From Being Voiceless, I Found My Voice in World Pulse

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Posted August 14, 2019 from Philippines

For six consecutive school years, from kindergarten to grade five, I was a consistent recipient of the Most Behaved recognition. It's weird because from kindergarten to grade two, I was enrolled in a different school, then my mother transferred me to a Christian academy by third grade. Imagine receiving the same character award from two different institutions. It was almost predictable year after year. The teachers labeled me "behaved" because it apparently meant "not speaking".

The truth is I was too afraid to speak so I was the voiceless, quiet child inside the classroom. I might be the student that made the teacher's work easy, but as a growing child, I was screaming inside for help. 

Psychology says when parents mistreat a child, she doesn't get angry at her parents, she gets angry with herself. I spent years in self-loathing. I hated everything about me including the name Karen. I felt disgusted whenever I spelled my name. I preferred to introduce myself as Kaye, my nickname. 

"Karen" was the name my mother used when she was yelling mad at me. "Karen" was also used to bully me for being a fat kid.

"Ka rin" is "You, too" in English. My boy classmates bantered with each other," You're ugly! You're fat! You're a pig!", the reply usually was, " Ka rin!". Realizing my name sounded alike, the boys turned to me and made fun of my name. Any negative description they tell each other ended up with me. "Hahaha! Ka rin! Karen!", they laughed at me while pointing their fingers at me. I disliked the name so much.

I was raised in a Christian home, and the idea of Jesus loves me to the point of offering His life at the cross was the only love I felt as a child. So I clung on that Christian faith, and the fear of hell prevented me to commit suicide as a child. Every night I cried myself to sleep with only one prayer request, "Please don't make me wake up the next day. Let me die in my sleep".

I was that kind of Christian you see inside church walls who actively engaged in church activities, but totally oblivious to what was happening in reality. I even became a youth leader and discipled girls. Strange it was but I was still in emotional pain. I kept forgiving those who brought trauma in my life, but the wounds lingered so I learned to numb them. But there were situations that triggered those so I turned to my journal to release unwanted emotions.

For many years, I silently fought recurrent bouts of depression, but I built an invisible wall around it that it doesn't show. Yes, it may seem I was the great pretender, but I was the "behaved girl" once more who was asking for help.

I was told I couldn't move on or I was still living in the past. I was weak for holding on to the hurt. I couldn't really understand myself. Something must be really wrong with me. I hated myself all the more.

A lot of life events happened. I got married, conceived a child, and later found out, he has special needs. The message I received was I had done something sinful and raising someone with a developmental delay was the consequence of my wrongdoings. I cried alone and lived in isolation. I felt rejection and condemnation. I withdrew from my already limited social interactions.

I settled in life to be a housewife and a stay-at-home mother to my two children. I unknowingly became co-dependent with my husband. I went where he went (it was part of my wedding vow). It took an encounter with a typhoon to knock some sense on me: I cannot die without telling my stories.

Through a friend's invitation, I wrote my first World Pulse story reflecting about women living in disaster-prone areas. I also signed up as an Encourager. I noticed in most of the post that these women bared their soul in their writing. I wept with those who were in unimaginable trauma; I rejoiced with those who triumphed in their dreams. Their stories became my inspiration. These women experienced more challenging circumstances than I did, but rose from the ashes to help other women and girls. 

Although I was an encourager, I was actually the one being encouraged as I secretly fought against depression. I could not simply give up in life because these women are fighting bigger battles. Their stories were therapeutic to me. I learned to break the walls I built around myself and slowly began to open up and speak my truth. I was ready to be bashed or ridiculed or bullied, but instead, I received so much love, acceptance, support and that missing piece called empathy. My fears, my pains, my anger were all validated on World Pulse. 

I discovered that people begin to heal when they feel heard. By connecting with World Pulse sisters, I was schooled into the world of women from different colors and culture. I learned about the emotional abuse called invalidation, and the healing power of encouragement. I kept sharing my journey on World Pulse.

Writing with vulnerability and authenticity, I began to love myself and grant grace to myself. I broke away from the false truth that I need to be perfect in order to be accepted. I embraced my flaws and imperfections. I began to relax by being unapologetically me. In fact, I now love being called Karen. My name now reminds me that I am "Caring" or "Carin'".

By learning to accept myself, I became accepting of other women as well.

As an active Encourager, lifting up women and cheering on them have become second nature to me even outside this online space. 

