The Confidential Story I Told 3 of My Clients Last Night

I’m in LA for work this week, so while I was here, I met up with a few of my local clients for dinner. I shared with them a confidential story, I normally keep to myself. In fact, I’ve only told it once before, on my 40th birthday, in front of 200 of my closest friends and family. There is still a lot of shame for me in telling this to you, but I realized over dinner with Katie and Natalie and Mary, that we are only as shameful as our secrets, and sometimes, the right thing to do is to break our silence, even when the truth is complicated and the cost of telling it can feel scary. It’s a long story, but there’s a pretty shocking pay-off if you stick with it to the end, so I encourage you to do that and then let me know what you think.

I had only been an exchange student for a few weeks in 1989 when the first death threat came.

I was 15 and I’d left an incense burning in my bedroom and I’d burned the bed. To punish me my host mother drove me to the edge of a cliff and stopped the car.

She explained that while she thought I was a good person, she now wasn’t so sure. She said the only way she’d know for sure is if I answered 20 questions correctly. She set a timer giving me 5 minutes.

“If you do it wrong,” she said. “I’ll know you are a shallow and immature girl and I’ll either send you home, or, who knows, maybe there will be a terrible accident.”

My mind raced as she handed me the clipboard with the questions. How can I answer all 20 questions in 5 minutes? Is she going to kill me?

I glanced at the purple mimeographed paper. They looked like essay questions. “This is impossible,” I thought to myself. “I’ll never get through all these questions in 5 minutes.” Resigned, I decided to read through all the questions.

“Did I think my family was better than hers?”

“Did I believe you can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl?”

“Was it true that I came to Australia to lose my virginity?”

My heart-rate quickened. How was I supposed to answer these? Everything felt like a trick. Should I get out of the car and make a run for it? But what about the dingoes? Then I reached the final question.

“Answer only question #1 but think about the rest.”

Question #1 was “Write your name in the right-hand corner.”

And so, thoughtfully and carefully, I did.

My host mother was overjoyed I did the “test” right. She practically leaped out of the right-side driver’s seat onto my lap.

“I knew it! I knew I was right about you. You are a good girl!”

I was invited back home and given a second chance. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and also confused and guilty. I had burned the bed, I’d written mean things in my journal, I wasn’t social with my host family and they were doing so much for me. I wrote in my journal:

“God, I am so bad at being perfect!!!!”

The second death threat came with a meat cleaver to my neck.

My host mother had been butchering a lamb while my host brother was outside shooting birds and lighting a live rat on fire.

I had been grounded and prohibited from going to be big football match because of my bad attitude and my propensity to kiss my older boyfriend in public.

After a morning of sulking, my host mother came to my bedroom and threatened: “The longer you are rude, the longer you will be punished.”

I conceded my host mom had a point – her house, her rules. And so I joined her in the kitchen. I sat down, back to her, pulled out a 17 Magazine and asked how she was doing.

Bloody cleaver in hand she walked towards me. Placed the blade to my neck and said “Don’t go hot and cold with me young lady”

My host brother walked in at that exact moment.

“What’s going on mom?” he asked.

She replied coldly: “You got one rat outside, I’m taking care of the one in here.”

I pushed back from the table hard. Grabbed my magazine and fled to the hills – dingoes be damned.

I escaped from Swifts Creek on the milk truck the next morning, never to return. But Swifts Creek had become a big part of me, it was the town where I narrowed escaped my own murder.

Life went on after my year as an exchange student. I went to college, got married, had a baby, and nearly 18 years later, I got an email from my host mother….

Dear Angela,

She wrote.

“I am writing to apologize for the way I treated you when you were an exchange student. When you lived with us, I did some horrible things to try to get you to leave.

I couldn’t tell you why. I couldn’t even tell myself. But I was afraid if you stayed, your host father was going to do something to you that I could never forgive myself for.

I was dependent on him and I couldn’t leave, but I had to get you out to keep you safe.

I know I was wrong and that it must have been scary for you. I just couldn’t think of any other way. I hope you will forgive me.”

I had lived nearly 20 years with the story that my host mother had tried to kill me. My host mother had lived that same period of time with the story she saved me from being molested by my host father. Were both things true? Were neither?

