#87 Freedom Grows Love: Advocating for Others

Today's Guest: Leanne Dorish

Today I interview Leanne Dorish, who says that people have always paid attention to her because of her height. She learned very early on that people were always watching. When she spoke, her stature sometimes led to people seeing her voice as too strong. She pulled back a bit and became a skilled listener.

She was teased consistently for one thing or another. Leanne even recalls being teased by family members. Once at a family dinner, she stood up to defend her dad during a discussion, and everyone laughed at her. She carried that hurt and fear for decades, feeling like she couldn’t stand up or speak out.

As she got older, her peers never really understood her either. In high school, her very slender stature stood out even more, as baggy clothes were the trend and she found herself swimming in them. Most people didn’t understand that underneath it all, she had a normal woman’s body. She did nothing to correct them for fear of negative reactions. We see here that she wasn’t afraid to speak; she was afraid of the response afterward.

After she graduated, Leanne says the frustration had built up enough over the years that she had become bitter, snapping at people who made critical remarks or questions based on her height. She realized she was pushing people away. She began working with the homeless community, and this was eye-opening for her. She found her courage in advocating for people who needed help. She got her Master’s degree and became a counselor, learning different techniques for speaking with people.

When Leanne gave birth to her son nine weeks early, she found herself thrown into a whole new world. She was terrified by how sick he was, but she couldn’t let her fear hold her back because she knew she had to stand up for her son and his care. She had counseled countless others, but this true test was in learning to use her skills and knowledge for her own situation. She strove to learn more. She eventually “caught the wave”, found a coach, and has found new ways to grow and challenge herself ever since.


Leanne is a trauma counselor, clinical supervisor, and proud Mama of a 2014 NICU graduate. She is an author, speaker, and blogger. Leanne loves supporting individuals to move from frustration to freedom, which in turn grows Love. She’s an amateur genealogist, and loves being creative and spending time with her family.

Find Leanne here:

Watch the episode:

Connect with Leanne Dorish

Transcript of Interview

Transcript of Interview


Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast


Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing


Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com


Episode # 87 Leanne Dorish


“Freedom Grows Love: Advocating for Others”


(00:36) Dr. Doreen Downing

Hello, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing, host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. What we do here on this podcast is to invite guest who have some story about their voice, either never having much of one where they felt like they could stand up and speak out in any situation to those who actually have had no problem and who feel like circumstances, however, did something that made them feel like they had to hold themselves back. Other kinds of stories we’ve heard here on the podcasts are people who find themselves in corporations and have to speak a certain kind of corporate speak, and really can’t be true to themselves. Bottom line here on why I do this podcast is because I love bringing out the authentic voice in people. I love giving a platform where people can tell the truth about their own history, their own story of what it was like either having a voice or not having it and how, if they didn’t have one, what happened in life that they found it. We always welcome people to offer what they do nowadays because most people that I invite here do have some kind of business or coaching program where they have moved through their own struggles and now offer other people some coaching experience, so thank you. Today, I am happy to introduce you to Leanne, a really wonderful, heartful person that I’m going to have a really welcome time with today. I’d like to read something about you, Leanne.


(02:38) Leanne Dorish

Thank you. Yes.


(02:41) Dr. Doreen Downing

Leanne is a trauma counselor, clinical supervisor, and proud mama of a 2014 NICU graduate. NICU, for those who might not know what that means, it’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit. She is an author, speaker, and blogger. Leanne loves supporting individuals to move from frustration to freedom. Oh, I like that. I’m going to say that again, from frustration to freedom which in turn grows love. This is wonderful to read out loud so that people are really getting— Already so far, if people aren’t viewing you, they will be listening. What I’m viewing right here on screen is a love coming from a very deep part of you. Let me say one more thing about what you’ve given me as your bio. She’s an amateur genealogist who loves being creative and spending time with her family. Big breath to take all this in and opening up the space to explore you, and your life. I always like to start early on because people don’t know that you are not— I don’t think you were born in this country, in the United States.


(04:13) Leanne Dorish

No, I am Canadian through and through with a lot of old country heritage. I’m in Canada but when the borders are open, I’ve ventured down to the states quite often.


(04:30) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, isn’t this amazing that we can develop a friendship and a conversation here and it doesn’t have to be— You’re my next door neighbor but, in a way, it does seem that way because of this opportunity we have with the Internet. We’re here to talk about voice and if we can go back to the beginning. You’re way up there in Canada, a little baby went out, “Hello World.” Anything you can say about your early life?


(05:08) Leanne Dorish

Early in life, I learned that people were watching. I’ve always been tall. I’m 6’1. That’s where I ended up. Being taller throughout my life, I had a different sort of attention. When I would use my voice along with my height, people would have interesting reactions. I remember family events and friends’ circles, and I’d use my voice and I feel like I was being laughed at. I’d feel like I couldn’t share my whole self. I had to be a particular way in the world. My mom was always a support and dad too when he was around, he’s a busy dude. But early childhood was still adventurous. It was still very magical. It was still full of dressing up my little brother in Holly Hobbie clothes. That creative sense of childhood. It’s a combination of life.