In online chat groups, when a woman expresses her depression or grief, and she is told "don't feel that way, look at the brighter side, stay happy, move on", I reach out to that woman to tell her, " I get it. I understand. Your feelings are valid". Offering empathy makes her feel better.

Because I regularly #LogOnRiseUp on World Pulse, I found a way to heal a series of traumatic events. I told myself I will be who I needed when I was depressed, isolated, alone, rejected, bullied, condemned and judged. I am so passionate about encouraging women that I wrote a piece about Fireflies, how these tiny insects glow from infant stage and shine brightest in times of darkness (

Then I got an idea, I will start an organization that will be a safe space for people who needed to be heard and to heal. I call it The Firefly Zone. It will be a place where people are encouraged to break their walls and share their vulnerabilities; a place to deal and manage depression and anxiety; and a place founded by encouragement and empathy.

At The Firefly Zone, my message is: we all have a light inside us;  each one is important (even the smallest light shines in the darkness), and we create a greater impact when we fly and shine together. This is still at the planning phase, but I have begun to create a Facebook Page for it just to reserve that name. Here's the link:

I wrote my first World Pulse story on December 31, 2017. I've grown so much in less than two years. From being an admirer of Women Leaders, I have become a Woman Leader. From being voiceless, I found my voice in World Pulse.

Thank you, World Pulse, for building this platform, for teaching us to own our stories, and for introducing the culture of encouragement. Today, I begin to pay it forward. 


This story was submitted in response to #OurImpact.

Comments 27

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Adriana Greenblatt
Aug 14
Aug 14

Karen dear, woah I am blown away by this..."By learning to accept myself, I became accepting of other women as well". This is a powerful truth which we can use as our mantra. When you accept yourself and your pain in compassion, my experience is the world opens up to hold space for the pain of others. I am going to check out the firefly zone now, and thanks to your encouragement, post my UN Women interview. I so am with you having been a highly sensitive child and women, while positive and motivated also learned to navigate my own periods of anxiety. One AMAZING mantra I will share with you from yoga - "I am connected, we are powerful."You have a gift for writing and lifting others up, you are living that gift!


Thank you, dear Adriana. I'm humbled by your encouragement. Yes, it's a transformational truth that when I learn to be kind to myself, I am able to extend kindness to other people. I look at women as someone trying hard to become the best versions of themselves.

Oh, I love this " the world opens up to hold space for the pain of others". It's true. I experience this, too.

Thanks for checking, but there's not much on there yet. It's more on a collection of quotes and uplifting words. The page reminds me that I am starting an organization. It's like my (third) baby.

I'm curious though how you began your consultancy. Did you undergo training or secure a license to start? I am still preparing what to do from here. Do you have any advice?

I love the mantra. Yes, I believe in connection and how it makes us powerful. A firefly needs to be with a group of fireflies to showcase its glowing beauty in the darkness.

Awww. Gift for writing? Thank you so much. I forget that a lot.

Thanks for taking time, my dear sister Adriana. Please don't hesitate to share your updates on World Pulse. Your work is really amazing. We would really want to hear more from you. A lot of what you do is aligned to what World Pulse is. Please continue to share here. You are an amazing encourager, by the way. <3

Adriana Greenblatt
Aug 17
Aug 17

Hello dear Karen! I see you are already rocking the firefly zone more on FB, great! Mmm starting your own business advice, so many experiences along the way (and daily boundary and meditation practice) have allowed me to start finally thriving and being more courageous to speak authentically and know I've got this, even where I stumble!

There is so much I could say, but here are a few thoughts I hope help:
1) Inner work: I still start by saying for me it comes first from inner work, and accessing the inner light, and recognizing your unique strengths, talents and voice that is unique to you, and YOU'VE ALREADY SO GOT THAT!! So you are already on the journey!!! And getting out of our own way as women to not be afraid of the word ambition (whatever that means to you, for me I feel now that it is a calling for me to do this work so living small is not doing anyone service!) be able to do this is a journey I work on every day!

I also made sure I had a strong support system emotionally - family, friends, professionals where necessary, and the tools like yoga and meditation, and regular exercise, that are now staples in my life.

2) Take stock: of of what you want your mission to be, before jumping into the doing. It took me years to get more clear on this, and an attempt to start consultancy in 2013 where I was less clear...and then moved back into some more jobs until I finally felt strong enough to take the leap. I also think that the work I do now in yoga and meditation has helped me to focus on being aligned and communicating in a real way what I want to say (this involved becoming friends with social media in a way I had not before!)

