What happens when reinvention isn’t a choice?
Russ and Nicole Bell came face-to-face with this exact dilemma in 2016. Despite being an upwardly mobile happy couple with two kids, a big house and a marvelous life, something wasn't quite right. Russ started forgetting things, he got lost, he became enraged, he was harsh with the kids. And he could no longer be trusted with minor responsibilities.
Join me as I talk with Nicole Bell about her beautifully written but tragic memoir, documenting her journey.
Follow Nicole on IG and Facebook: @nicoledaniellebell
Buy the book:
[00:00:00] Jes Averhart: Welcome to the re-invention road trip, a coffee shop style podcast that is helping thousands of women dream bigger and level up in business and life. I'm Jesse Eberhard. Join me as we learn from the baddest women in the game who share their powerful region. Stories each one, dropping unique gems and takeaways just for you.
[00:00:28] Listen, it's time to get inspired, dream louder, and own the keys that will unlock the next best version of you. Family. We are back reinvention road trip. I'm so excited about today is conversation. We talk about reinvention. It's just, it's one of those things that's very personal. Every journey is so uniquely different.
[00:00:56] And I have a, such a treat for you today to introduce you to. [00:01:00] My friend and now, uh, author of an incredible book, what lurks in the woods. And I, I'm just excited about today because you know, um, I'm going to get to the intro, you know how we do this family, right? I have to go on my little tangent here, but when you meet a woman who she like, who in the world does all the things that she does, she's like has this incredible background, but then is faced with a crucible moment.
[00:01:29] And you're like, oh my gosh, how do you apply? Just to sit in this insane background that she has to this like very personal, um, um, an intimate moment that she has with her family. It really is profound. And I, and I think that you will not only just be inspired, but you'll learn a great deal from her today.
[00:01:48] So with that as my opener, let me just give you her bio because that's what we do, right? She's a medical device, executive and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in developing. Growth stage [00:02:00] companies. She's an engineer by training with degrees from get this MIT and duke university and material science and engineering and biomedical engineering.
[00:02:10] And I was just like, Lord have mercy as a whole. I know she gets this all the time, but I'm sure because you know, women in this profession, this is not common and like, okay. So if it it's just, it's also just extremely high. High-achieving um, and in fields that I couldn't even imagine diving into, she's also a wife and a proud mother of two kiddos, Ryan and Haley, and she has two pups.
[00:02:33] So today I just want to welcome and our family wants to welcome Nicole Bell. Thank you for being with us today and
[00:02:40] Nicole Bell: I'll thank you for having me. It's really a pleasure to be here.
[00:02:43] Jes Averhart: I just read your bio, but Nicole, um, most of our folks want to hear it from you. So why don't you, why don't you give me your background and tell us who is Nicole Bell?
[00:02:54] Nicole Bell: So I think first and foremost, I'm a Boston girl, you know, there's, um, I think [00:03:00] a stereotype of, you know, tough, hard individuals with people in the Northeast, but I also think that having grown up there, I know that there's a lot of loyalty and, and softness and beauty underneath that hard shell. And I think that that's something that I grew up in and that.
[00:03:17] Connect with. Um, and so I'm proud of my Boston heritage. I'm glad I live in North Carolina now where it's not so cold, but I love Boston. And I love that heritage. Um, and I also have always been an athlete. So I was a student athlete. I played multiple sports. I was a Tom girl, you know, tomboy growing up and all the way.
[00:03:38] Wanted to hang with the boys and play sports and do my thing. So that was always a big part of me. And then I was also smart, you know, and I did really well in school, but I never wanted to be labeled the nerd, you know? So I always like balance these different identities of being a jock and being, you know, one of the smart kids and just.
[00:03:57] Kind of trying to figure out who I wanted to be as I grew up. So [00:04:00] all of that is kind of in my knitting. Um, and then I went, I was always good at math and science. And so that's what drew me to go to MIT and become an engineer. I love to solve problems. I love connecting people. I love figuring out what is broken in a system and then putting the pieces together.
[00:04:18] And that can be a technical challenge or it can be. You know, people that don't work together well, and I need to figure out what the common ground is. Those are the types of problems that I love to solve. And that's, as I got into my professional career, that really drew me to startups. I was really fortunate that early in my career, my MIT professor actually recruited me to his startup.
