Can you heal from abuse? What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day. And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough. Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation. But it doesn’t have to be a five year process either. Millions of other survivors around the worlds entire lives have been impacted by their narcissist. Yours doesn’t have to. To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.
Marissa: Hey guys, welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And for the month I wanted to speak with champions, people who have overcome their abuse and are now working to change the world for survivors to help them become the champions of their stories. I want to celebrate taking our lives back and hopefully encourage others to do the same. With us today is my dear friend, Nana Ponceleon. She was born in Venezuela and before she had the courage to do what she really wanted. She got a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in computer science from Pace University in New York. She worked in sales and marketing in several companies, including Microsoft for over 11 years. Today, she’s a full time actress in New York. She’s worked in over 27 films, short films, features and TV shows, and many commercials and plays since graduating from Stella Adler. She is passionate about the human spirit has created a project which the vision is to create a world where women and men collaborate, cooperate and co-create their shared world together called Act Feminine. Act Feminine today is more focused on helping women but it will evolve in the future to be all inclusive. Thank you so much for being here. Nana, I’m so excited to talk to you.
Nana: Oh, not as much as me. Thank you for inviting me and thinking of me!
Marissa: Anytime. So Nana, and I met at a Tony Robbins retreat. And we instantly clicked and fell in love and I adore her. I watch her Act Feminine videos on YouTube. All the time. Every time they’re on every time she puts out a new one. I’m probably like the fifth person to watch it.
Nana: You’re so sweet. Thank you,
Marissa: Of course. And thank you for being here today and sharing your story. You were telling me before we started recording that this is the first time that you’re publicly sharing your story, right?
Nana: This is absolutely correct. It’s like coming out of the closet for me.
Marissa: How do you feel right now?
Nana: Nervous. Excited, but nervous,
Marissa: Understandable, just know that you are sharing with a supportive community. And we’re here to empower you. And I’m really, really honored that you chose me and Healing From Emotional Abuse to be you’re coming out party.
Nana: Well, I guess the title is perfect for me today.
Marissa: Well, I’m glad you’re here. So let’s get started. Would you mind telling us a little bit about your story, or as much of your story as you’re comfortable sharing?
Nana: Okay, so I, as you said, I’m from Venezuela, but I moved to Baton Rouge because that’s where my dad went to school at LSU. And I have deer. And you know, my mom’s family there who moved when I was very little, and I decided to go to LSU as well. I met this man, we got married at 19 years old. I was a baby, and he’s from Venezuela, too. So I moved to New Orleans because my boyfriend, your husband at the time was working there. And four months into the marriage, we got married December. And in April, I walked into my apartment coming back from school and this man was inside the apartment. Initially, he said that, you know, where the money is, it looked like a robbery. But eventually, you know, it turned into a rape. And my life just got… I don’t even know what the word is. But I guess transformed, changed in an instant. It became a before and after. And I’m not married to my husband at the time anymore. Which to me it’s sort of understandable because, you know, four months into a marriage, you get raped inside your house. It just my whole life became a full big mess. I didn’t tell anybody at the time. I didn’t tell my mom. My father was the only one who found out actually because, strangely enough, which might not be strange for those people who believe in this things. But he called when the police were at my apartment and it was just total chaos in the apartment. They were taking prints and you know, the police flooded the place afterwards to investigate and he called right at that moment. So it was inevitable for him to find out but I didn’t share it with anybody. And I can’t tell you that I was ashamed. I think I was numb more than anything, and probably that’s what made me not want to share it. Because I literally didn’t know what was going on. It was like this weird feeling of being here but not being here. I don’t know. I don’t know if I’m making sense.
Marissa: Oh, that makes total sense. It’s like it’s, um, dissociation.
Nana: Yes that I think that’s the perfect word. Yes, you’re totally correct. Which I can do very well, you know, and I think that was my survival mechanism.
Marissa: That makes sense. And it’s super common. A lot of people dissociate especially during intimate moments, or moments of chaos and confusion. They just like leave their body.
Nana: Yes, that oh my god. It’s so funny that you say, well, not funny. Amazing that you say that? Because after the rape, he was still in the apartment. And well, I was totally, you know, I was tied up and he knew what he was doing. And I remember thinking in an instant, that with the most peaceful feeling, which was the weirdest thing. I remember saying to God, God…. you can take me now. But it was so peaceful though my reset, it was so strange, because it really was, like, I was feeling an out of body experience. Like, literally went into this place of total peace, which is so weird. And it wasn’t a white tunnel. It wasn’t that kind of thing. You know, no white tunnel or anything. It actually it was very black, to, you know, everything I saw, or I felt what was in my mind and someone who I love dearly, Also from the Tony Robbins community, She’s an amazing, amazing woman, Jessie Child, she said to me that is exactly what you’re describing, that you felt is exactly what we strive for, through meditation. And through, wanting to go into this oneness sensation, because I literally felt like my body was not there. And I was in this black space, or everything was like, suspended, and I felt nothing. But the nothing wasn’t like, it was peace. And, and that’s why I kept saying, God, you know, you can take me now you can take now. But you know, it’s, okay. It’s done.
