January 10, 2022 Season 2 Episode 17

Washington, United States: Linsay Hill tells a too familiar story of a childhood immersed in trauma, violence, and abuse. Early exposure to trauma and unhealthy behaviors created challenges into her adult life. But that also drew her to helping others. To break the cycle of generational trauma, she began therapy. Through therapy, she learned to honor her authentic self. She found a way of speaking life into those young people around her, sharing her true story to help them move forward, too.

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Linsay Hill  00:03

We're with the guardian ad litem. And the woman says, Where do you want to live? She goes to my oldest brother Ryan first. And Ryan says, I pick dad. And then middle brother Christopher goes, I'm picking dad. And I'm like, looking at my mom. And I said, oh, no. And I can see her crying. And I said, so she's gonna be alone. What's gonna happen to her, she's gonna be able to live, is she going to be able to survive without us? So I picked my mom. It wasn't my best decision. But I felt like I needed to help her without consideration of helping myself. And I don't believe an adult in those situations should ever put a child in those situations, because you're giving them the ownership of having to choose a parent.

Paul Meunier  00:56

Hello, I'm Paul Meunier, the executive director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association. And I'm a youth worker at heart. How lucky am I? I have the privilege to meet youth workers from around the globe and learn their stories and share them with the entire world. I'm glad you're listening because together we'll learn how their life experiences shaped their youth work. As you listen, I encourage you to consider how your experiences shape what you have to offer young people. Welcome to this edition of The Passionate Youth Worker.

Hi, everybody. For this episode, we're joined by Linsay Hill from the great state of Washington here in the United States. She is the community program supervisor with the Multi Service Center, a public speaker, and a mentor for young women. Her passion is teaching life skills and how to break the cycle of generational trauma and families. Linsay, we're happy to have you on the show. Thanks for being our guest.

Linsay Hill  01:57

It's great to be here. Thank you.

Paul Meunier  01:59

You're welcome. You're a hard worker, and you don't have a college education. But somehow you worked your way all the way into a leadership role in your organization. Where did this work ethic come from?

Linsay Hill  02:11

It started with my grandparents. They were from the south, my grandmother's from South Carolina and my grandfather's from Mississippi. And when they came to Washington state, after my grandfather retired from the army, he started a catering company. So I grew up around my grandfather, my grandmother and my uncle and my parents working all the time. And my grandmother was an international hairstylist, so she was running a college. And she was teaching folks how to do hair. And my grandfather was always in a shop. I started working when I was about eight or nine. And so I was washing dishes and or shopping with my grandmother. And that was also worse for me than actually working in the shop because I found myself in the shop all day 6am until 9:30 at night,

Paul Meunier  03:09

As a kid, did you like this? Or were you kind of resentful of the fact that other kids are out playing and here you are at nine years old working? What was that like for you?

Linsay Hill  03:18

I loved it. But I also didn't like it. It was kind of like that mixed emotion. I knew if I was going shopping with grandma, I would get meals right? So we would go into the buffet and I would get whatever I wanted or McDonald's and then my grandma's southern so like that for her was a snack. And then when we get home late at night, she'll be like, Okay, what you know, she makes these eight big things for dinner. And then all of a sudden, we'll go work out for like, 15 minutes "oh but, baby, we gotta go. We need some ice cream now." So then we eat ice cream. But my parents knew if I went shopping with grandma, I would come back with 9, 10 garbage bags full of clothes. For me, my brothers and my sister, we would always have clothes. So it was kind of like I didn't like it. I'd always hide in the store and go sit down somewhere while she shopped. But I also knew I was gonna get whatever food and meal you know, that came with it

Paul Meunier  04:12

Seems like that work ethic has stuck with you today. And I know some people probably say you work too much. Do you think they're right?

Linsay Hill  04:19

Oh, I understand. I have it's almost like an unhealthy addiction to work. I might start my day at nine or I might start at seven. And then my day will end at eight or nine. Even though I'm not a caseworker anymore. My phone's still always on so my kids need me. I'm still available.

Paul Meunier  04:38

What are your mom and dad like? Did they also have this really strong work ethic and work all the time?

