Marie McKenzie is a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, a highly accomplished Registered Nurse and #1 Amazon Bestseller. Her book, “Things That Keep Me Up At Night” was based on her personal trauma as a childhood sexual victim and her journey of healing and thriving. Born in Jamaica her dream was to become a nurse like her aunt. It took her years to achieve this but as an Emergency Room Nurse assisting physicians in caring for many victims of sexual violence , Marie found her purpose.
She was able to comfort and reassure many sexual assault victims because of her childhood sexual trauma. Her memoir, “Things That Keep Me Up At Night” has been used as a resource in group counseling sessions by medical professionals for helping survivors.
[00:00:00] Paula: Welcome to “Chatting With The Experts”, a podcast for immigrant women from Africa and the Caribbean, who have relocated to north America, Europe, and even Australia. In this podcast, we talk about our struggles, but we also highlight our triumphs that we have exceeded while living abroad. And we hope that by sharing our stories, we can help a fellow immigrant sisters who are listening to this. My guest today is a fellow Caribbean sister, whoo. Marie Mackenzie who is originally from Jamaica, but she now lives and works in Orlando, in Florida. Who doesn’t know where Orlando is, right? Everybody has to know that right?
[00:00:51] Marie: Disney is here.
[00:00:52] Paula: That’s where Disney is. I’ll tell you a little bit about Marie, and then I’ll let her expand on this. So Marie is a number one, Amazon best seller, bestselling author. And she’s also an accomplished registered nurse. She’s an educator, she’s a community volunteer, she’s a victims advocate and she’s a sexual assault nurse examiner. She migrated to the United States in 1989 when she was a baby, she said. I’m kidding, when she was 28. And as I said, she lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband. So I let her take it over from here, but before I let her speak, I’m going to welcome her. And so welcome to “Chatting With The Experts”, Marie. Thank you for saying yes.
[00:01:48] Marie: Good morning, Paula. Morning listeners. Thank you so much for having me. My name is Marie McKenzie and I am originally from Jamaica and as Paula said, arrived in Florida and still here in Florida and I was 28 years old going. I won’t tell you how old I am right now. It’s been awhile. My reason for coming here, I was married at the time and my husband filed for me. And so I arrived, arrived in October. I remember the year, like it was yesterday. Nice weather in October and by November, I was in tears because it was so cold. And now years later, I live for that time of the year because it’s summer, it’s so hot. In Jamaica I worked as a secretary, now we call it administrative assistant. But my dream has always been to become a registered nurse like my aunt “Irma”. She was a nurse for many, many years and rose to the ranks in Jamaica. I spent many hours with her in the hospitals, where I’d see how she diligent into cared for our patients. So my dream was just to follow her footsteps in every way possible. But my dream didn’t materialize until arrived here. Initially I worked in the clerical field, ’cause that was, you know, easy to get a job. And the years later I entered the healthcare field. I took the scenic route to becoming a registered nurse. I was a and I became a certified nursing assistant. Then a licensed practical nurse and then a registered nurse. And then later on, I attained other degrees and certifications. All through that I worked while attending school. And fortunate long along the way that marriage broke down and ended in divorce.
[00:03:52] Paula: Oh no.
[00:03:53] Marie: You know, some of you asked this, you face obstacles in life, but you just, it wasn’t easy, but you pick up yourself dust off and move on. Use those, stepping those stumbling blocks as propellers to move higher.
[00:04:12] Paula: Yep.
