by Avery Thatcher
I haven’t always been Avery, burnout prevention strategist and stress management advocate. The truth is it’s a bit of a story, so I just want to discuss in this first blog how I went from watching the aftermath of stress and burnout in my patients in the ICU to starting my own business.
I was a shy, emotional person named Heather who found my dream job as an ICU nurse. I enjoyed coming to work to manage the complex machinery, making autonomous decisions for my patients, and being a vital part of keeping someone alive in their most vulnerable space to help their families navigate this nightmare of an experience that was so beautiful for me to be a part of.
However, I started feeling a little bit futile because every time I came to work there was someone else with an illness or a disease that could have been prevented. My husband and I moved across the country for him to get his master’s degree, so I worked as a part of a team of family practices as a nurse, where I helped their most complex patients with their greatest medical and mental health needs navigate the healthcare system. I realized, that although I am connecting my patients with community resources and agencies, it wasn’t actually the most impactful thing that I could do for them.
Every single one of my patients struggled with self-compassion, stress, negative self-talk, habits of perfectionism, and people-pleasing that inevitably lead to burnout and illness.
My super-nerd kicked in and I started reading, taking courses, and listening to podcasts to have a more in-depth understanding of how the stress response works.
I’d nerd out by learning:
From there, I discovered that our stress really comes from two sources. The first is our inner high achiever which equates our value as a human for what we can accomplish, who we can help, and how perfectly we can do that. The second source of stress is our inner protector. Part of us is scared of anything new or different and says anything and everything we can think of to keep us the same.
I applied this to my nursing practice, and the results were beautiful. I began showing my clients how they could reprogram the beliefs that were sabotaging them and leading to burnout. I also taught my patients how not to take anything personally and how to quiet their negative self-talk to rebuild their trust in themselves.
Within a few weeks, the difference between them was profound. I remember a number of their doctors asking me what I was doing because they noticed such a significant improvement in these patients.
In 2015, I started my online business and it has been through many iterations since then. I found my voice and I learned to trust my abilities. Now I couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled with this work. It’s true soul work. I believe in my heart of hearts that this is what I was meant to do in this lifetime. I am so grateful to have found myself along the way and brought my own life into balance as well. But there’s still that piece of the puzzle.
Why did I change my name to Avery?
So the truth is, I never felt like a “Heather.” However, I know it’s normal to not always like your first name. Over the course of my life, I’ve walked through a lot of struggles, and trauma, which changed me over time. This gradual change is something that I think we can all relate to, and it’s just really a part of the human experience. We have different degrees of trauma and challenge depending on the person, but it’s not a competition. Everybody experiences their own level of trauma that they have to work through and it changes them, and that’s totally okay.
However, on December 25th, 2018, I experienced a massive change in my life that happened literally overnight. I was working a 12-hour shift in a pediatric ICU at the time. I was coming off the night shift, and I remember the charge nurse coming up to me and saying, “Oh, Heather, you do not look good. I’m going to mark you down as sick tonight, feel better?”
I went home and slept for 20 hours straight for the next few days. After nearly a year of painful medical procedures, surgery to remove a thyroid mass and half of my thyroid, seeing multiple specialists including an enormous amount of tests, it was determined that I am now the proud owner of a chronic illness and disability known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. (I call this part of me Emmy for short) Naming my diagnosis made a big difference because it helped lower the fears I was dealing with.
In September 2021, I realized I was never going to get back to the person that I knew before. I was no longer Heather. I was no longer a registered nurse capable of working in an ICU. I was no longer able to be as active as I was used to being. I was no longer the weight that I was used to being. I was no longer the person that I was used to being.
I realized I was no longer at home in my body. I wasn’t connected to my previous identity at all, and it was causing very strong PTSD dreams, lots of intrusive thoughts, and anxiety, and it actually triggered OCD in my life. After talking about things with my husband and my therapist, I decided that I needed to change my name.
I spent a couple of days looking on some baby name blogs, and I found the name, Avery. It was strange at first to start referring to myself as Avery when I’d been Heather for 37 years, but now that I’ve had time for it to settle in, it is such as blessing and a beautiful thing to feel at home in my body again, feeling connected to who I am, learning new habits and strategies, rather than try to fit what I’m capable of now into the mold of what I used to be able to do. I had grown a marketing agency and developed a mentorship program alongside the stress management program and the mindset work. I was really enjoying guiding people through.
Until I got a new diagnosis.
I have a new friend named Andy and he’s an aneurysm that lives in my brain. In order to keep an aneurysm happy, you have to lower your stress. I decided to close down the marketing agency and the entrepreneur mentoring, to focus exclusively on helping people lower their stress.
It works really well for me because of all of the practices that I teach such as the 15-minute yoga classes, mini-workshops, breathwork exercises, guided meditations, and the habits to help align our life with our purpose. It actually helps me to stay on track and keeps me in alignment.
Thank you for being part of my journey and holding space for me and others. Over the next few entries, I am going to share stories of resilience, overcoming adversity, embracing who we really are, and letting go of expectations. Of course, I will share information about stress management facts, resources, and strategies to help us get through the day so that you can prevent feeling burnout.
You can follow me on Instagram to learn more about my journey, tips, and resources about stress, burnout, and learning people’s stories of overcoming distress.