Linsay Hill  04:44

Yes, it's kind of been passed down generation wise. My mom right now is working and she works a lot and she's always worked a lot. My dad actually died working himself, he almost worked himself to death in a way. When my parents divorced, he ended up having like five jobs. He would sleep maybe two hours a day. And then he would work all day. He'd work all night, and then he would sleep for an hour or two. And then he'd go back to work. And this continued, and he just didn't have anything left to work.

Paul Meunier  05:17

Why do you think your mom and dad divorced, what happened?

Linsay Hill  05:20

My mom and my dad, when they were together, I, from my perspective, I just thought they were like the best couple ever. They were amazing. We had family time, my dad traveled a lot, because he's in pharmaceutical sales. When we were ending our time in California, I was about in the first grade. And they started fighting more. When we moved back to Washington state. All of a sudden, my dad was like, we're getting divorced. There were a lot of arguments when they would argue he would punch holes in walls or a hole in the door. It just became something natural in our household. Until one night, my parents were arguing, my brothers were downstairs, I was upstairs. I heard them arguing. I was with my brothers. And they said, Hey, don't go upstairs, mom, dad arguing. I'm a kid, I'm like, I'm gonna stop this. And I go upstairs, and they're arguing. I just saw my mom and my dad's face. He was like, I need you to back up. And my dad did have some anger issues. And he hit my mom. He hit her so hard, she flew from where they were standing at one wall, and she flew across the room onto the bed. Then she held her face, he saw me, she ran out of the room, I think my dad just kind of blacked out. He didn't know who was in the room. He came closer to me, I thought he was gonna hit me. And I was like, dad, like, I'm crying. I'm like, dad, dad, he had his hand up, like he was gonna hit me. And then all of a sudden, it was like a turn off. And he realized that it was his daughter, and he put me to bed. And he said he was sorry. And that was the last time my parents were physically, really in the same space. And that was the end of their marriage. It wasn't necessarily the hitting, I think there was something deeper rooted into their fights. But there was inconsistency with the relationship, but it just bled over.

Paul Meunier  07:17

What were you thinking at that time? Were you worried about your parents? Were you thinking, what is this going to mean to our family? Can you recall that moment in time or those years? What was that like?

Linsay Hill  07:29

I thought it was my fault. I thought my family's relationship ending, I could have saved it. I thought it was my responsibility to save their marriage. As a child when your parents are getting divorced, or they're going through some traumatic trauma. Some people like the kids think they put it on themselves. My brothers did not they were like, I'm okay that they're separating. I was like, I need to save you. How can I save you, even though you're the adults, I felt like I needed to be that adult for our parents to be okay. And I didn't realize that it was not my responsibility.

Paul Meunier  08:05

Is that part of your personality to try to go in and help situations like that? I mean, now you're serving others, and you're trying to help people deal with family issues of trauma. That kind of was in you, from a very early age, right? And it's just as a part of who you are.

Linsay Hill  08:20

Right. I have this really unique way of supporting folks. But I also have an unhealthy way of supporting people. Someone can hit me or hurt me physically, emotionally, in my head is like, how can I help you? Because obviously, it was my fault that something happened. So how can I make this better? I was actually in a marriage for about five years. And my ex-husband cheated on me continuously, lied to me continuously. There's emotional and financial abuse. Every time he blamed me, I owned it. I owned every time he hurt me. And I kept saying, how can I help you help this, and I tried to save him. Before we got married, while we were married, even a little bit after we were married, because I thought it was my responsibility. And that also bleeds over to personal relationships with family members, it bleeds over to my relationship with my mom, and that bleeds over to, I need to save my clients sometimes. It just wasn't healthy.

Paul Meunier  09:23

It's interesting to hear you describe it that way is that you owned it and I'm thinking one of two things. One is it was insecurity within yourself or two, it was just an extreme sense of empathy, and concern and care for others. What do you think was the predominant factor in that?

Linsay Hill  09:39

Both. It was the empathy because I believe that my heart is gold. So I love helping people but also, it was a lack of self esteem, a lack of self respect, a lack of not knowing my own worth. I let folks hurt me. And I believed that love hurt for like the longest time I thought that's what love was supposed to look like. If love hurt, that means I know that they love me.

Paul Meunier  10:11

It's hard to envision you having that low self esteem or lack of confidence, because now you seem like such a confident, secure person. Where do you think all that insecurity came from? Why were you feeling that way?