This was the magical moment I realized truth was subjective, and in any moment, we have the power to choose our thoughts. And when we choose our thought, we choose our own reality. I choose the reality my host mother almost killed me and made decisions according to that belief, I didn’t see any alternative interpretation, but it was there all along. In her own way, she was my guardian angel.

Do you have people like this in your life — angels you thought were devils or vice versa? Let me know in the comments.



44 thoughts on “The Confidential Story I Told 3 of My Clients Last Night

  1. Yes, in a unique way … prominent people who have little emotionsl intelligence and as the worldvrevolves around them all about them (they are Odychiayrusts snd Psyvjolohists to boot… at the cost of having a lovely united family thst once was not struggling as ego trumps all.

  2. Sometimes the truth hurts and we need a reality check. I have been going through some personal challenges at this time in my life and your story was as if the universe was sending me the answer I was needing to find. Truth is subjective and how we choose to view it changes our lives. I want to thank you for this gift of enlightenment I so humbly needed. Look forward to hearing from you soon.

  3. I love this very much, thank you so much for sharing. I am at a crossroads right now with so many things I am searching for guidance.

  4. Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing!

    She was willing to be seen as evil in order to protect you. That is a great service to you. And you served her spiritual growth by providing her an opportunity to be a good mother. You are to be lauded for that. You didn’t know it at the time, but you had chosen that very difficult task for yourself. The two of you were a great team.

    I have had many such people in my life. Most recently on my mind is a romantic interest who “betrayed” me. In reality, he freed me from the fear of betrayal (I experienced it, it didn’t kill me!) and he freed me to pursue a deeper and higher love.

    PS- I’m sorry you were afraid of the dingoes. They really only like to eat small prey, like rabbits (and babies).

  5. Awesome story. My story is not worth a penny, although it’s an expensive lesson and a valuable experience. I will tell you, one day.
    Yesterday, I’ve asked myself how to live life? My hand said: Share other’s load. My eyes said: Expand your vision. My feet said: Always be down to earth. My head said: Observe yourself. My height said: Aim as high as you can. My stomach said: Remember the hungry. The breeze in the air said: Be cool. My watch said: Value time. My soul said: Have hope.
    You are a very smart and genuine person Angela. I am really beginning to understand your motivations for the things you do.
    Lots of love, Gosha.

  6. We all have these very real and sometimes horrible memories of things we’ve done or were done to us while growing up. My story is not horrible in the situation the host mother found herself or the guest student while the mother could have just came up with another way of ridding the guest student, the kissing in public and the incense burning the bed are something most young people have experienced in becoming an adult.

    I was only 8 or 9, when I was visiting Joey at his grandmothers about a mile from my house in the farm lands of Southern New Jersey. We had corn fields everywhere, in fact there was a dairy farm and a family farm that grew and harvested potatoes, beats, lettuce and other crops.

    So Joey and I were classmates in elementary school and we were into GI Joe. In 1965, my father I found out later thought dolls for boys were not proper and that it could make a boy gay. Luckily my mother explained about the tanks, bazookas, and other killing toys that came with me playing GI Joe to calm his xenophobic fears. But I don’t blame Dad, he was brought up to believe what he believed and he To got to learn how to be open minded Remember, in America wevwere just getting receding up fighting in Vietnam and of course Dr King and his Civil Disobeduence was just becoming the new social cha MGR that was hard on many white men whether in the South or North. Racism existed, but that story will be told in a later comment.

    So I’m down at Joeys Grandmom and she’s having a tea party for some of her church friends and she told us to play in the garage, it was hot in July the corn was about 3 foot tall around her home, so playing in the garage was cool.

    Well we became a little bored with our pretend war and wanted to make it seem more realistic. Joeys grandfather had passed away the previous summer, so we had access to the gasoline in the red container. There was a lot, maybe a cup or two in a five gallon container. So Joey went inside and found a book of matches and Oli moved the tanks and accessories up on a wood bench that was almost as wide as the back wall of the garage.

    We then poured a little gas on a tank and a bunkered we made out of wood blocks. We put the weapon that would shoot out fire on one of the GI Joes and lit a match not on the tank but a few inches away when the tank, bunker and top of the work bench burst into flames.