Marissa: That’s so scary. You know, so you were totally at peace with that.
Nana: But with leaving. With going. With dying
Marissa: Yeah. And I’m sure that’s a relatable feeling for a lot of people, especially in something that’s as intense or violent.
Nana: Yes. And, and I think also, because also, I didn’t know what was going to happen, because he was still in the room. And I didn’t know if he would kill me if he would rape me again, if I had no idea because I couldn’t see. So it was this feeling of I don’t want to go through this again. I’d rather die.
Marissa: Thank you so much for sharing that. It’s such a tender, sensitive moment, and thank you for being so vulnerable with us. I just think it’s so important that people know, that after such a traumatic situation, that there’s a myriad of ways people feel it’s not like everyone immediately goes to telling people or anger. You’re human, you know, so everything you experience is so personal. And thank you for being so candid with us. That’s, you know, really, really helpful.
Nana: Well, no, no, my pleasure, you know. If, if I’m going to come out, I’m going to come out.. And, to me, now that you say anger, you know, that anger has been an emotion, not readily available to me through this process. It came and went. And that is very strange, because when I used to think of rape, I would think, okay, the emotion is anger, you know, the natural one, and that the one that you would live in all at all times. And it wasn’t for me, but I think it was my ability to dissociate. I was very good at that ever since I was a girl actually, and this has nothing to do with the rape. Whenever something emotional and stressful came into my life. I was able to sort of detach and literally go into this place of feeling nothing. And I think it came handy in this situation, you know? I talked to an expert from Columbia University here because I worked in a project, I was blessed to work on a project on grief therapy, though it’s not for rape victims is for parents who have lost children. I asked her and I said, listen, there are parts and there are things I don’t remember and I literally don’t remember. Like, no matter how I try, I don’t remember. And she uses in grief therapy, taking the parents through the whole process of remembering every single detail. And I said, Okay, so maybe I’m not gonna totally heal, if I don’t go through that process. And she said, and I’m sharing this because this might help some people, you know, I don’t know. She said, No, because it’s different. A parent loves their children, they adore them. And when they lose the children and forget parts of what happened and the life, they feel twice as guilty, because they feel like they’re betraying their children by not remembering. So the remembering process is a healing process.
In your case, you really don’t want to do the work of remembering. And if you truly don’t remember, and you’re okay with it, and it doesn’t bother you, then let it be. That to me was like, Oh, what a relief.
Marissa: Thank you so much for saying that. That’s so important. A lot of people I’ve found doubt themselves and doubt that it really happened and question whether or not there, you know, they’re really a victim because they don’t remember some or any of what happened to them. But it’s a trauma response, fight, flight freeze, and then tonic immobility, some people freeze, and then they freeze it out, and they dissociate, and some people will fight back. But not a lot of people will fight back, you know, and that’s not, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a victim. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, it just means that your brain is protecting you by shielding out those memories.
Nana: Totally, totally. And that’s exactly what happened to me. And when I talked to Katherine, she said, perfectly normal. And you shouldn’t make an effort to try to remember, you know, I was taking to hypnosis session or a couple, trying to because I saw him very briefly, I walked into the room, he had closed the shades, the room was dark, and he just jumped on me. So I saw him actually just the second and we had dark Rayban glasses covering his eyes, which is very smart, because eyes are very distinct. And they took me to hypnosis sessions to try to remember and sort of freeze his image. So I could do the portrait again, that they could draw the portrait again, based on what I was seeing during hypnosis. There was no way they could take me past the door. Even under hypnosis, every time they would bring me in the room. I said, you know, I’m walking down my hallway and I get to the door of my room, and there I stopped and they go like, Okay, so what else? What’s next? I just, I never was able to make that next step, and walk into a room. So it was impossible. We couldn’t do it. Not even under hypnosis. So that’s how much you shield yourself.
Marissa: Yeah, your brain knows what’s best for you. And if it doesn’t want you to remember if it blocked it out, you know, maybe there’s a reason for it.
