What Does a Sore Throat Have to do with Courage (or lack thereof)?

As a child I had a lot of strep throat infections. My parents took me to many doctors in Honolulu asking if they would just remove my tonsils. They were always told: She will outgrow them”. My tonsils remain intact. I did have a good many more throat infections throughout my young life. For the most part, I do not suffer from them now. I had my last bout with them as a young law school student (do you think maybe I was a little stressed)?

Now, I have always been challenged with speaking up for myself. When in a business meeting, I might feel intimidated and not voice my opinion. I might say yes to obligations that I don’t really want to do.

I have been very healthy of late but just a few days ago in the middle of the night I came down with a sudden tickly sore throat. I wondered what it was about. My husband and I had just gone out for dinner and the day’s newspaper had an article about how restaurant menus are a thousand times germier than a toilet seat. Well…

I had not thought about one of my favorite books in a while but having my throat on fire out of the blue prompted me to take my well worn copy of the late Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life  off the shelf.  What does Louise say about sore throats? Hmm……?






Under throat on p. 186 her book states that the throat is an: “Avenue of expression. It is a channel of creativity”. It goes on to say that throat problems mean: “The inability to speak up for one’s self. Swallowed anger. Stifled creativity. Refusal to change”…

Hmm….. I don’t know about you but I find this most interesting!

What of late have I been stifling? How have I not been expressing myself? When I have I recently swallowed anger. When has my creativity been stifled?

If I am really being honest here, I could respond to these questions.

In no particular order:

  1. I have been wanting a raise for many months (if not years) and have felt too timid to ask for one.
  2. I have been angry at my adult son for not being in contact with me more often
  3. I don’t feel stifled creatively thank goodness.
  4. I do have a pattern of not asking for help and for not asking for the sale (I hate promoting myself) even though I have a lovely book published

So I did something that was a real big deal for me. I asked for a raise! Yesterday afternoon I emailed my boss and asked for the raise. Now, what is the worst thing that can happen? I don’t get a raise. It can only get better from there but even if that is the case – will it kill me? I don’t think so. LOL 😉

You want to know something curious? My sore throat feels much better! I hardly feel any pain at all.

I have not talked to my son yet but I intend to…

Back to the beginning and the title of this post:  What Does a Sore Throat Have to do with Courage (or lack thereof)?

Answer: Quite a lot, evidently! 😉

Good night,



From Mad Men to #MeToo: Self-Defense and Personal Safety Then and Now

Hello everyone. I am very excited about sharing a conversation I had recently with my friend and guest, Sensei Janet Nelson. In many ways, Janet exemplifies what it means to be a courageous woman.

You can listen to our podcast or read the transcribed text below. Thank you so much Janet!

On Spreaker:

Listen to “Jan Nelson — From Mad Men to #MeToo: Self-Defense and Personal Safety Then and Now” on Spreaker.

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(If you listen on iTunes please download and give it a review – this would be much appreciated)!!



Listen on Spotify






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Welcome to Courageously Go! where we will venture to places we’ve been afraid to go. Women of the world, we are going to start a movement, a movement towards courage. Hello everybody, I am Debbie DiPietro, your host of Courageously Go! For many years, I was challenged with social anxiety and being shy, and keeping myself on the sidelines a lot. Since my 50th birthday, I have decided that it all starts with courage. The more we choose courage and follow our hearts by choosing courage, the life of our dreams and a better world for all are truly possible, no matter our age or circumstances. We never need to feel stuck or alone.

I’m really excited that all of you are out there. I have a very accomplished guest that I’m excited about introducing you all to. Her name is Janet Nelson. Combining over 40 years training and teaching in the martial arts with her experience in the Master of the Social Work program at Florida State University, Janet Nelson has developed a unique approach to personal safety awareness that stresses mind body training in psychosocial issues.

A fourth degree black belt in Cuong Nhu Martial Arts, Sensei Nelson is an experienced instructor of women, men, youth, the aged, and the physically challenged. Janet began her martial arts training in Gainesville, Florida in 1974, training directly under founder Dong Ngo for over 10 years.

Originally from Oak Park, Illinois, Janet is a 1977+6 graduate of the University of Florida. After beginning her social work career in 1978, she attained her MSW from Florida State University in 1994. Credentialed in the Academy of Certified Social Workers by the National Association of Social Workers, and as a licensed clinical social worker in the State of Florida. Her direct practice specialty is mental health services with adolescents, young adults and women. As a social worker and psychotherapist, she spent 20 years with at-risk teen girls and young women, seven years at Tallahassee Community College Mental Health Services, and five years in private practice, treating adolescents and adults of all ages.

Additionally, Janet is a certified tension and trauma releasing exercises instructor, a globally taught self-care body therapy that promotes our body’s ability to open up the healing process, enabling us to release tension, stress, and held trauma.

