One of the first rules of the universe is change. Some of us are equipped better than others when it comes to change. The more we resist change the more we suffer. For many, we love nostalgia and the way things used to be; and then we wish, hope, and pray things would go back to the way they were. Others live in the future, worrying about what is coming, what isn’t coming, and how they will only be happy in the future when x, y, and z happens. Others accept that change is coming and hang on for the ride either eloquently or violently. For some, change evolves slowly and cautiously as some of us have this “thing,” which I can’t name, but it’s deep inside just simmering waiting for the right time to boil over. For a few, this “thing” can simmer for years or a lifetime and never come to full boil, and for others it happens every few years, or few decades. That “thing,” is what happened to me.
In 2003 I graduated from some of the best years of my life at a small liberal arts college in Iowa. I had passed my boards and got a job in Denver, CO as an ER nurse. Wow, the excitement was electric — a new grad AND an ER nurse. What could be more thrilling? My parents hauled me out to Colorado, moved me into an apartment, and my journey began. I was a new nurse, in a new place where I knew no one. The ER was eye opening to say the least. The pace was rapid, and I was running on overload the entire shift. I took care of drunks and psych patients who screamed, kicked and bucked. I received a lifeless fetus in a grocery sack at the triage window. I watched as we couldn’t save the life of an 80-year-old or even an 8-year-old. I sent countless heart attacks to the Cath lab, and became frustrated with a family of 5 who came in and filled several rooms because they had no insurance and had sore throats. I was numb to the emotion. I could put on a straight face to help a physician tell a family that their loved one had died, and as soon as I passed the Kleenex out, I asked what organs they wanted to harvest from their loved one. After a few years I had to get out. I moved my career to cardiology and learned a new field all over again. I loved my time there and was blown away by the medications, procedures, and tests. I eventually found myself back in an ER setting due to family needs and schedules. I had only been working in this ER for about 6 months when it dawned on me that we were seeing the same patients over and over again. Of course there were the true emergencies, traumas, and illness but our hospital, as so many hospitals are around the country, was a revolving door. Chest pain = ER = Cath lab = treat with medications = go home = repeat. Police pick crazy person up from the street = ER = drugs = psych evaluation = admit to psych unit = discharge = back to the street = repeat. There is a drug or procedure to fix everything. It was at this time that some “thing” started simmering inside me. I knew deep down that there had to be another way. What about prevention, diet, exercise, sanitation, or education? Why does our model treat with procedures and drugs, when we could treat with education and prevention?
My “thing” brewed, but stayed on a low simmer as I took care of our babies, moved to a new home, settled ourselves in a new community, and lived the crazy 24-7 mom life. Still, there was this “thing” simmering. I knew in my heart I could never go back to our western model of nursing. I knew in my heart there had to be another way. After my daughter turned 1 my health wasn’t where I wanted it to be and I started down the long road of losing the baby weight. I started eating healthy and exercising. A year later I was down to a great weight, size, and feeling well. But, just losing the baby weight wasn’t enough. I began cooking like crazy, meal planning and prepping, changing the way my entire family ate and looked at food. I began classes on nutrition, functional nutrition, and my own research on healing foods. I baked with nut flours, rid our kitchen of white flour and sugar, and dabbled in the anti-inflammatory/paleo world. I was having a secret affair with Danielle Walker from Against all Grain, Dr. Hyman, Dr. Weil, Andrea Nakayama from Replenish, and Elana from Elana’s Pantry. I began looking at studies about sugar, inflammation, and healing with food. My external health of exercise, diet, and sleep were thriving. I realized the transformation in my family and my own health were amazing and I asked myself daily, “How can I use my nursing career to help others put their health and their family’s health first?”
I enrolled at the University of AZ in their Integrative Health and Lifestyle Program (IHeLP). And that “thing” began to boil. I realized through a few dear friends, colleagues, and classmates, that this path to health I had been dreaming about for others actually did have a title. This “thing” that now was boiling finally had a name, an Integrative Health Coach. I could actually have clients come to me and together we would form a relationship to help them make the health change they desired. I was confident in nutrition, exercise, sleep, and other external factors that influence an individual’s health, but as my studies continued at the University of AZ my “thing” finally boiled over. There was something I called internal health, and at that time in my life, my internal health was non-existent, as I was giving my external health (diet, exercise) 100%. All of a sudden I was faced with questions like, “What is your purpose in life?” “What is your mission in life?” “What do you believe in?” Yikes, no one ever asked me those questions. There was something called self-care and it was more than just eating right and exercising. Health coaching wasn’t just about diet and exercise, it was soul work. Here I learned that it’s ok to not give your kids 110%. Here I learned there is something called “time for yourself” without feeling guilty. Here I learned that if you push and push, and drive that Type A personality to perfection you are slowly dying on the inside. Here I learned caring for others must start with caring for myself first. Here I learned about spirituality and what it means in my life. Here I learned how to give my internal self some attention. I actually had to take a few steps back and just let all this sit for awhile. I knew this “thing” that I was now calling health coaching and the model I was learning was life changing. I rallied and soaked up my studies at the University of AZ, dove into different kinds of meditation, read mindfulness books, read meditation books, took several mediation classes, dug deep into the research of Brenè Brown, and started listening to podcasts that dealt with spirituality, resiliency, relationships, creativity, and balance. As my Integrative Health Coaching program was winding down and I was deep into my 100 coaching hours for the program, I had an amazing insight. I was working with over 10 different people from all over the country and from different walks of life and 8 out of the 10 wanted to work on this internal health too. Before they could even think about nutrition, exercise, or sleeping better they had to pay attention to their internal self. We worked through balance, the “no” muscle, values, and roles in life. I was working along side them learning not only about coaching but about myself, in so many ways. I was amazed at how humans can heal and transform themselves and I was changed forever.
So, why the change? This change happened for me when I least expected. I knew there was something deep inside, but I had no idea what it meant so many years ago. I am where I am today because I am a caregiver, a healer, a nurse, a mother, a daughter, and a friend. Everything that I’m made of goes into this soul work I call Integrative Health Coaching. Change is a beautiful thing when we surrender to what nature/God/spirit/universe has in store for us.
What is your “thing”?