That's What She Said

Episode 78: Visiting with Adi Puckett of Champaign, IL and her story “Into the Sun.”

Woman stands on stage holding microphone
                                    SSPP ep. 78 ADI PUCKETT

Adi Puckett had to learn how to heal her own trauma, so she could raise her daughter with unconditional love.  In this episode, we revisit her story, "Into the Sun," a powerful performance at the 2023 production of "That's What She Said" in Champaign, IL.

ANNOUNCER 00:00 Raising women's voices. One story at a time.
Welcome to The She Said Project Podcast.

[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

Hey, Kerry! How about you start us off this week?
Hey, Jenette. I feel like we're a couple of cheerleaders. [speaking like a cheerleader] "My name is Kerry. I'm the co founder."
JENETTE  00:34  [awkwardly speaking like a cheerleader]"I'm Jenette. I'm the Na-tion-al Dir..."  That doesn't... No, no, no.
KERRY  00:38  Didn't work.
JENETTE  00:39  But one thing That's What She Said and cheerleaders have in common, we uplift and cheer on the women in our community.
KERRY  00:46  That's right. That's right. Yeah, we might be more like the SNL,  you know, Will Ferrell that
JENETTE  00:51  Yes we are. Thank you. We are Spartans.
KERRY  00:53  ...that cheer group... yes, but we have heart. We might not Yeah, yeah, we might not have made the cheerleading squad but but we definitely are here to cheer on our guest today.
JENETTE  01:03  Do you know who is an amazing cheerleader and uplifter of women in this community?
KERRY  01:07  I'll swing -- who, Jenette?
JENETTE  01:10  Our guest today: Adi Puckett.
KERRY  01:12  Awww! So true. Hi, Adi.
ADI PUCKETT  01:14  Hi, Hi Ladies.
JENETTE  01:16  I thank you for joining our shenanigans.
KERRY  01:19  We're just so excited to have you on to chat with you again.
ADI  01:22  It's awesome. I'm very glad to be joining you for this very exciting.
JENETTE  01:28  The She Said Project Podcast is like the party after the party after the party where we get to reconnect with the women who've been onstage in That's What She Said performances. It's also like a glue because we get to talk to women from all the different communities, which is super fun as we grow. But Adi is right here in our flagship community of Champaign Urbana, Adi, I'm gonna let you talk to our audience about who you are in this world and what you do and why you've said yes to being in That's What She Said.
ADI  01:57  You're asking me to say a lot in a very small amount of time.
JENETTE  02:00  I got time.
ADI  02:04  Adi Puckett. I live in Mahomet. I am a certified Christian life coach. And I do that at Two Roads Wellness Clinic in Mahomet. But also through Two Roads, I get to do a ton of community outreach, in Mahomet, Champaign Urbana, Danville, Covington, Indiana, I love my job. I love Two Roads. But I'm also a published author, a public speaker, I am a wife, I am a mother, I am exhausted. [Kerry and Jenette laugh]
JENETTE  02:39  You are relatable.
ADI  02:41  Yes! [laughing] But I mean, to be fair, I am not all of those things all at once. So a lot of this has been about balance and figuring out the right things to do at the right time, while leaving space to take care of myself so that I can continue doing these things.
JENETTE  02:59  I think that's a perfect theme that you brought to the stage how you found balance in your life. And for you to be a coach that gives back to women and clients, for you to help others unpack what's holding them back. You know, what's causing them poor health or anxiety or issues, you had to go on a journey of your own
ADI  03:20  Right, very important, about all of the things that I do, I have to do them with severe adult female ADHD, and a few levels of complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on board. So I have to be able to manage those things in order to do all these other awesome things. And that's not easy. I had a lot to learn
JENETTE  03:45  And you shared your learning journey on stage in your story. So let's take a moment to share your story so our listeners can get to know you, Adi, and enjoy this awesome conversation. So let's take a listen. This is Adi Puckett performing onstage in Champaign Urbana. That's What She Said 2023 with her story, "Into The Sun." 
ADI PUCKETT  04:05  I was 28 years old. I am watching my three year old daughter play very enthusiastically with her Little Peoples farmhouse. And as I giggled along with her, I began to wonder how long? How long before my daughter started to suffer at my hands, the way I suffered at the hands of my own mother.