Since 1980, she has conducted self-defense for women seminars and short courses in general personal safety awareness training to many throughout the State of Florida, as well as nationally. Combining her two interests in the early ’90s, she created everyday self-defense trainings for human service professionals. More recently, she designed online personal safety courses available for CEs to licensed social workers in Kansas and nationally. NASW National, everyday self-defense for Social Workers, is approved by the National Association of Social Workers for continuing education credit in 46 states.

In 2014, she was deemed an expert witness for the Federal Government Agency of Occupational Safety and Health Administration in clinical social work personal safety awareness, workplace violence prevention programs, and worker safety skills training. Currently Janet devotes her time to designing and managing online courses and to teach personal safety and wellness instruction to social health and human service workers across the nation.

Janet Nelson, welcome to Courageously Go!

Jan Nelson:                         Well, thank you so much for having me, Debbie. It’s nice of you to have me.

Debbie DiPietro:               It’s great to have you. I don’t even know where to begin with you because you are so accomplished. I’ve had a recent conversation with you. I know you have a lot going on, so why don’t we start off with what are you currently mostly excited about these days? What’s going on?

Jan Nelson:                         Well, you know, when you read my resume I think, “Boy, I’ve been busy.”

Debbie DiPietro:               You have.

Jan Nelson:                         It’s a very exciting time right now, especially for the women’s movement, the Me Too movement. I looked at how I should title this, and I thought about the history and the show of Mad Men that just exemplifies how women were treated in the workplace. I said from Mad Men to Me Too ’cause look at how far things are coming along as it’s taken. But I’ve been a part of this for a long time, so it’s a very exciting time to see movement that’s happening now relative to women in the workforce, and sexual harassment issues, and the way we’ve been treated, violence against women. It’s just very interesting times right now.

Just mentioning a little bit about what I’m currently doing, working with online courses, which I had to put together because I started a business where I’m the only person doing this. It’s very rare to have a social worker and a martial artist combine those two talents. I’ll mention that a little bit down the road here.

Currently, I’m teaching Department of Children and Family workers. If people don’t know what that is, those are the people that are out investigating child abuse in the home, neglect, sexual abuse of not only children, but adults, elders, et cetera. These people are out on the frontlines going into people’s homes and really put themselves out there in very difficult situations to help protect children and people at risk.

It’s been my pleasure, more recently I’ve been getting more jobs with New Jersey Department of Children and Families, we call it DCF. This past spring I taught in Prince Frederick, Maryland for their DCF program. I’ve taught for the State of Florida of over a few different years, Adult and Child Protective Services. That’s really what I’m doing right now.

Plus both my husband and I … He worked in the healthcare field for a long, long time for the State of Florida. We both recognized that there’s loads of people that go into people’s home for various reasons. We designed a very short online course for agencies and businesses like Comfort Keepers or Angels, people that either volunteer, they go in for medical purposes. There’s so many people working in people’s homes now that I’ve really put my focus on those workers, whether they’re degreed social workers, case workers for state agencies, or even a lot of these volunteer and home helper agencies. That we all need to be prepared to be safe in our work helping others. It’s as simple as that.

That’s what I’ve really been focusing on these days. I’ll go back up to New Jersey again. I’m talking with Missouri right now about helping them with their programs for their child protective service workers. It’s a very exciting time for me in that regard.

Debbie DiPietro:               It sounds like it. I haven’t really thought about this, but social workers really are on the frontlines going into probably some pretty sketchy situations. What are some key components that you teach these people on how to keep safe?

Jan Nelson:                         Well, I have a real basic program. Around safety, there’s always awareness. Law enforcement will tend to, and they rightly so, teach you about your environment. Where do you park your car, locks, all those things. I work actually more teaching people … The first good third of my course is really about inner awareness, how to read your gut, how to be in tune with that fight or flight or fright system that we have that works for us, our autonomic nervous system. It lets us know that something’s not right and we’re in danger.

What happens for most people is they lock up and they freeze. What I work to teach social and human service workers is to stay grounded, centered, balanced, keep breathing, how to keep thinking of your options, how to stay calm in the face of danger. Specifically for social workers, which of course it’s a degreed professional’s job. You can’t just call yourself a social worker. You do have to get a degree.

Social workers are great to teach because they already have so many skills of interviewing skills, listening skills, deescalation skills. You need that to be able to help people stay calm in tense situations. Just imagine somebody coming into investigate child abuse in your home. That’s the most contentious situation you can be in. But social workers do so many things in the home, as do occupational therapists and physical therapists. There’s just so many people. It’s really how to read your gut, listen to it. If you know something’s coming up, and you got to get yourself out of there, then you do it. We talk about safety plans and how to get out of tough situations.

But we know that the way to deal with angry people, the best skill is good listening skills. Luckily, a lot of social workers are taught with that. I always try to encourage them. You already got a lot of good tools in your kit to use.

