share that example, I started to recognize that I wanted to advocate for their future self, not who they were that time at that point in time. And that's what changed.
Serena: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for giving that background on everything. So I'm going to shift gears a little bit here and we're going to shift back to your story. because that's what you're here for?
Serena: So on your website, you refer to how isolating it can be to have children who struggle. And Tina and I talk about this all the time, right? Like this is, yeah, I was sort of the basis for what we do. So you say on your website, ?We tend to feel alone because we don't like to talk about the difficult things, parts and stories of our lives.? So say more about this isolation.
Marsha: Oh, the isolation was huge. Both my husband and I were quite social people. We had a, you know, a great friend circle. Our kids were playing competitive sports. We had circles of parents there. Like we had connections and friends. But when this came up, it really, like in the beginning, it was like, oh, it's a phase. They're screwing around. They're just kids because a lot of their friends were. But what I could find, what it didn't take long to find, that for some of them it really was a phase. They just didn't care. And that's not what we experienced. And so it became a point in time where it was like, what do we do now? It's not changing. It's not stopping. It's not, you know, no matter what we were doing, it wasn't changing. And so we faced a lot of outward criticism. And when you, you know, most people in this time of social media were afraid of what people will think or say of us, we didn't have to wonder. People had no problem stopping us and telling us they had no problem coming to our door. They had no problem stopping us in the grocery store and yelling that why are you not doing something more as a parent? And so it was this constant feeling, like they were just amplifying the things I was feeling about myself. I was feeling like, why am I not doing something more? Why am I not fixing this? And that's really what those feelings were like. So we found ourselves almost becoming more and more isolated. And it just felt safer, but that was a band-aid solution. Like it felt safer to not go out in public to not do something. But I guess one thing I want to amplify is that our home was not a safe haven either. So we didn't really know where to go for most of the time, because no matter where we went, we were facing a lot of criticism. And that was, it's really hard to find yourself out of a situation like that, especially since I say this, I didn't have a solution and me isolating myself from the world did not help me to find the solutions. That's I think a really important part is that I had to get outside of myself and do some really scary things to start to find solutions. And that means going into some very safe areas, you know, Facebook groups, parent groups, parent support groups because I just knew our way wasn't working.
Tina: So let's go there. That's where I really feel like you've said something super important. This isn't like your three-year-old baby biting someone at preschool that you can laugh about online, right? This is serious stuff. And I honestly remember someone giving me a book about two years too early and I'm like, what are they giving me this for? And I judged like, I'm not that person, what are you thinking, right? And then reality struck. And so I want you to talk a little bit about the kind of, I mean, no doubt when we're isolated, we need support. Talk a little bit about the kind of support you and your husband sought in each other and then were there other people other than the Facebook groups and stuff that you did? You could feel safe. You could feel like you could. I mean, we have so many feels. Where do they go, right?
Marsha: Oh, it's so true. We, I would love to say that my husband and I were on the exact same page the entire way through and that would be a lie. That's just a lie. I'm not gonna even do that. We had to navigate. I actually am grateful that we had to navigate our own way through in order to come back together because we, it was a, it was a very difficult time. Again, there's no rule book for it. So I had a couple of friends that, I mean, I mean, a couple that I could lean on and they were not judgmental. They were the kind of friends that would show up at my door and say, what do you need? Like not not asking the questions, not sharing the stories. And I had to learn how to ask for help, and that's another thing most women are not great at. I had to learn how to ask for help and receive the support. It took me a long time to learn how to do that. So that was, that was really a few of those friends that I learned how to trust and lean on and also let a number of the people who are in my life at that time, let them go because I just didn't have the bandwidth for it. I really didn't.
Marsha: I was trying to survive. It's just really the only way to say it. It was like when you're in survival mode, I didn't have any extra energy. So I really started to understand like what boundaries were and what self care was and how to take care of myself because a counselor said, if you don't do something and your boys come back to you, you need to be a springboard for them and you're just a big pile of quicksand. You couldn't do anything for anyone if you wanted to. And that might sound harsh, but I needed to hear that.
Tina: Yeah, no, it's absolutely true.