(06:32) Dr. Doreen Downing

Beautiful. I’ve never had that on the podcast with all the 85 episodes I’ve done. That connection with physical being a certain height that compared to other kids your age might be a little bit out of the norm, so you would stand out. That would be something I hadn’t really thought of. I bet that relates to a lot of the listeners who, in some ways, had some kind of body shape. That was something that maybe they got teased about. Were you teased?


(07:12) Leanne Dorish

All the time. Not only friends, or classmates, but family, and closer individuals. There was always a reason, whether I was wearing my glasses, had braces, too tall, or big feet. I always thought I was too skinny. My metabolism is quite fast, so it’s hard for me to gain weight. Different things in life, being a NICU mom, that was a very trying time with my health, so I actually lost more weight. I’ve had criticisms about that. Whereas I can take down a bag of chips, or I can sit with all sorts of junk food very easily. It’s hard for me to gain weight, which is the other health concern that some people have. There’s always a reason for people to poke.


(08:15) Dr. Doreen Downing

I’ve always wanted to say profound. No matter what or who we are, or what we look like, there’s always somebody who might make something out of it that’s negative, whether they tell it to us face to face or not, it’s in their attitude or their approach or the way that they treat us. Being teased a little bit that feels like you might hold yourself back. Is was that what you did? How did you handle being teased?


(08:55) Leanne Dorish

Most definitely. One of my earliest memories was when there was a big family dinner at a family friend’s restaurant, and we were all in these tables. Someone was making fun teasing my dad or what I felt was teasing my dad. I was maybe eight, and I stood up and I said, “I’m just like my dad. Nobody make fun of my dad.” Everybody just laughed. There was no support. There was no “it’s okay, sweetheart,” that I remember in my little brain. I just sat back down and I slunk and I’m doing it right now on video, but I remember thinking, “Oh my lord. Everyone’s laughing at me. I shouldn’t voice my thoughts. I can’t stand up for people. I can’t stand up for myself.” I just got really quiet and really small. I tried to make myself small. It’s a very profound memory for me. I had to work through that one like a planted seed that made me hide for 40 years, almost.


(10:14) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, I’m feeling it right now. A lot of empathy for that little one who had a certain kind of defiance, bravery, and courage just shooting up like that, impulsively, to protect. That feels like one of your gifts from way back that shows us that there was something internally that was ready to stand up for yourself and for others. That’s pretty much what you do. That’s your work. We’ve got incidences that we can point to where you’re saying that was a pretty profound moment for you. But both are there, the natural inclination, the gift as well as the injury at the same time.


(11:23) Leanne Dorish

Yes. Exactly. Through my teenage years, you’re always awkward, well, I was awkward. I was around a lot of awkward people. We were that grunge generation so we hid in big clothes. I can still wear some of my clothes from grade seven, grade eight, grade nine, because they were so big. We got extra larges, big baggy pants, dad’s sweaters, and pajama pants. I was really hiding. Another interesting memory I have is when my girlfriend and I—she’s 5’2 and I’m up here at 6’1—we were GI Joe and Barbie for Halloween. I wore the Barbie costume and she wore the GI Joe costume. Everyone—this may be too much information—but everyone thought I’d stuffed my bra because there I was in a regular T-shirt, being Barbie in a skirt and tights. I was like, “I don’t know how to answer this,” because usually, I have big baggy clothes, and no one can see my figure, and there I was. “Oh, good stuffing Leanne.” All that kind of stuff. I’m just going to let them think that because I don’t know how else to respond. I was still very much hiding myself.


(12:50) Dr. Doreen Downing

Hiding seems to be the major component for people who hold themselves back. But what were you afraid of? You hid because what? Early on, people laughed, but imagine what was the fear. If you didn’t hide? What would people be saying?


(13:19) Leanne Dorish

I know what my now brain wants to say, but going back into that part of myself, I was afraid of being seen, but I was also afraid of the negative reactions and responses that I would get when I would use my voice because, like you said, there was that strength. There’s a part of me that naturally knows how to or, maybe not gracefully in the beginning, but knew that standing up for someone else, or standing up for something that was based in love meant something to me. I did have a voice and I went to leadership conferences and all that kind of stuff. But I didn’t ever want to be a lead or because I was afraid of the repercussions. I couldn’t handle what could have happened if it wasn’t positive. That’s the stirrings within me.


(14:36) Dr. Doreen Downing

I think you just laid it out pretty well, that sometimes people hold themselves back, not just because they’re afraid to have eyes on them and they’re afraid they’re going to fall apart or be nervous. It’s what happens next when you do speak up and you’re going to get some kind of response. It’s the anticipated response that feels like down the line after you’ve spoken, after you’ve used your voice. What might happen?