[00:04:39] And I just fell in love with it because I'd always been an athlete. I did all team-based sports. And then going into a startup where you have like, Six to 12 people, all rowing in the same direction. The CEO is the leader of the company, and he's also the mail clerk, you know, just one of these things. And it should say she, because mine happened to be here, but I [00:05:00] would love to be a sheep one of these days.
[00:05:02] Um, but I always just loved being in those small companies. And so that has also been a part of mine. I did a brief stint in the fortune 500 company and it was really quickly. Not for me. So, and the first half of my career was all in electronics and the industry. And then the second half of my career was all in biomedical devices and medical devices where my last position was in surgical robotics.
[00:05:25] So some really complex systems that I love that you can dig into. I got to build the team and help solve problems and bring new products in the marketplace.
[00:05:36] Jes Averhart: Awesome. Well, and you know, my background, I have a little bit of a startup background, one we're both entrepreneurs. So we share that. Um, but also was part of Google for entrepreneur to start up organization here at American underground.
[00:05:49] So I can appreciate that small team atmosphere and. This is all in her book by very lucky to have you, as you kind of move through that space pretty easily fluidly. And this isn't the [00:06:00] topic today, but also that diversity of mindset, having a woman on the team really changes the game, smart, brilliant woman.
[00:06:07] But at the same time, that perspective, I'm sure it was invaluable for them and their success. So great backward. Let's talk about your book. Okay. All right. So you just wrote this new book and actually just launched. When everybody listens to this podcast, it will have been about six weeks ago. So you've written this new book.
[00:06:26] What lurks in the woods it's compelling. It's heartbreaking. I cried quite a bit in this book. I also was, I also was triumphant for you. Thrilled and inspired at the same time. And then they're shocking revelations in this book that I will take with me for ever now. And I cannot wait to continue to share the knowledge that I gained.
[00:06:49] And so again, you know, I'm a little bit off script here, but I think it's important to say that your background. And the fact that you're a wife and mother really comes through in this book because you're [00:07:00] very specific and very technical. And at the same time, it's super human. You can't help, but understand as a wife and as a mom, as a parent, uh, the, the raw emotion of the journey that you took with your husband and with your family.
[00:07:16] And, and that comes from your lived experience, beautifully written Nicole. So I've, I've kind of nodded to this, but what lurks in the woods is about a male. It's actually about Nicole's husband and the fight to save his life. So, Nicole, why don't you, um, for our listeners, just give us sort of that summary.
[00:07:34] Tell us a little bit about that story. This is your crucible moment. So tell the, tell the listeners about what happened and then we'll get into like the what's next after.
[00:07:45] Nicole Bell: So, I mean, obviously this podcast is all about reinvention, right? And sometimes people get restless and they want to reinvent themselves because they're not happy with where they are, but that was completely opposite for me.
[00:07:59] I was [00:08:00] very happy. I had a great career. I had two young children and a husband that I adored, you know, we were really well matched. He was also an executive. Um, very smart, very charming. I mean, made me laugh in so many. And, um, it was really a perfect time. He was older than I am. He had decided to retire early and be Mr.
[00:08:20] Mom. So he, you know, he always said to me like, this is your time to shine and I want to support you, which is every woman's dream. Right. And so. I was in a great space. And then all of a sudden things started to change. You know, Russ started becoming a different person. He was depressed, he was irritable, he was moody.
[00:08:39] He was nasty. We never used to fight. You know, we were a really great pair, which, because we were both engineers, we would just like debate, you know, when we would logically put out our arguments, but, and then figure out who was right. But all of a sudden we were fighting all the time. All the time. And it was to the point where I thought we were headed for divorce, you know, [00:09:00] and we went to counseling, but it didn't help.
[00:09:03] And I thought that we were going to be one of those casualties of young children, you know, and we just didn't make it to the other side. Cause there's a lot of stress of having young kids. And I was like, well, maybe it wasn't the right decision for him and it's not working. But then in 2016 I started noticing other symptoms.
[00:09:21] He started forgetting things and he started. Um, you know, basic things. I mean, this is one of the smartest people I've ever met and he couldn't remember a four digit five digit code for the house alarm. He couldn't remember the time to pick up the kids from daycare and school. And I realized he was having memory issues and we, that started our medical journey and I became a caregiver, you know, um, to make a very long story short, you know, he was diagnosed with early onset.