3) Progress not perfection: note the progress you make along the way - I started in 2013, and got a lot of logistics out of the way, like registering by business name (see below) and starting to get some smaller training contracts here and there, and do some teaching, none of which was enough at that time to do it full time but it all led me to where I am now.

And one thing on this: I will add as a note to myself and all ladies who ask me about how I started is to be mindful of the dreadful (and very human!) tendency to compare ourselves to others or think that somehow we are not getting ahead enough or fast enough or doing enough...this leads back to the inner work of talking back to my "critical voice" inside that tries to keep me small (and I am sure many of us can relate) ...and not let that voice guide my actions!

So some of my non linear journey to my consultancy was what I shared on my radio interview, and I will re include here because as I listened I think there are some things there that may be of use to you on your path!!

In terms of logistics, you can see on my website my particular professional journey:, that being said in terms of how I do what I do now a lot of this came from inner work and taking stock of the value I add specifically not just because of training.

I did register my business and name as a sole proprietorship here in Quebec when I first started, so you may want to look into that. I also work with a non-profit org that has business coaches, who was with me on the radio, and I tend to make sure I am building community by finding a co-working space to work out of here in Montreal that also has entrepreneur brainstorm sessions! So I would say that it would be great to join or make a group of women maybe online or around you who have or are starting their own business!

Phew ok! I never seem to have a short answer to anything! I hope that helps, and you SOOOOOO GOT THIS!I


Dear Adriana,

Thank you for sharing your advice! I treasure this valuable information. I will launch the Firefly Zone page, but I want to put some content on it already. Like what you said, " Progress not perfection".

1) Yes, I've been doing a lot of inner work. I am with you on ambition/calling/purpose. We cannot serve the world when we feel small. That was how I spent my past years. I read somewhere "When your dream involves only you, it's very small". The bigger our vision is, the more people we can serve/help. Thanks for this confirmation!

2) Thanks for this. I think this is the next step for me.

3) I agree with this. We don't need to be perfect to start. That's why I decided to start today, so I can learn in the process, rather than wait for things to be "perfect", and miss all the lessons I could have acquired. I learned "Overnight success takes fifteen years", simply means it takes a lot of commitment, dedication, and hard work to achieve our vision.

Awww, you are so generous! Thank you for these links! <3

Congratulations on where you are today, Adriana! I'm proud of you.

Oh, dear. I loooove long replies. It's hard for me to give a short answer, too. I get teased a lot for sending long ones. Gee, we're the same, please stay that way. <3

Awww. Thanks for believing in me. Yes! I got this.


Adriana Greenblatt
Aug 18
Aug 18

Yay Karen I can hear the strength and power in your reply that you already have a vision. The whole staying small stuff reminds me of World Pulse! If Jensine has decided not to put out the vision for this site into the World it would not have been created, so yay to your vision! I also see a strong point of view already forming on your posts on firefly - at least on my end, I am getting a message of acceptance and listening to those in struggle. And I really really liked that recent post on how mental illness can be hidden (we can look smiley but be dealing with a ton behind the scenes!) I an relate to that! I am smiley and have lots of tools now to deal with anxiety ups and downs in life!


Thank you for being an amazing cheerleader., Adriana. <3

Exactly on Jensine. <3 We won't even know each other is she did not have a huge vision and follow through. Amazing.

Oh, thanks for appreciating the content on the Firefly Zone page. Yes, I would like it to be a space to encourage those who are inwardly struggling. As I said, I'll be who I needed when I was depressed. I'm happy that post resonated with you. Oh, anxiety is a challenge to deal with. It's like a partner to depression. Great that you have tools to manage it. How strong you are!

Hugs, too!

Adriana Greenblatt
Aug 19
Aug 19

Hello dear Karen! Yes tools they work for me are now non negotiables - yes anxiety and depression are like siblings that egg each other on, argh! But those experiences do not define me! They are one part of my life as a highly sensitive person (or maybe sometimes due to the judgements people sometimes think of with the word as sensitive, I prefer saying highly intuitive!!). I like that you are doing this work in progress thing with the firefly page, isn’t it all (life)a work in progress anyways ?!

Hugs hugs hugs

That's the spirit! Wow. I can see how effective your tools are for always bringing positivity to us here. Yes, on HSP. We're strong to be living in this world full of triggers.haha. But let's put away those labels. It's very limiting. We're more powerful than labels.