Debbie DiPietro:               Yes, sounds like it. Typically, how long goes the program last when they’re getting trained by you?

Jan Nelson:                         I prefer to do a six hour training, an all day training. I have done three hours. But just recently … In fact, I’ll mention New Jersey again. The caseworkers there said, “We want more of this. Three hours is too short.” Just a sketch here of this is my fourth year of teaching up there. They changed my class to now be six hours. No one is saying we need more. They seem satisfied with that. We can cover quite a few different topics and areas. Plus we get up and move. I teach self-defense techniques. I teach breathing and centering. I teach them how to escape choke holds. Things that are going to really put them at risk.

But, in general, I just call it personal safety awareness because I’m trying to make them think about all the things in their environment externally, as well as like I said internally. How to read themselves better so that they can just increase their awareness skills. Because most of us typically, we get in our car, we go to work, we kind of get robotic in things. We don’t really pay attention to small cues that can tip us off that’s something’s wrong.

You’d be amazed though the people that go into homes and work with clients in their home settings are very attuned and they’re very savvy. I just say, “Hey, I’m sparking your imagination. I’m giving you more ideas.” I try to cover a variety of things in a six hour program.

Debbie DiPietro:               I imagine there are a lot of people that can benefit from this kind of training, even if they’re not in the social working industry. Even like I think I’ve seen real estate agents, who they meet a total stranger to show them a house, or they host an open house. That could be potentially a dangerous situation that they’re putting themselves in.

Jan Nelson:                         Oh, it has been. Yes, it has been. Just over a year ago, someone from Gainesville, where of course I lived in Gainesville, I live in Tallahassee now. A realtor contacted me and said, “We want to get a women’s group together. Will you come down and teach us self defense?” I did. I designed a program just for them. It was a half day program. Because they’d already had a couple threats and incidents. So yes, real estate agents, really anybody that goes out into the field on their own, and it could be selling books door-to-door, which I did when I was in college. Unfortunately, my roommate that summer, we were up in a Detroit suburb, she was sexually assaulted. She was raped on a home visit trying to sell books door-to-door. It can be almost any profession.

Certainly, I also look at all different places. It’s not just on home visits. It could be just you’re on a street going to your home visit. You could be just going to your office. It could be in your office. One reason New Jersey brought me up there is that they had a DCF worker stabbed 21 times in front of an elevator in their DCF building, in their Department of Children and Family state building, in the building itself.

Any time, any place, anywhere, we all have to be aware of our safety. These workers especially are really … Police will tell social workers, “You go places I wouldn’t even go.” It’s the truth. Very tough neighborhoods, very tough situations, and they walk in with a clipboard and a pen and a pad of paper. There they are. I call them brave and noble and I tell them, “What you’ve been doing, if no one’s ever told you this, is not only a noble act, but also brave. Pat yourselves on the back for it.”

Because these professions are not highly paid. People are doing this because they care for other humans. They care for children. They care for humanity. They really don’t get enough credit. They don’t get talked about enough in the media. You hardly ever hear the word social worker mentioned even. It’s just the astounding to me that we ignore that, but also I just as a social worker, I know firsthand, but I admire my colleagues and anyone in the social service and human service fields. It’s exceptional work that they’re doing.

Debbie DiPietro:               I agree. They’re heroes in our society quietly and humbly. They’re doing the important work that they’re doing and they are the epitome of Courageously Go! They’re going in there and with their hearts. Like you say, it’s not the highest, it’s like teaching, why it’s not the highest paid profession. I imagine if you go into this as a career, this is something you have a passion for. It’s definitely a courageous career choice and path that these people are on. That’s great you’re helping them.

This time goes by so fast. Sensei, let’s cover the sensei part of your life, Janet, because I don’t know that many women who have achieved the high level that you have in the martial arts world. Let’s just touch on that ’cause I find it really interesting. I think a lot of people out there would too. How did you get into martial arts?

Jan Nelson:                         Well, you know it was one of those things I kind of fell into. I had seen a Tai Chi school in my neighborhood. In my last year of high school, I went and interviewed the sensei there. That introduced me to the martial arts, just the concept and the ideas. When I moved to Gainesville, I had had during my high school years, I had been diagnosed with a knee disorder where I was getting arthritis by the time I was 14. I was told keep your legs really, really strong. I had already had surgeries by then.

I bravely, you might say courageously, said, “Well, I’m not going to be held back. I’m going to go take martial arts.” There were some girls in the dorm that said, “Come on. It’s a free program.” I just said, “Okay, I can do this.” I went and joined Cuong Nhu and it was 1974. Right at that time in history, things were just coming together. There were so many women in our style. It was the east meets west. There was a lot of exchange of just ideas around meditation and now what we call self care and stress reduction, wellness. Those terms weren’t even around. It was more just about taking care of yourself. Then for me it was fun. I got started by just following some girls out of the dorm at UF, University of Florida, down to what’s now the swamp. We worked out in a gym and the Florida fields. That’s where I got started.