Marshall: I did. I did need to hear that. So that's really who I started to, I was very fortunate. I had the counseling support at Crisis Counseling Support that to me, if you don't find the support you're looking for, keep looking, but keep looking because my husband and I tried then, so that was my part of the journey. His part of the journey, he started to exercise and he joined CrossFit and he started to take care of himself and that gave him a new community and that was so good for him. And then through that, we started to really approach this together and we joined, like I said, a couple of parent groups, but we probably went through five or six before we found one. And that I remember walking in saying, this is not what we need. We need to find people who can help us with our situation now because what we were finding in the number of groups that we went to is seeing people who were trying to deal with a situation that was 20 years old, 30 years old. And I just, again, no judgment. I sat in that one. I do not want to be carrying this in 30 years this way. Like what do I do now? So keep looking for things that you can find that can support you and be relentless, like in what you're looking for. There's even call lines, like we had called crisis lines that were unbelievably helpful. And so it's like just get relentless in looking because I promise you don't have the answers. I knew I didn't have the answers and I knew I had to look outside of myself. And I kept praying that the right person would show up and help me to find my way through. And that also led me to praying that the right person would show up for my kids and help them find the way through because I knew it wasn't me. I knew it wasn't me and I knew it wasn't my husband anymore because we had tried everything we could. And that was also a turning point because I went, how Marsha? How can you sit here and pray for someone else to show up? Share their story and be that person to guide your kids if you won't even stand up and share yet. And that was a moment that I went, I have to stop hiding.
Tina: Yeah. So we're going to go to the place of, we're going to go there in a minute. I just want to highlight a couple things to find your people. Literally the name of our podcast was how I found my people. When I found people that I did not need to explain my story to, I could just say a little bit and they knew exactly what I was talking about. Those were my people and I had those people and I cannot emphasize that enough. And I agree with you and I think we need to trust ourselves on a couple things. One is, do not trust your instinct to not ask for help because it is something we all have in us. Ask for help. What I know to be true is people want to be helpful in some way but we need to ask for what we need. And trust your instinct that a support group does not feel good. I went to several and I agree with you so wholeheartedly. I did not, I went to a one just saying it had 25 people and everyone told their horrible story. And it was not uplifting. It was not helpful and it was not what I was looking for. And I, even though I was in a horrible place, I thought, you know what, I'm out. This is it. Just believe in yourself and say, I'm out. Find something different. So.
Marsha: I love that you shared that. Yeah, that's exactly. Like I said, at least five or six that we walked in. We sat there and I'm like, I cannot fathom being in this exact same place holding onto this anger. This resentment for 20, 30 years. I just can't. I want to find a way to survive now. And that's we just kept looking until we found it.
Serena: I love that. Yeah. So let's shift to this idea of fixing that many of us find ourselves. And as parents, I think. I mean, in many ways, it's a, it's a natural feeling as a person raising a smaller person, right? But you, you've mentioned that you had managed to shift from fixer to support. So I guess how did you make that shift and what does that look like?
Marsha: It was a very hard shift that almost happened at once. I can say that. Like it was very hard shift that almost happened at once. Again, I think I've spent my entire life as the fixer. I grew up that way as a kid. I had a lot of, you know, challenges as a kid. And I, I was the one that grew up to be a little bit more of an adult from a young age. So, you know, that's, that's who I was and I was the fixer. And we did enter one counseling program. one counseling session. I will never forget within the first few minutes of this counselor meeting, both my husband and I, he said, just pardon me, can I stop you for a second? He said, you grew up around addiction, didn't you? And I said, yes. And he looked at my husband. He said, you never have, right? And he goes, no. And he, she's, he just looked and he said, okay. So from this point forward, you have to recognize you are both coming to this with very different lenses. And that was beyond helpful. Like it was beyond helpful he said you will never see it from her point of view and you will never see it from his point of view. And that just was a permission slip. So that was a very, I was, I was a fixer for most of my life. And when I had, you know, when you're dealing with this level of, um, challenge, the two things you worry about are overdose and suicide. And we unfortunately encountered both experiences, um, attempts of both four days apart. And both things happened in our own house. And as hard as that was, that was the moment. That was, I tell you, I kid you not. That was an absolute turning point moment where I sat there and went, my way is not working. I am not keeping them safe. Both things happened in my own house. I'm done. I'm done. I, this is, I'm done. Because I'm also recognizing that I wasn't, my way wasn't working. And I was losing myself in the entire process. And that's the moment that I decided that I was going to stop fighting who they were in that moment. And I was going to fight for their future self. That meant that when, when something happened, police came. And I fought for charges to be placed. This is the other thing about Canada that is just insane. Is the sense that if they broke the law under 18, they would, the police would not file charges at that time, especially if it occurred in my house, unless I did it myself. And I remember looking at the officer saying, so you want a parent who's been fighting this nonstop to have the courage to file charges and take them to court themselves. And he said, yes, because what was happening is so many parents would go, would like would fight for the charges to be withdrawn. They weren't supporting police in a sense. And so this is the division that happened. So I then all of a sudden had no choice but to fight for the future self. And that meant that unfortunately I did have to press charges multiple times. And I just got to the point where I just kept repeating the same thing over and over. I will fight for your future self. That's my job. I'm going to fight for your future self. The other thing that shift from fixer to supporter is recognizing that what was my choice to own. I surrounded myself with so many words. I don't like to call them affirmations. They were just words and values to change my thinking. And recognizing what was my choice and understanding what codependency was. I swear to God I was not codependent until I read what codependency was. I was like, oh yeah, that's me to a T. And then I just really started to educate myself in understanding like what is mine to own and all day long hundreds of times an hour. Something would happen and I would stop and say, wait, that's not my choice. That's not my choice. I'm going to own my choice. I'm going to take responsibility for my choices and that meant taking care of me. In little baby steps every single day. Do one and at like is this actually going to take me closer to where I want to go or further away? What can I do today? What can I do in this moment? And I stopped asking why like that is that is the premise of everything that I do. I did then I still do it now. When you ask why questions you become a victim and you stay stuck in your story. And I would stop and every time I would say why I'm like, why doesn't matter? The why doesn't matter. It's the what? What can I do right now? So they are very conscious choices that I really embodied every single day all day long. But that helped me to shift from fixer to support. And I think that allowed me to survive and allowed me to respond differently to the situation that we were dealing with, which then allowed them to make different choices too.