Thank you, Adriana! Yes, progress not perfection. What a great mantra!


Jill Langhus
Aug 15
Aug 15

Wow, Karen!

I agree with Adriana. You're writing is getting more and more compelling.

I didn't realize how long you had been struggling with depression. I'm so sorry, dear. That's so sad that you had suicidal thoughts so early on. What is primarily from bullying or from a multitude of things? I can definitely relate to the loathing of one's first name. I've thought so many times about changing mine as it doesn't resonate for me, but I feel like it's part of me now. I got "Jack and Jill went up the hill" ad nauseam, and just when you think you're too old to be teased about it in school, there was always invariably one person who didn't think so:-)

We are all so fortunate to bask in the glow of your encouragement, support and love on WP. May you continue to become stronger and stronger, not only in your gifts, but owning your own power, and loving yourself unconditionally, too. I can't believe you've only been in the community that short of time. I feel like I've known you so much longer. And, dear, you've been paying it forward the day you joined WP... you've got this!!! Please keep sharing your amazing stories. You'll never know how many girls and women you have impacted. XX

Hello, Jill,

I didn’t realize how young I was dealing with depression until I saw a study that there is actually a childhood depression. No, not bullying, I only shared that in relation to not liking my name. It’s the cumulative physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual abuse and neglect at home, Jill. I would always stay inside the room with the fear of being seen because I received all the anger and blame for not being a good enough daughter or girl. I think they are more concern on their image of raising great children so they instill fear on us so we “obey”.

Oh, I didn’t really realize about Jack and Jill until you shared it now. Sorry that you went through that.
I like the name Jill, by the way, and I like it more because of you.

Awww. Thank you, Jill. I’m fortunate that you model what encouragement looks like.

Haha. Yes, I will be two years on World Pulse this year, and I’m so glad to form connections in this global sisterhood. Stories, yes, I need more time to write. There so much pending stories I have yet to share.

Thank you for being a wonderful encourager mentor to us.

Jill Langhus
Aug 16
Aug 16

Hello there:-)

Yes, it's very young:-( Oh:-( Eeek! You're so strong to have put up with all that baggage for so long, and silently, too. Did they treat your other siblings this way, then? Did you say you're the oldest? Yes, I get the whole instilling "fear" to obey. It's an old school technique that seems to be used by a lot of parents, but hopefully society is going away from this. What do you think?

Thanks for your empathy on the song thing, and for your kind words about my name:-)

You're welcome, and thank you again:-)

That's incredible. You're already a permanent fixture of WP:-) You will, dear. You will!

You're welcome, and thank you for being the same, too!


Children are not aware of the abuse until they find out about it when they interact with their peers or when they read about it. All the while, I just thought something was really wrong with me so what's the use of living when everything I did was violently punishable.

Yes, I am the firstborn. I had it worst. The next one who was four years younger, my brother, the only son, was dealt differently, but also had his share of violent punishment and verbal/emotional abuse. The physical beating became less and less for the rest of my siblings, but the emotional abuse remains until now. So we're all dealing with mental health issues today. But my younger sisters acknowledge that they don't understand why our mother is really too hard on me compared to the rest.

Yes, my mother likes to be feared. That's how she established authority.

Thank you for the support and encouragement, Jill!

Jill Langhus
Aug 17
Aug 17

Yeah, that makes sense, and from a personal standpoint, too. Yes, children internalize and blame themselves.

Oh:-( I couldn't remember. Yes, I can imagine and totally know what you mean. At least you are aware a lot of went on and are healing from the wounds now, and that you're very strong, too. Especially, if she realizes that she is still harder on you. Why would you keep repeating the same, poor behavior:-(

That makes sense, too, unfortunately. I'm glad you haven't perpetuated this pattern with your own children.

You're very welcome, dear.


Thank you for your kind words and empathy, Jill.

It takes a lot of work from my part to break the abusive cycle. I didn't know motherhood can be triggering, too. I have to pray real hard for help. It takes a lot of inner work, reflection, affirmation, and so on.

Thanks again, Jill!