[00:04:13] Marie: One of the amazing things that happened during my work as a nurse. My background is in emergency nursing and one of the tasks was to care for sexual assault victims. Back then you assist a physician, the physician is the one who does the examination, collects the evidence. You package it and maintain the chain of custody and hand it over to the law enforcement. They take it to the crime lab. So in that I found my passion for caring for sexual assault victims. As a survivor myself, that was very special to me. Many years later, when I got the opportunity to train as a sexual assault nurse examiner, I jumped in it. That means that instead of assisting the physician, I was now the one collecting the forensic evidence and doing all that stuff. This gives me a sense of purpose, because when I say to that victim, “I know how you feel”, that’s an authentic statement because I’ve been there. We all experienced these traumas in different ways. But I can personally empathize and say, “I know how you feel”. A lot of what I’ve heard from multiple victims, they’ve had similar experiences in the past and nobody believed them. Not even their mothers, especially. It’s always breaks my heart when you know, a victim said, I disclosed to my mother. Sometime it’s the mother’s spouse or boyfriend, and they’re not believed, you know, that breaks my heart. I know for a long time, I didn’t disclose when I was a child, not because I didn’t think I would be believed, but I didn’t want to bring the shame on the family. I don’t know why as a child, I cared about that. But It’s not my shame, I shouldn’t have cared, but I, for some reason I did. So believe in the victim and giving them the opportunities to speak and to listen to them, and to show them compassion. You know, a lot of times I see them relax, you know, glad that somebody believed them for a change. Along the way in 2021, I entered a writing challenge that just flashed across my screen on Facebook. And Naleighna Kai international best selling author, was doing a 30 day writing challenge. Well, I never thought of writing a book, I mean, what would I write? So I met with her by zoom and that night they were talking about writing a memoir or self help. Like, I don’t know any self-help what do I know? Although I’m a nurse, I should know something, but I didn’t think I did that at the time. I said, okay, I’ll write that, I’ll write a memoir. I didn’t know what I would write then I just agreed to, you know, got the details. And that same night, I wrote the first chapter of my book, and that was based on my first incident being sexually assaulted. And that book became a number one, Amazon bestseller. It has opened the door for a lot of women to share their stories. And that makes me feel so proud in a sense that I was able to offer that to someone. I’ve heard from women young and older of having similar experiences. I’ve helped to counsel some, to sharing their stories. Some just want to tell me. Some, have gone on to share with others that they didn’t think they would have in the past. So I’ve found my purpose through my work and, I’m happy with that. I’ve since written all the books and I’m still writing, have been bitten by that bug and I’m enjoying it.
[00:08:30] Paula: Well, but what stands out at me, is you said you found your purpose. But before we talk about that, what’s the name of the first book that you wrote? The book that made you the number one bestseller?
[00:08:41] Marie: “Things That Keep Me Up At Night”.
[00:08:44] Paula: “Things That Keep Me Up At Night. I like that title.
[00:08:49] Marie: Yeah, because there was a lot of things that happened then, it just kept playing over in my head. You know, it doesn’t matter what age some things happen. It’s just like, it’s yesterday. As I said to my editor, when I was writing, whatever. The things I’m writing about, I can still see them, hear them, smell them, taste them. It was just like it was happening all over again.
[00:09:15] Paula: Wow.
[00:09:16] Marie: You don’t forget.
[00:09:18] Paula: Wow. And has that, writing that was that therapeutic for you?
[00:09:24] Marie: Absolutely therapeutic. You get it out. Because there are things that I never mentioned that, you know, I disclosed in the book. And just getting it out was so much, so rewarding.
[00:09:43] Paula: I can only imagine that. Yeah.
[00:09:46] Marie: And the fact that it’s helping. I mean i’ve heard from healthcare professionals where it’s being used in therapy sessions for all the survivors. It’s amazing.
[00:09:58] Paula: Marie, that’s a big deal, that’s really a big deal. Number one, being that it was therapeutic for you. And now to find out that it’s being used by, I mean, in medical circles to help other women who have been victims of sexual abuse, That’s really, really.
[00:10:18] Marie: Yes Paula yes. Thank God for leading me on this journey. I will continue to help others through this.
[00:10:30] Paula: Absolutely. So now you said, before I asked you the name of your book, that you found your purpose. Let’s talk about that purpose.
[00:10:40] Marie: Helping survivors like me regain their passion for living. Introduce them to the resources that have helped me live again. You know, it’s not easy when you’re being, when you were violated in that way. It’s almost like an attack on your soul, everything else is like outside the body. This one it’s like within. So it’s like some people are destroyed, you know. Some never recover their coping skills, totally derailed. Drugs, alcohol, suicide. It’s traumatic. And if I can, in some way help someone going through that, like I was helped. Because along the way, I’ve worked with individuals and organizations who worked to help survivors thrive. I, and this has helped me, so I want to give back. And I feel like I’ve been called to serve in this capacity.
[00:11:53] Paula: Understandably so. And so a question that’s going through my mind is, as you worked, during your career, you said you became a sexual assault nurse, correct? Was that before you actually wrote the book or did you write the book by then?
[00:12:15] Marie: That was before I wrote the book.