Tina: I love that. I love that. Why does seem very well, first of all, judgy. And that means we're judging ourselves, right?
Tina: Not a good thing. So for 25 years, you were a kinesiologist and a personal trainer. You coached and mentored people on how to make physical changes and emotional transformations to their bodies and their lives. So now I'm going to put you on this spot, Marsha. What were some of the tools that you I'm sure you did so much. self work, right? Like what were some of the tools that you put in your proverbial proverbial toolbox? We always talk about our toolbox. When you came to realize that you could not change anyone but yourself. So how did you take better care of yourself? What were some of those things that you needed to do?
Marsha: I love that you said that and I love the word toolbox. I use it all the time. And I want people, I want to encourage anyone who's listening, like make your toolbox as big as you need to. Like just try everything. That's literally what I started doing. Does that make me feel better? Oh, it does put in the toolbox. Does that make me feel better? Let's try it. Yep, put in the toolbox. And so for me, I did, I've spent most of my life as a kinesiologist, which meant I helped not just help people with exercise, but I actually helped them to rehab post injury. So there was a lot of coaching that was involved, a lot of mindset work, a lot of fear helping people to overcome those things. But I, so fitness and health have always been probably one of my very top values, but I completely lost them during those years. Like I didn't even recognize myself and I just started, like what can I do today to move? I tried different exercises. I actually took up yoga, which was really hard and uncomfortable because when you're in a chaotic time, nobody wants to stay in the present moment. And that's what yoga taught me was to slow down and stay in the present. I mean, I literally bawled on my mat a couple of times saying like, I don't want to be here. I don't want to be here. But I knew I had to be there and I learned how to be present. Gratitudes, I learned how to find gratitude and joy in moments. Many people at that time would say write your 10 gratitude practice that it felt so fake for me because I just didn't feel it. So if you want to create a change in something that you're doing, there has to be a motion involved in it, not just words. And so I started to, you know, really practice like, oh, I got out for a walk today with my dog. I spent time with a friend. I just become more present with gratitude and I devoured like podcasts, books and YouTube videos. And I started to really understand at that time like take more leave and for me, Tony Robbins made a big difference because he I learned from him what state was. And I learned that I could control my state and I could change my state. And when I felt myself drop into victim state like it was like, no, you have to change this. And we'll go another video and we'll go another, you know, something to help me change and shift. The other big thing is recognizing boundaries massive like understanding boundaries who got access to me. Because if you're trying to build yourself up and you surround yourself with people who do nothing but tear you down, you're never going to get ahead. I'm sorry. I don't care if you dedicate 20 hours a day to self care. If you surround yourself with people who take from you, you will never get ahead. So I really started to understand boundaries. I created an inner circle and my inner circle. I just called it an invite only space. That meant I actually had to cut ties with family for quite a while because I just didn't have it.
I had to honor who I was until I felt like I was, you know, a little bit stronger and a little bit stronger. So stacking those habits every day was huge. And the last thing I'll share is that I mean there's so many of them, but I really did a lot of NLP and hypnosis and understanding tapping to change my nervous system. But I heard Lisa Nichols say speak in 2015 live and that literally changed my life. She talked about self care as the cup and the saucer. We always talk about filling the cup. But she explained it that you feel the cup to overflow and the overflow fills the saucer. The saucer is what you serve others with. And that was such a turning point moment for me because I was like, Oh, forget the saucer like my cup is bone dry. I don't have like the saucer is not full. And she said, and every day your job is you start with a brand new cup and it's empty. Your job is to fill it. If you have high demands, then you better be filling that cup all day long. And that was the piece, right? Like we were in this time at that time talking about self care being, you know, doing your one to two to three hours a day. I didn't have that. I was just like what was five minute chunks of things that could do for me. And it's interesting because when you do give back to yourself, your self-worth will change. It will change. It will start to change. You'll start to value your time, your energy and who you spend time with. And that will make you and help you to make yourself a priority in your own life.