Linsay Hill  10:25

It did start when I was a kid. When my parents were getting divorced. We had a guardian ad litem. That woman said, where do you want to live? And I was like, I don't know. I have no idea. My dad was kind of like, well, you live wherever you need to live. And my mom, near the time of their divorce, she said, If you don't choose me, I'm gonna be alone. And so oh, no, mom's gonna be alone. So we're in a room. It's me, my brothers, my sisters in her 20s At this point, so she's not really a part of it. And we're with the guardian ad litem. And the woman says, where do you want to live? She goes to my oldest brother Ryan first. And Ryan says, I don't pick that. And then middle brother Christopher goes, I'm picking dad. And I'm like, looking at my mom. And I said, oh, no. And I could see her crying. And I said, so she's gonna be alone. What's going to happen to her, she's going to be able to live, is she going to be able to survive without us. So I picked my mom, it wasn't my best decision. But I felt like I needed to help her without consideration of helping myself. And I don't believe an adult in those situations should ever put a child in those situations, because you're giving them the ownership of having to choose a parent.

Paul Meunier  11:47

It's a perfect example of how empathy, we normally think of it as just a wonderful gift tool. But we also know that empathy can be so hard on us, right? If we don't have checks on it, if we don't know how to think of ourselves from time to time. Have you been able to get maybe a better handle on the sense of empathy that you have for others, so that it isn't self harming to you?

Linsay Hill  12:11

Yes, therapy is an amazing tool. I recommend therapy to my clients, I recommend therapy to service providers, I recommend therapy to anyone who might be in any kind of service industry. It's not just going in there because you have a mental health concern. It's also to teach you tools and ways to support yourself when you're making hard and difficult choices. And also, for me, therapy was a way to connect with my younger self, and say that it was okay to not be okay. I'm not the adult in situations. My parents made decisions that affected me and my brothers. And it was a their sponsibility to take care of us. Now as an adult, like it, this just all happened, that epiphany happened maybe a year or two ago. So this is not like I've been living this truth for 37, 38 years. It really has only happened in the past few years. Now I'm able to recognize when I'm going either in some cycles that I've been trying to get out of for years, or I can also name my emotions. I don't do emotions, and I don't do vulnerability well. So with those two things, therapy has been able to help me pinpoint how to not be so empathetic in situations when they're manipulative.

Paul Meunier  13:41

You've been through a lot of trauma. I know there's other things that we just haven't had the time to get into. But did you ever think you were going to get out of that cycle of trauma and violence? It sounds like you are now and I'm so happy for you and wish you the best and hope that never comes back. But did you think it was ever going to be anything but what it was like, where love had to hurt?

Linsay Hill  14:04

No, I thought that this was what life looked like. After my parents divorce and living with one parent and living with another parent. As I got older, I got into relationships with men, and every relationship that I was in, it was basically me being with them, them hurting me. I've been sexually assaulted multiple times. I've had miscarriages by men, when they find out I'm pregnant they would give me so much stress on my body I would lose the baby. And then as I got older, I realized also that I was toxic myself. I ruined friendships that didn't need to be ruined. I chose to be angry about stuff that I didn't need to be angry about. And so I thought this was what life should look like is either me being really really angry or people hurting me. I thought this is what life looks like. And so I decided to go get help and focus on myself.

Paul Meunier  15:05

Linsay, thank you for sharing all those stories about yourself and your past, you've given us so much to think about and to think about what our young people are going through. A lot of what you described is what a lot of our young people are going through. So it's wonderful to hear from your perspective, what it's like when you get to the other side when you're not in that situation anymore. But we do have to take a short break. When we come back, I'd like to talk to you about how you finally got out of that cycle, and then also what it means to you when your youth work. So we'll be right back after this short break.

Jade Schleif  15:45

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Paul Meunier  16:33

And we're back with Linsay Hill, from the wonderful state of Washington. If you've never been there, I encourage you to go. I love visiting Washington state. Right before the break, we talked about getting out of trauma and going through therapy as a way to get to know yourself better. What did you learn about yourself? And what finally allowed you to say I don't have to be in those relationships anymore, I've got value outside of those relationships. How did you get to that point?  Do you think it was a any one moment or was it just a variety of things that helped you?