I was specifically inspired by Mary Davis, who was one of the two black belt women at the time. There was only 12 people. The founder of the style had gotten his PhD and left. Came back after I was a brown belt years later. He was gone when I first started. He’d left 12 black belts. Two of them were women. These were some powerful women and great role models for me. I was inspired by Mary Davis, who kind of taking the call out of the ’60s which I like mention, that women were gaining a voice after the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement had begun. Women were seeking more power and just more confidence. Really, like I said, the assertiveness training movement started then. Gaining a voice was super important. Being heard, asserting yourself.

Then really out of that came the stop rape movement, what they called the battered women’s movement. In the ’70s if you look, many of the battered women’s or now they call it spousal violence, or domestic violence I should say. Those all started in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Here I had this great role model, Mary Davis, and I helped her in her class. Then she started teaching self-defense for women on campus in 1975. She was the first one to be doing it in Gainesville, Florida. That was starting all around the nation. There was that inspiration to not only train in the martial arts and overcome what some considered a handicap, and prove to myself that I could do this martial arts thing, and I could earn these ranks. I was very inspired to keep doing that.

I saw what was happening at that point and I thought there’s a lot of growth that’s coming out of the women’s movement, and I’m a part of it. I’m going to start teaching self-defense. I just started doing community work. I had models. Master Dong came back from Vietnam. He was teaching elderly people in the community. I started doing that too.

We have a code of ethics in our style. The first one is to improve yourself and your abilities in the martial arts in order to serve the people. I took that to heart and realized if I can do this and I have talent, I need to be sharing this with other people that might not walk into a karate dojo.

Starting in around 1980, I started to develop community ed courses that people could take through community colleges sponsored them. That’s how I got going. I was always also on campuses teaching, stop rape week, that stuff has never ended. Sometimes people are talking about college campuses and sexual violence movements and all these things. They’ve been going on a while now. It’s really the mid ’70s when all that started.

That brings me to where I was. I just started going all wherever community … I lived in Broward County for a while, by Ft. Lauderdale. I lived on Ocala. Wherever I went I was trying to teach women self-defense and work with elderly people as well. Just doing community based work, which I might add, women tend to do in general. Whether it’s paid or unpaid. It’s great experience. I certainly advocate for women getting paid for their work. But we do what we do because we want to do it. Community ed and volunteer work is a great thing.

There you go. It was an exciting time. When I moved here to Tallahassee, I immediately started teaching women’s self-defense. Then I ended up having a women’s self-defense school, a dojo basically, that oddly enough was right next to Chi Omega sorority, which if some people don’t know, was infamous in the late ’70s for when Ted Bundy bludgeoned some sorority sisters. In a way, I thought like we’re back here, we’re teaching self-defense right next door to this building and trying to get women thinking about this.

I just have been on campuses working for a while. I’m not doing that now at this point. Here I was in my graduate school class. I went back to school at FSU. All of a sudden, I’m doing all this work on campus. I look around the classes and I went, “You know, this is all women. There’s hardly any men.” That’s when my little light bulb went off and I went, “I need to be teaching self-defense to social workers, to my colleagues.” I really was able to put that together. That was about in ’94, ’95 I put that together.

Debbie DiPietro:               Janet, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but we have one minute left. I wish we had another half hour. Why don’t we very quickly share with our listeners, do you have a website where they can get more information about you and your programs? You’re a fascinating professional lady that I think a lot of people would like to know how to reach you. Why don’t we share with them a website or how could people reach you?

Jan Nelson:                         Okay, well they can reach me through That is my website and that’s what I call my programs.

Debbie DiPietro:               Okay, great. Well, thank you so much. You’ve been a tremendous, tremendous guest. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to you and I know that a lot of our listeners were probably very inspired by your story and what you’re currently still doing. I thank you for taking time out of your day to be here on Courageously Go! with us. Thank you, Janet.

Jan Nelson:                         Well, thank you for having me. I encourage all the women listening to pick up with the Me Too movement and have our voices be heard. At least now they’re being listened to finally. It’s an exciting time for us to courageously go forward.

Debbie DiPietro:               Awesome. Yes, all right, that’s a great note to end on. Everyone, thank you for joining me and Janet here on Courageously Go! I am Debbie DiPietro. I love to hear from you. I have an email, which is debbie D-E-B-B-I-E, My website is You can learn more about our show. We are now on iHeart radio so you can follow us on there. Super exciting. I look forward to tuning in next week on Courageously Go! Ladies, until next time, remember this. It’s our time to shine. Let’s make it so and Courageously Go!



Love Your Life Today #Go!

