MENTAL ILLNESS AND SUCCESSFUL COACHING

This is the topic that I feared bringing up the most...

The coaching industry is a unique world.

My whole life, I felt out of place and like I never truly belonged on this earth. The coaching industry was the first "place" where I felt like I could be ME. I could express my spiritual views without people looking at me like I am insane, and I could live out to my fullest potential (like five figure months at the age of 26).

I felt so exhilarated when I first started coaching, because I knew that I was MADE for this work. I studied psychology in university (top 15% of my class in both undergrad and graduate school), and I had a natural understanding for the human condition. I knew that I had a "gift" for detecting and decoding what was happening in someone's mind, and I had a presence that allowed others to feel safe when working with me.

Yet, psychotherapy felt WAY too dry. The cookie cutter, clinical approach to helping PEOPLE was NOT something that I could wrap my mind around. However, coaching made sense to me. I could use my intuitive gifts, I could throw out the rule book (I HATE rules), and I could connect with the specific people whom I wanted to work with.

So naturally, my coaching business succeeded quickly. In the first four months of my business, I earned $32K in sales. My reality changed, and it changed FAST. My husband and I left our ghetto apartment for a riverside beauty with a pool and fitness room. I traded in hustling at part-time jobs for horseback riding and coaching calls with soul sister clients. My life was absolute bliss. For the first time, everything made sense. 

I was living in my spiritual paradigm, success was EASY, and I felt like I had found the cheat code to life.

But then of course, I hit a snag

The thrill of making as much as $11K CASH (in a day) from work that I was obsessed with was overwhelming to say the least. I felt like Cinderella going to the ball, except I planned on things STAYING this way. I knew they would, because I created my results with my mind. I was intentional with the use and focus of my mind, and I knew that I was the source of my own sales, so why should I fear anything at all?

Well,

As you know from my blog series, I have struggled with mental illness my whole life, especially ever since I was 18. It was conquering multiple episodes of depression again and again and AGAIN that motivated me to become a therapist (and then a coach). Every episode came with its own lessons, and I was grateful for each lesson. However, after 4 episodes of major depression, I thought that I was in the clear. 

It had been almost 2 years since my last episode, and now that I was embodying this spiritual paradigm, I decided that I did not need my antidepressants anymore. I made the brave decision to start weaning off my medication. After all, I now understood my mind and how to create my reality with it, so I could handle some side effects, right?

What started as a brave decision quickly turned into a RECKLESS decision. I became ashamed of the fact that I was a spiritual coach with psychotropic medication. I felt like this was somehow the opposite of spiritual (as if there is a right way to be spiritual). So despite speaking with my doctor and KNOWING how to come off my medication properly, I decided to cut them ALL OUT entirely. Cold turkey.

This was a mistake. How could it not be a mistake? It's not like I am a layperson in the world of psychology; I studied the discipline for 9 years, and I was mid-way through training to become a therapist when I started coaching. However, against my better judgment, I stopped taking both drugs cold turkey. No weaning.

I believed that this "new me" could handle whatever happened to my brain chemistry. I thought that I would have some physical discomfort, but that would be the only issue. I prepared myself for withdrawal symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, aura in my vision (not the spiritual kind haha), and confusion/lethargy. And of course, I experienced all the above full force. Some days, I felt so sick that I strongly considered tapering my medication the proper way. I was dizzy, disoriented, and I started to feel like I was losing my grip on reality. I don't mean that I was experiencing psychosis, but rather, I felt stuck between my spiritual paradigm and the physical world paradigm that was pulling me down to Earth. 

As the symptoms worsened, I continued to brave through them. I tend to be stubborn when I make a decision, which sometimes works in my favour, but other times, it backfires. This time, it backfired. Every time that my body sent warning signals of my declining serotonin levels, I fired up my determination, refusing to take another antidepressant.

After about one month without the drugs in my system, I became aware that I had made a mistake.

The physical symptoms subsided, but I had a new problem: crippling anxiety. Now, as I have shared before, I have suffered from anxiety disorders since I was a child. I am familiar with anxiety. THIS was something else entirely. THIS was fear so raw and so vicious that I could not breathe (no, really, my breathing was erratic as hell)!! It stole the light away so quickly, and by the time I realized what I had done to my brain chemistry, it was too late. The damage was done.

For those of you who are less familiar with how psychotropic medication works, the type of antidepressants that I was taking (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI) does not work instantly. This is a drug that has to store in your system for 4-6 weeks before you feel any semblance of mental stability/clarity.

This was a problem. My career as an intuitive/spiritual coach relies heavily on mental clarity. And here I am, trying to survive panic attacks that were EQUALLY as intense as running from a mob of people coming at you with knives. I was sweating all the time, I was crying every few hours (SOBBING), my breathing was impossible to control, and I was CONVINCED that I was going to lose my horse, lose our new apartment, and lose EVERYTHING that I had sacrificed for.

Perhaps the biggest fear I had was this: WHAT IF MY CLIENTS FIND OUT?!

What if my clients find out that I have a mental illness?! What if the coaching world find outs?! I honestly believed that no one would come near me if they knew that I was having a moment of weakness. 

So I mustered all the courage that I could gather; I started taking my medication again, I talked with my doctor, and I spent some time at my parents' place to get a grip on my consciousness again. I rescheduled coaching calls often, but I knew that my clients deserved the best coaching I could possibly deliver. I wasn't about to use my mental illness as an excuse to not be a fully present coach/objective higher perspective. There is probably nothing more challenging than being the objective higher perspective for your clients when you are ALSO experiencing periodic panic attacks (every 3 hours like clockwork) that actually feel like they might kill your heart.

