189 Heal from Trauma and Follow Your Dream Again – Nikki Anne Schmutz

What You Will Hear:

  • Learn to Live Again – Survivor of Abuse
  • Reconcile with Your Past and No More Hiding Part of Your Life
  • No Longer Try to Push Trauma aside and Live a “Normal” Life
  • Healing from PTSD
  • Heal from Trauma and Follow Your Dream Again
  • What You been Through Doesn’t Define You

Listen to ReLaunch Show on iPhone or Android App

More about our featured guest

Nikki Anne Schmutz knew by the age of ten, she wanted to be a writer. She is a poet, novelist, screenwriter and closet singer/songwriter. She is editor-in-chief of Community Orange Magazine, serves as administrator of Writers World Poets Corner Facebook group and is the poetry editor for Eat Sleep Write.

She also reads poetry on the Eat Sleep Write podcast, “Voices of the Writers”. She lives in Utah with her husband, four kids and two poodles.

Nikki's poetry collection

In Speaking Of…: a Poetic Journey from Dark to Light

Full Transcript

[00:02] Joel: Welcome to ReLaunch, your daily dose of inspiring stories, fresh ideas, practical steps, and solutions. And you can just think of this show as being your prescription for personal growth and success. And if you are a daily listener to the show, welcome back, and thank you for tuning in to the before and the after show online conversations. And if you're new to the show, thank you. And just know that you are among friends. And a quick shout out to some of our latest Twitter followers. Let's see, there's Victoria Justice, Nick Benson and Harry Huang. Thank you for joining us in the conversation and being a part of our Twitter family. And joining us on today's show is novelist, screenwriter, closet singer and songwriter… We're gonna have to learn about that, and… There's more. And poet, Nikki Anne. Nikki, welcome. Welcome to ReLaunch. Good to have you here.

[01:10] Speaker 3: Yes, thank you so much for having me.

[01:12] Joel: Absolutely. Now, you are the Editor-in-Chief of Community Orange Magazine. You've got that going for you. You're also the administrator of… This is hard to say… Writers World Poets Corner. Yeah?

[01:25] Nikki: Yes, you got it.

[01:25] Joel: So far, so good? Fantastic. And you have a podcast, “Eat, Sleep, and Write”, where you actually read some of your poetry. Correct?

[01:33] Nikki: I do. It's also a website where I am the poetry editor for this, for the whole site.

[01:37] Joel: Wow! And I got all that stuff right on the first take.

[01:40] Nikki: You did, good job. [laughter]

[01:42] Joel: Fantastic. Well, welcome again to the show, and I can't wait to talk about your ReLaunch. Generally, what I do is I ask our guests to kind of zero in and focus on the most transformational relaunch that they've been through and then just kind of unfold the story from there. And we'll do that with you here, Nikki, if that's okay, here in just a minute or two. But when I was doing some of the research, kind of getting ready for today's show, I read a quote, and it really… It moved me. And it's something that you said… Either you wrote or you said it in an earlier show with someone else, but it's… Let's see. I'll make sure I say this right. It says, “What you've been through does not define you, it's just something that happened to you.”

[02:32] Nikki: Yes.

[02:32] Joel: And that hit the mark when I was doing some background. So can you just start the ReLaunch story right there? It's not what you've been through that defines you, but it's something that has happened to you.

[02:47] Nikki: Yes. We all have things happen to us in life. Good and bad and tragic and horrible. Since we all have things that happen to us, but the quote came from actually Bruce Van Horn's podcast, the “Life Is a Marathon,” which Bruce is a great friend of mine. And by the way, he's the reason that I'm on your show [laughter]

[03:09] Joel: Awesome.

[03:09] Nikki: He sent me here but…

[03:11] Joel: We love Bruce.