(15:11) Leanne Dorish



(15:13) Dr. Doreen Downing

That’s a pattern. It feels like that goes along with the story that happened after you spoke up. So, moving along in life, and having both going on the hiding as well as the inner strength that you probably became more and more aware of. Is that how it happened? Tell us a little bit about your journey.


(15:41) Leanne Dorish

Yes. Thank you. I did have a lot of teasing. Up until my 30s, people would still comment on different things. When I was younger, I got reprimanded because someone asked me if I was a basketball player, and I asked them if they were a jockey because they were short. Apparently, I wasn’t allowed to do that but it was okay for them to ask me if I played some sort of sport just because I was tall. I had those little pieces within me. As I grew up, and as I became an independent adult, I realized that I wasn’t very graceful with those moments. Because I was pushing people away, people would say that I was intimidating, or I was too strong. After those responses, I would hide more of myself. I can’t be like that. I went to school in the States, and then I came back home. I got working in the homeless community in Vancouver, lots of active addictions. I found that my voice came out a lot more advocating and having doctor’s appointments with some of my people. Then I got a job as a counselor there because I got my master’s degree. More and more, I was able to learn from the elders in the native health medical clinic that I was working in, that being able to share your thoughts in a graceful manner went a lot further than standing up and telling everyone this is how it should be. Just like any dictator, no one wants to be dictated to, but having ideas come to the table is definitely a more approachable way of doing it. I saw those bits and pieces come through me and being guided by different people who had experience being a minority, and not feeling like they had a voice. All of a sudden, I was turning into their voice for them.


(18:14) Leanne Dorish

People who are going through transgender changes and all sorts of amazingly, tingling— I still get shivers thinking about my people down there. I’m away from Vancouver now, which is why I said down there. Then I had my son, and he came nine weeks early. We were in the NICU, the newborn intensive care unit for two months with him, not knowing whether or not we could take him home at the end of it. He was very sick. That also catapulted me into using my voice because in there, it doesn’t feel like it’s your baby because there’s so many nurses and medical staff. This appointment and that feeding and this monitor and you can’t hold them because they’d stopped breathing and all these types of chaotic things. You have to weave yourself into the system. It felt like there’s been a lot that’s happened over the last eight years in special care nurseries and NICU’s. Because of those of us around the world who are using our voices and saying “No.” Mom needs this or dad needs visitation rights, or grandma or partner or whomever it might be. That was the novice voice-using technique that I was catapulted into.


Then I started going to conferences. After being a NICU mom, and coming out of it, but also having the psychology. Training as a profession, that’s what I do and did. I was like, “Wow.” With everything that I know, and everything that I am, and everything that I’ve done for other people, having him home, why do I still feel like this? Why do I still feel alone and tormented and traumatized? How can I be my own counselor? Is that even possible? To a certain extent as you know, that really got me thinking how can I help other people not have to feel like this. I started going to conferences and seeing those people on stage and hearing stories on stage. Just as you’re doing here, sharing other people’s stories, so that it can spark things in others. It’s that ripple effect. I caught it. I caught the wave. I found a coach. He and his program and his team really are the people I trusted and took a lot of risks for. Having that accountability to something or someone else really catapulted me into growing me. My voice came along with it.


(21:34) Dr. Doreen Downing

I love the way you just said, “growing me” because the voice does come from a “me” and which “me” is it. The more we grow ourselves, and the more we know ourselves, it feels like we have different aspects of our voice that can come forth. I love the elders who showed you a new way to use your voice. I feel that in being with you. Something I’m learning right now from you is that the way you use your voice or the way in general, the way that we use our voices really can impact people. It could help wake them up. You’re very gentle, and the gentleness makes me relaxed just listening to you. That quality, that tone, that way of being strong, I guess, and soft at the same time, is what I’m getting from you today. So, thank you for all the depth and the sharing and the details. We’re coming to the end of our time together, and I want to make sure if there’s something that you want to share about how people can find you or what you do in the world currently, so that people who have been touched by your voice today will be able to find you.


(23:08) Leanne Dorish

That’s so beautiful. Thank you. Thank you for all those kind words. It’s powerful hearing that back. I have two functioning websites, leannedorishcounseling.ca. No, dot com. Sorry, changed that just recently. Mynicufamily.com. I’m on Instagram and Facebook. You can find me Leanne Dorish in lots of different places. I think I’m on LinkedIn and stuff too. I like doing a lot of different things. Instagram is usually— mynicufamily is the handle that you can reach me out the easiest. Or go to my counseling website and email me, message me anytime. I’m happy to share more with anyone and help in any way that they need or I can or we can work together and move forward.


(24:18) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes, thank you so much. I just want to be in your presence more. People, whoever’s listening, you can feel the radiance, can’t you? There’s a radiance in the voice as well as on screen in the visual. Thank you so much for your radiance and for touching us today.


(24:46) Leanne Dorish

Thank you so much, Doreen. It’s been an honor.


Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.