[00:09:50] And dementia. And it was shocking because by the time we actually got to the neurologist to understand what was going on with him, when they ran a pet [00:10:00] scan to look at his brain and how it was doing his disease was already classified as late stage. Like I was just figuring out that there was something wrong other than mood and irritability.
[00:10:11] And they were telling me that he was. In late stage decline. It was like a big fat baseball bat to the head. And so, um, and it just didn't make any sense. And as I said, I'm an engineer, I'm a problem solver. And I'm like, this doesn't make any sense. He was 60 years old. He was very physically fit. He had no genetic markers.
[00:10:31] I had him tested for everything that I could find on that most out, up to date, uh, Alzheimer's panel. He had no co-morbidities. All of the things that you're supposed to do for brain health, he was doing it. You can Mediterranean diet exercising, all of it, all the things. And yet he was systematically losing his mind.
[00:10:49] And I just begged, we went from doctor to doctor and, um, begging for root cause and a solution. And we had really difficult moments and really a [00:11:00] lot of horrible moments with the traditional medical, you know, society or system. And. Eventually we figured out that the root of his illness was tick-borne. So he had multiple infections and, uh, specifically he suffered from Lyme disease, Babesia and Bartonella, which are all co-infections, uh, that you can get from ticks, um, a simple tick bite, you know, it's crazy, but it's, it can be that simple and.
[00:11:28] So we started treatment. And so the book is really about our journey. There's a lot, it's raw and it's real. I journaled a lot through the whole process. And so I had a lot of this really vivid detail of our journey, and I wanted to share that I wanted to get it out there. I wanted to organize it and I wanted to have people understand the.
[00:11:49] Caregivers journey and what it takes because my reinvention was forced on me. Right. I was forced to become a different person to the point where it nearly broke me [00:12:00] and then I had to rebuild myself. And when you go through that type of experience, you can't rebuild yourself in the same way. You have to figure out.
[00:12:08] What you've learned from that experience and where to take it and where that's going to lead you next. And so writing the book was processing that journey and then trying to figure out how I can help others that may be exposed to the same situation. Lots of people are dealing with chronic illness and navigating that as difficult.
[00:12:25] And so I wanted to share the things that I did. Well, the things that I did terribly and just all raw emotions along the way that, you know, hopefully people will connect. Yeah,
[00:12:36] Jes Averhart: I that's, that's a great summary and the book, and I hope our listeners will get this book. Um, again what lurks in the woods and, and trust me, Nicole's on like a national tour here talking about the book and talking about tick-borne illness and really telling her story.
[00:12:54] And it is raw. It's very intimate. You do feel like you've moved in with her [00:13:00] in these few years, you get. Really understand her children and how, how this impacted them from her perspective, it's beautifully written. And so I would encourage everybody to just, it's an, and it's a quick, easy read in the sense that, you know, you can sit down and just, and move through it and you will be changed at the end.
[00:13:18] So I would encourage everybody to get the book. And I say that she's on this national tour because she's really thinking about her. What's next. This reinvention is real for her. She's a new person, a different. A different Nicole, as a result of this experience. And I don't know how many people are asking her these questions, but you know, we're going to do it a little bit differently because I want you to read the book and I want you to learn, and I want you to get this knowledge like I did, and, and be a changed reader around the information that she provides around tick-borne illness.
[00:13:47] But what I want to talk about today is I want to really just talk about Nicole and how she emerged from the. Crucible moment different and how the fire did press in on her [00:14:00] and, and created something new and special for the world. Beginning with the book, but not ending with the book. The book is really the beginning.
[00:14:07] The catalyst of, I believe a movement that she will champion nationally, globally around this issue. So at the end of the book or near the end, not the last chapter, but very close. You have a chapter that's titled who I. Who am I? And I was excited to dig into that one because I wanted to know who are you now and out of that pain, uh, a very special family gift through your core values that you guys developed, but let's talk about the, who am I and how do I want and what do I want to be?
[00:14:39] How did you get there?
[00:14:41] Nicole Bell: So I love that. That's what you resonated with, you know, and that's what you want to talk about. Okay. The reality of it is, is that I wrote that chapter after listening to one of your podcasts, I went on a walk and I was listening to you. And I was just thinking about what are my values?