Linsay Hill  17:08

It was a multiple thing, a moment, before I decided to go to therapy. I had just lost one of my youth that actually he was like a youth of all of our case managers. He was everywhere. And he was always in my office, filling  my hot sauce. And one day, I got a phone call from a co-worker who he was actually in her program, that he hung himself. And then a co-worker's mom who was really close to a lot of our youth case managers, she passed away. And then the co-worker's mom who passed away, he actually ended up passing away, maybe two weeks later. In the midst of this, I just had a miscarriage. And then I was dealing with my ex-husband's infidelity. And I was also dealing with a situation where he had tried to siphon money out of his job, about $6,000. So it was like a multitude of things. And it was a realization that it was either going to be me, in my life, I was either gonna die, or I was going to live. So I made that choice, I made a choice to live. So what that looked like is I went to therapy. And I really started like unpacking where I am right now. And then I realized that I had been bleeding out for a very long time. And I was not a great youth worker, I was not a great partner. I was not a great sister, or a daughter, because I was so angry and so tired. So what am I going to do about it? Not just some therapy, I separated from my ex-husband. I worked five jobs during the pandemic don't know how I did it, but I did it. I got myself out of debt that my ex-husband left me in, I decided that I am choosing life over death. And when I choose a life, that also just didn't mean just my life. I chose life for my youth. I chose life for the people I work with. And so I started speaking in a way that was no longer just bleeding out. It was a way of speaking life into those who are around me and surround me.

Paul Meunier  19:15

There's other youth workers out there who are going through a lot of trauma while they do youth work. Certainly your story isn't isolated. What kind of advice or wisdom could you give to people who right now are working with young people but yet going through a lot of their own personal issues as well.

Linsay Hill  19:33

You're not alone. And I hope that the place that you work with, we talk about self care like it's a singular thing right? Or it's a buzzword. Self care is oh go get a massage or go get your nails done. Self care is calling out from work because you need a mental health day. Mental health is like you going into a co-worker's office. You don't work that day. You guys are just hanging out. You're talking, you're vibing, and you're really just spending time together connecting. We talk about all of these things like they should be just so isolated it is not an isolation. And then also, again, I'm really going to push therapy. The last thing I would say is find your tribe, who are doing the same work as you who can relate to what's happening, and who can understand what's happening, and also can understand the personal parts of what's happening in your life. Because you can't just do this work and then say, okay, I now get to go home and deal with the stuff there. It's going to be 24/7, you're doing both at the same time. Take care of yourself. And also I encourage you to eat, take a lunch break, walk away from your desk, go outside, and

Paul Meunier  20:40

Take a lesson from your grandmother.


Yes! Bring a lunch. I don't know.

Paul Meunier  20:47

So all of this stuff was going on, you're doing youth work? How did that impact your youth work? Do you think there was mistakes you made things you could have done better? Clearly, now you've got a clear focus and thinking well, do you have some regrets or missteps along the way?

Linsay Hill  21:04

I regret not taking care of myself sooner. And the reason why I say that is because I was not my authentic self. I loved on my youth, I loved on my kids. But I don't think they saw me they thought Linsay had it all together. You know, Linsay's married, she comes in with her Michael Kors, purse, she was always in these dresses, he hair might not be done one day, but you know, she looks like an adult. But what they didn't know that I was breaking and I was broken. So when I would talk to them, it wasn't the advice from somebody who can actually do the same kind of thing. Even working through that experience. It was me giving them advice. And then also, me not taking my own advice, me not living what I'm telling them to do. In some ways, I felt I was ingenuine, I wasn't doing the work, but I'm telling you to do it. So they're probably like, girl, no, I'm good. Like, I'm gonna, I'm gonna keep going out on the streets, and I'm gonna keep sleeping, who I'm gonna sleep with, or I'm going to go out and party and drink and drive, I'm gonna do all of these things. Because why would they listen to me if I am not living my authentic self, me not being vulnerable with them. I might tell them a story, like of how my life has been. But if they don't hear how I got out of it, or how they moved me to move forward, they're gonna be like, Well, that was just a story.

Paul Meunier  22:37

You're very courageous to say that. And to understand that there probably were things that you could have done better. And just, it just speaks to the importance of as youth workers, we have to have a good handle on ourselves before we can have a good impact or positive impact on young people. Now, you've got good relationships with your staff, your teammates, your young people that you work with, what one unique thing can you bring to this field, that is just yours, that is just you?