[00:12:16] Paula: Okay. So I guess that your career has influenced the way you’ve written the book and that’s why, I don’t want to say, that’s why it’s so helpful to many victims, but I’m going to say it just as an enhanced your, you know, everything.
[00:12:34] Marie: The career plus the experience.
[00:12:35] Paula: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Wow. So you mentioned that you have written some more books after that first one.
[00:12:45] Marie: Yes. My second book was co-authored with international bestselling author, Naleighna Kai. It’s called “90 Days Of Pleasure”. And it’s based on a couple who the woman was older than the young NBA star. And she was concerned about the age difference. So he strives to, you know, soothe her fears. So they traveled to Durabia the trip he planned to like seal the deal. But then of course, in all romance novels, there are conflicts. So they encountered some conflicts engineered to keep them apart. So you got to read it to see how they survive.
[00:13:35] Paula: Yes. You’ve got to read it to find out the end. The end of the story comes from reading it. Okay. But what inspired you to write that novel? That book?
[00:13:44] Marie: In meeting Naleighna, I was introduced to a tribe called NK tribe called “Success”. A group of authors, international best selling authors and new authors. And we help in supporting others in writing. So in deciding to continue my writing journey, I am branching out into different genres. So that was my first romantic suspense. I’m kind of working on an inspirational novel, which is going to be part of my story also. So that’s coming out soon.
[00:14:20] Paula: So you are a woman of many talents and many skills.
[00:14:24] Marie: Yeah.
[00:14:24] Paula: So you’ve become an author, but at the same time, you’re still working as a sexual assault nurse.
[00:14:31] Marie: Yes. Plus a nurse educator. I teach new nurses now. I’m no longer at the bedside. So I travel across the country and I teach new nurses before they get to the bedside. So they’re more fully prepared and it’s not like a deer in the headlights when they get in and there’s a code or, you know, something they can say, oh, I’ve seen it before because we saw that.
[00:14:56] Paula: Oh, wonderful. So you travel across the country to teach nurses on how to become better bedside nurses, or you teach.
[00:15:05] Marie: To prepare them.
[00:15:06] Paula: To prepare them. Gotcha.
[00:15:08] Marie: We have didactic and simulation and skills teaching. So they go through codes, real life situations. You teach them, you also teach them how to start an IV, draw, blood, administer medications, you know, the crush cart, the paddles and everything. Hands-on.
[00:15:31] Paula: These are some terms I’m hearing my nieces who live with me, who are, they’ve done one year of nursing. These are some terms I hear from them. So this is interesting.
[00:15:42] Marie: And I enjoy it. You know, you see them from day one and they’re scared because they’re fresh out of nursing school and they know nothing. And then by the end of the training, they’re like, oh my gosh. You should see them. It’s amazing, the transformation.
[00:15:58] Paula: Yes. I’ve seen the transformation here with my nieces, you know. The confidence with which they talk about things. The way they look at, you know, many things like what to eat. Just the general conversation has changed since they were and now.
[00:16:14] Marie: Yeah. And also reminds me of when I started, because I left to nursing schools straight to the emergency room. That’s like a baptism by fire. I remember being, yes. I remember being the first chord or the ambulance driving in and you’re like, you know, wide-eyed. I remember learning to start an IV and my mentor holding my hand, showing me how to palpate, the veins. I wish the program and teaching, I wish that was around when I was a new nurse. It’s really phenomenal.
[00:16:51] Paula: But you know, you said something, like even when you were talking about being a sexual assault nurse and how, because you had lived through that experience, you’re able to become, I think even a better nurse. Because you could empathize and you could understand where these women, how they felt. And you said many of the victims face was like one of relief. Haven’t heard you say what I understand because I’ve lived through this. So in the same way, I guess now, as you’re teaching these new students, haven’t been through that, you’re like, I understand, I understand the anxiety, you know?
[00:17:26] Marie: Yeah. So you can tell them, this is a learning environment, don’t be scared, you know. Nobody’s here, you can’t fail, because some of them think, oh my gosh, if I do something wrong, they’re going to yell at me, or it’s like, no, this is a safe space to learn.
[00:17:42] Paula: I love that.
[00:17:42] Marie: Safe space to learn.
[00:17:45] Paula: So how did your, how did the pandemic affect your job? Because you go all over the country now, training. What happened during that pandemic?