[00:14:58] What do I want to be? And I sat [00:15:00] down and it kind of floated, I had no idea where it was going to fit in the book, but I just, it poured out. And it was really central because it was the first time I had had the ability to really sit down and think about what I want. You know, I have been in relation to.
[00:15:14] All my life, you know, I, I had two long-term relationships, um, starting from when I was 19, you know, had a relationship for a while. Then I met Russ. And so I've always been with someone and I, and I've always been in a job or at school or having things that are dictating my time and what was going on. And I was in a very unique situation of now trying to decide.
[00:15:37] I don't have that right now. I don't have a job because I had to leave my job in order to care for rest. I don't have a partner. You know, I have two young children who basically will mirror and learn from everything that I do. And so I have this opportunity to. Decide who I want to be, which is a gift. I mean, I had been through a lot of hell, but that ability to say, what do I [00:16:00] want to do with the time that I have left on this planet with the perspective that I've gained through going through this tragedy is a gift.
[00:16:06] And so I really did some introspective work and trying to figure out what's most important to me. And that's where the core values came out. You know, what are. The things that I hold, you know, I think as a, I I've run a lot of really complex programs and I run a lot of really complex technologies and so forth.
[00:16:25] And so I always want to get into the nitty gritty of the plan. This is the plan is what you want to do. And this is step one and step two and step three. And my last job was in regulated industry. So it's very laid out and it's very prescriptive. And now I have this vast wide open space, you know, with no prescribed plan.
[00:16:42] And so. I avoided my, my knitting, which is to sit down and write a detailed plan and just said, what do I want to do with my, what are my values? What are my guiding principles? That if I stay true to them, and if I hold onto them for the rest of my life, I'll be proud of myself and I'll be happy. [00:17:00] And that's where I came up with the list.
[00:17:02] So should I yeah, just go from, okay. So the first one. The first one. I mean, I know that doesn't maybe echo a lot of people do God, or, you know, or spirit or whatever, but for me it was health. And that was really core because watching my husband rust decline, it just became overwhelmingly apparent that if you don't have any.
[00:17:24] None of you can't do anything. You can't be in service to anyone. You can't help anyone you feel miserable. And it can literally, in the case of Rus steal away the person at your core, I mean, he became a different person that I didn't even recognize both. Um, you know, not just with the dementia, but just with a lot of the mood changes that came along with some of these infections.
[00:17:46] And so health is number one and it also was really apparent to me. Now a single mom to these two young kids that I need to keep myself healthy so that I can be there for them, because I don't want somebody else to raise my kids. I want to raise my kids. And if I don't [00:18:00] take care of me, then I won't be able to do that and have that luxury.
[00:18:05] Jes Averhart: Yeah. I, I have to jump in here because as I was reading the book and when Nicole came to visit, um, earlier today, before we did the recording, I said, Girl. So convicted by the, by first of all, in the book, you, you do get convicted about very specific things, but you also watch how important, I mean, just how quickly you think you're fine and you think you're healthy and just how quickly that changes.
[00:18:30] And then you see the residual impact. Family. I was very moved by that and extremely convicted. And I was like, oh, we got to talk about my health regimen. You know, sometimes I think I'm doing well. Then sometimes I forget how important it is and I just eat whatever and don't work out or whatever, you know, like, like we all do, but, but this book kind of solidified for me how precious.
[00:18:53] And how unpredictable we, you know, our health is. And you said, we're just, we're just made up of what to [00:19:00] say, biochemistry. We're just, so we're just a bunch of, we're just all just made up a biochemistry. And so if it gets off kilter or something shifts or changes, or something's happening, that you're not aware of and invader, which is what you'll learn in this book.
[00:19:14] It can change overnight. And then the impact on family and friends is real. And so we do have to protect that and have to make it a priority. So I don't, I have no judgment around you making that number one because it's, it's critically, critically important to you. Our life, not our life, but fulfillment and how we live our lives, our wellness.
[00:19:36] Nicole Bell: Yeah. And it's, it's really deep. I mean, it's more than just going to the doctor annually annually. It's become a passion for me to really understand the root causes of health, how to balance your hormones, your, your metabolic system, your immune system, all those things. So that's a core passion of mine.