Serena: That's great. I love that. Thank you. So we mentioned you have a podcast. You've also written a book. So share that with our with our listeners.
Marsha: Absolutely. My book is called When she Stopped Asking Why because that was the turning point in my life is when I stopped asking why. And I wrote it in 2017 with the intention of helping people who had never walked in my shoes because I knew that I just that was a gut feeling and ironically that's been the case. It has connected with people who have suffered loss whose path changed who, you know, how do I rebuild myself when all the sudden my path is no longer my path. I shared that story and my podcast I started in 2017 early 2018 called Own Your Choices Own your Life and that was a gut decision to start a podcast to allow people to share difficult stories who are doing something very intentional with their story and helping others. And I remember at that time so many people saying how are you going to possibly find people who want to talk about these things like you're the only person and I'm like, I don't think I am actually and we're into episode 550 so obviously I'm not.
Tina: I would say you are the brave one right you're the brave one and I would also say people aren't listening if they're really not if they're really thinking you're the only one right they're they're not yeah they're not your inner circle clearly
Marsha: they were not.
Tina: I think that people will want to connect with you and I'm curious what that looks like are you on social media do you have website tell us all about that.
Marsha: You will find me that's the pretty much I went across the board with all of that that's my website and I my podcast is on your choices on your life and I also offer and create like through the last couple of years have become an NLP trainer and help people to use the tools of NLP to find and use their voice and really learn how to share their story so I've built out a coaching program.
And I also am building a community because the podcast is growing like crazy so if any of that language support you please reach out and connect anywhere on social media
Serena: tell us briefly what NLP is.
Marsha: Oh, neuro linguistic programming thank you for clarifying because again not everybody knows that it is really understanding how your brain works and understanding how powerful your thoughts are your thoughts your belief and your identity as humans we really think that you know we're just going to go to the gym three times a week and we're going to change everything.
We actually have to change the identity of who we are so that we embody that and become that version of ourselves and also recognizing how powerful our thoughts are like our subconscious mind is 95 to 99% of what we do. What that means is that we set a goal with our conscious mind and that's the vision boards that's the you know see it actions but if we don't believe that we are worthy of it we don't believe that we can achieve it.
In our subconscious mind the limiting beliefs we're holding on to we're never going to achieve it so NLP came into my life when I realized that oh the pusher and the fighter and the fixer. Pretty much skipped over a number of stages of healing and so when I started to dive into this work and recognizing that I actually have to go back and. Practice and do some of that healing work it's it changed my life
Serena: yeah that sounds like we could do a whole episode on that it's fascinating
Tina: I know right very fascinating. So is there anything that we haven't asked you that you want to make sure that you share?
Marsha: your story is valuable like it's big enough it's valuable and it can help someone else and when you can learn. How to share that story and take one of your worst or most challenging difficult experiences and do something good with it it'll change it'll change you it'll change someone else's life and. The tagline I always say it's like someone somewhere is praying for the solutions you're holding on to you get to choose if you hold on to them or if you pay them for no no harm either way you just get to decide if you feel called to you don't have to do it on as big a platform as I do. But I do want you to know that if you don't own it owns you and it will hold you back from saying yes to opportunities that are available until you start to reframe that story and see it differently.
Tina: So we appreciate you joining us today, normalizing that separation of taking care of you versus taking care of others and even though our tagline is take good care of yourself while you're taking care of you know so you could take a care of your people it's we just want to emphasize that front end of that right. You need to take good care of yourself, regardless of whether you feel like you're doing good job with your people you need to start with you always so thank you.
Marsha: You're so welcome thank you so much for having me.
Serena: Yeah thanks Marcia it's a podcast friends we are always grateful for all of you taking the time to listen and support us we know you have lots of choices out there and we appreciate that you chose to spend a little time with us today. Help us out by visiting Apple Podcasts leave us a review while you're there subscribe and please share our podcast with others you'll find more content on our website noneedtoexplainpodcast.com you'll find us on the socials and we also have a voicemail number you can find that in our notes. And tell us what you think of the podcast share a bit of your story or just call to say hi.
Tina: and this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself and I'll say it again take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Serena: Thanks so much for listening.