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How a Mindset Change Helped Me Break Free From Childhood Trauma and Toxicity

“My mother said she wanted to end it in bloodshed and she waited for him to come home from his late-night meeting. She thought better of it when he was late arriving home. She was overwhelmed with thoughts of her in prison and me in foster care. To say that she made the right decision in achieving the goal of a good life is an answer I struggled to answer for many years.”

Hello! Who are you?

My name is Nicole Miller. I am a transformational business consultant, whose mission is to bring healthy communication, positive profits and create leaders inside all businesses.

I originated from the food service industry where you get a taste of high-pressure, quick-thinking situations that can develop into a way of life. I live in the North Georgia mountains in a town called Dahlonega. 

I have a dog and a cat who are more than my pets. They are my friends. Both animals were rehomed to me and it doesn’t show. The way they have made themselves at home with me has been a light on a cloudy day. I could not imagine life without them. 

The unconditional love of animals has been what the doctor ordered when I made the decision not to engage in romantic relationships. I chose to be solitary in love in 2021. Some people would read that and say “poor girl”. I could not disagree more. I wish I would have chosen to be unattached years ago. 

I am as happy and settled as I have ever been since I was a very small child. I realized that I was doing what was expected by everyone I came in contact with. Family, friends, neighbors and peers.

I found that I would get into these relationships where I was pursued for years sometimes. Identify it as love and find there was a motive because I did not use my voice when the red flags started emerging. 

Choosing to slow life down I found out who I am and that the boxes I kept checking and unchecking were for acceptance by the world. I chose to walk a different path after 30-plus years of literally repeating the pattern and plugging in a different human in the partner place. I can say since taking the journey I am the most happy and free. 

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I would have to say that at age 5, even though I was being abused sexually there was a feeling of a healthy structure. A year later that healthy structure was obliterated by the outing of the abuse when I chose to speak up and tell. That admission was the catalyst for the next move which was divorce. 

My mother said she wanted to end it in bloodshed and she waited for him to come home from his late-night meeting. She thought better of it when he was late arriving home. She was overwhelmed with thoughts of her in prison and me in foster care. To say that she made the right decision in achieving the goal of a good life is an answer I struggled to answer for many years.

Her next decisions put me on the path to Hell in the formative years of my childhood. That time and those situations caused me to experience CPTSD although that diagnosis did not come along until many years later.

The first symptom was vertigo, breathing issues, bowel issues, alcoholism and extreme fatigue. I remember my first dizzy spell at 12 years old. I never had an experience like that in my life. I can’t even say what triggered that episode. 

That kicked off the struggle with anxiety. I was also hyper and could not sit down. I had tremors that have been passed down to my children. These were passed to me by my father. I have severe tremors and they started with the other symptoms. 

I was given no help, in those days it was not a focus. People knew, made their speculations, and then went about their business. When the police show up, the neighbors whisper about the awfulness and the poor child who lives in that Hell. 

Back then children had no advocates. The police did not even ask if children lived in the home that had suspected firearms used in a domestic altercation. It had a profound effect on feeling helpless, voiceless and unloved. The world became mine to survive, alone. 

The struggle in trying to overcome what I had compartmentalized, buried, refused to address and ignored, manifested itself into health issues. This manifestation showed itself in my late teens when I became pregnant with my first child.

My cure for the severe depression I had was becoming a mother myself. A child was my reset button for my own childhood. As soon as I knew I had life inside me I was over the moon. Truly happy for the first time in years. That was not to be. 

I was not given proper medical care because I was poor and on welfare. I had a medical issue that was life-threatening to both me and my child that went unnoticed by my doctors. As a result, I entered the adult world turning 18, graduating high school and attending my son’s funeral. 

The next 20 years were spent trying to find the road to health and healing. Once I had exhausted everything and almost lost my life in a domestic situation, I decided I needed to work on my mindset because the medications, hours of therapy and group sessions felt very textbook and life is not a textbook. 

Once I chose to start thinking positively my whole situation changed and continued to evolve into this incredible adventure where I was no longer bitter for going through what I had been through. 

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

This immensely long period of time really showed me how time slows when you’re suffering and flies when things are light. I was so consumed with the feeling of being ensnared into a life of terrible situations and sorrow, I found myself becoming sicker and sicker in periods of my life. The most significant time was when I was 28. It started with migraines that plagued me for years until I was 40 and made big lifestyle changes. 

I was 28, had up to 7 children by this time, and was in a very volatile relationship again. I had recently given birth and after that, the headaches began. I would throw up, feeling like I was going blind during the worst of them. 

I was susceptible to all illnesses at that time. I was sick with everything from pneumonia to pink eye. Then my leg started to feel like lead. One day I could only walk with a limp and over the course of a few days I was dragging it. It moved to my arm. It was also limp. 

I was paralyzed on my right side and in this state of overwhelming exhaustion for months. People started saying I was faking. The medical profession had no answers and they would pursue it until I ran out of welfare money then they would ask me to please go about my business. 