Nana: Yeah, absolutely, though, and this is something I’m going to share. And I’m going to jump to the movie that we’ve talked about. Because I decided for those who are listening to this and don’t know, obviously, I decided to make a movie, after many, many years. And the reason I made I decided to make the movie and this is also first, I was on a set of a show called the Perfect Murder. And I’m in the scene and I am the killer. So these two cops are supposed to arrest me. And you know, we’re on one of the breaks. And we’re talking and they say that they were real NYPD detectives, and I’m like, Oh my God, you know, you’re acting, and you’re doing this. And you know, they say yes, because sometimes they use this also as advisors, because these are recreations of true stories. So they need, you know, the police to verify that what they’re showing is the way things are done. So we started talking about police and all of a sudden, we talk about police corruption. Low and behold, the police that investigated my case came as one of the most corrupt in the country. And all of a sudden I went like, Oh my God, because and I’m not going to share the whole details. But weeks after the rape, I’m driving to school and I see him without, like I said giving too much details. The police told me that it couldn’t have been him. He wasn’t there at that time. Because then I’m like, Okay, why? How do you know? Well, he’s an undercover cop. So it couldn’t have been.
I am 100% sure that it was him. Same hair, same Rayban sunglasses. You’re around my neighborhood. And when these guys are telling me this, I went like, Oh my god, this is what happened. And at the time, I had no representation. It was just my husband and meet two young people who were from Venezuela. And why would we doubt what the police are telling me. And I just let it be and moved to New York to live a better life because I literally couldn’t live there. It was, too tough and for me, different than sometimes for other people, of course, you know, I just couldn’t walk into my apartment, the fear was being inside the house instead of outside of the streets. That is not a good feeling.
Marissa: No, I can’t even imagine it’s supposed to be your safe haven. And it’s where you’re feeling the most vulnerable.
Nana: Oh, it was terrible. I had to buy an emotional support dog. I bought a German Shepherd at the time. And until like, yeah, until I heard Max barking, I wouldn’t go in. I had to check everything in the apartment under the bed and the closets. And before I could sort of relax
Marissa: In such a system, you know, that, that? It’s so uncomfortable and feeling that fear in your home? I couldn’t imagine.
Nana: Yeah, it was that’s why you know, it’s like your life just goes inside out in an instant. It’s like, relationships, change. Your relationship with the environment changes, everything.
Marissa: So let’s talk a little bit about the movie you’re putting out, you’re putting out a short film, you wrote it, you’re acting and you’re co-producing it. And it’s about your story.
Nana: Right? So this short film is just going to be I’m calling it, you know, people call it a teaser. Because the movie that I want to make is the long, the feature film. This one is just to start creating awareness on this. And what happens to a person when they become obsessed is, and it’s a little bit about justice, but it’s also about healing. It’s about her obsession of reopening the case, that drives her a bit crazier, and how that doesn’t necessarily heal you. Though, of course, justice is justice. And it has to happen. It’s not the healing, what I found is that it’s not what heals you, you know, I can put him in prison and still suffer every day. So it for me, it was like a reveal. So this short film is more focused on that, because I initially got very upset and very angry. And I wanted to reopen the case. And I’m not going to explain all the details of what that entitles. And whether I’m doing it or not, because it’s very easy today, they have my DNA. And I have a suspect identified. So it would be it’s very, very easy. You know, you do a test period, then. So anyway, I got very angry and then it just dawned on me that whether he’s in jail or not, my process is my process. And the healing comes from another place, from within.
Marissa: 100%. People who have not gone through this will often say, well, you know, if you put them in jail, or if you make a report, it’ll make you feel better, because you’ll know they’re behind bars and they can’t hurt other people. And while that’s 100% true, it’s not going to heal anyone, because we the crime scene is our bodies. You know, it’s not like an end. For you it was in your house. So not only are you living in a skin body that makes you feel uneasy and uncomfortable and vulnerable, but you’re taking that body and putting it in a home that also makes you feel uneasy, uncomfortable and vulnerable. So wherever this person resides, whether it be jail, six feet under or next door, you will have the same problem and the same process to heal because that person did what they did. And it is still affecting you day to day.
Nana: Correct! Absolutely correct. Because even if he would have gone to prison the next day, I would have had to go through the same process of healing. And that is so important for I think for victims of any crime actually, that healing is from within. If we focus too much on the outside, searching for the healing outside by putting them in jail by revenge by hate by all of that it only makes it worse.
Marissa: Absolutely. That anger just fuels. It fuels the negativity and it’s toxic.
Nana: Yes. And like you say, of course they deserve justice. Of course they do they deserve to be behind bars. Yes. I mean, no question about it. But don’t put your expectations that once that happens, you’re healed. That’s the only thing.