04:31 I was my mother's fourth child. And for reasons nobody could understand she could not handle my existence. In her attempts to subdue my feral nature, I was beaten with extension cords, I had lit cigarettes put out on me, and I'd be smacked or whatever, whenever. And when she really couldn't figure out what to do with me, she'd put me in this basement room, and it seemed like she forgot I was even down there sometimes because I wouldn't be there for extended periods of time alone. Unfed, thirsty, no access to a bathroom, in the dark.
05:13  Now when my uncle found out what was happening, he did the right thing. He snitched to my grandmother who responded by convincing my mother to just give me up. My mother agreed -- eventually. And so my grandmother and my aunt, they took me in, and they quickly got me medical care for my bloated belly, my blistered and bacteria ridden scalp. And they had to seek counsel to try to figure out what to do with a six year old little girl who didn't seem to speak a word.
05:55  I didn't know how to tell them, what I liked what I didn't like what I needed. All I knew was how to be afraid, and how to be alone. My grandmother and my aunt, God love them, they didn't understand a whole lot about trauma, or mental health. But they did, however, understand love. And this is what they gave me. And as I was learning about it in my Bible, I got to watch it in real time as these two women loved everybody who crossed their path, literally, whether it was with food, kind word, time given to listen and console in times of trouble.
06:46  I watched this, I absorbed it, and I loved every bit of it. But I could never find a way to let them into that void of pain that was always with me. I was afraid that if I showed them, it would frighten them. And they would decide that I really was the monster my mom said I was, and they send me back to her. And that just wasn't going to do.
07:13  So I held it all in. And unwittingly, I lived my life with pain. I used it to navigate everything. It was all I knew. On the outside, I'm pretty sure I've seen like an average kid, you know, witty and articulate when I started speaking again, which most people started to regret. But that's okay. But on the inside, was screaming all the time. And that's how I found myself -- watching my baby, playing with her toys. With  that fear creeping in on the verge of panic. When another thought occurred to me, there's no way I'm going to be able to raise this child in an all abiding love if I don't forgive my mother. Years of untreated postpartum depression, slowly evolved into psychosis, turn my mother against her own children. And it locked her in a prison of her own mind. Nobody around her understood this kind of brokenness, and she herself, couldn't really see it. And she also couldn't afford good mental health care. Now, the day I realized I needed to forgive her, I have to admit that I was also a prisoner. But I did not know just how far my cheese had slid right off my cracker. [laughter] Maybe a little residue on there and not, not sure. [laughter continues]
09:04  Now, around this time, I asked God to show me what I had become, because of my hurts. And I learned that I was bitter. I was afraid of my own shadow. I expected harm around every turn. And any harm that I did endure: rape, assault, and a few other mind bending events, whatever it was, I felt I deserved it. This is what I was used to. It was normal. And I knew that I could survive it. And that's all I did was survive until I was about 40 years old. By that time, that screaming I mentioned had started to feel like what I would imagine electricity or electric shock to feel like, constantly coursing through my body and waves. And no one realized that they could be standing right in front of me. And I would be screaming for them to somehow magically realize that something was wrong and help me. I couldn't tell them what I was feeling because I feared that if I leaked out even the smallest amount, I would explode and just blow a hole in the earth.
10:35  I was exhausted, chronically depressed, and often way too close to suicide to take one more step by myself. And I was intense. Oh boy, just sucking the air out of the room as soon as I walk into it. Bristling at the slightest provocation, even the imaginary ones, and just making my family miserable. My marriage was just flapping in the wind, my kid could barely stand to be in the same room with me. And my poor step babies, they thought I was a nutbag. [laugher] And I still kind of am, don't get me wrong. [laughter] But I hear that I have been lovingly reclassified as uniquely unstable. [laughter]
