I am the mother of two incredible daughters, a retired police detective, Jersey girl gone Midwest, wife to my best friend, yogi, and dedicated to living my best life. Over the course of my career, I encountered sleep deprivation, often worked extended hours – frequently past the 18 hour mark – while working felony person crimes cases such as sexual assaults, gang crimes, crimes involving children, and homicides. I loved my job and did not notice how the high levels of secondary trauma exposure, chronic, and toxic stress, wreaked havoc on my nervous system.
I had difficulty conceiving, had two miscarriages, and developed preeclampsia while pregnant with both of my daughters. Due to the preeclampsia, I was hospitalized for several weeks prior to delivering each of my girls. Both were born 10 weeks early and delivered by cesarian section. In 2006, my oldest daughter was born via an emergency c-section due to a sudden drop in her heart rate. I remember the panic in the nurse’s voice as she wheeled me down the hallway to the delivery room – I was scared my baby would die, and seeing my husband’s face confirmed that fear. She survived and is now a thriving teen, but the road was bumpy.
Although my girls were born three and a half years apart, and despite my doctor telling me it was uncommon to develop preeclampsia a second time; it happened like clock work with my youngest daughter as well. Intuitively I knew better, which is why I had initially decided against trying for another child, but..
I ignored my body’s wisdom.
A few years had passed and my husband convinced me that we should try for another. My older daughter got sick a lot, but overall she was doing well. I listened and am so grateful for my youngest daughter, but the second time was no different than the first. In fact, after having watched my first daughter struggle and fight to survive for almost two months in the hospital after being born, I was convinced there was no way we would get lucky again. Thankfully we did, and like her older sister, she battled and overcame many obstacles to eventually become a healthy and otherwise normal child. However, this second pregnancy really took its toll on me. I experienced so much medical and health related trauma with high blood pressure, kidney dysfunction, and the c-section surgeries, not to mention the added stress and worry of my future health and that of my girls. Premature babies have compromised immune systems and underdeveloped lungs, making it a challenge for daycare and going back to work, so for a decade our family lived in a constant state of underlying anxiety and chaos. Juggling callouts, sick kids, and two busy law enforcement careers, with no family support near-by made it challenging to say the least.
As time went on, I developed severe digestive issues (SIBO, gastroparesis, and acid reflux) and experienced panic attacks which landed me in the ER one time because I thought I was having a stroke.
I now know the physiological imbalances in my nervous system are what led to my chronic inflammation and subsequent health problems. I remember being in my doctor’s office in 2015 before being diagnosed with my digestive disorders because I had so much pain and felt like someone was sitting on my chest; I couldn’t eat and was in constant discomfort. My doctor wanted to prescribe valium, which infuriated me; not because I am against prescription medication, but because of the lack of focus on finding the root cause.
That time I listened to my body’s wisdom and refused.
What was different this time?
I knew something needed to change, but I knew valium wasn’t the answer for me. Fortunately, I had been practicing yoga for about 7 years by this time. I got down on my mat and would practice breathing or pranayama. I added a few gentle poses, and six weeks later, was in a much better place. My acid reflux medicine helped tremendously, but yoga and breathing practices are what got me through the rough patch.
Throughout my career, many of my co-workers struggled with addiction, anxiety, depression, and inflammatory diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity and it dawned on me that first responders do an incredible job caring for the community but not so great taking care of themselves – me included.
In a “suck it up” culture where all of the above mentioned were viewed as part of the job, I knew there had to be a better way.
My decision to retire in 2019 came on the heels of one of the worst years of my career. At the end of 2018 my health came crashing down on me. The mental and emotional anguish and onslaught of stress hormones on my system was too much. I never really got sick, but I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks and whatever virus or illness I had lead to pneumonia, fever, and extreme fatigue.
Everyone is susceptible, but first responders have higher incidences of mental health disorders, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and unfortunately have a decreased life span compared to the rest of the population.
So what finally changed?
Understanding there is no shame in what I felt and experienced;
Learning the connection between what happens mentally, physically, and emotionally, and;
Experiencing the power of vulnerability and peer support
After retiring in 2019, I dedicated myself to improving not just my health, but that of my family’s. This passion has led me to teaching resilience, yoga, meditation, peer support, and other wellness courses to first responders and criminal justice professionals. Additionally, in early 2021 I launched a new podcast aimed at educating and supporting first responders and their families in all areas of wellness.
After years of searching, I finally found what was missing and created the Radical Resilience program; an evidenced based holistic program for those who want to live their best life, improve health, increase energy, or strengthen mindset and relationships.
Radical Resilience is a product of what I’ve studied, practiced, and embodied over the years. It’s based on the ancient wisdom of Aryuveda delivered in a practical way for modern living. This program is based on the power of peer support. It is delivered in a supportive group environment to propel growth.