Jill Langhus
Aug 19
Aug 19

You're welcome, dear:-)

Yes, it does take a lot of hard work. That's interesting about motherhood being triggering but it makes sense, too. I was told before that having a child would be healing for an abusive cycle. I'm sure it is, but I would imagine it could also be triggering for all the systems/beliefs that aren't healed, too. At least you are aware, though, and have tools, resources, systems in place to heal them and move through them, as well as a support system, which is also very important:-)


I agree on having a child can bring healing, Jill. It does in so many levels. The trigger comes from incidents my children make, it's no big deal, then I remember how I was treated as a child, for example, "why was I beaten up badly for accidentally spilling water?".

Yes, thanks to you,too, for sharing tools and resources.

Jill Langhus

Interesting. Thanks for the clarification:-)

Yeah, I get it, and it makes total sense that triggers would come up.

You're welcome, dear.

Dawn Arteaga
Aug 15
Aug 15

Karen, you are SUCH a light on World Pulse and in the world. Your story speaks so strongly to my heart. Please know I am holding your hand across the distance. I especially love this part, "Writing with vulnerability and authenticity, I began to love myself and grant grace to myself. I broke away from the false truth that I need to be perfect in order to be accepted. I embraced my flaws and imperfections. I began to relax by being unapologetically me. In fact, I now love being called Karen. My name now reminds me that I am "Caring" or "Carin'"."

It also breaks my heart that you thought your child had different abilities because of some mistake or sin you had made. I wonder how many other mothers out there feel the same way -- you are such a blessing to each and every person working through these incredibly challenging issues.

You are so strong - and on your shoulders stand so many other World Pulse women whose voices have been activated because of your courage to be vulnerable and authentic.

With so much love and solidarity, Dawn

Hello, Dawn,

Your words touch my heart in different ways that I’m teary-eyed reading your encouragement. :’)

Yes, it is heartbreaking to be blamed for something beyond our control. I forgot to write about being in a circle of mothers raising autistic children, and I mentioned I’d like to conduct a talk about depression faced by special needs parents and how we go through 5 stages of grief. I shared how condemning others can be and because of that, we isolate ourselves. That statement resonated with these mothers, and they began to share their own stories about feeling judged that having these children are consequences of sin. We’re still scheduling for a date and venue for this talk which definitely will be a World Pulse activity. :)

Yes, I am strong, and part of my confidence today is I have World Pulse sisters like you who stand with me.

Thank you so much, Dawn! I appreciate you so much, too!

Just want to add for clarification that there is nothing wrong with children born with special needs. It's the parents and society that needs healing. :) Every child is a gift to this world, and everyone has a space to stay and thrive here. Each one has a light inside, nothing lacking.

Maya Iwata
Aug 15
Aug 15

You are both a beacon of light in the world and a reflector of other women's light as you lift them up. Thank you for sharing your story and your leadership journey. You have such incredible strength inside. World Pulse is a place to find your voice and be connected to a caring community that values authenticity. I am so appreciative that you found your way to World Pulse and that you are sharing your light with us and helping others find their "firefly" light.

Hello, Maya,

Thank you so much for your uplifting and appreciative words. I’m really happy that World Pulse provided this space for women to find our voice. The only way to heal traumas is to be brave enough to speak our truth and not allow anyone to label us with their perceptions of us.

Thank you for working hard to make World Pulse available for us all. Yes, I’m passionate for other fireflies to discover the light inside them so together we can all glow brightly.

Thank you for your time, Maya! I appreciate you, too.

Beth Lacey
Aug 15
Aug 15

This is so nice to read, Karen. And, yes, you are a great Encourager

Thank you for your kind words, Beth. I should commend you for being a consistent active encourager. Aside from speaking my truth, it is the words of encouragement that greatly help me on World Pulse.

Thank you so much for your commitment to encourage. I appreciate you, too!

Tarke Edith
Aug 15
Aug 15

Hello sister
Thanks for sharing with us the meaning of your name in English, dear life is all about what you make it to be this our platform has brought us together for good so let's move on together so that we can be a solution to our sister problems
Love you sis

Hello, sister Edith,

It’s so great to hear from you! How are you, dear sister? Yes, I’m so glad that this platform allowed me to meet you, my strong, courageous sister!

I love you, too. I hope you’re having a greay day?


My dear Karen, Am very proud of you. I love the way you have grown and discovered yourself very first. Its an amazing confidence you got. I want you to know that you have a very large family that loves you here on World Pulse. Keep this up. Love yourself than ever before. Keep your Leadership Lamp burning. Don't ever turn it off even when you feel the place you are is dark. You shine and will always shine.

With lots of love and very warm regards,