11:39  I'll keep it. So early last year, I felt this urgent pressing to get away from everything, all of it was too close to my face. And I felt like I was suffocating, just pressure coming in from all sides. Something needed to change. But to know what that was, I needed to get alone and sit in the quiet with God. So I worked it out, left my home for a one week personal sabbatical away from work and family. On that first day, by nothing short of divine timing, I received a video link from a friend about a missionary who had shared his experience serving in a remote population. This man had started what he thought was a business of growing and selling pineapples to fund his mission. But he was shocked that when harvest came, all the pineapples would be taken by the natives. He was livid that his pineapples would be stolen by these 'naked thieves' as he likes to call them. But when he shared this experience with an older, wiser friend, he was advised that the natives saw the fruit that comes from the earth as theirs to eat. And the seeds he used to plant the pineapples were not made by him. And they weren't made by the store that he bought them from. So he would be wise to let go of what did not belong to him. What was not, nor ever was his to control.
13:37  It took a minute, because I'm stubborn. But suddenly the mirror was turned. And I could see that I didn't have any peace because to me, being in control meant being safe. But with this pineapple story, I started to understand that I needed to check my ego and take my hands off of things that are not in my power to control -- namely people. But in my spirit, I could hear that God loves me that He loves everything and every one He ever made. And He helped me to understand that I may not be safe in the hands of other people, but in His hands  It is okay. [applause] to let go. And I surrendered it all.
14:36  On this personal sabbatical. I took myself away from the busyness of life, from the chaos in my soul. I gave myself time and space. I read books like real paper ones. [laughter] I listened to music and I created things with my hands. I just wanted to make sure that I didn't say a word. I wanted to listen. I allowed myself to go deeper than I had ever dared to.
15:12  And it was in that quiet, that the screaming stopped. And the healing began. In this place, my trust deepened, I trusted, that God would lead me to the right people in the right places at the right times for my healing. And as I followed Him into it, all the therapies, the counseling, even nutrition services, all of these different things that came together to help me I became aware of that six year old little girl on the inside, who was just begging me to let her grew up. And over time, I was able to apologize to her. And I loved her into the sun.
16:11  From my first day back from that break until now, peace has ruled my days. [applause]
16:24  I've gotten to watch a deep breath of healing role, not just through my home, but I've watched it roll through three generations of my family, including my mother, on the night of December 2 2022. For the first time in almost 20 years, I intentionally reached out to my mother, to get her permission to speak freely about her. I was prepared to have to wear her down gently because she is not her favorite subject. But when I opened my mouth to ask for her permission, what came out instead was Mom, I need your help. And in true motherly fashion, she was all ears. When I explained this event and my purpose for telling this story, to encourage you to try, she responded with a really loud yes.
17:29  And that was enough for me, I was satisfied with that. But she continued with this. People need to know what happens when mental illness is allowed to go untreated and how far it can reach. But they also need to see what God can do. When we mishandle His gifts. She told me how proud she is of me. And that she even likes me as a person [applause]
18:09  In the letting go, the surrender, I am more free than I have ever been, happier, bolder and healthier than at any other time in my adult life. But not only am I free but so is my daughter. And praise the Lord. So is my beautiful, intelligent, creative and inspiring mother.


