I’m Cheryl Ann Healey
My mother is the only one who calls me Cheryl Ann though. My close family calls me Annie – stemming from a hearing delay that affected my speech when I was young. (I couldn’t pronounce my own name, so Annie stuck!) My Aunt calls me Annabella, because she needs to be different. I get my moxie from her. Pretty much everyone else just calls me Cheryl. My favourite name though, is Mommy. I love coffee, anything yellow, and I think Prince is the greatest artist of all time.
I am also the child of a nasty divorce; I was 6 & my sister was 1. I am also divorced. So yes, eldest child of a single mom, and became a single mom as well. A trauma survivor in more ways than one. A lover of history. An educator. An empath. A Cardiac Arrest survivor living with PTSD. I am a yellow on the colour personality test (I have done it three times in three years – yellow it is!)
After I graduated University for the first time, I decided that instead of paying off my student loans with the money I saved working while going to school – that I would go to Europe for the summer (best summer ever!) I returned in September 2002 with some coins in my pocket and a huge school debt. I worked for a few years, paid it off, and went back to university at 29 years old to fulfil my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.
Here is a very brief synopsis of what has happened in the decade or so since I earned my teaching license: I started out as a proud academic with two Honours University Degrees, living 2 hours away from my hometown starting my long-awaited career. I got married, moved into a beautiful home and became pregnant. Then I had a severe near-death experience with the birth of my only precious child that changed everything. I struggled with my mental health, went to therapy, was diagnosed with PTSD, more therapy, had a career crisis, more therapy, then the divorce and single motherhood.
According to many reputable sources – the top five most stressful life events include: death of a loved one, major illness or injury, divorce, moving, and job loss.
Death of a loved one (if my own terrifying near death experience counts…) Check ✓
Major illness… Check ✓
Job loss (Career crisis)… Check ✓
Divorce… Check ✓
Moving… Check ✓
So, that all happened.
During that time, from age 30 to 40, when many of my peers were ‘settling into their lives’, I was embarking on SO many new journeys. And I was in total survival mode.
When the dust started settling from that decade of change, in literally every facet of my world … I found myself in my forties, having made it to the other side of it all. And truthfully – that’s when I started really embracing everything had happened, and what came next.
What a journey THAT’s been. I had lived in survival mode for so long. When I started to try and figure out when it started, I had to go back, and back, and back. Way farther than I thought. Had I always lived in survival mode? But wait… we aren’t meant to live in survival mode allllll the time? A season here and there, not all day every day though?
But it had indeed become my norm, my day -to-day, my reality – I was totally unconscious to it.
When I became aware of it, I set out to change it. Growth comes from outside your comfort zone. As dysfunctional as it was – survival mode was my comfort zone. I knew it there. I knew how to operate, as unhealthy as it was. It was safe there, because I knew what to expect – drama, chaos, impulsivity, overwhelm to name a few things. The beast you know is better than the beast you don’t, right?
Calm, patience, peace, grace – what is that? It was outside of my comfort zone. It was new. It was different. It was scary. I didn’t know my way around there. But I wanted to learn.
And that’s what I’ve been embracing in recent years…
Learning how to lift myself out of this ‘default survival mode’ that has defined my coping skills since I was a child.
Shifting my thoughts to be more compassionate & kinder. Reacting with grace instead of drama, focusing on that balance of firm and kind.
Exploring this world outside the dysfunctional comfort zone I had become accustomed to – and finding new safe places to rise.
There is a fire in my belly to share my experience with others. At the time I write this, I am not entirely sure what that looks like other than to start sharing in a blog form. I suppose it will take a life of its own as I go forward.
But I have learned this unequivocally: you don’t need to see the whole staircase, you just need to take the first step.