[00:19:54] Um, I think the next core value is family, you know, Realized through all [00:20:00] of this, I've done a lot of things in my career. I've been in a lot of companies and in a lot of startups and built a lot of amazing technologies and brought them to the marketplace. But every job I've left and I've been replaced.
[00:20:10] Right. But the one job that I do that nobody can replace me as being a mom. Right. I mean, those two kids had been through a lot. If you'd read the book, you'll see, you'll understand they've been through a lot. And I realized that I needed to be there for them. And that was my number one job I had. My previous CEO always talked about, you know, you're juggling a lot of things and some of the balls are plastic and some of the balls are glass.
[00:20:34] And so you can't, that was, those were the glass balls. My two kids are the glass balls, which sounds weird when you say it, but it's true. And so, um, family is, is the number two value. Um, and then third is. I'm a lifelong learner. I love to learn new things. I think it's one of the reasons I love startups.
[00:20:55] It's one of the reasons I moved around in my career and sought new [00:21:00] technologies is because I love to learn and I love to solve problems and find things that are intriguing and interesting, and really. Explore the depths and then figure out how to make it better. And so that growth in that learning is, is critical to me.
[00:21:12] And it's not just about self-learning, it's also about using that learning to be a beacon for others. One of the things that I like to do is communicate, you know, I think that in my career, I always found myself in positions where I was bridging the gap between different voices, whether it's engineering and legal or engineering and marketing, whatever it is.
[00:21:33] I somehow always find myself in that middle and communicating. And so I want to learn and grow and then I want to be a beacon to help others. And so that's why sharing my story was so important because I don't want anybody else to go through what we went through, you know, and I want other people to learn from our experiences and see the things that I did wrong and, and the things that I did.
[00:21:53] Right. And, and make their journey. Um, the fourth value is friends, [00:22:00] you know, um, dementia can be so isolating. I've always been a social person. I've always had a big network of people. I love team. I love, you know, surrounding myself with amazing people, but as I went through with Russ's illness, It was so isolating.
[00:22:19] I mean, he isolated himself because he had a lot of psychiatric issues and that made it difficult to have deep seated relationships. But I think the dirty little secret of dementia is that there's a lot of shame that comes along with it. I mean, Russ was embarrassed. He was, he was an executive, he was the guy, he was the entertainer.
[00:22:40] And so many things. That he built himself up from nothing. I mean, from a poor family in Georgia, he was the first person to go to college and he built himself into this high powered executive and he was losing all of that piece by piece. And so there's a lot of shame that comes along with that. That is.
[00:22:59] Unfortunate because [00:23:00] it's really not in your control. And so we were very isolated and there were times when his dementia got really bad that I couldn't leave the house. And so as I re-emerged on the other side of that friends became my first thing and it was just a blessing to go out and talk to people and to engage with them.
[00:23:19] And I really became. Obsessed with, okay. Who are my people? You know, who are the ones that are going to be on this bus with me and this journey and helped me along in that to have such amazing friends is, is just been such a gift. So that's important. And I like to treat my friends like family, cause that's just, there's the family you're born with.
[00:23:39] And then the family that you adopt and choose. And so got a lot of those. And um, the, the fifth value is independence, independence. As I said, I had been. In relationships for all my life. And I have a personality. I talk about this personality, um, called ProScan. [00:24:00] It's a, it's a tool and I was in I'm a midline profile, which means I'm highly adaptable.
[00:24:04] I can dial my skills up to be dominant and in charge, or I can be more introspective and I can be a leader. I mean, a listener and more patient. And so I'm really good at adapting, which I think is why I love startups so much because it really allows me to. Flex those muscles, but it also occurred to me that I had done that in my relationships.
[00:24:25] And especially with Russ's illness, I had let him take me into his mood swings and I let him take me into the depths of his depression and his anxiety. And all those emotions, I had been swept in with him. And so I wanted to make sure that I was financially independent so that I could take care of my family, but also emotionally independent.
[00:24:49] So independence means that duality for me, those two things I wanted to be emotional. I don't want to rely on anybody else for my happiness. I want to have that inside and I [00:25:00] need to, to own that. And the last value is fun. I mean, that's just why I think I was so attracted to Russ because he was funny as all get out.
[00:25:11] I mean, anytime that the beauty of having this book out, a lot of his friends have read it and I've heard so many wonderful stories that, you know, you forget, right. Because you can't keep it all in your brain. And so I'm trying to write them down, but he's just funny. And he made me laugh and he knew tons of jokes, and I felt like his disease kind of surgically removed.