JENETTE  18:56  That was a full circle moment. That story. So it when you started just watching your daughter play with her toys and you had this, this thought in your head how long you know how long until you start living out the abuse and the trauma that you went through? Take us back to that experience and why that was the opening of your story.
ADI  19:24  I think I chose that moment because it really was extremely pivotal. I mean, in my head the mental imagery is very vivid. And the emotions associated at the time were very big. I remember being so proud of that little juicy toddler on the floor playing with all her things and how much I was just enjoying her. And I don't know if it was just an intrusive thought, or something that was supposed to be fleeting, but once the thought landed in my head it just stayed, that there was a strong possibility that my joy in my daughter might fade one day. And because of the things I had experienced, I might repeat some of the things that my mother did. And I just didn't want that to happen. And that's when the cycle of thoughts -- what might be necessary? What condition was I actually in? How far did I have to go? Like all of these things... Just started cycling through my brain? Up
JENETTE  20:31  Until that point, had you done any counseling or healing or work on yourself?
ADI  20:36  No, I had not.
JENETTE  20:38  Did you even realize how much trauma you were carrying?
ADI  20:41  I had no idea. I lived this life of survival. It was whatever was happening that's what was happening. And I just have to adjust to my surroundings to the circumstances, what have you. And I think I was pretty good at it. Because I think one characteristic of some of the traumas that I carry is the ability to be whoever or whatever other people need me to be in the moment. And I never left room to consider how these requests were affecting me. I never considered the impact that they were having on my mind or on my heart. I just did the things.
You really did not know how far your cheese had slid right off your cracker. [Adi laughs]
I love that. I love that
ADI  21:28  I have not.
KERRY  21:30  Okay, so what was the feedback? What was the reaction you got from folks in the community or your loved ones?
ADI  21:36  The first thing I heard was my brother, who, by the way, it was so cool. My daughter, surprised me by having him fly in from Virginia...
KERRY  21:49  Wow. Wow.
ADI  21:49 watch me in the show, I have no idea he was coming. And it just made that night so much bigger. But when it was over, and I saw him, he said that I had taken the entire audience on this journey, that he got lost in and felt that he was 100%. A part of, which is really interesting, because he actually was, I wasn't the only one to suffer. He did too.
KERRY  22:25  Wow. So it really was sort of a way to honor him, too.
ADI  22:29  Absolutely, absolutely. I was, I remember thinking, I knew that I was going to share the story with my siblings or what have you. But to have him there was totally different. And I remember thinking while sharing the story on the stage, how proud I am of him.
JENETTE  22:49  It was one thing for you to decide to share this experience of your childhood with your mom and her mental health issues. But during the process of you writing your story, something big happened, and it ended up becoming part of your story. And I will never forget, when you shared with our cast that you made the phone call that you wanted to talk to her before sharing this story.
ADI  22:50  Yes, I thought it was only fair if I was going to be speaking about her honestly, I don't know if I wanted her permission. But I at least wanted her to be aware when I figured I was going to talk about her anyway. And if she wanted nice things to be said she should have been nice. [laughing] You know, let's so I kept it that simple. But I did want to honor her by making her aware that what's happening, and even though I didn't need her permission, I asked for it anyway. And I wasn't prepared for her to be so willing to just say yes, I actually -- oooh, I dodged that phone call for quite some time, before I finally took the courage to do it, because I fully expected her to kind of fall apart and have some misgivings about it, but not a single one. And she was even encouraging of it. And that was a huge surprise for me.
JENETTE  24:17  And how many years had it been since you and your mom had spoken prior to that?
ADI  24:21  It had been roughly 20 years since I had had any real conversation with her.
JENETTE  24:31  That took so much courage for you to make that phone call and you did the right thing. We always encourage our speakers: You cannot talk about someone else in your in your world without their blessing. That is not fair to them.
ADI  24:47  Right, right.
JENETTE  24:47  We're not here to throw anyone under the bus. We are here to share stories that honor and uplift and sometimes they involve other people. The fact that this inspired you to make that phone call, like I just, I'm literally sitting here with my jaw open in awe of how that played out, how it became part of your story, and how and how you, you celebrated her at the end of your story. And that was not expected.