So I pushed my coaching calls back for a week and took that week to start rebuilding myself. What I learned from this experience is that, even in the face of CRIPPLING panic, there is ALWAYS a solution and another side to your fears. I was able to return to coaching, but I decided to take a break from recruiting 1:1 clients. 

I turned my focus to a lower cost group program that still thrilled me. I was able to fill that program with my soulmate clients despite each day feeling like a tidal wave of fear. My clients were still getting results even though it was ALL I could do to be present for those calls. This amazed me, and I started to think to myself "wow! I am pretty strong."

My anxiety/panic attacks continued to be STRONG through January and February, but I didn't let this illness stop me from showing up fully for my clients, and I refused to believe the lies that my fear mind were telling me about how I was about to "lose it all" and "people will find you out and never like you; who wants to work with you when you have to work 10 x harder than anyone you know to GET OUT OF BED in the morning?!"

By the time March started, the medication was restoring a noticeable balance in my mind again. I was accessing more and more mental clarity, even going on vacation to Florida AND signing a soulmate client from one live stream. The weeks following Florida have been a gradual climb back to my truth and my clarity.

But this is what has changed. This is what I see clear as day in the coaching industry: the OBSESSION with perfection.

You see these successful coaches who NEVER seem to have a bad day (or maybe they just never talk about it ;). Sadly, in pretending to be perfect, these coaches teach a lot of newer coaches such as myself that perfection is the ONLY way to serve fully as a mentor. I started to think that something was wrong with me, because I wasn't making $20K months while struggling with mental illness.

Let's look at that goal for a moment: EARN $20 THOUSAND DOLLARS in ONE MONTH while battling crippling panic attacks that, by the way, have nothing to do with any REAL threats. It's not even like I had a thought pattern that I could clear and therefore clear the panic. This was my brain starving for serotonin (because of my well-intended but poor judgment call), which is a neurochemical experience. So the more I tried to shift my focus and look at my thought patterns, the more confused I felt. I could shift my focus, sign another client, have that client sign another client, and STILL be on the ground, clutching my stomach and trying to catch my breath. 

THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS.

What I love most about my clients is that they love me for ME. They don't expect me to drive a luxury car (although that WILL happen one day of course) in order to trust me and value my insight. They don't need me to be a happiness, high-vibe robot who NEVER gets down sometimes.  

But this is the truth, and this is why I am proud of what I went through

Despite having a disadvantage that a lot of coaches do not have to worry about (although I am sure there are some of you reading right now who are hiding a mental illness from your audience), I still hit my (smaller) goals every month. I still showed up fully for my clients, and I still guided my clients to hit THEIR goals. 

I learned how to separate myself from my mind and focus on my truth EVEN when my brain chemistry was making me feel LITERALLY insane. I am not exaggerating: there were some days where I thought I was LOSING it. Straight up losing it. Even after facing 4 episodes of depression and decades of anxiety, even after studying mental health for almost a full decade of my life, I have to say, I had NO idea that mental illness could get THIS bad. So we aren't talking about your average attack of mental illness (which, by the way, is intense on its own); we are talking about a darkness so deep and so gripping that I honestly could NOT see past it on some days. 

But those days where I could muster the courage and clarity to get on my coaching calls were everything. My clients kept me going. All of them. These women are WHY I do what I do, and I knew that I could not let them down. This was more than just the fact that they invested a decent chunk of cash into working with me (although that is important too), but this was also the fact that I wanted my clients to know that, no matter how discouraged they felt on some days, their goals were right in reach. Everything they desired from life NEEDED to become non-negotiable and seen as their RIGHTS. I knew that, if I wanted to teach my clients that they can overcome ALL challenges, then I needed to show up fully against my OWN challenges.

And I did just that.

I conquered my panic attacks, even hiring a holistic coach with money that I didn't have yet. I remained committed to ME and my well-being, even if I could only do the bare minimum for the day.

This "bare minimum" turned out to be more than enough. Each day, each month was easier than the last. And the whole time, my clients kept me going. Also, my drive to return to the state of bliss and self-love that I experienced in the fall was STRONG...even stronger than the panic attacks that were holding me in a headlock.

So this is what I want to see change in the coaching industry: perfectionism.

Flaunt your success of COURSE, LOVE your life fully, and share everything that makes your heart sing. But at the same time, don't be afraid to be seen as who you ARE. Don't be ashamed of being human.

Humans are spectacular. The human mind is capable of withstanding more pressure than you can imagine. I learned this over the winter.

The human mind sends rockets into space against all odds (and brings them back safely...ever see Apollo 13?). The human mind is a creator of miracles, even when all the chips are stacked against you. So embrace that beautiful mind of yours. Your gifted, universal mind deserves to be loved, EVEN (and especially) when you feel sick.

Nothing is EVER wrong with you. You're a soul in a human body, which means ALL parts of you are beautiful and loveable. ALL parts of you. And life, as wonderful as it is, requires GROWTH. And honestly, growth can be painful. It doesn't come from surrounding yourself with luxury (although that part is FUN hehe); growth comes from pain, fear, pressure. 

So where is your wound? Where is your fear? THAT is where you need to lean in. This is where the light enters you. Run toward the fear like a fool and embrace ALL stumbles along the way. 

No more perfectionism. Nothing in nature is perfect. 

It's time to be YOU and explore the power and sanctity that is YOU. It's time to fall in love with your SOUL!

Because you are the most beautiful, most precious spark of divine energy that I have ever seen. 

Love always,

Quinn Downie

Intuitive Empowerment Mentor for Spiritual Coaches

 

PS Join my group of spiritual coaches/mentors who are ready to WAKE the world through their unique body of work: https://www.facebook.com/groups/139365159987002/

Also, if you are ready for SOUL empowerment, get on a free call with me