[03:12] Nikki: Yes. Yes, he's awesome. Yeah. So the defining you is it's how you react to whatever happens to you. In my life, when I was a kid, I had some pretty horrible things happen to me. I was raped as a child and some ritualistic abuse type stuff. And I'm not gonna go into that on this show because this isn't about that. But what that did is it left me… For most of my growing up and into my young adulthood, not feeling like a whole person.

[03:42] Joel: Sure.

[03:42] Nikki: And I'm trying to figure out exactly how I fit into life and how I needed to move forward and I… I did a couple of relaunches through my life.

[03:51] Joel: Let me jump in real quick. Talk about not feeling a lot like a whole person. And we don't have to get into the details and all that 'cause as you've pointed out, the ReLaunch is not about then, but it's about where you're going now. But I think there's a lot of people that can resonate with not feeling like a whole person. Can you spend just a minute or two on that?

[04:17] Nikki: Yeah. Yeah, I can. A lot of people, when they go through severe trauma, they tend to separate themselves from what they've been through compared to who they are and how that fits into their life. It's a type of dissociative pattern, which that's the medical terminology but… So, when you go through something really horrible, you have to push it away from yourself in order to be able to deal with it in a way that doesn't completely ruin the rest of your life, and that's a very normal thing. But what happens to a lot of people is that the fact that they pushed it away causes them to not deal with exactly what they went through. And so, a lot of times, people feel like different people in different situations, in that they're hiding so many things that they've been through that they just don't talk about. And so, they're constantly monitoring what they say to other people or how they react to certain situations. Or, in my case, I had post-traumatic stress disorder. And so, I was constantly making sure that I wasn't going to end up in a situation where past things were triggered. So I felt like different people handling different situations. And this can happen on many different levels with other people…

[05:29] Joel: Sure.

[05:30] Nikki: Whether you deal with depression or anything like that. But I think too many times we feel like a puzzle, that we're missing some pieces, or we're just not sure how it fits together and we have to learn how to fit it back together so that we can feel whole.

[05:46] Joel: So let me ask you this. During the teen years, how were you able to… Or how did you try to sort your way through that? Was there some self-medicating there? Was there just some, not knowing which way to turn? I'm just trying to understand where you were at that point.

[06:03] Nikki: Yeah. For me, I fell into the dissociative patterns, which in a low level, it can be just not remembering driving from one place to another. And then, on the high levels, it is actual multiple personality type thing. And so, for me, I fell into a midrange where I was able to push a lot of that trauma aside and live a relatively normal life. You know what I mean? I had a lot… I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, so I was only 10 when I went through all this. But I hit about 17 or so, and I would start having dreams about things that happened, and they didn't really make sense. And I've just started feeling really confused, but none of my family or anyone knew that this had happened to me, because there were death threats and all sorts of things. So, I really handled it on my own up until my 20s, when I finally had some people around me that I really could go to.

[06:57] Joel: Okay, wow.

[06:58] Dr. Pei: So, was that when your true ReLaunch happened?

[07:03] Nikki: Yeah. I hit my 20s, and I decided… I had been suicidal. I had been through a lot of things, and I managed to push it back just enough that I got married and started having kids, and everything just started crashing in, and I found myself not being able to live, and I knew that I had to deal with this. And so, I did hypnotherapy, and I brought everything back up, and I did all of this work. And I even found the people who had hurt me, so that I could, which he was dead, but I confronted him, at his grave. And I got to this point where I finally able to conquer it all so that I could live, and then I found out I had no idea how to live. So, my first ReLaunch was trying to get over all that, but it launched me into “I have no idea what to do next” phase.

[07:52] Joel: Okay, first of all, how did you know that you had no idea how to live? What did you do to start getting connected with that?

[08:03] Nikki: Well, I did all these amazing feats of conquering all these past things, and I got to the point where I wasn't having post-traumatic stress triggers all the time, and I was doing so much better. But, honestly, I didn't know what to do with myself. I had been carrying around so many things for so many years that I had no idea how to live without having all of that. And it sent me into a different type of tailspin, where I ended up in a mental hospital for a little while trying to figure myself out, which was one of the best things that I ever did, because I learned I needed to just let myself heal. That I couldn't push it. I couldn't force anything…

[08:44] Joel: Okay, so hold on, hold on. Let me jump right into the healing part. Let's park there for a minute or two, because I think that all of us, regardless of what we've experienced in our past. And for some people, it's been a lot more dramatic and traumatic than others, but it's still been… We all have things that we've been through, right?