    Everything was pretty cool until we realized the fire had moved to the wall next to the window was open to let the hot breeze flow threw the garage. I didn’t mention this, but Mrs Walton had backed her car out for us to play and the garage door was open. Well we learned that fire, a wood bench where Jiey’s Grandfather had worked on his lawn equipment engines had some residue of combustible substances.

    The next thing I nknew we had no way to put the fire out. Joey took off running through the corn fields but I was going to try to put the fire out. I went into the house and asked for two glasses of water.

    While waiting for Joey’s grandmother to say wouldn’t we like lemon ade instead, which I said no, water would be fine. Of course Mrs Walton couldn’t take no to the lemonade and gave me two glasses with lots of ice. All this time waiting to get back to the garage, allowed the fire to now be charring the 2X4’s above the table and those two glasses of lemonade, well they did nothing.

    I have no idea where Joey was and the fire was getting to be out of control, black smoke was blowing from the back wall out through the garage opening. I ran back to Mrs Walton, told her we would like more lemonade and I went back in garage to see it was futile. I threw those glasses of lemonade at the back wall and now knew I needed Mrs Walton’s help.

    I now run in overly excited and this time Joey’s grandmother knew something was wrong. I had to tell her what we had done. I should have not wasted the time giving her the preliminaries to how the fire started and told her there was a fire on the work bench and back wall.

    Her guest got up and rushed to the garage. One person went for the garden hose but it wasn’t long enough to go to the area of the fire but he could seat to spray the wall. Mrs Walton called the fire department which at that time was an all volunteer fire house.

    Luckily the hose water kept any of the fire from spreading but it did burn enough of the wall, Black sooty smoke was up on the rafters.

    While waiting for the fire truck Mrs Walton asked where Joey was, had he been hurt but I said he ran out into the corn field. I didn’t think he was burned but he was really scared.

    She told me to go find him and tell him everything is ok, to come back so she knows he is ok.

    By the time I found Joey, the fire truck put the rest of the fire out and helped clean up garage. Volunteer firemen were always helpful especially with elderly residents.

    When we got back one of the firemen took us aside and explained how lucky we were to not getting burned and that the damage while big to 8-9 year olds was minor. Joey’s grandmother had us come to the porch and sit down and think about what we had done and what should we had admitted to at the very beginning of the fire.

    Twenty years later while visiting my own grandmother, she had said she had seen Mrs Walton at the grocery store and had tod her I was coming for a visit. Mrs Walton said she would love for us to come by for lunch which we did.

    While having lunch I brought up that fire and the look of amazement on my own grandmothers face told me she was hearing that for the first time. Mrs Walton said to us both that she never told a sole. She thought the whole experience had taught Joey and I a lesson about playing with Fire. When I came back home I asked my parents if they had known about the fire? They said no. I was amazed that Mrs Walton and actually the friends of her never mentioned anything that would have, should have gotten back through the gossip channels in our small town.

    What did I learn twenty years later was just as important as what I learned that day of the fire. You don’t have to beat up on young people when they make a mistake, that keeping the situation between the people involved in worth a lot in creating trust.

  7. If your host mother knew that her husband was capable of molesting other women or girls, why would she take on host kids and then turn around and make them want to leave? It makes no sense. She should not have taken host kids on at all.

  8. First off, your host mother was/is crazy and there are better ways to protect a child than to threaten her life. I mean, how about not even taking exchange students? Or dealing with the real problem? Angela, I am glad that you were a capable and a strong woman to leave on your own at such a young age. That is very impressive. I am also thankful that you learned a lesson about perspective and reality and that you have chosen to turn this horrible experience into a positive force in your life. I’m certain that the recovery of such an ordeal may take you a lifetime and I am also certain that others will be able to relate to your story. My hope and faith are that the horrible things we humans do to one another (and helpless animals in this case) CAN stop. That the cycle of violence CAN end. That our intolerance for these behaviors mixed with love and understanding will change the influence of evil in the lives of victims. As long as people are brave like you and share strength with one another, I believe we can accomplish great things despite all the crazy people in our lives. Blessings and Love!

