Chaos, Change & Survival

My early years were marked with chaos & constant change. My parents separated when I was 2, got back together, and had another child when I was 5. Soon after, we moved from New York to Dallas, leaving behind a solid community of family & friends. After living in Dallas for a short time, my dad left my mom permanently, and my mom was forced to raise two kids on her own. 

Life with a single mother is hard, especially when that mother is in grief & survival. I was also in grief & survival, but even as a small child, I was a high performer and more capable than my mom of covering up my stress and fear. 

I spent my childhood being the emotional support for my mother, a second parent to my sister, and putting all of my needs last.  

In my childhood, I never felt in control of my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but my mom was dysregulated and trying to run from her fear by always changing our circumstances. I went to 13 schools in 12 years, moved to a new neighborhood every year, and was forced to always adapt to new situations & communities. 

We were always in financial struggle. We went from some financial stability into poverty, back into some financial stability, and then into poverty again. 

I lived in constant fear and never really felt safe. I was a latch-key kid and rarely had any parental support or guidance. Parenting a younger child, when I was as young as 9, felt like chaos and I was stuck between the pressure to take care of her and the fear of failing her. 

As I grew older, I had complete autonomy & freedom. My mom never knew where I was or what I was doing. I started drinking alcohol at 14 and found myself in a lot of dangerous situations. My teenage years were hard, but that is a story for another time. 

Living in chaos & fear throughout my childhood meant I lived in a dysregulated nervous system and was wired for chronic stress. 

—> I was a high-functioning survivor.

As a high performer, I could overcome any situation. I thought I was resilient & strong, but I didn’t realize the cost this type of performance had on my mental health & well-being. 

My childhood conditioned my nervous system to feel like chronic stress & dysregulation was normal.

Being a high performer was a huge part of my identity. I really believed it was the best part of me, but this pattern was destroying my relationships & mental health.  

Some of the things I received from my early years:

Confidence that I could survive anything and adapt to change 

The ability to work with my emotions, self-reflect & hold space for other people’s experiences & emotions    

The value of reading, studying, and researching which I still use every day

A passion for figuring out what makes humans work & what lies under the surface of our thinking & reasoning  

A gift for reading people & situations – being able to observe and feel the truth behind what is presented or performed 

An in-depth understanding of what it feels like to live with chronic stress & nervous system dysregulation, both in myself & within the people around me

The discernment to see the difference between optimal performance and high performance masking chronic stress 


I found a path to recovery & resilience

And it isn’t just my story –  I have had the honor to work with thousands of people around the world on their recovery & resilience too.


Freedom, Failure & Rising from the Ashes

The first time I felt in control of my life was at university. I left home at 17 and for the first time, I wasn’t subjected to my mom’s choices & changes. I could choose what I wanted & how I wanted to live.  If my childhood didn’t do it, my time in college put me on the path to burnout. I worked 50 hours a week to support myself & pay for school. I also took a full load of college courses, got all A’s in my classes, partied hard…and slept, on average, about 2 hours a night.  This level of over-functioning was normal to me.  Given that I had started my psychology degree in high school, I went to college certain I would complete a degree in psychology. Midway through my 4-year degree, I realized I didn’t want to be a traditional psychologist or a teacher.  I accidentally fell into an advertising class and realized I loved the psychology of advertising and marketing. My parents had both been entrepreneurs and I wanted to study more about business & leadership. So I changed course &  graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in advertising, journalism, and marketing. Something happened to me in my last year of college that set the foundation for my life’s work. I needed an extra credit class and stumbled upon a class called Stress Reduction through Dance Therapy. This class transformed the way I saw myself and the world.  It was my first introduction to stress management, somatic psychology, and the power of our body & biology.  Before this class, I had normalized my high levels of stress. I never even considered that stress was a problem for me.  I started to pay attention to my body and my stress level. I gained tools to manage stress & to continue my self-development journey. It changed my life.  This transformation led me to take a year off after college & live one of the best years of my life. I waited tables, took all the pressure off myself to perform or achieve, and had amazing life experiences.  During this time I enjoyed life & had a lot of personal growth, but I still burned the candle at both ends, drank too much, and ignored my body’s needs for rest and recovery.  I was still living with a dysregulated nervous system that continued to produce chronic stress & life challenges. 

 At the end of that year, I met my first husband, and the same chaos I experienced as a child enveloped me again. My first husband was an alcoholic and drug addict, something I didn’t understand in the beginning because he was sober when we met. I simultaneously started my professional career and my first marriage.

I got my first “real” job at a big branding agency in Denver, Colorado. It was exciting work, but came with a very toxic culture. There was a robust team when I started, but within a few months most of the team had quit and I was one of the few creatives holding all the accounts. 

My work partner was a high performer too. We rolled up our sleeves and worked night and day to handle the work of 6 people. We produced 4 years of work within 10 months and won awards along the way.   

At our performance review, the agency was unwilling to match our salaries to our performance, and we decided to quit the agency and start our own branding business. 

Welcome to 1999! The beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. We were trailblazing in a time when very few women were running businesses. I started consulting & coaching business owners, at first around their brand and message. I also started my speaking career teaching men in male-dominated industries how to market to women.  

My business was growing, but my personal life began to fall apart. My husband and I followed the normal track: we married, bought a house, and had a child. But having a child changed everything, and the stress level a child had on our relationship sent my husband back into alcohol and drugs.

He couldn’t keep a job, so I was taking care of a baby, building my business during the day & waiting tables at night to pay for our new home. 