[09:10] Nikki: Oh, yes. We all do, everyone.

[09:12] Joel: So, healing is definitely a piece of the puzzle that fits. So, I'm curious, what are some of the things that you learned or relearned about yourself and your own potential, possibilities, or value even, as you were going through that healing process that you were able to really connect with and then harness?

[09:37] Nikki: Well, at first… I call this my “seven years of silence”, because honestly, it took me seven years to go from realizing that I didn't know how to live to where I could look at my life again and say, “It's time for me to really follow my dreams.” During that period of time, I really had to build my self-confidence back up. I had to accept that what I went through… It's like the quote you read… What I went through happened to me, but it did not define what the rest of my life needed to be, and that I think acceptance is the main key. Whatever you went through, it already happened. You can't go back and change it. You can't fix it. You can't do any of that. All you can do is take what you learned and try to make something good or cause a good journey after that.

[10:23] Joel: Okay, what else did you do to build up your self-confidence, 'cause that is a key point…

[10:26] Dr. Pei: Indeed.

[10:28] Nikki: Oh, it is.

[10:28] Joel: Yeah, that's a difference maker right there. So, in a practical sense, what did you do?

[10:34] Nikki: I think one of the biggest things I did was learn how to be confident with others. I've had a few people in my life who take advantage or were a little too critical or that type of thing. And so, one thing I did was push them away emotionally just enough so that I could be me and be confident in my relationship with other people around me. I didn't let other people push me around anymore, including the memories and thoughts of things that happened to me before…

[11:01] Dr. Pei: I heard this… Sorry to interrupt, but what you said is so true…

[11:06] Joel: It is your show, by the way.


[11:10] Dr. Pei: Well, what I've heard many experts share that the concept of you treat others how they treat you. And, indeed, once you had that awareness of, “This is not how I'd like to be treated.” So, you made a choice, that's different than how you were, how you did before, right?

[11:37] Joel: Let me jump in. Let me tack a question and then, yeah, if you'll respond to her, too. What was it like for you when you first recognized that there was strength in you, standing in your voice and who you were?

[11:52] Nikki: That is one of the most amazing feelings I've ever felt. And I can honestly say, the first time I felt that, I can honestly say, that was when I stood over the grave of this person that had been looming over me my entire life, and I could say, “You should never have done that to me.” You know what I mean? I could actually say, “I am not gonna allow you to have any power over me anymore.” I guess that that was probably the first time that I ever felt that, but with other people in my life too, is to pull back just enough to say, “I'm not gonna let you determine my happiness.” And it's very empowering.

[12:28] Joel: I can imagine. Well, that had to be a difference maker…

[12:31] Nikki: Oh, extremely.

[12:32] Joel: For you because it changed the way that other people saw you, but really more importantly, it changed the way you saw yourself, the person in the mirror.

[12:40] Nikki: Oh, yes, yes.

[12:42] Joel: Okay, fantastic. Okay. If we fast forward forward, I guess we would have to fast forward forward, huh?

[12:49] Nikki: Yes.


[12:50] Joel: So, let's talk about poetry. Thank you for sharing that background story with me. It just amazes me that not what people have been through and the ugliness that is out there, but that people are able to be resilient and regardless of what has happened or as unjust as it was, that people are able to come back, and they're able to ReLaunch themselves sometimes with nothing more than just their will and determination to make it happen.

[13:22] Nikki: Yeah.

[13:24] Joel: Unbelievable.

