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Yes, I Am a Life Coach With OCD. And No, I Don't Have My Sh*t Together.

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A couple of weeks ago, Micheal Stone, renowned yoga teacher and meditation leader, died from taking a street drug in Victoria, BC. Although I didn’t follow him or his teaching, I know colleagues who did and they were deeply shocked and saddened by his death. In a statement from his wife, she revealed, “As versed as Michael was with the silence around mental health issues in our culture, he feared the stigma of his diagnosis. He was on the cusp of revealing publicly how shaped he was by bipolar disorder and how he was doing. In the silencing he hid desires he had for relief.”

All deaths are sad, but somehow this one feels tragic.

I wonder if his followers would have loved him less or felt his teaching were less authentic if he had talked earlier and more openly about his bipolar disorder? Personally, I doubt it.

I was thinking about this while walking my dog in the woods and it hit me: Yes, I am a life coach. And no, I don’t have all my shit together.

I’ve struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) my whole life. I spent the better part of my younger years straightening things — towels, pillows, papers, items in the cupboards, pictures on the walls and jars in the fridge. It felt really weird, but I couldn’t stop. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I figured out I have OCD. I have the type that has a need for symmetry and exactness. As I often joke with my clients, my bills don’t need to be paid on time but they must be arranged in a nice, neat pile.

I also only use pencils during coaching sessions because I can’t stand crossing out words — they need to be erased and the pencils need to be sharp. I had a client who used to bring a sharpener to sessions just in case I forgot mine.

I do not flow through life seamlessly, taking it all in.

Each and every day is a struggle.

My need for exactness can get in the way of deadlines, leaving the house on time, getting blog posts written and even getting out of bed because my brain makes me very, very tired.

This is also one of the first things I tell my clients because I think it makes me relatable. I believe deeply in my work and profoundly in the clients I work with — brilliant individuals, who often experience silent struggles of their own. They know I will never judge them and that I instantly “get it” — and them.

I also talk about my OCD to groups I present to when I’m a guest speakers, or leading a workshop. According to the World Health Association, 1 out of every 4 individuals have some form of mental health issue, with anxiety being at the top of the list — so if we are out there trying to look perfect, then who exactly are we doing this for?

I’ve also always talked about the anxiety and depression that co-exists with my condition. In fact, it was horrifying to my ex that I would stand on stage and share all of this. He once asked me, ”You are a CEO (I was at the time), aren’t you worried about what people will think?” The truth is: I never once worried what people would think. I wanted them to know my story.

I was a CEO. I had been a director and manager before, and started off as an assistant 25 years earlier. I had worked my ass off to achieve what I did. And yes, I battled demons along the way. I wanted people to know because maybe it would help them to battle their own.

As I look back, I feel like I have lived my life outwardly and inwardly, always choosing to challenge the status quo. I liked (and still like) being the contrarian. I worked hard to rise through the ranks to CEO, while still struggling with mental health issues. When I decided to become an entrepreneur and life coach, I knew I would visibly and intentionally own my OCD and all that goes with it. It has never lost me a client, but has actually made many more clients feel instantly understood.

My condition, my life and my children (my first two were born at a pound each and 26 weeks) have always made me modify my life. I haven’t been in an office full time since I was 30, and no, I wont hit freedom 55, but I’ve lived each day the way I needed to, while still pursuing and achieving my dreams.

I have cursed my OCD, my anxiety and my depression too many times to count. But I’ve also honored it all. I have figured out how to do good work, both because of it — and despite it.

Pure, raw acceptance and honesty has served me.

So what about you? Do you ever think that you are “less than” because of a hidden struggle? Do you push it down into the dark? If so, what do you think might be possible if you let it out into the light?

It won’t be easy, but maybe you should try and see.

Follow this journey here

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Unsplash photo via Soroush Karimi 

Originally published: October 9, 2017
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