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Feature Friday: Caitlin Leahy

Feature Friday: Caitlin Leahy

Hi there all my lovely friends and welcome back! Today I am excited to share a little peak into the life of Caitlin Leahy. We talk nursing, teaching, climbing, anxiety, therapy, weight training and more. It was so fun interviewing Caitlin, and I can’t wait to share some of her story with you. So let’s just do it, why don’t we?!

Caitlin is another lovely human that I met when working at BrainBoost Education in Vancouver. If you can’t tell from past posts, BrainBoost hires some of the most phenomenal people who will be connected for life simply because they worked at such a specially unique place. Caitlin was born and raised in Lynn Valley, which is in North Vancouver, and lived there with her parents until she was 20 years old. She then moved to Kitsilano, Vancouver during her third year of university and eventually made her way to Squamish, British Columbia. 

Caitlin went to school at the University of British Columbia and got a degree in Cell Biology and Genetics and a minor in Mathematics. Can someone say, “smarty pants”?!?! She was able to do this in five years because many of the math courses she took counted as some of her degree requirements for her biology degree. She started working at BrainBoost during her third year of university which is what prompted her to move to Kits.

 

Caitlin on her cyclocross bike riding through some Squamish trails
Caitlin on her cyclocross bike riding through some Squamish trails

 

Caitlin didn’t feel like she was super involved in university culture. This is because she was working a lot and was really focused on school. But as she was telling me this she recalled that she went to The Pit, which is the campus pub, almost every week and partied sober (more on this later). She was laughing as she told me that she would pack her sexy, going out clothes in her backpack and then coat check her entire bag with her laptop, binders, and all. Lol! Whatta hoot!

After working at BrainBoost for several years, Caitlin was itching to do something different. Mark, her boyfriend at the time and now husband who also happened to work at BrainBoost, was making the transition back into the paramedic world and her sister was in nursing school. With these influences around her, she realized she wanted to do something more in the health and, potentially, medical field. This is when she gave personal training a go.

A friend recommended to her that she get a basic personal training certification so that she could then purchase liability insurance. After that she just had to find the right mentor to learn from. Fortunately for her, she found a couple who owned a company called Enhanced Performance who were looking to expand and start a mentorship program. Caitlin jumped on this opportunity and was really sold by their leveling system. Basically it’s a tiered system where everyone starts at Level 1 where the focus is on injury prevention and correct form. You only move up levels once you have mastered the previous ones.

Having this solid foundation and understanding of the body was super important to Caitlin, especially considering she has torn each ACL twice. Three tears were from soccer at the ages of 15, 16 and 19 and the fourth tear was from bouldering at the age of 21. Anyone who has gone through an injury like this knows that it’s a long road to recovery, but Caitlin’s parents advocated for her tremendously. She had a great surgeon and physical therapist and also did on field post physio that involved soccer specific training.

 

Caitlin and her husband, Mark, on their wedding day <3
Caitlin and her husband, Mark, on their wedding day <3

 

One thing that is important to note about the recovery process from an injury like this is how big of a toll it takes on your mental health. For Caitlin, it turned into somewhat of a drinking problem. She wouldn’t always drink, but when she did she drank in excess. She even went to the hospital several times for it. It was hard for her school counselors to understand her struggle though because she was such a high functioning person who was making straight A’s. Fortunately, Caitlin had a good support system at home and knew that she was developing a problem. So she stopped drinking and started focusing more on things like yoga. In fact, she says yoga was like a “pseudo-counselor” for her during this time. Props to her for making a choice to better herself like this.

Needless to say, learning how to move her body correctly and mindfully were really important to Caitlin, and that’s what Enhanced Performance was all about. She worked there for about three years, but had to stop once she began nursing full time. You might be thinking, “What? I thought Caitlin was a teacher?” Well as I mentioned earlier, she wanted to do more in the medical field, so she decided to go back to school for nursing! One thing that helped her make this decision is the volunteer work she did at St. Paul’s Hospital. She completed a palliative care training program and volunteered in the ICU visiting patients and families. Plus, the nursing program at UBC was only 18 months for those who already had a degree. So it was a pretty easy decision for her to make.

She started her nursing degree in the fall of 2017, and since it was an accelerated program she started clinical placements right away. So every term she had a combination of medical courses that corresponded with the clinicals she was doing and then theory courses as well as labs. If it isn’t obvious, girlfriend was busy, busy, busy. 

She started taking anti anxiety medication by December of 2017 just because nursing school was so intense. She was hit with a major bought of imposter syndrome and she felt like she had no clue what she was doing. She felt a lot of pressure from her clinical placements and would randomly have panic attacks. However, looking back on it now it didn’t seem that bad to her. It’s crazy how rough things can feel when you’re in the middle of it, but afterwards it doesn’t seem like it was ever that bad. Strange how that works, hey?