[00:17:56] Marie: Yeah. When the pandemic started, I actually was an emergency room nurse at the time. Yes. Experiencing the overcrowding, the N 95 mask and the shield and the gowns and the. Oh, you’re so hot because you’d have to wear all night change in between patients and just keep going. So I transitioned into this field during the nursing, during the pandemic. But you just put your mask on as required and just keep going. And the good thing was most of our teaching sessions are outside of the hospitals. So we didn’t have to go through the hospitals, mostly in hotels and conference rooms.
[00:18:44] Paula: Awesome. So the last two years been a completely, not changing career, but just doing it from a different angle. And it’d be interesting to hear how to see the transition from when you first started and the pandemic had started then, and people really didn’t know what to do to where we are now. Where we’re not out of the woods, but definitely we have a different outlook on, you know, COVID 19 and.
[00:19:14] Marie: Completely different than how to behave during a pandemic and, you know, treat each other.
[00:19:20] Paula: Yes, with respect and with understanding. To be respectful of others, you know. Because especially now where, you know, the mask isn’t mandatory everywhere, you still have to be respectful that some people still feel more comfortable when they mask on. So don’t look at them like what’s wrong with you.
[00:19:38] Marie: And respect them enough to leave them alone and let them wear their mask, if you don’t want to wear yours, you don’t wear.
[00:19:44] Paula: Yes, and vice versa. Those who are wearing masks should not look down on those who are, who have decided to go without their masks. Yeah.
[00:19:54] Marie: Yes. We’re all different people and we have the freedom to make our choices.
[00:19:59] Paula: Absolutely. Absolutely. So as we talk about, you know, the Marie that came to the United States in 1989 and the Marie now of 2022. Would you say that you’ve realized your dreams and your ambitions that, you know, when you were coming brand new, that you planned on achieving?
[00:20:22] Marie: Absolutely. Life for me now is like a complete 180. I’m a registered nurse, which I wanted to accomplish. I’m an author, which I didn’t even think of. I’m a sexual assault nurse examiner, I didn’t think that, think of that. I have remarried to the most amazing man George. I call him my hallelujah, because it’s, it’s just like. So we live in Orlando and me, I enjoy my career, enjoying advocating and helping others. I’ve found happiness and success in what I do, because it impacts the life of others. And both of us have a passion for people. We help individual and causes that we hold dear. So I couldn’t ask for anything better than impacting the life of other people.
[00:21:24] Paula: Wow. That was. And how would you say your journey, if you were looking at, I was going to say, what would you tell 20, 21 year old or 25 year old Marie comeing from, let’s say in your case, Jamaica now coming to America. What would you, what advice would you give to someone like that?
[00:21:45] Marie: I would tell, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Maybe that person is watering his grass, that’s why it’s greener. Coming to United States in Jamaica here, go to the US, everything is rosy. You think everybody who travels to the US has a lot of money. Like they have a money tree on the back. I remember I used to have family members and friends jump back to Jamaica and they have all these things they were giving. And I didn’t know they were using credit cards to fund that until I arrived here and I had people telling me, you know, oh, I can’t pay for this, I can’t do that. So be careful when you arrive here, don’t like jump and grab credit cards or offer things you can’t afford, just because you want to please speak or give them the impression that you have a great life. Be authentic. Be yourself. Doesn’t matter if people are not going to like you. And that’s one of the traps I never fell into. I don’t believe in giving what I don’t have. I don’t believe in using my credit cards to have a large bill, just so I could send things back home. I know they’re in need, but I shouldn’t have to put myself down just so they can have things to flash around.
[00:23:16] Paula: Yeah. Yeah. 100%. I think that’s excellent, excellent advice. Because a guest of mine said this to me. She said, you know, the United States has done a fantastic job, advertising themselves, marketing themselves abroad. Which we outside of the United States, better still have not, you know? And so when you see movies and you know, you watch the news, you see wealth and you think, oh my gosh, the road is paved in gold and you come here and you realize $1 means somebody has worked for it.
[00:23:59] Marie: Exactly. You’re not getting it from anyone you working for it.
[00:24:04] Paula: Working for it. And that is something that most people before they come to the United States, as you said, do not realize. So that credit card bill needs to be paid.
[00:24:17] Marie: Exactly. And on time.
[00:24:18] Paula: And on time.
[00:24:20] Marie: The penalties that come with the late payments or no payments.
[00:24:24] Paula: Are very high, very, very high.