Marissa: So what did you do to help you heal? You got an emotional support animal, you moved. But was there anything else that you did?
Nana: Oh, I have done throughout the years, many things. I initially went to a rape crisis group, which helped a little bit. And eventually I said, you know, I can’t do this anymore. To me, it was too much. I sort of felt that I was visiting that every day, and it to me it didn’t work as well. I mean, there were ladies there who had been going for quite a while. It did help a lot. And this I have to say in Releasing the initial release of just explaining, saying, sharing with other women that were supportive that that helped a lot. However, it got to a point where, okay, I Released it. I’ve said it a million times, I’ve described what I remember, but it was hurting me too much. So I stopped then after a couple of years, well, after I graduated Actually, I moved from there to New York, like I said, to start a new life. I graduate into graduating here in New York, and I went back home. After graduation, I started therapy there, my mom had gone to therapy for her divorce, thank god bless her. And I started with that therapist, it took me six months before I started talking about it in therapy. It was group therapy. First time I ever heard of something like that. Powerful, powerful kind of therapy. And six months in he says okay, Nana so when are we going to talk about this? I’m like, “Yeah, well, maybe next session, but this problem with my mom, and my soon to be ex-husband, blah, blah, blah.” And he just took a sweater out of his neck that he always had started to wrap it around, and just jumped on me. And he created a like, he opened, he connected me with the moment. He just jumped on me as if it was attacking me. And I just couldn’t breathe. It was horrible, but it was the only way to get me started on talking about it.
So I started working on it there, I ended up getting a divorce. Because like I said, you know, it was a marriage just couldn’t survive that it was too much. So I got a divorce and then but I got better throughout through my therapy. And then over the years, it’s been just healing in the sense of first being very clear that it wasn’t my fault. Because I went over this a million times that I leave the door open, because I went into the apartment, went back outside to look for my mail and then came back in. And I blamed myself for leaving the door open for years. And the NYPD detective (someone else not the ones on the set) told me he had been watching you for a while this is not this was not a robbery who turned into a rape. And that scared the hell out of me thinking that this person had been watching me and then one day decided to do it. It’s a very scary thing. So that, you know, I had to deal with that. So I didn’t feel paranoid that everybody was watching me all the time. But it’s been a process. You know, it’s been between therapy and just awareness. The Act Feminine project has helped a lot, also.
Marissa: Tell me about that project.
Nana: Okay, so the project is about connecting women with their femininity. And of course, after hearing the story about the break, you can imagine why I was probably disconnected with my feminine. But the truth is, I wasn’t because of just because of the rape. I realized that I had been disconnected from my feminine side. Basically all my life. I’ve been very masculine energy oriented all my life. My dad was my hero, I wanted to be with him all the time. We you know, there was no brothers in the family. And my dad was always fixing cars and doing things, and for me to be with him in that I had sort of to become his boy. So I did that, oh, my life. And my mom wasn’t the best role model for her for feminine side. And I want to clarify this. This is not about nail polish or heels. It is about the energies that we all humans have the masculine and the feminine, or the Ying and the Yang. And people call it whatever name you want. But it’s just these two polarities that we all have inside, you know about this, because we do it at Tony’s events and talk about that. Actually, at a Tony event was when all of this dawned on me, because I got married, again, I’m divorcing my second husband, after 25 years And this has a lot to do with it. I was mostly in my masculine, which meant, our roles were reversed. And I wasn’t fulfilled as a woman.
So I decided to create the Act Feminine because I see so many women out there, and they don’t have to be abused, to be in this feminism and extreme feminism, with social environment with the economy, that it’s fully operating on masculine energy, makes us women just become fighters and hunters all the time and little time for the feminine, which is what heals us. Which is what takes stress out. And this is not said by me, then you know, many experts are talking about this, when we don’t go to our feminine side, as much, or at least half and half, we get sick, we get stressed beyond what is normal stress and stress that you can handle, we get sick, more women are dying from cancer than ever before. Heart disease is the number one cause of death, 2/3 of people with mental illness, Alzheimer’s, dementia are women. So there are a lot of and I’m not saying that only this is the cause. But definitely, if we don’t go to our feminine side, we don’t relax. Our cortisol levels don’t go down. We need oxytocin for that to happen. The only way to generate oxytocin, estrogen, dopamine, and serotonin is when we go to our feminine. Masculine energy generating testosterone in my body, all the time with cortisol becomes the time bomb. So that’s why I started the project and obviously, being raped was like the last straw for me.
Marissa: The pinnacle of all of it.