[00:25:31] Fun from our family. And one of the things that was so important to me and rebuilding is to bring that fun back. I wanted to be the fun house that the kids wanted to come play with. And I wanted to have that feeling of comfort in my house, which we didn't have for years. And so keeping that in mind, especially as the mom of two young kids, I mean, my kids now are 11 and eight.
[00:25:54] And so having the ability to play with them and do the fun things. Really [00:26:00] critical. So that's kind of my map. Those are the values that if I stick to those, there's a lot of things I'm passionate about. And there's a lot of things I want to learn, but those are the ones that are kind of my guiding light.
[00:26:13] Jes Averhart: Beautiful. So there's a lot here. I'm and I am known for reiterating a thing, but I do think it's important for our listeners if you're driving or if you're, you know, you're not in a place to write that down. The first lesson is to get in touch with your core values and live a podcast on that that really can help to think that through.
[00:26:32] But. But getting in touch with the immovable things in your life. So, you know, the wind can blow hard either way, but, but your feet stay planted. In your core values and they help you make decisions. I think that's the sort of the misnomer people like. Yeah. Yeah. We say we have values. We, you know, I can't really tell you what they are, but I have them and that they.[00:27:00]
[00:27:00] That's not true. It's BS. If you can't name them, then you don't really, you're not in touch with them so that when something comes into your path or a phone call comes through that you have to make a quick decision. What you do is you go back to your core values and say, how does it line up? And if anything is incorrect, Out of line, you can make an easy decision because you know that it will ultimately either lead to your fulfillment and happiness, or it will lead you down a path of like indecision or an angst or stress or anxiety within the family.
[00:27:31] And you always ask yourself why? Well it's because you made a decision that was outside of your core values, it's pressing on what's important to you. And so core values are centered. And literally central to how you move in your life as an individual and also as your family. And so you have these values, I saw it printed and hanging on your wall.
[00:27:51] And you talk about them with your kids. I think you even said over dinner, which I think is lovely or whenever it's necessary as to kind of go back to the anchoring what's [00:28:00] central what's anchored. For those of you, again, who aren't in a place to write them down. I think it's just interesting to, I want to run through Nicole's again, she starts with health and we all understand why, because this is what she's been focused on these last several years is becoming an expert in health for herself, her family, and, and others.
[00:28:18] Really. She was teaching me some things earlier today. Family is second growth and learning and being a student and ongoing constant student, um, involving herself in friendships. And the fellowship that comes from that and not being isolated independence. And she was very specific about this, talking about financial independence and emotional independence, like owning her shit.
[00:28:43] Like it's her, the buck stops there. Right. Um, and then having fun. And in the book you do. As much as that the journey is about rest as health and the decline. You definitely definitely get the spirit of this man. He was funny. He brought light into the [00:29:00] house. He was just a beautiful, beautiful spirit. And of course that's going to be on the list.
[00:29:04] Right. And so you can see why those six core values are so important to Nicole and how she's going to use them to guide. And design this next phase of her reinvention chapter. So thank you for sharing that. Um, last question as we kind of land this plane here. All right. I kind of liked this part. Y'all know this because it's this whole idea of two truths and a lie.
[00:29:27] But for those of us who haven't read the book, this is going to be great because you're going to give us some insight. I would like to know the two most important lessons that you have learned along this journey for you, the two most important things, and then follow it up with a lie that you told yourself that may have held you back, um, in the past, but it doesn't hold you back any moment.
[00:29:50] So two truths and a lie go.
[00:29:54] Nicole Bell: I think the first truth, it may sound cliche, but it is something [00:30:00] that I know I had to really wrestle with. And I know that there's so many women out there that wrestle with on a daily basis is that you cannot take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself. I think as a caregiver, I learned this lesson the hard way.
[00:30:17] You know, it, I was constantly in service. I was doing five different jobs. I mean, I was a mother. I was taking care of the house. I was taking care of a full-time dementia patient. I was still trying to do my job. I mean, all the things that I was trying to do on a daily basis and I was giving and I was giving and I.