It was the ultimate juggle and my high-performance wiring kicked back into gear.   

I barely slept but I was determined to survive. Because I was so consumed with survival, I missed the signs of my husband’s relapse. He became erratic and he started exhibiting dangerous behaviors. My daughter and I were no longer safe, and I had to leave my home & most of my belongings in the middle of the night.   

At the same time, my business partner was struggling with the intensity of my personal life and decided to end our partnership with no warning.  So within two weeks, I lost my husband, income & home. 

I can honestly say this was the most challenging time of my life!  

Despite losing everything, I picked myself up again, determined to create a beautiful life for me and my daughter.  

We moved to another state and I filed for divorce, custody, and bankruptcy. I found a full-time corporate job but continued to run my consulting and coaching business on the side. I spent any spare time with my daughter and used late nights, lunch breaks, nap times, and early mornings to heal myself. I meditated. I journaled. I read self-help books and studied psychology and spirituality.  

I was still experiencing chronic stress & anxiety, but I hid them well.

Eventually, I realized that my life needed to change, so I quit my full-time job and moved to Austin, Texas, with my daughter. 

My life had burned to the ground, but I was able to rise from the ashes. 

~ I learned firsthand how  chronic stress & high performance  affect our health & well-being ~

My growth YEARS…

Growth, Wisdom & My Life’s Work

Austin was an amazing time of growth! when I arrived in 2006 I didn’t know anyone, but by 2010 I had developed a new family and a huge business network

During those four years, I ran my coaching business, traveled around the country teaching self-development courses, and co-founded the first coworking space in Austin.

If you have ever listened to one of my podcasts, this is where I met my co-host, Laura Shook-Guzman. 

Laura and I were passionate about being entrepreneurs and supporting our clients’ mental health & wellness. We were also single moms. 

Together, Laura & I had a brilliant idea: if we moved in together we could share finances and co-parent our two beautiful girls.  

We used to sit on the couch after our kids went to sleep and talk for hours about psychology, therapy, and mental health. We would eat ice cream and talk about how to change the world.

Eventually, we co-founded Soma Vida, a work/life balance center that combined wellness services like massage & yoga with business support and child care.   

This coworking space outlasted most of the coworking spaces in Austin, eventually closing its doors at the beginning of COVID. Laura and I lived together until she met her current husband. 

In 2010, I met my current husband. We had an online international dating experience – he was in Australia and I was in Austin. We fell in love quickly and within a few months, we were married. I moved to Australia and began a new chapter in my life. 

I loved my years in Austin, but when I arrived in Australia, I was burnt out. For years I had been a single mom running two businesses. I had done so much on my own for so long that I didn’t realize the toll it had taken on me. 

Moving to a new country, disrupting my old habits and responsibilities, and having a partner to lean on, allowed me to wake up to the fact that I was exhausted and dysregulated.

What I had perceived for so long as my strength & high performance was driving me and my body into the ground. 

I got pregnant within the first month of being in Australia but suffered a late miscarriage. My body paid the price for decades of stress, and it was several more pregnancies and a lot of work on my stress and health before my second daughter was born. 

This was the first time in my life I ever slowed down and the first time I truly acknowledged my burnout & dysregulation. I still had periods of time when I pushed myself to my limits, but I had space in between. 

I finally learned the difference between optimal performance & “high performance” that masked stress & dysregulation. 

During my 8 years in Australia, I continued coaching and crafting my life’s work. I worked with a lot of founders & entrepreneurs. I helped them slow down, redefine success, and find optimal performance. 

All of the awareness and healing I did on myself translated into wisdom I could use with my clients. I studied psychology, business, leadership, neuroscience, and anything that would support my clients to improve their mental health, reduce stress & live more fully. 

I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of people from all over the world. I did everything from coaching individuals & groups to training & educating through online or in-person events. 

I was remote working long before COVID and in 2018 my husband and I decided we wanted to be nomadic. I had always longed to travel and our daughters, who were ages 4 and 16 at this time, were keen to experience something new. So we sold everything and left Australia. We traveled to Bali, and back to the USA, and ended up in Mexico for 18 months.

Mexico changed me! I had learned to slow down and regulate my nervous system, but Mexico was a whole different level. Mexico operates at a very different pace. There is space to be, to enjoy life, and to enjoy community. We were very blessed to meet some amazing people and have amazing experiences. 

During that 18 months, I decided to take a break from coaching, my first since 1999. I instead focused all my work on corporate wellness training. I also decided to do some deep study around trauma and somatic therapy. I became officially “trauma-informed” to support my corporate training & eventually my coaching work. 

My time in Mexico helped me experience what it was like to be regulated most of the time. I spent 18 months truly relaxing! I let go of high performance. I enjoyed my friends. I had days of doing nothing. I prioritized my health & well-being over my to-do list. 

This time changed me and it influenced my work!

In 2023, my family decided we were ready for something new. We wanted to spend some time back in the USA and close to family. We moved to Greenville, South Carolina, where we are currently living until our next adventure. 

Moving back to the USA was a test of our growth. We wanted to deliberately keep the balance between life & work. We wanted to maintain some of the relaxation we experienced in Mexico while still running businesses and being back in a fast-paced environment. 

We are loving the life we have created! We love our work, but we enjoy our life. We focus on staying as regulated as possible and keeping our stress levels low. It is always a work in progress, but we are happy with what we have created. 

My whole life has informed my work & I know both personally & professionally what it takes to reduce stress & improve mental health.