I am at a time in life when I am starting to distill down to what is most important to me. There is simply no time to waste. I have discovered the power of #Go.

What does #Go mean to me?

1. That we need never feel stuck in our lives. No matter our age or circumstance, we can always switch things up. #Go

2. We are not meant to be so sedentary. It is essential for our physical and emotional health to move as much as we can. #Go

3. There is no better classroom than travel. Life is an adventure and it’s important to discover new places and see the world. #Go

That’s it. Years of studying self-help books and writing in the personal development realm- and that is what I have: #Go!

I believe that if we practice #Go in our lives every day, we will live more confidently and joyfully.

I challenge you to on a daily basis:

1. Take action on your ideas and goals (even baby steps)- you will get momentum. #go

2. Get out of your seat and take a walk. Stretch. Exercise while watching TV at night. #Go

3. Plan an adventure. Where in your town have you never visited? Your state? Our country? The world? Get out some maps and travel guides and have some fun dreaming (that is the first step).

Your life awaits you. Now, #Go!



Embracing The Woman Within With Michelle Poitier

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with “Michelle Speakz“, Michelle Poitier. This was one of the more powerful conversations that we have had to date here on Courageously Go! Listen in or read the transcript below. Thanks Michelle!

Debbie DiPietro: Hello, welcome to Courageously Go!, where we will venture into places we’ve been afraid to go. Women of the world, we are going to start a movement, a movement towards courage. Hello, my name is Debbie DiPietro, and for many years I wrote about my challenges of anxiety and low self-confidence on my award-winning blog, The Warm Milk Journal, and now in this podcast I simply wish to have a conversation about courage because I believe that when we live from hearts by choosing courage, the life of our dreams and a better world for all are possible. No matter our age or circumstances we never need to feel stuck or alone, and today we are all in for a real treat. I’m excited to introduce our guest Michelle Poitier.

Debbie DiPietro: Meet Michelle Poitier, who is nominated and selected to attend former first lady Michelle Obama’s United State of Women’s Initiative 2016, for her work in the community. She was the recipient of a letter of recognition from Governor Rick Scott on September 23rd of 2016 for her community contributions. Additionally, Ms. Poitier received a letter from the White House in March of 2016 to be selected, and for her participation in the mission continues in the Women’s Veterans Leadership Summit. If you’re seeking words of hope and encouragement, and release from pains of the past you’re in for a treat as Michelle takes you on a journey to healing and wholeness. She is an author, national speaker, entrepreneur, and advocate.

Debbie DiPietro: Michelle is a voice for the voiceless, defender of the defenseless, and hope for the hopeless. She delivers a message of transparency, vulnerability, authenticity, encouraging others to be comfortable being authentically who they were created to be, unapologetically fully embracing the skin that they are in. Her direct quote is this, “I cannot separate who I am from what I do, because who I am is intertwined with what I do, and how I do it.” Michelle passionately addresses and advocates about issues specifically unique to female veterans, because she is her sister’s keeper. Michelle provides trainings, workshops, and one-on-one coaching that addresses those challenges head-on. Michelle, welcome to Courageously Go!

Michelle P.: Thank you so much, Debra, I am so excited and honored for the opportunity to be on your program.

Debbie DiPietro: Well, the honor is all mine to have such and esteemed and accomplished guest is just … you have lived quite an interesting life, and I look forward to us hearing more.

Michelle P.: Right.

Debbie DiPietro: Why don’t we start with this, what are you excited about these days? What’s going on that you’re excited about?

Michelle P.: I am excited about raising the alarm or the trumpet on mental illness and mental health challenges, I really don’t like that word, mental illness, but just helping people to realize that they are not their trauma. I’m excited about an upcoming event in Orlando, the Jim Moran Institute, I’ve always wanted to be able to present or speak, and I actually just recently accepted an offer to do so. I’m just excited about all the things that are going on and the doors that God is opening. I’m just excited about life.

Debbie DiPietro: Awesome.

Michelle P.: Which is a big deal.

Debbie DiPietro: It is a big deal.

Michelle P.: Because it wasn’t always that way.

Debbie DiPietro: What got you going on this journey in working with people and inspiring people? What got you started an interest in mental illness and challenges that you help people with?

Michelle P.: Well, the thing that got me started, after being diagnosed with my own issues with post-traumatic stress, secondary to military sexual trauma, and generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, adjustment disorder anxiety, I mean, I was of course devastated because you’re telling me that I’m a culmination of all of these disorders. I was embarrassed and ashamed, and I felt, honestly I felt that my body and my mind have failed me, and it didn’t matter that I’d served my country, raised a beautiful daughter, I’ve been a friend, a wife, a leader, even with all of that, along with the stigma associated with mental illness especially in the African-American community, I was just devastated.

