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The Origin Story: Caregiving, Healing, and Ascending with New Purpose

Updated: May 13

Natasha Varley at Ascend Retreats
Natasha Varley

I come from a long line of women who were never meant to be remembered. My family’s history has been meticulously recorded from the time of Alexander the Great, generation after generation, recorded on an ancient papyrus scroll, with one glaring exception; no women were ever recorded; no mothers, no sisters, no aunties; not one.

I chose a career as a physician, acceptable enough in my evolving culture, because despite the years of training and long hours, I could still be put in the caregiver box. It was a safe place to be. I worked with hospitalized children and volunteered overseas. I was really good at caring for others, at giving women and children a voice, advocating for them, and helping them heal. However, my own voice remained silent. I was never taught to advocate for myself or prioritize me. 

At the end of 2022, I took time off of work to care for my daughter who was hospitalized and my mother with Parkinson’s dementia. During the previous 2 years of caring for them, I had developed anxiety, depression, reflux, a tremor, and, with my daughter’s hospitalization, my periods abruptly stopped. I was a healer who couldn’t heal my mom or my daughter, and I was breaking too. 

After my daughter was discharged from a 2 month hospitalization, I decided not to return to clinical medicine. Instead I began a deep dive into mind-body health and menopause, trying to figure out WTAF was happening to my own body. I consumed every book and podcast from women scientists who could teach me about the changes in my body and how to thrive despite them. 

In my healing process, I signed up for a friend’s wellness retreat, and it was life-changing. I was able to reset and get invaluable coaching to learn more about myself and make a plan for my health. I began to incorporate the mindfulness and movement practices I had learned at the retreat with the science of wellbeing. 

My mother’s journey ended last November with a peaceful last breath in my arms. Today, my daughter is thankfully stable and on her own path to wellness, and my anxiety, depression, reflux, and tremor are gone. I am medication-free, except for hormone replacement therapy for menopause. 

I created Ascend Retreats to support women like me, women who are so good at caring for others, but have not given themselves permission for real self-care. Ascend is a transformational journey, one that I wish I had access to years ago, before I had destroyed my health and burned out professionally. Our chance to reset and relaunch is now, and with support, all of us can leave a legacy behind that no one can erase.


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