[13:24] Nikki: And that's where I was, just the will and determination. But once I decided that after many years of silence, of not following my dreams, once I decided it was time, and I really opened myself up to new opportunities and decided I wasn't gonna hide behind any excuses, so I was this or I was that, that today and now would be the time to really make a difference. And that's when I've started doing lots of other things.

[13:48] Joel: Okay, so great segway. So let's talk about opening yourself up to possibilities and then tie in and this love of poetry and writing that you knew you wanted to be a poet and a writer since you were a…

[14:00] Nikki: Very young.

[14:00] Joel: A little girl, right. So, you were reconnecting with that little girl, and let's talk about opening up to opportunities and then moving on them.

[14:11] Nikki: Yeah. So, a few years ago, I was finally coming out completely out of my depression and finding myself and all of that. I got pretty ill, and I was laying in the hospital, almost died through this illness, and I realized that now is the time…

[14:26] Joel: What happened? What was the illness? Can you talk about it?

[14:28] Nikki: Oh, it's fine. It was actually a stomach ulcer that had gone unchecked for many, many, many years. [chuckle]

[14:33] Joel: Wow! Okay.

[14:34] Nikki: And I literally was bleeding to death internally. They had to do major surgery to fix it. So that was kind of one of those moments, like a ReLaunch moment when you realize… I almost died. So maybe, just maybe, it's time to step up and do all the things you should have been doing before. At that point, I decided that none of my past fears were gonna get in the way and that my love of writing, which I had done quite a bit of writing before I had my major seven-year silence, that it was time to go back to that, and it was time to share my gift that I knew I needed to be sharing and a whole bunch of opportunities just started falling in my lap once I opened myself up for them.

[15:20] Joel: How did it start? What were the first handful of opportunities that fell in your lap? Think about that for a second. I love what you just shared by the way, when you became receptive.

[15:30] Nikki: Yeah.

[15:31] Joel: That's when things started knockin' on your door. They may have been standing there the whole time, but for whatever reason, for whatever reason, you weren't ready to receive, and I find that that happens to a lot of people.

[15:47] Nikki: Yeah, I agree.

[15:49] Joel: Okay. Yeah. First opportunities.

[15:52] Nikki: Yeah. So, one thing I did is I re-published a book that I had written when I was 20, and that led me to a filmmaker that we've been trying to figure out how to do some things with, which led me to some friends that I hadn't seen in forever, who were starting a magazine, and they offered me the editor-in-chief position of this magazine. And I had never done editor-in-chief before. I've written fiction, and I've written poetry, and I've done all these other things, but this is something I have never tried, and because of my new mindset, I was able to look at it and say, “I can do this. This is something I can try.” And I also started mentoring poets on a Facebook group through Writers World, which led to my position at eatsleepwrite.net, where I am the poetry editor for everything there. And poetry is something I have used as my personal therapy for almost my entire life, and so for me…

[16:47] Joel: Talk about that and how did it help you?

[16:50] Nikki: Well, for me, I wrote a lot of really dark poetry when I was younger, but that's what I needed to write because I've been through some really dark things and so…

[16:58] Joel: Okay, wait a minute. Talk about “needed to write” because that is also powerful because basically, it was the power of journaling, putting your thoughts down on paper, however they looked, and then not editing them.

[17:14] Nikki: Yeah.

[17:14] Joel: And it was what you needed to write, so, yeah, talk about that.

[17:19] Nikki: I think my poetry boils down to one thing, and it's actually a fear in the beginning. It was the fear of fading into nothing and not ever being able to get any of those feelings out of me, that I was hiding from everyone. So, at first, it was just a way to get all that out, but over time, it evolved into more of a love of words and a love of putting them together and molding them into something like a painting through your words. And it really became something that I… I write poetry every single day, and it's just part of my life and so, the natural movement from writing poetry and needing to write it is helping others write it as well and share it.

[18:02] Joel: That's awesome. I appreciate you sharing that. So, when did you notice your poetry transform from writing dark poetry to writing hopeful… Pei, did you wanna get into the conversation?