  9. I agree that we choose our reality. And we never really can understand someone else’s. Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. Often a terrible event has later revealed itself to have been perfect, in order to move—OR PUSH—me toward something.
    It’s almost like some people unknowingly ‘sacrifice their dignity’ to repel us toward that push.
    Thank you for sharing this amazing story. You inspire us to share our Truths. What a gift!

  11. I am in a similiar situation…I see the people I am living with as saving my life and keeping me from harm by allowing me to deal with myself in their garage. They are my spiritual family and has helped me tremendously but I have been disrespectful, untrustworthy and dangerous to their livelihood. I am starting to realize that love looks all kinds of ways and that there really are good people in the world that truly care.

  12. Wow, Angela–what a horrendous experience, and I applaud you for sharing it. Yes, I have a story of a devil who was a lifesaver. My father. Both my parents were highly authoritarian. My mother, in her own very strict way, had loving intentions. My father, however, was a cold, cruel man whose primary goal in life was to break my spirit. I loved my mother so much that I gave myself up to be a good girl so that I would be loved by her, but I stood up to my father, always, because I hated him. What I realized many decades later, in writing about my relationship with my father, is that his emotional torture of me, and my standing up to it, actually kept the spark of Me alive.
    There is a footnote to this story, too, which is that I have spent a lifetime healing these conflicting parts in me, what I call the Good Girl and the Rebel, and the gifts from that healing work are boundless. The good girl is also the healer; the rebel the artist. The title of my masters thesis is The Marriage of the Missionary and the Movie Star! And the story goes on….

    1. OMG! What a story! Thank you for sharing it with all of us! I admire you! I have so many stories that I want to write about! I just don’t know where to begin. Regina

    2. Im sorry that host Mother should have never taken you in if her husband was a person that was possibly a danger to a young woman.
      The driving to the cliff and a meat clever to scare you to death. These were traumatic experiences. And threatening a person’s life is highly illegal.

      And 20 years later she says she was trying to scare you into leaving. Then why be so happy when you answered the questions correctly. Correctly???? Just more mental abuse. She should have been arrested or in a home for the mentally insane.

  13. All suffering comes from misperception, and that is why it is always important to look as deeply as we can into what our life presents us with. The most supportive thing we can do is work through our own emotional entangments around events in our life where we have gotten stuck. Once we acknowledge, express, and release the emotional attachments to an incident or disturbing pattern we can have a clearer view of it and be able to move beyond being at the affect of it. Yes, she was a crazy bitch, yes, you were in danger from her and her husband (consider her jealousy etc.), and yes you were wise to get your ass out of there. Telling the story to others brings it out of the secret closet, and embracing that 15 year old child, as a loving mother would, will let her feel safe enough to feel, express, and heal. This allows that lost part of you to reintegrate with you, which is the process of becoming whole. This is the process of fully accepting and unconditionally loving yourself. This is accessing your power and becoming more conscious and aware. This is a note of love to you from me…

  14. Like others, I have experienced both “angels and devils” over the many years I have lived in this human body. In retrospect, my “take away” was the same for I learned, grew and became who I am today because of the events set in motion by those I encountered.. Many times, I didn’t understand the choices made by others and realized they, too, were confused by my choices. The old saying, “if I knew then what I know now, things would have gone down differently” was not an option for I had no way of really knowing the impact my choices would have on others or there choices on me.

    There were times of sadness when I realized others could not know what was in my heart that moves me to the choices and actions I take. Then I remember, I don’t always know the heart of another nor their reasons until they have fully played out…sometimes years later.

    Today, I simply tell my stories as a pathway for exploration and self-discovery for myself and for others. Each moment we share in intimate “conversations of a different kind,” we find that we all have common experiences told with different words. Our common thread becomes the moment we connect intimately with one another and find that we are not alone.

    Your story, Angela, reminded me of some difficult experiences from my own past and reminded me, once again, that I am whole, I am here and I am not a victim of my experiences…rather one who has risen above the illusion.

  15. Angela, I thank God that your life was spared!!! Your experience was a real life nightmare. You are such a brave person and deserve to be in the position to share your truth!!