[00:30:37] Emotionally knew that I had to take care of myself, but it wasn't because I'm an engineer and sometimes I'm a little pigheaded. It wasn't until I logically figured out that it actually was smart to take care of myself, because if I'm not doing that, then everything that I'm doing, they're getting how much of me?
[00:30:56] 20% of me, 10% of me, because I'm. [00:31:00] Not at my full self, but if I take care of myself and I keep myself at a hundred percent or 90% or whatever, by doing the self care and doing that, you know, work to make myself whole, then what I'm giving to everyone else is so much more rich. And so logically, it also makes sense.
[00:31:16] And because I'm an engineer and I have to follow logic, that was the moment when it clicked for me is I had to understand that what I was doing was. Like it was just dumb. It's dumb and it's not selfish. It's actually the smartest way. Even if your, your passion is to be of service, it's the smartest way to be of service because you are.
[00:31:36] Giving everyone else the best of you instead of a broken piece of you. And it took me almost getting, it took me basically getting to the precipice of braking before I realized that. So you have got to take care of yourself first and that is not selfish. It is smart. Amen. So the second truth that I still grapple with and I I've learned, and I [00:32:00] feel like it's one of those things I have to relearn and relearn is it's okay to not be in.
[00:32:06] Um, I. Everything in my history and everything in my past had told me that if I work hard enough, I could make something happen. I had done it academically. I had done it in my career. I had even, you know, built the family that I wanted and everything seemed like it was in my control if I just worked hard enough.
[00:32:26] But if you live long enough, You know, you're going to find something in your life that is not in your control, and you are going to have to figure out how to deal with that and how to pivot and how to manage and how to learn, you know, that going back to the core values, that growth, how do you learn and how do you, where do you take that and what do you do with it?
[00:32:48] And so I've gotten a lot more comfortable. But it's still a daily journey to remind myself that it's okay not to be in control and that that's actually part of life. And that there's a [00:33:00] lot of beauty in going with the flow of planning. You know, I'm a big planner and I like to have things all scripted out, but I've gotten a lot more comfortable with the flow of that figuring out.
[00:33:11] And I have my core values and I have my guiding principles and what I need to do and the exact path that doesn't have to be, you know, these beautiful laid out brick works. It can be a little bit more. You know, fluid. And so that's, that's been a key truth for me, but I think that that being in control leads to the lie, the lie that I told myself over and over and over and over again was that I was a failure because I wasn't in control.
[00:33:42] You know, when I, before I kind of, you know, let go and realize that. Sometimes things just happen. I wasn't doing everything. I have high expectations for myself and I felt like I was a failure as a mom. I was a failure as a caregiver. I was a failure at my job [00:34:00] and I was a failure at everything. And so I told myself that time and time again, I'm a failure, I'm a failure.
[00:34:06] And. In hindsight in looking back over my journal entries and looking back, and as part of the writing the book, I realized that sometimes you really need to redefine success. You know, sometimes, and I hope that, you know, not everybody has these moments, but sometimes you'll reach a time in your life where the success is really just surviving.
[00:34:29] You know, success was for me, was getting through and sheltering my two little kids, as much as I could from the chaos that I was surrounded in. And so. I wasn't a failure just getting through surviving and then figuring out how to learn from it and how to make other people's experiences better was really the best that I could do.
[00:34:52] And so releasing that control and realizing, you know, Hey, you're not a failure. You don't have to have everything [00:35:00] turn out the way that it. You think that it's going to, in order to have a meaningful, purposeful life, you know, I'm going to take this terrible experience that happened to me and I'm gonna make something of it and I'm going to help others so that they don't have it happen to them.
[00:35:14] And that's what is my passion? That's driving me on a day-to-day basis and that's going to be. So,
[00:35:22] Jes Averhart: yeah, girl, I thank you for, and you're very vulnerable in the book too. Um, you you're very vulnerable, so it doesn't surprise me that your lie is to say to the world, you know, I felt like failure, even though all evidence.
[00:35:35] If we were to look at your timeline, the evidence doesn't prove that out at all. I mean, you've just con your constant triumph is how I, how I talk about you. Um, but I do appreciate that because we do as women we pack on. The all the, all the concerns around us, we pack on the small moments that feel like they're, you know, they're amplified to [00:36:00] every degree and we feel like that we failed in that moment.