Michelle P.: Then the resources that I was reaching out to, of course they were doing the best that they could, but there weren’t enough resources, and then again, the stigma that was attached to that. I dreaded going to that part of the hospital labeled Mental Health, because I just felt I had this big neon sign on my back. I just … I was passionate about helping to change the dynamics of that.

Debbie DiPietro: Why don’t we … I think it will help our listeners to just get more of a picture of your background. Why don’t we take a step back and at what age did you enter the military, and maybe did you go on tour, maybe share with us a little bit of story or two about your experiences and then lead us to where you are now. I think that will help us.

Michelle P.: Right. Well, I joined the military not right out of high school. I dabbled around for about a year and a half, unsure of what I wanted to do, but I was already battling with issues that I’d encountered as a young girl. Beginning at the age of six I started being violated by family members, sexually violated, and that just carried on into my teenage years. Actually my going in to the military was my way of escaping that. I’ve always had a heart to serve and I figured what better way to serve than to serve my country, and so I joined the military and I was very excited about that. One, about getting away from the dysfunction that I was surrounded by, and two, just about the opportunity to travel.

Michelle P.: I come from a military family, I was used to traveling, but being on my own for the first time away from that, and just getting to explore who I was and trying to change my perception of myself, which was very low at that time. I joined the military as a cryptologist, I was a code breaker. I was helping the military keep its secret a secret, which was the perfect job for me because I had been groomed for that by my experiences. But then at my first duty station, which was Pyeongtaek, Korea, I encountered the same things that I was running from. I was violated, sexually assaulted by a fellow service member, which completely devastated me because I was excited about serving my country and leading alongside my fellow service members, and to be violated in that way that was … it almost broke me.

Michelle P.: I continued with my career, but that was always in the back of my mind and I tried to go forth and just share, but the kickback that I got was unexpected and very devastating. I was encouraged not to tell. I was encouraged not to pursue it, and that just led to my own feelings of low self-worth, that I wasn’t important, that I wasn’t valuable, that I wasn’t worthy of even having a voice. My voice was effectively silenced, in which it was why I was joining to kind of amplify my voice and not to have it be silenced.

Debbie DiPietro: At what point you decided you needed help or you got this at what point? How and when did you decide that enough is enough and you needed to get yourself some help and start healing?

Michelle P.: Actually I began the journey 13 years later after I got out of the military. I got out of the military with a heart-related condition, and then I realized that I just wasn’t functioning. My relationships were very dysfunctional and I was married and had a daughter, and things were just … everything was going haywire, and I realized that I need some help. I went to try to get that help, but there were so many other personal things going on. I was going through a divorce with my husband of 20 years, my daughter was acting out because she was a daddy’s girl. He actually got into some trouble and was going to prison for 25 years.

Michelle P.: It was just a lot of transition, and in the midst of all that I was like I’m losing it, because for everyday for the first year that he was, after he was sentenced I would take my daughter my to school, go home, curl up in a ball, in a fetal position in the middle of my floor and just cry for eight hours a day for a year. I knew that I was at a point that I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I couldn’t help myself because I’ve always been a fighter, I’ve always been one of those that never let anything get me down, but I was just done. I was at the end of my rope, and so I started seeking the help.

Debbie DiPietro: How did you get out of it? What helped you ultimately?

Michelle P.: Well, ultimately I would have to say it was my relationship with God. I believe without that I really would have ended my life, I attempted to, but was not successful, thank God, but one of the things that helped is I changed my environment. I relocated and got closer to family so that I would have a strong circle of support. I had to humble myself because I’m not going to say I was prideful, but I was very private and just ashamed about all the things that I was encountering. That was the start, the beginning of the journey to healing.

Debbie DiPietro: Well, you have quite a story and I know there are a lot of people out there listening to this, and there are women out there that this resonates with, and they have some things they are seriously struggling with and they are kind of down there in the pit as well. What would you say to them? Who can they reach out to, to get help?

Michelle P.: Well, I would say first, I would say to them that to realize that you are not your trauma. Accepting the fact that you will encounter peaks and valleys on this journey called life. Establish some healthy boundaries in all aspects of your life. Guard your heart, and it’s okay to not be okay, that’s the best of thing, because we as women we wear this mask of strength when inside we are bleeding. Reach out to some resources, if you have encountered any kind of sexual trauma. There’s an organization called, it’s, of course the National Domestic Violence hotline, all you have to do is Google domestic violence, but the thing I would say is to reach out for help. Reach out to a trusted friend that you know, I know we all have at least one person that no matter what we can reach out to them, let them know where you’re at, that you’re struggling, that you don’t know if you’re going to make another hour, let alone another day. Have them help you to find resources.

Debbie DiPietro: No one needs to be alone.

Michelle P.: Exactly.