    That being said, I have not in my 55 years of life met someone that I thought was a devil, turn out to be an angel. I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father. His behavior taught me very early to “read” a room when you enter it. That gift of discernment has only grown sharper as I have gotten older. I am open to the fact that people can change….but they rarely do so. A lady that I worked with several years ago said to me…”Leopards don’t change their spots.” I thought a lot about that advice, and that has been largely true. You should never trust what someone says…watch what they do….that tells you what’s inside.

    I am so glad that you are here on this planet after such a horrendous experience; healthy, strong and bringing life to others!!!

  16. OH Angela! What a traumatic experience! You must have been terrified! Separated from your tribe, in another country!!! I am SO happy you escaped!!! Sadly, your story is not the first of its kind I have heard in my years. Not all of them end as well as yours. But one thing always rings true and you said it beautifully, “we are only as shameful as our secrets.” I am not saying that we should all tell our secrets, but I do believe there is liberation to be found and felt in opening our mouths so the trauma can take flight away from us. We all have monsters scratching away at our insides trying to get out. I am so proud of you for facing your fear and opening your mouth. I hope your shame has flown away with the story because regardless of the truth between your host mother and father, NOTHING you could have ever done could merit such terrible treatment. You. Are. Free. Now. God’s blessings on your continued success! Cheers to letting monsters fly! Away!

  17. Wow! As I read your story I realized there have been many times in my life that I have never thought about the perspective of someone hurting or helping me. Only my own. This is a fantastic example of perspective. Thankyou for sharing. I do hope this has healed you with the different knowledge.

  18. Holy shit how crazy. Reading your host mom’s letter…how do you know she’s not being manipulative now? The behavior she displayed was classic push-pull technique to break a person down. You manipulate a person into feeling bad (like you noted in your journal) and then rewards them being ‘correct’.

    My guess is that this is more of the same. She didn’t have a Come-to-Jesus moment, she isn’t feeling remorseful, she’s just doing more of the same manipulation; if you ever meet her again she’ll probably still that same cleaver at the ready.

  19. Ì have a number of people and experiences that have realized me and for which I am currently receiving treatments…my scars have been both physical and mental…
    There are probably a number of books that I could write drawing upon those experiences but fear exposing myself and my past further… maybe I should write fiction.
    Thank you for sharing Angela
    Warm hugs,

  20. I was an exchange student too..with a wonderful family whom I am still in touch with over 40 years later. Much has changed. Especially me.
    So sorry yours was tramatic. I hope you have reconnected with ‘mom’…

  21. Yes! On my pathway in being a seeker of spiritual truth, I have found the double edge sword of valued meaning in most all situations especially those that are challenged and charged. In fact my greatest growth has come from balancing the opposition within my self. One of my teachers shared an old saying “Everything appears the the presence of its opposite”. Personal truth is revealed through belief and choice, the only way to live ones truth is to be sovereign in ones concept. Relationship of self and other makes for a wonderful playground to experiment with. Heart is home, love is the golden key that unlocks all doors. Love and honor thy self, and from here all else unfolds…

  22. I Use to Hate My Grandfather
    I disliked my grandfather growing up. People had to bow to him or kiss his hand when they entered his domain. But, I never did. He was Texas rich with a net worth of 450 million dollars in 1990.
    I use to say that he made Scrooge look generous. If I picked fruit to eat from his 60,000-acre farm at the age of 7, he would complain that he was going to go broke. He treated the men preferentially. Women were to be seen and not to take initiative in the presence of men. Unless they were serving them.

    It wasn’t until I did constellation work on my family- the Hellinger method where someone stepped in as my grandfather that I understood him. For the first time. I saw the world from his perspective. He felt a tremendous amount of responsibility for his entire family, making me realize that my chosen profession as an entrepreneur and my strong family values are influenced by him. His sexism makes me a stronger person, helping me define how I want my life to be and where I want to live and my loyalty to my family, was modeled by him. .

