My name is Jennifer Shepley. I am a transformation coach, specializing in healing from trauma.
I created “Thriving After Trauma” to help other trauma victims not only learn how to heal themselves but learn how to live a life where they can thrive.
I grew up in the Midwest. My parents were married, to each other and I had two older sisters. We lived in a middle class neighborhood, I had a group of close friends I grew up with, we were the average, “normal” family.
When it was time for me to go to college, I really wanted to study nutrition, however my Father thought a business degree would be more lucrative and enable me to take care of myself. I followed his advice, I obtained a business management degree and joined corporate America. I still had a passion for health and nutrition, and always kept one foot in that industry. I held certifications in fitness, yoga, weight loss & management and later went on to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.
I met and married my first husband in my late twenties. Everything in my life seemed to be on track. Now that I had a good job and a husband, I was ready for a baby. After years of fertility treatments, it became clear babies were not part of my equation. I grieved for the baby I would never have, accepted it and proceeded to “move on”.
This is really when my life plan started to fall apart. I can’t tell you the exact moment when it happened, but my sweet, light-hearted, fun husband had become a very sick alcoholic. He could no longer hold a job and became both verbally and emotionally abusive. I tried desperately to “save” him, but after five unsuccessful attempts to rehabilitate him, we divorced after five years of marriage. Unfortunately, the pain and stress did not end when the marriage ended. My ex-husband would go on to harass and emotionally manipulate me for years to come.
I considered myself a strong, capable woman, I picked myself up and started to move forward. My healing would be derailed when just two months after my divorce was final, my family was notified that one of my two sisters was very ill and on life-support in a hospital in Dayton, OH, approximately seven hours from our home. Upon hearing the news, my oldest sister and I left work and hit the road, we needed to be with her. I don’t know how far we drove, it seemed like a million miles, when we got the call, Amy was gone.
It was very surreal, we had no details and so many questions. She left behind three teenage daughters who were also in disbelief and wondering what their futures held.
After the service we made our way back home. Our lives now revolved around on how we would care for her three girls, who in the blink of an eye, were orphans.
We all started to gather ourselves, we had to rise to the occasion. Until, two weeks after that life changing day, my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer. She had already fought breast and kidney cancer, however this time there was no treatment available. She fought a battle like no other, she endured such pain that in the end we were praying for her to go, to find peace and leave this misery behind. Our prayers were answered fourteen months after her diagnosis.
We went from a family of five to three so quickly, it still didn’t seem real. After losing my sister, we were focused on her children and my ailing mother, none of us had grieved or come to terms with any of it.
Two months later my sister and I received an email from our father. As usual, it was written like a memo, he went on to inform us that he had been diagnosed with a blood disorder that would eventually turn into leukemia, also known as AML.
A few months after my Father’s diagnosis, some friends convinced me to take a break and meet them for a long weekend at The Lake. I didn’t listen to my intuition, which was screaming “Don’t Go”! I would go on to regret that trip for the rest of my life. I was involved in a boating accident that left me with both life threatening and life changing injuries.
Again, I told myself “I am strong, just keep moving forward”. I recovered, as much as I could and spent the upcoming months fumbling to help my family in whatever way I was capable of.
We lost my Dad less than a year later. He was quickly followed by a dear aunt, who was like a second mother to me.
What the hell was happening?
Now, it was time to take care of business. My sister and I needed to clean out, update and sell my parents house, clear out my aunt’s apartment, take care of accounts, insurance policies, my sister’s children, not to mention live our lives and continue to work full time.
I went on auto-pilot, it was the only way I could survive. I found myself living in a constant state of numbness. I was shutting down mentally, emotionally and physically. Unable to sleep, I could be found cleaning my house, working out or grocery shopping at 3am. I was starting to experience bouts of anxiety, something I never had before. I could no longer eat “real” food as my stomach was a bundle of nerves, every minute of the day. I bottomed out at 83 lbs.
My physical health was deteriorating so severely I knew I needed to seek medical attention. My doctor likened my condition to PTSD and promptly wrote me prescriptions for anti-depressants, anti anxiety medication, sleeping medication and nutritional supplements. These medications didn’t feel right for me, I never had them filled.
A few months later I woke up with severe abdominal pains, tests showed a mass on my pancreas. At that moment, my biggest fear was telling my sister the news. I assumed I was next in line and this would be my time to follow in the footsteps of my sister and parents before me.
I spent a weekend in my apartment with my best friend, Baby, my yellow lab. I took the time to write down all of my account numbers and passwords, my life insurance policy and 401K information and who to call to collect. I wrote out my wishes for cremation and a fantastic cocktail party in lieu of a dismal memorial service. I tucked it in a kitchen drawer for my sister to use when my time came.
I would go on to endure a major surgery where they removed the mass and part of my liver. Approximately five days later, the doctor would inform me, the mass was benign. I just stared at him, I couldn’t process it.
When I made it home to recover, I started to accept it, I was going to be OK. This wasn’t my plan, I had planned for the worst, I never entertained the possibility of good news, why? During my long recovery, I took a look deep inside, I didn’t recognize this person. This person who immediately planned for the worst case scenario. Where was the woman who thought anything was possible? Where was the woman who would have vowed to fight this and win? Where was that hopeful, vibrant, positive woman? I could barely remember her.
This was a turning point for me. I started to see that the trauma had seeped into every corner of my being and took over my life. I was in a dark, hopeless, chaotic place. I was no longer on the fast track in my career, it was everything I could do to show up and “meet expectations.” This once high achiever, was barely getting by. Many relationships had faded away as I had no interest in putting effort into them, or seeking new relationships. I had no interest in being or getting close to anyone, the pain of losing them would be more than I could bear. Lastly, my once healthy, strong body was failing. I was so weak I avoided walking long distances in fear my legs would give out, it was like walking on wet noodles. My stomach would not tolerate food anymore, I suffered from migraine headaches and my gut was a wreck. I was sick, so sick!
It was that moment when I decided I would NOT be a victim anymore! I never wanted someone to look at me with pity in their eyes again. I wanted to be the woman I was before trauma took over, I wanted my life back!
I kept one foot in the nutrition and fitness world throughout my corporate career. Through the years I obtained several certifications in fitness, weight management and nutrition. I knew the power of food and how to use it as medicine, now I would use it to heal myself!
I decided to use my surgical recovery time to formulate a plan to heal myself holistically. Using my knowledge, education and experience I went on to not only heal myself, but to create a life I never thought I would live again. I healed my body, mind and soul and came out better than ever!
I created a healthy, strong vessel, gained clarity and opened my soul to the peace and joy that life has to offer. I am physically healthier and stronger than I was twenty years ago. I met and married a wonderful man and left my corporate career to pursue my passion for health and healing.
Now, I help other women who have suffered from trauma get their lives back. I know what it’s like to drown in darkness, to be completely hopeless, to stop living and simply exist. Who better to take them down a healing path, than someone who paved and continues to strut down that path herself?
I live a healthy life, full of peace and joy. I am not only living, I am thriving!