Debbie DiPietro: Right. Well, thank you for that, and I know just on some past communication with you I want to bring this up while we have time, is that it’s a big deal to leave or have a long-term marriage break up and you have a child. You have one child or-

Michelle P.: One daughter, yes. One daughter.

Debbie DiPietro: Maybe share with us, because I think including myself I’m in a second marriage too, and I left a marriage of 20 years, I think there are a lot of women out there that can relate to this and what a difficult life transition that is. If you wouldn’t mind maybe sharing a little bit about how you’ve been dealing with that and how your life presently is as a result of such a huge change in your life and your daughter’s life.

Michelle P.: Right. Well, the most challenging aspect of that transition was realizing that for me, that I no longer had that title and the role of wife to hide behind and to use, as both the crutch and an excuse as to why I was not living the life that I desire to live. I had to do the work and find out, or redefine my identity as a woman, not as a wife, not as a mother, but as a woman. I had to learn to explore to find out who I was, what I like, like what kind of entertainment I like, what kind of clothes, what kind of books, social outings.

Michelle P.: I had to really reflect and determine if the choices that I’d made during my marriage, were they mine or did I make them because it was what my husband wanted or liked, and I had to adjust? To not walking in eggshells, living in constant fear of displeasing my husband, and letting my family down because the covenant of marriage, that’s for life and I was very committed to that through thick and through think, through better or for worse, but when I realized it gotten to the point where I was literally dying. My spirit was dying, my soul was dying, I knew that I had to make a change, and when I saw how devastating it was for my daughter to watch that I knew that I had to make the decision to make the change for her, because I didn’t want her to think that this was what marriage and partnership was about.

Michelle P.: Was it painful? Yes. Was it devastating? Yes, but I did it in spite of the pain. I did it with tears and crying, by day doing what I had to do, working through, but at night just going home and literally sometimes just staring at the wall and questioning, “Did I do the right thing?” But when I think about who I’ve become now as a result of that I refound my voice, I’ve amplified my voice. I’ve come into myself as a woman. I’ve done things that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve climbed mountains literally. I climbed the Andes Mountain a couple of years ago. I’ve gone skydiving. I started my own business. I just realized that I am strong and I am worthy of being on this Earth and fulfilling my dreams.

Debbie DiPietro: Yey, yey, I’m happy for you, that’s awesome. If I may ask, how long ago was that? When did you leave your marriage and how long ago was that?

Michelle P.: I left my marriage in 2009. He went to prison in 2006, and I was going to stay, but I was like, “I can’t do this anymore,” and I was alone anyway. It took me the … The beginning of my coming into my own was forgiveness, forgiving him, and it took me seven years to do that, to work through that because forgiveness is a process. There are layers of forgiveness just like there are layers of healing. Healing is not a destination it’s a journey, and I say the same thing for forgiveness, it’s not a destination it’s a journey because you can think you’ve forgiven someone for something, and you maybe have, but then something else comes up. You go along for a while and you think you’re good, but then you are confronted with something else and you realize, “Ah, I’m not over that, so let me just go back and deal with that,” whether that be through counseling or talking or whatever you find that works for you, and that’s what I had. I had to do the work.

Debbie DiPietro: Well, thank you for being so open in sharing with us. Obviously you’re so strong and you have found your voice, and let’s talk a little bit about that. What are your projects that you’re up to today? It sounds like you do a lot of exciting things out there that I know we’d love to hear more about while we have the time.

Michelle P.: Because I’ve just realized there is no box. I started a nonprofit, Healing Women Healing Nations of Northeast Florida, and my target audience is female veterans, but it’s also any woman that has encountered any kind of trauma, that has been a survivor of domestic or sexual abuse. We provide empowerment events, workshops, one-on-one individualized plans to help you get back on track. We’re about to start offering virtual services, a three-phase program to unmasking the hurt, preventing you from living your life to your fullest potential. I have a radio program, Michelle Speaks, If You Hide It You Can’t Heal It, no topic is taboo. We talk about topics that society considers taboo, but we don’t just talk about it, we provider viable solutions, but more importantly we provide hope.

Michelle P.: I’m very much for community advocacy. I’m in my community advocating for those that the world has deemed unsalvageable or worthless. I teach dance, inspirational dance to children and adults because that form of expression is just a way to express yourself through music, and it’s so freeing and it’s so liberating. Whatever I feel like that I want to do, I do it, and I want to inspire and empower other women to do the same, to not just find their voice, but to amplify their voice, and help other women do the same.

Debbie DiPietro: I love that. Let’s tell all the women out there listening right now, Michelle, how can they learn about your show, about what you do? Is there a website they can visit? How do they get a hold of you?

Michelle P.: There is, my website is, or you can reach to me at my e-mail, it’s michellespeakz, with a Z,, M-I-C-H-E-L-L-E, or you can reach out to me by phone, 904-370-3549. I’m here and whatever resources I have I’m more than willing to share.

