Elizabeth Johnsen Interview Image
The Empowered Women Series

Interview with Elizabeth Johnsen: woman and mother on a path of healing and transformation

In 2015 Elizabeth contacted me through my blog – she was the very first person to reach out in such a way. Quickly we felt a much deeper connection which grew into a friendship. Even though we’ve never met in person I feel we’ve known each other for lifetimes. I know Elizabeth has been through some hard times recently and it was painful to witness her journey “from afar” but nevertheless, I never stopped feeling for her. I’m happy to see and say that she has overcome the darkness.

Here are Elizabeth’s own words:

Tell us a little bit about your life journey.

I was raised in New Zealand by my mother and step-father who were quasi-religious and authoritarian. As I’ve come to understand in the last decade, my mother was also quite narcissistic and my step-father her enabler. My younger brother was the golden child and I was the scapegoat. This meant that all of the dysfunction in the family was blamed on me. I had very low self-esteem from a young age. I was continually criticized and put down and grew up feeling like there was something wrong with me. It seemed that the main parts of my personality, the parts that make me who I am as an individual, were openly rejected by my family of origin and my mother’s extended family. I also felt like there was something big they weren’t telling me, a mystery surrounding my life that eluded me for years. I didn’t leave home until I was 23 years old and for me that meant that I was controlled and manipulated until then. I say that my parents invaded every part of who I was: telling me how to think, what to believe, what to do with my time, etc. The control and manipulation didn’t even stop then – they were still trying it, and succeeding to some extent, well into my married and parenting years.

Three words that define you the best.

Devoted, Spirited, Open-hearted

What was the life event that triggered the beginning of your personal transformation?

I wouldn’t say it was just one! When I was 19 years old I went to a live-in course for young women where I sat in on a session titled “The Lies we Live by and the Truth that Sets us Free”. The speaker offered to pray for anyone who wanted. When she prayed for me she thanked God that I was precious and valuable and worthy of love. I started crying and something began to open up inside me. Until that point I hadn’t known that I was any of those things.

When I was 23 years old I met the man I married. It was a wonder to me that someone wanted me! We were two damaged and lonely people looking for love and acceptance; we found it in each other and married when I was 24 ½ years old. The love, security and acceptance my husband offered was amazing for me and gave me an environment where I could continue to grow. It also helped me to see my family of origin from a different perspective and I finally started to see the dysfunction that was so damaging to me.

I would also say that becoming a mother was a very big catalyst for my personal growth. Being able to observe my eldest when she was five years old and my role as her mother and then consider some of my own experiences as a five-year-old really gave me a whole new understanding of some very painful childhood memories. I saw, with so much clarity, that I wasn’t at fault; but rather my mother had let me down in a huge way.

It was seven years ago, when I was expecting our youngest daughter, that we started seeing a psychotherapist. My husband and I felt truly seen for the first time. He validated many of my feelings surrounding my painful experiences and made me believe that I could heal and grow. One of the things that has stuck with me was when I expressed concern that I might inflict some of the same pain on my own children that I had experienced. His response was,

“The best thing you can do for your children is to work on yourself.”

That one sentence has continued to encourage and motivate me on my journey of personal growth. I so desire to be the best mother I can be for my three children, so that I can help to “put wind under their wings and help them fly far”.

What was the life event that made you start blogging/writing/sharing your experiences with the world?

I would have to say that it was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic! I loved that book and was motivated to just start writing even if it wasn’t perfect. I started my blog about October 2015, a few months after moving to England. In May 2016 I ended up having a mental breakdown, which is a whole other story. I haven’t blogged much since, though I would like to get back to it someday. From June 2016-June 2017 I had a very dark year. I had major anxiety and heavy depression, even to the point of having suicidal thoughts. I felt that I had nothing of any value to offer anyone else – I could barely function myself at times. It feels wonderful to be through the other side of that and to be back to “me” – a wiser, more settled, more content version of me! I know I have lots to offer now and as I consider my life I see many areas where I am adding value to others. It feels so good. I’m very blessed.

What was your best “aha” moment during your healing journey?