Linsay Hill  23:09

Myself. And I know that sounds kind of weird. But if you think about it, it's like, you come to work every day. It's not a piece of paper, it's not artwork. I'm a poet also. It's none of those, right? And it really is myself. If I come in here, and my heart is like, I'm for all of you, I want you to be better, I want me to be better. I'm never going to be 100%, you're never going to be 100%. But how can I support you while I'm supporting myself, because these youth they could see through you and they will see through you. I am not giving my 100% If I am not showing them my authentic self. If I am not showing them my vulnerability, then they are not going to be able to understand the impact of what I'm saying and what I'm doing. And also these babies need to know that they are loved 100%. Any youth that comes through my door, man, woman, these young adults, they will always okay, I love you. I'll see you later. And they look at me like wait, what? Did she just say I loved you. I will always say I love you because they need to know that they are loved. If they do not know that they are loved. They're going to find love and these places that are not going to love them back.

Paul Meunier  24:31

How do you want young people to remember you? What do you want them to think about, say five years from now when they think back about their time with you?

Linsay Hill  24:39

I want them to think back to my hugs. And I want them to think back to my laughter. I love to laugh. I just love it. I might make a corny joke, and they'll hold back the laughter but if they can remember my laughter that's, that's all I want. And also, you know, I give really good hugs, not like the pat on the back. If we're gonna hug, we're gonna give hugs. That also gives a moment of, oh, somebody saw me enough to actually touch me. I'm not this person who can't be touched or hugged or loved on, because we need those things.

Paul Meunier  25:14

Is there a common misperception people have about you, Linsay.

Linsay Hill  25:18

The common misconception about me is that my heart is not in the right place. Sometimes I have my computer screen up, I'm texting, my phone is ringing. I'm especially transitioning from being a youth worker to being a supervisor, I'm not available. And sometimes I need to remind myself, if there's somebody sitting there, shut it all down, because they need to see that I'm paying attention. And sometimes also, when my phone does ring, hold on, give me one moment, I need to take care of this. And then we'll go back to our conversation. But it doesn't stop me from being here and being present. It doesn't stop me from seeing you. I'm trying to balance all of these different things.

Paul Meunier  26:04

Linsay, thank you so much for being on the show and sharing your story, you certainly are a courageous person to talk about the things you talk about so openly and honestly. And I can see how your experience has really propelled you forward and helping other young people who might be living through similar circumstances that you did, to try to get out of that point in their life where love doesn't have to hurt, love can be love, and it could be joy. And it can be happiness, it can be a lot of different things. And I'm so grateful that you are willing to share that story. Because I think that you're not alone,like I said. And I know, we all know, there are people in the field doing youth work right now that are going through traumatic things themselves, you know, emotional abuse, physical abuse, things like that. And for you to just be bold and brave and put that out there. So other people can get inspiration to take care of themselves, is just remarkable. And I'm so grateful you decided to be a guest on the show and share those things.

Linsay Hill  27:07

Thank you, I enjoyed it.

Paul Meunier  27:09

That's great. Before we go, though, I always like to ask the guests what words of wisdom or inspiration would you like to leave with our listeners.

Linsay Hill  27:19

So there's two things, the parents that we have, they're people, and the things that they have experienced does get passed down. That's where generational trauma comes from. And so we need to remember that as an adult. Now I recognize that my parents were people. And then secondly, I want you to imagine like there's this hole. And all the trauma that you experience, the hole gets bigger and bigger and bigger. But you don't have to be in there by yourself. There's going to be always somebody with a hand out who's willing to build a ladder to help you get across or to help you pull you out of this hole that that has been created for you and also some of it by you. And someone's always going to love you through it. You don't have to do it by yourself. And so if you can be okay with and be vulnerable enough for someone to actually help you through it. They will. You don't have to do this by yourself. You never have to do this by yourself.

Paul Meunier  28:26

If you would like to share your passion for youth work, we'd love to spotlight you as a guest. If you have feedback about the show, please let us know. Just visit training.yipa.org That's training.yipa.org and click on the podcast. This podcast is made possible in part due to a generous contribution from M Health Fairview. I'm your host Paul Meunier. Thanks for listening to The Passionate Youth Worker.