[18:15] Dr. Pei: No. You're doing great, but I was…

[18:19] Joel: Thank you.

[18:19] Dr. Pei: When I'm looking at you right now… This conversation remind me so many artists too, a very famous artist like Van Gogh, that when we look at their art work, their paintings throughout the ages, we can tell their mental stages and their spirit at that time. So, I'm enjoying this conversation.

[18:45] Joel: So the transformation between dark poetry to light poetry.

[18:49] Nikki: Yeah, my poetry anthology, I put out almost a year ago not quite a year yet, I entitled “The Journey from Darkness to Light” because I did notice that in my poetry. When I first start writing poetry, very dark and slowly over that seven-year time period, it changed, and it changed on its own, and really, I didn't noticed that until later when I decided I really needed to share it and put it in a book. So, I arranged all the poems from the darkest up into the light.

[19:17] Joel: So, I'm curious about this… I'm curious about this. Sorry, I'm just… I'm interested.

[19:20] Nikki: No, go ahead.

[19:22] Joel: So, was there an internal push back, when…

[19:25] Nikki: Oh, yeah.

[19:26] Joel: When you saw… Okay. Well, we're talking about the transformation from dark to light poetry, right?

[19:31] Nikki: Yeah.

[19:32] Joel: So, was there push back of, you know what, that's too… I don't know hopeful or that's too full of possibilities. Was there push back within you that you try to default if that's… I don't even know if that's the right word but.

[19:47] Nikki: No, I know what you mean because my being a childhood trauma, I had lived with it all my life with the darker side of things, and so when I started seeing things a little differently, it was my default was to step right back into all the pain and just stay there. And so I really had to fight against that, and there is a section that I put in the middle of all my other poems, that are poems that are kind of on the fence. They're kind of dark, but a little bit hopeful.

[20:14] Joel: Okay.

[20:14] Nikki: And so that was kind of the midpoint when I realized, “Look, even though I see darkness, my psyche is actually seeing hope right there.”

[20:23] Joel: Okay. So, can you remember one particular poem or an event, when you just decided that, you know what, I'm gonna bring light where there once was dark? I mean, a tipping point?

[20:38] Nikki: I think that right after I… There was a point right before I realized that I was almost completely healed from the post-traumatic stress and all that stuff, when I had confrontation with all of my past, and I hit a point where I was so sure that I could conquer this and a lot of it changed then. It started going more towards the hope side…

[21:00] Joel: I gotcha.

[21:01] Nikki: Even, yeah.

[21:02] Joel: Okay. Wow! What a tremendous story and thank you for sharing that. Pei, did you have something you wanted to add into the conversation?

[21:10] Dr. Pei: I'm good. Wow! Two of you are digging deep, peeling layers. Thank you, Nikki.

[21:18] Nikki: You're welcome.

[21:19] Dr. Pei: And I think… So much about this show when we say “ReLaunch: Personal Growth for Business Success,” is that a lot of times when we look at our professional success at work, at business, it has to come from this personal growth, and when we allow ourselves to grow in our confidence and allow time to heal, and then we actually can… It reflects in what we do and how we interact with others.

[21:54] Nikki: Oh, it really, really does. The more secure you are in yourself, it just opens the possibilities up to just about anything you wanna accomplish.

[22:02] Joel: Very well said. Community Orange Magazine, you need to check that out. Nikki Anne is our guest today. She's also the administrator for Writers World Poets Corner. That's on Facebook. So, you can look that up. Everyone knows how to look up groups on Facebook, and she also has the “Eat, Sleep, Write” podcast. I said that right, right?

[22:25] Nikki: Yes. And it's also a website where I'm poetry editor, yeah.

[22:27] Joel: That's right. You said that earlier. Fantastic. Okay. So, coming in for a landing here. Let's talk practicality and steps. Okay. A lot of the people that are in the ReLaunch nation: Aspiring poets, aspiring musicians, aspiring authors, what are some of the simple steps that people can start taking today to start putting wheels under some of their ideas and to start expressing themselves? For no other reason, just so they can get in connection with themselves. Where do you start?