 

Climbing in Squamish, BC
Climbing in Squamish, BC

 

Caitlin went off of her anxiety medication in January of 2020 just in time for the pandemic to hit. Once COVID began, she instantly sought the help of a counselor just to help her stay feeling good. She has been seeing the same counselor for more than a year now, and finds it super beneficial.

Though Caitlin lives in Squamish, BC, she makes a 50 minute commute one way to work at St. Paul’s. She really enjoys the drive because it’s time to herself and she listens to a lot of podcasts and calls her family way more. Her family loves this and so does Caitlin, and I encourage her to keep it up as I can totally relate to the enjoyment I feel from talking with my family regularly. 

I mentioned earlier that Caitlin volunteered in the palliative care unit, which is the unit she now works in. In case you are unfamiliar with what palliative care is (don’t worry, I was too!), it’s kind of like a modern day version of hospice. It’s deemed as an approach for quality of life and symptom management for people with very serious life limiting or terminal illnesses. Some people might go home or to hospice after their time in the palliative care unit, or they might pass away while there. But the goal is to help the patients feel better in the last stages of life.

Caitlin really enjoys working in this unit because it’s a reduced patient load and a smaller team of nurses. So she feels more connected to her coworkers and she finds the work to be very fulfilling. She has worked in other units before, but they have felt busier, more chaotic and less personal to her. So she is happy with the unit she is in.

 

Caitlin on a nursing shift during the pandemic
Caitlin on a nursing shift during the pandemic. Peep the goofy name tag so patients could see her face. Lol!

 

However, the pandemic has made work more stressful for Caitlin as I am sure it did for all medical professionals. They had to open up more beds in her unit, which in turn has made the unit more like a medical one rather than a palliative care one. She mentioned that there are all sorts of indirect ways in which COVID effects the hospital staff. For example, there is major burn out due to staffing shortages because if someone feels slightly sick they have to call in. Then another nurse has to pick up that shift even if they have already worked a fulltime schedule. Also, there is a lot of decanting going on from other units because there is only so much space available for patients at a given time. I can only imagine how stressful this could be and really want to say thank you to Caitlin and all the medical professionals who have had to keep their shit together while the world crumbled around them.

In terms of hobbies, Caitlin really loves moving her body and being in nature. She does a lot of trad climbing, especially now that she lives in the beautiful mountains of Squamish. Trad climbing is where you put your own gear in cracks as you are climbing. Call me a wuss, but that’s a no for me bud! 😜 She also enjoys cycling on her cycle cross bike and exploring the different trails around her. Road riding is fun for her too because she can just zone out, and she’s doing a lot more yoga lately.

Another thing she enjoys is powerlifting. She recently bought a squat rack and has set up her own little gym in her garage. She loves training with deadlifts and squats, and wants to get better at pull ups and chin ups. She feels fortunate for having worked at Enhanced Performance because she has a huge library of exercises and training techniques that she implements in her own training. Can I just say I’m a bit envious of this?! Lol!

Another fun fact (or two) about Caitlin is that she paid $80 to shave her head! Lol! She always had long hair, but had wanted to shave it off for a long time. One night her and her husband were having a few drinks and she just decided, “Why the hell not?” So the next day she went to a salon and had it all buzzed off! This is one thing I admire about Caitlin. She comes across like a super structured person, but she likes to blur the lines a little bit. Shaving her head is one of those things that I think takes courage and a little bit of bad-assery to do. So props to you, girl!

 

Caitlin's favorite photo of her and Mark on the Sunshine Coast
Caitlin’s favorite photo of her and Mark on the Sunshine Coast

 

And I said that I had two fun facts to share, so don’t think I forgot about the second one! Hehe! The second fact is that Caitlin went from having zero tattoos to SIX larges ones in just over a year. Now I love me some tattoos, and Caitlin’s are muy perfecto. I also love that she has to plan her tattoos around her blood donating schedule. You cannot donate blood for three months after getting a tattoo, so Caitlin has to work on the timing for this because donating blood is super important to her. See what I mean about being structured and having her shit together all while blurring the lines a little bit? Gotta love it!

If you can’t tell, I really enjoyed interviewing Caitlin. She is so hard working and passionate about everything she chooses to do. I appreciate her being so open and willing to share your journey with me! Thanks for being you, girlfriend!

If you or anyone you know would make a great fit for this Feature Friday series, please leave a comment below or message me on Instagram. Thank you so much for reading, and happy day y’all!

One thought on “Feature Friday: Caitlin Leahy

  1. I love these for learning about people that you love and hold dear but just have never had the chance to deep dive with! Such a great read!

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