KERRY  25:16  I was thinking when you quoted Anne Lamott earlier, it made me think of another book that she wrote, Grace Eventually, that was just the title of one of her books. But it is what your story sort of was saying to the world that, you know, grace does come eventually, and you offered it so beautifully.
ADI  25:31 Thank you for that. And that is exactly what it is, I will say, grace. There are painful things involved. There was a great amount of suffering. But in my suffering, I felt it was very important to also validate her suffering, because it was suffering that led her to the decisions that she made. And if I'm going to be fair, if I'm going to seek balance in this equation, then I also have to consider her life. And it mattered. It still matters.
KERRY  26:10  It matters.
JENETTE  26:11  And you got to open the minds and eyes of the people in the audience about the importance of access to mental health care. And that there were generations where these things were not talked about, and the suffering that came from that it is a blessing to know you and to see you, and how you have embraced your own life and done your healing and your process and are now giving that kind of peace and grace to other women and people in the community all the time. There are people who could not come from that space, and do what you do. And so you are just an inspiration and a blessing. And I hope you know that.
ADI  26:54  I really appreciate that. Sometimes I feel it. And sometimes I'm just living my life.
KERRY  27:00  Yup, yup. Well, I thank you, for myself. And for everyone who got to hear your story. It was really beautiful. And I'm so grateful that you shared that with everyone.
ADI  27:10  Well thank you, it was, it was an honor to even be invited to do it. And it was a very hard decision to do it. Because it's such a heavy story. And I didn't want to depress anybody. You know? But I thought it was very important that if other people are going to get the courage to seek their own healing, and start growing and living by their own specific design, then I feel that those of us who have the courage need to just do it, to just say something out loud. So it'll inspire someone else to grab a hold of their own courage, and also start speaking out loud
JENETTE  27:53  And you know, shining out into the sun, bringing out all of the secrets in the darkness and shining light. So you made a choice to come out of the darkness and into the sun. Because, as you like to say, you know, the only thing that can grow in the dark are what?
ADI  28:09  Mushrooms! Because when you don't expose things, especially the dark, ugly thing, they take root and they control the narrative.
JENETTE  28:20  Yeah.
ADI  28:20  But once you expose them to the light, they cannot stand, they cannot continue to live because they get exposed to the things that can get rid of them.
JENETTE  28:30  And how old is your daughter today?
ADI  28:32  My daughter is 22, married, just a domestic little heavy, feral human. And I am just in love with her little journey. I'm so proud of her.
JENETTE  28:45  That's amazing. She gets to live that life free of the darkness, you know, and the baggage because you made some really tough choices to provide that world for her and to heal yourself. So congratulations and thank you and I know we know there were women who heard your story that night who did some serious reflecting and probably made some pretty hard calls themselves to do some healing or heal some relationships that had been hurting over a really long time
ADI  29:12  I really hope so
JENETTE  29:12  And I don't think we could ask for anything more from this journey.
ADI  29:15  Yeah, I really hope it helps someone
JENETTE  29:18  Well, we adore and appreciate you, Adi Puckett, for being part of the She Said family and for joining us today on the podcast. We want to thank everyone who makes this podcast possible: our listeners my sidekick over here Kerry Rossow all our friends at Illinois Public Media because stories have power and that is now like our mission coming full circle, like sharing these stories with even more friends you know that can benefit from these amazing women that we get to know here on The She Said Project Podcast. Over and out.


[Music: The She Said Project Podcast Theme]

ANNOUNCER 29:52 Thank you for listening to The She Said Project Podcast in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in the podcast for the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That’s What She Said, LLC. For more information on our live shows go to [url=][/url]
This podcast was made possible with support from Carle and Health Alliance and presented by Sterling Wealth Management, empowering women to live their best lives.

ADI  30:40  Thank you.
KERRY  30:41  Over and out! Thanks Adi!


Adi Puckett had to learn how to heal her own trauma, so she could raise her daughter with unconditional love. In this episode, we revisit her story, "Into the Sun," a powerful performance at the 2023 production of "That's What She Said" in Champaign, IL.

The She Said Project Podcast is recorded in partnership with Illinois Public Media. All materials contained in this podcast are the exclusive property of The She Said Project and That's What She Said, LLC. Learn more at