  23. I was terrorized by my mom’s psychological instability and frequent outbursts of violence, literally occasionally incontinent at the sound of her entering the room. As a very young child I thought there must be something wrong with me orelse why would she treat me this way. For almost 40 years I read every book, listened to every tape and attended every seminar I could on the subject of self improvement to figure out and the basic flaw in me.
    She came to visit me in August 2005, decades after I had healed the vast majority of my resentments for her, and as I saw her coming off the plane I was absolutely struck, ‘this woman is crazy’, it was never about me! I was shocked, relieved, freed but, also disappointed with the decades and money invested in solving the question of what is wrong with me when there was never anything wrong. I decided that all work wasn’t wasted. I’ve learned so much about how humans grow up and develop their world view and then become trapped by it that I have a powerful gift for so many others.
    I am deeply grateful to my mom for loving me relentlessly the only we she knew.

  24. I believe we have to worry more about the devil in disguise , Both the housemother and you went with your instinct to save a life, at times what seems to be a reasoning is lost in meaning. You both escaped on that day for the right reasons. I have called this outwitting someone for their own good. Pure goodness embraced both of you on this day. The stir of such a story opened our eyes to many new questions.

    Thank you for sharing it with us

  25. Thank you Angela for sharing your story. That crazy host ! I guess there wasn’t a screening process for potential hosts or she would not have passed the test. She is an evil controller, my unprofessional opinion, jealous of your success, your intuition is psychic. I would not give her the time of day. Amazing escape.

  26. Very interesting. I went through a very similar situation, however the location and outcome was different. I was also in high school. It happened in my home town, with an exchange student who was being molested by her host father and then he molested me during a sleep over. I spent my entire life since then hating to be touched while I slept and that included hating to be touched by my trusted husband and partner of 40 years! I finally unpacked and resolved that trauma over 35 years later using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) with a practitioner like myself. Now I am committed to helping other women resolve birth trauma and have written my first book GIVE BIRTH A CHANCE with your expert guidance through THE AUTHOR INCUBATOR.

    It’s interesting how we attract the perfect Angels into our lives just at the right moment and the gift keeps giving.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Blessings & Peace

  27. Wow, that’s an incredibly powerful story. So many layers!!! Thanks for sharing that.
    How sad that she felt the only way to protect you (and herself) was to inflict terror upon you (which was what she was trying to prevent) and to cause you to have a very traumatic experience, (which I’m sure caused some level of PTSD), which is also what she was trying to prevent.
    And what unconscious / subconscious issues and demons of her own she harbored, to find herself in such a predicament to inflict pain upon someone else because she was afraid of other types of pain (including her own).
    This is a prime example of how we continue to pass along and project our own pain/trauma onto others (even unknowingly / subconsciously) until we’re ready to face and heal our own traumas.
    I would say that even though it took a long time, it’s a miraculous thing for her to have come to the awareness that she still wronged you and that she apologized for it. ♥️
    I hope you were able to also heal that traumatized part of yourself that was greatly affected by incident. And to find forgiveness for her.
    This is how we raise the consciousness of the planet!!
    By healing our wounds!! ♥️♥️♥️

  28. Yes! Gracious. Too many to recount. As Rumi said, “Welcome every guest.” I believe each and every one has a teaching for us, is being delivered for a growth or expansion of some kind. That what happens in our lives is done for us, not to us. It’s all a matter of perspective, reframing, and reclaiming, as you so eloquently said!

  29. Reading your story was like a suspense movie, I was wondering how you must have handled a terrible situation, but you did by opening up to others. Sometimes in life we have different people that affect our lives and soul with torment and we just wonder why his is happening. I just think the most difficult situations in our lives its for a purpose to help others, you grow as a person and find every opportunity to just LOVE. Wow!
    I am glad that even if it took 20 years, you found, why me? All along it she was a guardian angel.
    I am sure you will be guardian angel too. Thank you for sharing.

  30. Omg, what a powerful and impactful story! Thank you for sharing and for showing up so courageously and vulnerable. I like what you wrote “the truth is subjective and in any moment we have the power to choose our thoughts.” It’s about choices we make based on our thoughts and we create our reality, I believe. Yes, I also have people/angels in my life I thought they were devils and I also experienced the opposite. People I thought they were angels and turned into something else.

  31. I have been the devil in someone’s life, someone’s family I hurt because of a belief I took on when “the devil” in my life confused me. This story has immediately allowed me to access healing from that odd role, so bless you for sharing it, Dr. Angela.

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