I would avoid the doctors, the medical issues would go away, and then the strangest illnesses would plague me for up to a year of my life. The common symptoms were extreme exhaustion, migraines, and permanent damage to my eyes and my nervous system. 

The lack of urgency from the medical profession from my lack of good insurance created the need to find health on my own through managing my stress, taking control of my life and what I put into my body. 

In taking that path I really had to examine my personal happiness and what factors contribute to me being simply happy. What was it in this experience that I wanted to learn and give back to the world? 

What that health journey ultimately created was a disconnect between myself and my loved ones. The more they turned their backs the less I wanted to be around. I felt unseen, unheard, and seen as a liar. 

I knew there were truly things wrong but society and the medical field had no idea what my past entailed. Nor did they care to ask. If you spoke up about things like trauma they wanted to put a pill down your throat. 

I was from a belief system of using education, food and overall wellness first, if that failed, then medication in the lowest doses applied. I found myself in a world where you hit the express lane of treatment and it was straight to high doses of medication. One so high in fact I was comatose. 

I knew I had to go outside my current zip code to find true happiness. 

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

I decided at almost 30 that if I was granted the opportunity to start over I would. That opportunity came on New Years Eve of 2007 by way of a stranger. I felt this was the person who was going to open a door to positive change in my life. I was right but it all could have gone very wrong. I was lucky. 

I changed my location and moved thousands of miles from what was familiar. I was still a fearful person. I then realized that the patterns of the past were showing up in intense forms. The person who facilitated a positive change was also someone who had been hiding inside the person he really was. 

That person was dangerous and consumed by demons of his own. I realized then I was a trauma bonder. I bonded and found friendship with partners who had been through the same things as kids. I was uneducated in the fact that most repeat the patterns. Not everyone was determined to be a chain breaker. 

My fear kept me returning to my final abuser. I was now over 30 and stuck in the same situation as I had as a child. It seemed that all that came my way were abusive, broken people. I thought I was bad luck. 

I labeled myself as the problem and they were the side effects. I was almost killed one Easter Sunday when my youngest children were 3 and 4. By the time I made the final break, I had lived in 5 shelters. 

I made the break and was on the path of taking back my life when I ended up in court because that was the only way he could get me in the same room again. The controller began using the legal system to seek revenge on me by making a truly false accusation that I committed a federal crime. 

The tale he told under oath was so ridiculous that it was laughed out of court. For me, the time wasted inside another courtroom with this toxic person was about all I could bear. 

I had done all the group therapy sessions, individual sessions and read all the books. I took college psychology and was praised by my professor for my vast knowledge of the human psyche. I was encouraged to pursue a career in mental health, but I knew I could not take on that responsibility. I was not even close to being healed. Healing to me meant not attracting the people who create toxicity in your life. 

Upon exiting the courthouse that day, I sat in my car in disbelief at the lengths one person would go to keep a victim. I felt no emotion, which was odd. I just knew I needed to change. I decided to change my viewpoints of my past. 

I felt like I had always known the part of myself. I was most afraid of would be exposed if I dared to explore my own mindset. Knowing this I knew I needed to change the way I spoke to myself. I needed to understand how I viewed the people in my orbit, how I viewed the good and bad things coming into my lane. 

I had to also be humble and look at those around me and their experience as a way to find inspiration in thinking positively. I needed to stop putting blocks up. I needed to speak up to those in my life doing the same things that prevented me from being free. Free to be me. 

I started applying this new way of thinking from that moment. I stayed the course ever since. Life then became this unexpected adventure leading me down the organic path of closure and reconciliation. 

I found that by putting 100% action into changing my mindset, my circumstances changed for the better. Even if it was a painful experience, I could recognize where to find growth. It put me on the path of personal discovery that improves more and more day after day and year after year. 

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I learned that in the journey to overcome patterns you have to be willing to feel compassion and empathy for those who may have inflicted pain on you. You have to truly work on yourself before you reconcile the behaviors of others. 

I was stubborn and spent time checking the boxes others laid out to define what healing meant. I realized that it was all in how I transformed and moved away from the life of repeated patterns. 

If you are someone like me who has to reach back to early childhood to identify what being truly happy means, don’t be ashamed to do so. It is not up to us where we end up in life. There is a long period of time that we are unable to decide for ourselves. We do not have to repeat the behaviors. We do not have to use toxic coping mechanisms to get over it. We need to do what works for us. 

For some people, it’s a mixture of different things including the right medications. My experience is mine for me to learn the lessons I needed to learn. For me the key to unlocking it all was shifting from being a negative thinker into a positive one. 

I reflect on the time I was going through those struggles, those toxic relationships and friendships, what I notice is there was an underlying benefit for one person over myself.

My body, when it was overloaded with me pushing down my feelings, spiraled into a dramatic health scare that resulted in a long journey of MRI machines and harsh medicines. I learned to use my voice. Making these small changes leads to bigger healing practices. 