[23:07] Nikki: I think, first and foremost, you have to accept yourself, faults and all. Because everything about you creates a whole and…

[23:15] Joel: Explain.

[23:16] Nikki: Well you have bad things about you, you have good. You have things that drive people crazy and yet you have things people love about you, those are all you. And so even though we need to have room for self-improvement, and we need to have room for growth, we also have to accept who we are and where we've been.

[23:31] Joel: Okay. What else?

[23:33] Nikki: And I think any artist doing that, once they accept that, they can push all of those feelings more openly into their work.

[23:42] Joel: Okay. Talk briefly for just maybe 30 seconds, pushing feelings into your work. I think that's a huge point, but I just wanna make sure people can get their head around this idea.

[23:53] Nikki: Yeah. Well, in the writing world, we call it “emoting.” It's when you can express the emotions through your words, and it's what makes you great. It's what will define you from just any writer out there to being a really amazing one. If you're writing something, you use those words that really dig deep into your own psyche and your own emotions and then people will feel it.

[24:16] Joel: One of the things that I recommend to people when I'm working with them in their business or life plan is use language that stirs you.

[24:24] Nikki: Yes.

[24:25] Joel: Use words to stimulate you. A lot of times, people will email me the plan that they're working on or the project that they're working on, and they ask my opinion on the language that they've chosen. And I read it thoroughly and sometimes I go, “Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Oh, I see what you're trying to say here.” But in the end, I say, “Well, you know what? It doesn't matter what I think. What do you think about it?”

[24:50] Nikki: Yeah.

[24:50] Joel: And that's usually a powerful question because then they start to play and wordsmith their own words, and as you know, that's really when the growth takes place.

[25:01] Nikki: It is. When you can find your passion and you can put a voice to your passion.

[25:05] Joel: Indeed. Oh, I love that. Voice to passion. Tweet it.

[25:09] Nikki: Yep.

[25:09] Dr. Pei: Yep.


[25:10] Joel: Pei, I'm pointing at you because you're the Twitter goddess in this studio.


[25:16] Joel: Okay, so, feelings to words. Okay, last thing, what people need to do. We've got two so far.

[25:24] Nikki: Last thing. Don't be afraid. Put yourself out there in every way possible. Don't be afraid of, “No.” Don't be afraid of people not liking what you're doing because you are you and that is special and unique. No one else can be that.

[25:37] Joel: Put yourself out there. Fantastic tips. And the best place… One of the best places to do it is on Facebook, Writers World Poets Corner. Nikki will welcome you there with open arms, and that is a wonderful community to get involved in.

[25:53] Dr. Pei: We'll be sure to put the link in our show note page.

[25:56] Nikki: That would perfect, thank you.

[25:58] Joel: We'll do that. Nikki, yeah, this has been a pleasure. You are welcome back here on ReLaunch anytime. Give our breast to… Our best, rather. I know what I've said. I know what I've said.


[26:11] Dr. Pei: I'm dropping my headphone here. Alright. I'm back.

[26:16] Joel: That too. But also give our best to Bruce Van Horn and “Going the Distance” podcast. You okay?

[26:23] Nikki: Yep. “Life Is a Marathon”, that is a great podcast as well. I did a session on that one.

[26:28] Joel: Fantastic. Nikki, have a wonderful, wonderful rest of your day. Take care.

Follow Nikki on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and visit her site.

Joel Boggess

Keynote Speaker | Corporate Trainer | Award-winning podcaster I help teams ignite their courage, take bolder steps, and get greater results. Together, we create possibilities that bring empowerment, meaning, and financial impact.

1 Comment

  1. Mohit on December 16, 2014 at 5:34 am

    Thanks for sharing the article about 189 Heal from Trauma and Follow Your Dream Again. Very interesting article. I liked it.

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