Welcome! I’m Helen Noel, CEO of Talk Story, Incorporated (TSI), motivational speaker, Author of 7 Days in the Fire, human rights activist, consultant, and Chief Master Sergeant (Retired), USAF.
My family’s mantra is “Blood is Thicker than Water” and we understand familial bonds are stronger than the bonds of friendship. I come from a big family, and we have a genuine love for family. Blacks in America have suffered from generational trauma for over 400 years and adverse health effects have been passed on from generation to generation. Like many, my family’s story and my story are deeply rooted in trauma.
Latoya Henderson Photography: http://www.latoyahendersonphotography.com
Early Childhood (Birth to Eight Years) Trauma
My grandfather, Chester Noel (aka Papa) traumatized me when I was a toddler. Papa served in WWI and was a victim of Shell Shock, currently Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He suffered from insomnia, was a prankster and loved scaring his grandchildren. Once, before bedtime, Papa scared me and I didn’t sleep the entire night. From that moment, until his death on Feb 7, 1968, I avoided him. Avoidance is a category of trauma. Victims tend to avoid people and places that remind them of the traumatic event.
My mother, Beatrice (aka Queen Bea) had 10 children. My fondest childhood memory is our family attending church. Church members called us the Nelson Tribe because every Sunday we attended service 12 strong (Daddy, Mama & 10 children). When our family entered New Hope Church, everyone stared at us marching in. My Dad, Charles (aka Chuck) Nelson always reminded us to walk with our heads held high. Obedience was better than sacrifice and I marched confidently with my head held high until we sat in our designated row near the front. In the 1960’s, my Daddy was instrumental in bringing Gospel Music to Cleveland, Ohio. He sang in a group called the Mighty Redeemers and he was frequently called upon to sing solos in church. One of his favorite songs was 99 ½, It Won’t Do. When I was about six years old, my mom and dad separated, and we moved to a neighboring city. Eventually, he moved back but it was short lived, and he returned to the city where his church was located. I spent many Saturday nights with my dad so I could attend New Hope. I’m grateful that my father laid a strong spiritual foundation when I was a child. Despite my many traumatic experiences, I never abandoned my faith. Rest assured; it was my unwavering faith in God that sustained me.
My grandfather, Chester Noel (Papa) in WWI.
My mother, Queen Bea and I at her 80th birthday celebration in 2014.
My Dad, Charles Nelson (far right), and his group, the Mighty Redeemer’s is featured on the cover and on page 27 of Frederick Burton’s book, Cleveland’s Gospel Music (Black America Series).
Middle Childhood (Eight to 12 Years) Trauma
In middle childhood, I experienced two near death experiences. When I was eight, my sister Debra, my baby brother Tyrone, and I went fishing under the bridge near our house. Unknowingly, I was standing on a rock covered in moss when I cast my homemade fishing pole in the water. Suddenly, my feet began to slide off the rock towards the water. Miraculously, Debra snatched me back onto dry ground. Neither of us could swim and we vowed to keep it a secret. On school days, I fearfully crossed the same bridge where I nearly drowned. At the age of nine, my family went for a drive and Daddy parked the car to go inside a store. My baby sister Vet, was sitting on my mother’s lap in the front seat and accidently knocked the gear shift into reverse and the car started rolling backwards. Mama couldn’t drive, and a bridge was behind us. Instinctively, my brother Algie, jumped over the seat and slammed on the brakes as my dad ran frantically towards the car. Near death experiences are traumatic and for many years I feared water and driving.
Adolescence (12 – 18 Years) Trauma
I cherish childhood memories of how close our family used to be and the countless times we congregated in one another’s homes. In my adolescence, the divisive hand of trauma dealt our family a devastating blow. My three favorite Aunts (Christine, aka Aunt Christ pronounced like wrist, Rosella, and Jean) passed away within two years of one another. Death and sudden illnesses are causes of trauma. Family members scattered, then started to avoid one another. Our pain was unbearable and being around family was a constant reminder of our trauma. I became isolated in my bedroom. Isolation falls under the avoidance category of trauma. My quiet time in my bedroom consisted of writing poems, reading the Bible, and washing/ironing all my clothes, then hanging them neatly in my closet. The Bible became my favorite reading book, as the authors and books of the Bible intrigued me. The Holy Spirit became my Counselor and I often told God, “If You ever need anyone to be an author or tell Your story, You can use me.” I talked to God frequently and asked many questions about the stories in the Bible. Trauma victims may abandon their faith; talk therapy (counseling) and writing is highly recommended.
After I graduated high school in 1983, I became a victim of sexual trauma on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. I suppressed it and never told anyone. I enlisted in the United States Air Force and attended Basic Military Training School in 1985. Ironically, in my trauma suppressed state, I joined the very institution that victimized me. I received salvation in 1991 and soon after the Holy Spirit said, “You have a book to write.” I was home alone and looked around the room to see if someone else was present, then God repeated it. I recalled a childhood conversation with my grandmother, Hattie Noel, when I asked, “What does God’s voice sound like?” and she replied, “God’s sheep know His voice and a stranger’s voice they will not follow.” I knew He was the Good Shepherd and I was His sheep, so I responded, “Yes to Your will and to Your way Lord, anywhere You want me to go, I’ll go and anything You want me to do I’ll do.” God has a sense of humor and was reminding me of when I offered to write a book for Him in our therapy sessions.
In 1999, God sent me to Hawaii -my heaven on earth. The beautiful rainbows reminded me of God’s promise to never send a flood again and He reminded me of the book I promised to write. Within six months of being in Hawaii, I experienced a life altering traumatic event (the sudden illness, then death of my oldest sister, Jackie, also known as Mama #2). On my way home from work, beginning at the 7-mile marker to Kapolei (where I lived), I had lengthy conversations and negotiations with God. After many negotiations, I resigned my will to God’s perfect will and said, “Not my will, but let Your great and perfect will be done Lord” and “As a sign of Your love for me, if You intend to take my sister, please take her on Good Friday because You also took Your Son, Jesus on Good Friday.” My sister died on Good Friday (April 21, 2000) and God gave me a peace that surpassed all understanding.
In retrospect, I’ve talked to God and questioned Him often. I’ve come to the realization that God remembered everything I said and has answered many of my questions. Talk Story is a Hawaiian term for conversing and my intimate conversations with God inspired me to name my company, Talk Story, Incorporated. Talking is therapy for trauma victims and the Holy Spirit is my preferred Counselor.
My sister Jackie, and her daughters
Camea & Monique
Pictures by Artist Hadi Farahani (http://www.hadifarahani.com/)