Nana: Right? I was in my masculine energy a lot. And then the rape comes right when I’m starting a new life when I’m starting a new marriage. Oh, that was that was it for my femininity. It was like, Okay, so the energy that I feel comfortable in safe, with my masculine, which I still do, and I love.
Marissa: I’m the same way
Nana: I adore my masculine energy. And when I talk to women that are very extreme feminists, I say, you know, it’s not about giving up. Because it really isn’t, it’s not about giving up rights. It’s not about giving up your masculine, it’s just about learning how to use another side of you.
Marissa: It’s balancing yourself, it’s knowing that you don’t have to fit into a stereotype. You know, you don’t have to paint your nails every day and do your hair and makeup every day in order to be and feel like a woman.
Nana: Correct. And that is so important because people think of femininity, or the feminine energy as that. And that’s why one of my mantras is “Femininity is not something you wear, it’s something you feel.”
Marissa: Exactly. If I don’t feel like brushing my hair, I don’t.
Nana: And that’s fine. You know that that’s fine. That doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be connecting with people that you’re not going to be creating. It has nothing to do with the outside.
Marissa: 100% thank you for sharing that. I think that’s really an important thing for everyone. But I think especially for survivors and champions, I feel like the world paints such a vivid picture of what a victim should look like. And most of the time that’s not accurate. So, I think at least, we get really confused and feel like we’re not we’re not victims or we don’t deserve, you know, happiness or we don’t deserve to feel better, because while it wasn’t that bad, but it is that bad. It’s always that bad. It doesn’t matter what the situation was. And being able to engage both sides of your energy, I think allows us to be more forgiving of ourselves and more tolerant of our own processes.
Nana: Absolutely, absolutely. You just said something that made me made me think even further of this. Feminine-masculine energy for victims specifically, because when you were describing that I felt this little, my heart jumped a little bit and I said, Okay, I know why this just happened two seconds ago. And it happened because, in a way, what you’re saying is so absolutely spot on. If you’re a victim, in your mind, at least I felt that way. I can’t be happy. I can’t enjoy. I can’t flow. Because then what kind of a victim am I? Nobody’s gonna feel sorry for me. They’re not gonna love me. They’re not gonna, they’re gonna say, Oh, really? You were abused? You don’t look like it?
Marissa: Right? Oh, if you are a real victim, you’d be crying. You wouldn’t talk about it? Well, no, I mean, that’s not true. You smile. You’re not a victim. If you were really raped or abused, you wouldn’t be smiling or laughing. You know, and that’s not that’s not fair to survivors. It’s not fair to paint that picture on them. Because it deters people from speaking up. And encourages low self esteem and self doubt.
Nana: Correct. Now, I’m going to tell it to every victim out there. The power from within of being happy and feeling joy and pleasure, though. I was victimized. That is the true power. That is the true revenge. If you want any kind of revenge. My revenge is I am the woman I am today because of what happened. And I have no doubt about that Marissa. No doubt. Zero.
Marissa: Yes, yes. I say the same thing. You know, I’m not happy about what happened to me. It’s not like I celebrate it. But I celebrate the person I became because of it. Yes. Thank you, Nana. Yes.
Nana: Totally. And I say it over and over, like, not everybody. Well, I don’t I very few people know about this, actually, compared to the people I know. And some people are going to be very surprised. But I always say that I used to say the therapy right, the therapy that I did at that time, made me into the person that I am today. Of course, they didn’t know that I went there because of the rape. But it is I mean, I am this woman that I am today, sharing this being able to teach this being able to help other women because of what happened. And like you say Happy? Of course not. I mean, it was years of hell, months of hell of crying, and you know, I cried enough already. It was Hell. But this Heaven that I’m living in and striving for every day, came out of that. And I am grateful and blessed.
Marissa: Thank you so much for being here. And thank you so much. For all the beautiful advice and words of wisdom and strength that you embody and gave to us and all the survivors and champions out there. I am so honored to be your friend and if you need an extra or something in your movie, hit me up.
Nana: Oh, listen for the feature. We’ll need a lot of people and help.
Marissa: Yes, perfect. I’m in sign me up.
Nana: I’ll take your word. I’m gonna put that on the paper.
Marissa: Perfect. Thank you for listening and supporting survivors and champions all over the world. When we can encourage survivors to speak out about their abuse, we are slowly but surely changing the world for survivors and champions everywhere. If you’re interested in supporting Nana’s cause you’ll find a link below to the Kickstarter for her movie. Thank you again so much for supporting me for supporting Nana and for supporting survivors everywhere. Talk to you next week.
Hey! If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!