[00:36:03] But the truth is that over time, if we were just stringing it out, it's, it's just the steps to something bigger. It is the steps to a triumph. Right. But we can't often see it because we're in the moment. And that one moment, that one tone that we took with our kid or the one time we were late to the XYZ or in your case, not being able to, to fix this chronic disease.
[00:36:26] Taking over your husband's body. And as an engineer, feeling like you should be able to figure this out. I'm smart. I should be able to figure this out. I can save him and not being able to as a woman and as a professional successful woman, it's it's, it doesn't surprise me that we would label that moment as a failure, but in truth.
[00:36:47] And we talked about this earlier privately, and you'll see this in the book. You cannot escape the synchronicity of so many moments that Nicole has gone through with her story. [00:37:00] And even what's happening to her now with the story being released and how she is getting ready to change and revolutionize.
[00:37:09] Understanding and the work around tick-borne illness in ways that will save lives. It makes me very emotional. It really makes me emotional because I, I just, you know, we don't know in those moments. How profound the story, it's just building blocks to this greater story that the world will get. It's the gifts to the world than it will be small gifts to families and individuals that could potentially save their lives.
[00:37:35] So kudos, my friend, I love and adore you so much for being generous with your story and, and the gift, like I said to, to so many people. And I want to leave you with the last word and it can be whatever it is, but sometimes people will leave us with resources or things that have moved them. Um, they may want to leave us with like a mantra or whatever.
[00:37:59] [00:38:00] Um, I say books, podcasts, all those things routines, but there may be just something that's on your heart that you want to leave to our listeners as sort of a final, obviously go get this book. What looks in the woods, um, because that that's the beginning, but what else?
[00:38:15] Nicole Bell: Uh, I think that, you know, the book was a big part of my healing journey, right.
[00:38:19] It was me processing the chaos and trying to learn, but I think phase two of my learning has been all about how the body internalizes. And really trying to unpack the years of stress that I've lived under and the years of emotion and what that does, because as you mentioned, I, I do believe that the body is just a big ball of biochemistry and that was evident in Russ's behavior.
[00:38:46] And as I've met lots of people in the chronic illness community, I'm seeing countless examples of that. And so. Unrealistic for me to think, well, I'm not just a body of biochemistry too. And how is my [00:39:00] trauma? It, you change the way that I am and the way that I think. And so a book that I read recently that I really love is the body keeps the score.
[00:39:08] And that really talks about people who have been through trauma and how it changes your nervous system, how it changes your biochemistry and your hormones and how, you know, you can get into learned patterns. And so I feel like that. Phase two of my healing is really understanding how I've done lots of testing and in terms of where my hormone status is.
[00:39:30] And I'm doing things like breath work, you know, to help calm my nervous system and just, I don't want to live in crazy town all the time. Right. I wanna, I wanna, I have lived in crazy town and that you don't want that to become natural. You have to really establish what your baseline is and what normal is.
[00:39:46] And I think breath, work and meditation and. You reading and learning in that area has been a key part. I think, like I said, I think it's phase two of my healing. And so anyone who's been through some things and Ben from, from some shit, [00:40:00] I would encourage you to explore that. And I think breath work and meditation, yoga and all those things are huge, huge help to really figure out what your body is telling you and how it's been impacted by what you've been through.
[00:40:17] Jes Averhart: Well, that's it. I said she gets the last word and I mean, it, I think that's a, that's a fantastic way to sort of launch us into the next phase. Really think about. What you need, if I'm going to summarize. Cause I guess I'm going to, we're going to summarize it is what do you need next? What's the next right thing.
[00:40:35] We talk about that a lot. What is the next right thing? And I've been really kind of, this phrase has been running around in my head and I've shared it with Nicole and in other settings, but it's this idea of, are you going to repeat what you would, what you did yesterday, today, or are you going to evolve?
[00:40:55] It is a choice, repeat or evolve. And for you, [00:41:00] Nicole, you're evolving constantly, but you're seeking it out and you know what your next right thing is. So for our listeners, what is your next right step? What is the next right thing? And go do it, Nicole. I adore you love you. Thank you for the gift of what lurks in the woods.
[00:41:14] This is an incredible memoir, um, with lots of great lessons and a great story, just a great story. You and your family are, are amazing and will change lives. And so we are grateful to know you. Thanks for being on the podcast. Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure. Oh, awesome. All right, friend. Bye.
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