Debbie DiPietro: Right, and you are now … Are you a 100% working for yourself or do you have a job or [crosstalk 00:19:25] full-time?

Michelle P.: I’m a 100% self-employed. I’m a national speaker. I’m a published author. I’m the partnerships coordinator for our business entrepreneurship organization, E3 Business Groups. Anything that I do, I do as an independent contractor or I just manage my business. I have a for profit business, Future Impressions, where I provide virtual administrative support and professional writing services, so fully self-employed.

Debbie DiPietro: You do, you’re pretty busy, aren’t you?

Michelle P.: Yes.

Debbie DiPietro: You do, I [crosstalk 00:20:01]. Wow.

Michelle P.: I want to leave no gift left unturned.

Debbie DiPietro: I guess so, that’s awesome. Gosh, it’s awesome. Well, I think there are probably a lot of people out there, a lot of women out there who maybe they’re in a job that they’re tired of or maybe they want to break out on their own, and go into business for themselves, but it can be a little daunting, can’t it? What would you say to people, to women who would like to go out on their own? How do they even get started?

Michelle P.: I would say first of all, do your research, write your plan, just write the vision and make it plain. Those that see it may run with it. Put your vision on paper so that when you begin sharing it with people you get people to come alongside you to help you. But reach out to your local business resources with wherever you are, they had that or reach out to the organization I’m a part of, E3 Business Group, it’s We have programs, we have coaching, we have strategies, the Call of Eagles is another way and it will give you step-by-step instructions on how to start your own business or how to become an entrepreneur.

Debbie DiPietro: Do a lot of the people you work with or groups you speak to, are they from the military or do you speak with civilian groups as well, Michelle?

Michelle P.: No, I speak at universities, I speak in churches, I speak at community events, so no, I’m not just targeting the military, I’m targeting men and women that need to be inspired or that want to go to the next level of whatever they want to do in life. Yes, I’ve spoken at Missouri State University, in [inaudible 00:21:56] Wells Fargo, Minnesota, California, for several organizations, No Barriers USA, The Mission Continues, and these are all organizations that want to empower their target audience to move forward. There is no box.

Debbie DiPietro: Okay, while we have time I just have to ask because I want to clarify the bio, did you actually meet first lady Michelle Obama?

Michelle P.: I did not get to meet her personally, I was one of 5,000 women that were selected to attend her United State of Women’s Initiative in 2016. Someone from the community nominated me, I don’t know to this day, but if you’re listening I thank you.

Debbie DiPietro: Awesome. Go ahead.

Michelle P.: It was an amazing experience, the energy that was in the room, and to see all the women from all over the United States, and internationally that are empowering and impacting positive change in our communities, in our nation by raising their voices. They’re using what they thought was a weakness, and actually it was a strength to help other women realize they are own strengths. It was phenomenal.

Debbie DiPietro: It was an honor. That’s just awesome. That’s kind of like one of my bucket list things, is to meet someone like her, and even have her on Courageously Go!, I would love to have Michelle Obama on as a guest. If you have six degrees of separation, if anyone out there is listening and can put me in touch with Michelle Obama, I’m all about it.

Michelle P.: Right, right.

Debbie DiPietro: That’s awesome. Well, we just have probably a couple minutes left, any parting words that you would like to say before we’re out of time?

Michelle P.: I would say for those women that are battling and that are straddling the fence between wanting to give up and needing something to hold on to, I would say to embrace the woman that’s within, that’s been hidden for so long, waiting for a chance to be accepted. Accept yourself, flaws and all, and start living the life that you want to live.

Debbie DiPietro: I second that, all right. Well, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on. Thank you so much for being a guest on Courageously Go!, Michelle, I wish you much success into the future, and do stay in touch with us. I would love to hear how do you do.

Michelle P.: I will do. Yes, ma’am, I would love to stay in touch, Debra, and thank you so much. I’m truly honored that you reached out to me and asked me to be a part of your program, and continue to do what you’re doing because it’s so needed.

Debbie DiPietro: Thank you. Thank you so much, the feeling is mutual. Ladies, until next time, remember this, it’s our time to shine, let’s make it so and courageously go!

Listen to “Michelle Poitier – Embracing the Woman Within” on Spreaker.


The Courage to Look at and Move Toward What You Want

Focusing on road blocks and feeling stuck vs. trying new things and seeing doors begin to open.

Which scenario works best for you?

It’s easy to fall back into what we are used to doing, stories we are used to telling ourselves and others about our lives, and being afraid or worst, feeling like giving up and becoming apathetic.

I invite you to get out your journal and write down everything you want in your life.

Read this list every morning and at bedtime. Continue to add to it as you feel inspired to do so. Everything good you already have in your life, put a check next to it and say a silent thank you.

Move as much as you can and try out different experiences every day.

Now, #Go!
~ Debbie