[00:24:26] Marie: And your, it stays on your credit. Because here everything you want to buy is, oh, what’s your credit rating. Your interest on a car loan or a home loan, you know, what’s your credit rating? How do you manage the finances that God has blessed you with? How do you care for the family that God has blessed you with?
[00:24:49] Paula: Yeah, absolutely. Yep. That’s a big part of it. And you know, our generation was not, we weren’t and still, so, I mean, the financial people don’t really talk much about, you know, they don’t educate people, young people, and we weren’t educated on how money works. And a lot of young people still don’t understand how money works. And that’s another topic for another episode, you know.
[00:25:18] Marie: Financial literacy should be a requirement in high school.
[00:25:21] Paula: Absolutely, absolutely. Because you get out and the real world is waiting for you and you haven’t been taught that, you know, on how to survive. But anyway, let’s go on to lighter things because all good things have to come to an end. I wanted to ask you to give us a fun fact about your country or a fact that most people don’t know about, and I say your country, your origin, your country of birth, Jamaica.
[00:25:47] Marie: Yes. I recently discovered that Jamaicans originally spoke Spanish.
[00:25:52] Paula: What?
[00:25:53] Marie: They were ruled by the Spaniards, I don’t remember from which periods. But yes spanish.
[00:26:00] Paula: Wow. Most people will not know that, I didn’t.
[00:26:03] Marie: I didn’t know that until recently. So that’s a real fun fact.
[00:26:07] Paula: And so are there some towns with Spanish names? Is there any lingering of that?
[00:26:12] Marie: Well, we have Spanish town.
[00:26:13] Paula: Okay.
[00:26:14] Marie: And.
[00:26:15] Paula: Okay. All right.
[00:26:16] Marie: That’s in St. Catherine.
[00:26:19] Paula: And do you have a favorite quote that you’d like to share with my audience?
[00:26:24] Marie: Yes. “Without commitment, you’ll never begin. Without consistency, you’ll never succeed”.
[00:26:38] Paula: “Without commitment, you would never begin. Without consistency, you will never succeed”.
[00:26:44] Marie: Never succeed.
[00:26:46] Paula: I love that.
[00:26:49] Marie: Yes.
[00:26:51] Paula: Thank you so much, Marie. And where can people find you online? I’ve learned so much about you and about what you’re doing and how you’re impacting, not just your local community, but, you know, because you travel. You’re impacting communities within the United States. And how can people get in touch with you?
[00:27:10] Marie: Well, my social media platform is “Marie Mackenzie”. My website is “MarieLMckenzie.com”.
[00:27:19] Paula: Oh okay. So you’re on all social media platforms and we can find you on your website as well.
[00:27:27] Marie: Yeah “Tic Tok”, “IG” “Facebook”.
[00:27:32] Paula: “Tic Tok”
[00:27:33] Marie: Oh my gosh. I learned to use “Tic Tok”. It’s so amazing.
[00:27:36] Paula: Oh, my word, that’s something that, you know, I’m still getting used to. “IG”, “LinkedIn” I love but Tik Tok.
[00:27:44] Marie: And I’m also on LinkedIn.
[00:27:46] Paula: Wow.
[00:27:47] Marie: Initially I didn’t like Tic Tok, because the videos just start paying as soon as you open the app, and I’m like, I need to select what I want to hear. But now it’s fine. Yeah.
[00:27:59] Paula: Oh boy, I need to go check you out there. I don’t think I’ve looked at that.
[00:28:03] Marie: Yeah you need to get on.
[00:28:07] Paula: I’m still a bit apprehensive. All right. And so for my listeners, If you have enjoyed what you just heard from my fabulous guest, Marie Mackenzie, please head over to “Apple podcasts”, “Google podcasts”, “Spotify”, “Audible”, “Amazon music”, wherever you listen to your podcast and follow us and better still click subscribe. And if you are an immigrant woman from the Caribbean or Africa, and you’d like to be a guest on “Chatting With The Experts”, why not head over to my website, which is “www.chattingwiththeexperts.com/contactus and apply. I’d love to chat with you. Thank you again, Marie, for being such a phenomenal guest on “Chatting With Experts”.
[00:29:00] Marie: Thank you so much. You’re welcome. Thank you listeners. I appreciate being here.
[00:29:05] Paula: Thank you.
Marie can be reached on many social media platforms as well as her website.