Take time for things that fill your tank. Sitting outside in the sun. Walking on the beach, reading a book. Taking a nap. Deep Breathing. Do yourself a favor and reconnect with your body and really hear what it is missing. You do that by quieting the outside voices. Next, set out to find your inner one. 

I am a huge lover of therapy even if you feel everything is great. It’s important to have a safe place to express your feelings. Read books, take classes, and be open to every day being an exciting adventure even in times of difficulty. Allow yourself to feel, and go through the happy and the sad. Be unapologetically you.

I believe when we stop suppressing, we will find that PTSD, CPTSD, and other mental health and physical struggles will subside. 

We have been indoctrinated to be a certain way and wear masks. Take our ugly and hide it. That is the root cause of repeated patterns of abuse and misconduct. Good communication can heal most of the world’s problems. Understanding the full definition of good communication means hearing as well. 

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I have two podcasts and some books that highlight some of my experiences. I share and highlight pieces that correlate with my guests, my clients or my audiences through these platforms. 

I also host workshops on how to create a business from the ashes of your past. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we have the ability to do that as well. We have to believe in ourselves. Through my work, I share some of what I have been through to inspire others to take action in their own lives. 

I was uncomfortable sharing at first. I would have panic moments, my throat would close up. I then realized it was my thoughts about what others would say or do hearing me out the skeletons. 

I had to tell myself that it was what 9-year-old me wanted, so give it to her. Talking and educating others can be done without being hurtful. Once I realized that sharing my story became like talking about the weather. 

I find it hard to open up to people who cannot relate. There is a group of individuals who feel one way or another about issues of mental health, having not been exposed to anything traumatic. 

I find it hard to tell my story to that group because they want to say “Well, why didn’t you do this or that?”

The fact is the answer was so simple, I couldn’t articulate it. How do you know healthy if you’ve never experienced it? 

Having come this far in my journey I find it very easy to share my story. I find that because my transformation is so clear and profound, it’s hard for people to see the progress meeting me today. So now I face the opposite of what I experienced as I moved through the healing process all those years ago. I can only smile and share my experience. 

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

I wish that I knew how powerful mindset work was. When people would say “Work on yourself”, I had no clue what they meant. Being born into toxicity, it’s hard to pinpoint the key to breaking the chains. 

You cannot even identify your thinking in a toxic way, let alone understand how that shifts your reality. The realization comes slowly so if I had been given the tools to recognize the side effects of being born into trauma, I could have made that shift a lot sooner. 

If I also knew how strong I truly was I would have made those realizations a lot sooner as well. We are harder on ourselves than the ones that hurt us. The ones who choose to hurt know this and use it to their advantage. 

I thought I needed to have a partner because the standards set for a woman at that time created this feeling of urgency to check off the boxes. I was unable to see I was going into these relationships as a means to find safety and ran into the harm I was afraid to find. 

Believe you are enough because after practicing it again and again the only true hero in my story is me. This is true for everyone willing to put in the work. I work every day. 

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

My most influential books and podcasts change as I grow. This year’s list is as follows:

Hey White Boy by Sonny Von Cleveland and The Throwaway Girl by Tiffany Barnes:

Both authors were on my podcast and their stories were very similar to mine. The way they led you through that time in their lives was intense because I felt I was living it with them. I could feel their pain by remembering my own. Seeing the places they went and where they are today is an inspiration to me as a person pursuing the same path.

The Ten Worlds The New Psychology by Alex Lickerman and Ash ElDifrawi helped me define happiness. I was at a place in my life where I had been pushed so far from happiness. I had no clear definition of what it was I was looking for. What was happiness? It was through the true experiences that their patients shared in the book, that I could connect with professionals who could see things the way I did.

It was what I needed early on to get me to the place I was when I had my reawakening. Through the process of facing fear and believing my dreams could be a reality, I could finally move toward being happy. 

The clincher to it all is the podcast Betrayal.

Her experience gave me a bird’s eye view of how we all could fall victim to these extremely toxic and traumatic relationships and situations. For me, I was told because my family was poor I was predestined to fail. I believed it. 

Our family was cursed because we were all born poor. These situations happen because of choices my ancestors made that resulted in repeated behaviors. This was a woman’s true account of how it’s not predestined to anyone specifically. 

The monsters can be the people we vow to love, honor and cherish. The ones communities trust. Her story made my shame melt away. It was through her experience I could see it can happen to all of us with good hearts. It led me down the path of compassion. It made me feel sorry for the people who victimize shame and perpetuate the cycle. 

Where can we go to learn more about you?

My website is down for the moment but I hang out on Instagram and Facebook under the handle Nicolethe Contentcontessa. 

You can find my podcast on YouTube by the handle @conversationswithcolie.

My website is under construction and new episodes will be dropping again soon. In the meantime, you can reach me via email.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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