I don’t remember it being a particular moment, but I think the realization that I could read books to learn and grow and change how I behave in relationship with others has given me so much hope. I consider this one of my quirks! I don’t even remember when this quirk began but I do know that as soon as I became engaged to be married I went out and spent $200NZ on marriage books! Lol. I’ve bought many books since and I consider it a great investment in myself and my family.

What do you find most difficult to deal with on daily basis?

I would say that parenting my 9-year-old boy is my greatest daily challenge. He is most like me and in his early years he triggered old wounds in both me and my husband. As a result we made many mistakes in our parenting and caused him a lot of pain. About 3-4 years ago I realized I needed to move towards him when he was expressing strong emotion. It was then that I started on the journey of helping him to understand and manage his emotions. It’s continued to be a challenge though and recently some of the things he is dealing with in the areas of self-esteem and anger has motivated me to reach out for help and support. I tell him he is my special gift because endeavouring to be the mum he needs pushes me into growth!

What are your best practices to get yourself back on track?

I’ve been finding lately that I’ve been pouring myself out for others and sometimes forgetting to refuel myself. A refuelling day/weekend looks like: watching a girlie movie, pyjama days, day-time naps, snuggles with my younger two children, heart-to-hearts with my husband and eldest, and reading and journaling. The last two are a must! They help me to re-centre and catch up with my inner self.

What is the definition of healed for you?

“I think healing is a continual and gradual process. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to say we are finished this process and are healed full stop.”

For me though, I have come to a place of emotional resiliency. I feel at peace with who I am as a person. I’m able to celebrate how far I’ve already come on my healing journey, while looking forward to the learning still to come. I also know that even when tough times come I will get through. I have hope.

What keeps you writing and sharing your journey?

I am more fluent at sharing my journey in person at the moment. I love that I can offer others hope and encouragement on their journeys because of what I’ve experienced on mine. After all, as I once read, “We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass.

What is your message to others who are going through adversity and pain?

On the other side of my HARDEST EVER year I can now say:

“Good times don’t last…but that means that hard times don’t last either.”

It’s okay to sometimes be in a place where you are only just hanging on. Sometimes even minute by minute. Keep taking just the next step. By doing that you’ll eventually walk out of the valley and fog and start to climb up into sunshine again. And when you are in the sunshine – enjoy every minute!

Do you have a hero or somebody who inspires your actions?

This question makes me think of Brené Brown’s books! I have 3 of my own and am currently reading another. She encourages me so much on my journey to greater authenticity and peace.

If you could change one thing about your life circumstances, what would that be?

I often think how wonderful it would be to go back and live my life again with the knowledge I have now, but that isn’t possible! I think life is somehow meant to be messy…and that’s okay. After all, Brené Brown says, “The magic is in the mess”! It’s often through the messy patches that we learn the most!

Where do you see yourself in one year?

Well, I’m currently studying for my GCSE’s in Maths and English! My mother home-schooled me and didn’t encourage academic achievements, so I have almost no credentials! By this time next year I’d like to have achieved good marks in both of these subjects and also for an online administration course I’ve started as well. The goal when I started studying was to get the certificates to help my job applications for a school administration position. Even though it’s an academic pursuit I feel that it is also a key part of my healing journey. As I’ve been working part-time in an infant school (3-7yrs) I have discovered a love of working with children, particularly the ones that are troubled or sad. I’d like to think that by this time next year I’ll be exploring further study options in this direction!

Where can others find you/contact you?

Blog: https://unravellingmysteriesblog.wordpress.com/.

(There is a contact form on the home page – I’d love to hear from you. 😊)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lizzie.elsom.94

Elizabeth Johnsen Image
Elizabeth Johnsen Image

I hope you enjoyed today’s interview and that it inspires you to keep on your path of healing, transformation and awakening.

Make sure to reach out to Elizabeth with any questions you may have in the comment section below. And share this post if you think it may help someone else. Infinite thanks!



Vilina Christoph is a spiritual writer and uses the power of words to help others on their journey of healing and recovery. She distills challenging life experiences into meaningful lessons and practical wisdom. She believes that finding our voices and speaking our truth empowers us to transform our lives and reach long-lasting fulfillment.


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