Today we’d like to introduce you to Gabrielle Ortega.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Gabrielle. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Looking back, it’s clear that my path towards becoming a holistic mental health coach was deeply informed by my own personal experiences with mental illness – both as a witness to others’ pain and as someone who experienced it as well.
When I was growing up, the other kids at my school would bully me relentlessly and would make me the target of their daily verbal assaults. I’m hesitant to even call it “bullying” because it felt more like peer-on-peer abuse. It was so intense and never-ending that by the time I was twelve years old, I became severely depressed and started having suicidal thoughts. At twelve, my life already felt worthless and hopeless, and I didn’t see the point in sticking around if I was going to feel this way forever. My self-worth was non-existent, I had crippling anxiety, and was flooded with feelings of shame and self-loathing. The interesting thing is that I never hated my bullies more than I hated myself. I turned that rage within because I started to believe that something was fundamentally wrong or broken inside me, which is why these kids were punishing me — when the truth was that their behavior really had nothing to do with me at all. It was, I realized much later, the result of the pain that they were carrying around from things going on in their lives, mainly from having absent, abusive, or neglectful parents. They chose me to punish and rage on, and that was their way of coping with their own inner turmoil. When I think about it now, I’m filled with so much compassion and sadness for these children who were really suffering inside, and I hope they eventually found peace as adults.
At the same time that all of this was happening, I began witnessing members of my family struggling with their own mental illnesses. My cousin was living with bi-polar disorder and fibromyalgia that completely took away any quality of life; my father sunk into a deep depression that lasted more than a decade, and prevented him from being able to work or find any happiness; my mom was overwhelmed and anxious all the time, trying to keep everything afloat; other family members experienced hospitalizations and homelessness; and one family member actually ended their own life because they were in such a place of pain- which was a hugely shocking and traumatizing event for me. Although I did not witness it firsthand, it shook me to my entire core. The grief, the pain, the confusion of it all — why did this person have to check-out? What didn’t we do right? How could we have helped? Could we have even stopped it?
All of the residual trauma that occurred from these experiences percolated in my unconscious mind through my twenties. For a while, I did a really fantastic job of compartmentalizing, pushing away or numbing out the feelings that I was too scared to face. I buried myself in my college coursework, partying, and keeping things superficial. The brain has a brilliant way of engaging defense mechanisms to prevent us from feeling psychological pain, and I was fully leaning into ALL of them. I just wanted to move on and be done with these memories — but unfortunately that’s not how healing works. We have to face the things we’re scared of in order to process them and integrate them into our mind, body, and spirit. We can’t simply ignore or “forget” about them, because the feelings will still be there, stored somewhere deep in our unconscious mind and making us act out in other ways that generally aren’t healthy or good for us.
When I really thought about why I was running from my feelings, I realized how much fear I had around feeling them. I thought that if I actually sat down and said, I am in tremendous pain and I don’t know what to do about it, I would just be completely annihilated — that speaking my truth would open the emotional floodgates for pain to come in, and I would never be able to close them. I was terrified of being swallowed up by my pain like a black hole swallows entire galaxies.
At this point, I was in my mid-twenties and fell into another much more severe depression. I felt lost, constantly in emotional pain, unmotivated, hopeless, and cripplingly anxious. I would go days without showering or leaving my apartment, and at times fantasized about how much easier it would be to just not wake up the next day. It was scary, and eventually, I realized that feeling that way was WAY scarier than just facing what I needed to face and getting it over with.
I entered therapy for the third time in my life, but for the first time really committed to working on my mental health and healing. I had a wonderful experience, but it only took me so far and after two years, I felt stuck. I had tremendous self-awareness that I didn’t have before about my trauma and why I felt the way that I felt, but no real tools to help me actually move forward. I was in a loop and still depressed, and now getting frustrated.
This is when I decided to take my healing into my own hands, and I vowed to do as much research and try as many different things as I could to truly move the needle forward and create real, lasting changes in my life.
I went back to school to earn my masters in clinical psychology, primarily to learn what I needed to in order to heal myself. It was a life-changing experience. Suddenly, I had a context and framework to understand how my mind operated and to understand my feelings and how to work with them. I also realized that I wasn’t alone — in fact, every single person in that room learning with me, expressed their own experiences with mental illness and trauma. This made me feel so normal, and just having my experience normalized in that way was a powerful healing agent too.
By the time I graduated, I realized that being a healer was my calling and my soul’s purpose. I wanted to give everyone the tools that I learned to heal themselves because we all deserve to have the ability to create the life that we dream about, and to feel as good as we possibly can!
I tried the traditional route of becoming a therapist and found it to be really archaic and limiting because it didn’t allow me to fully step into the holistic practices that I knew also worked so well for my own healing.
So, I decided to shift over to the coaching world, dive into educating myself more around eastern medicine and fringe/ neuropsychology, and create an entirely new framework for self-awakening, healing, and transforming. My signature method now incorporates aspects of traditional psychodynamic psychotherapy, mind-body medicine, neuroscience, gut health maintenance, somatic work, community creation, mindfulness, and spiritual connection (to self, a higher power, or to the universal consciousness), to achieve whole person wellness.
I like to say that by the time you’re done with me, you have all the insight, tools, and inner confidence to step into your Highest Self and actively create a life that happens FOR you, not TO you.
We are truly the architects of our own experience, and my goal is to support you in becoming yours.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road, as you can probably guess from my story. I struggled with my own bouts of crippling depression, anxiety, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed, eat, or leave my apartment; I lost jobs; I isolated myself to the point where I had no one around to lean on; I numbed-out in unhealthy ways…I felt completely hopeless and lost, and at some points even had suicidal desires. It’s been a bumpy rollercoaster if I’m being totally honest.
But it’s also been a profoundly deep and beautiful experience. It helped guide me to where I am right now!
I take a much more spiritual perspective on my life now, and I truly believe that the difficulties I’ve experienced were necessary stepping stones that I had to go through before I could fully step into my soul’s purpose, the reason why I’m here on this planet, right now, as me. If I hadn’t struggled, I wouldn’t have found direction. Without pain and suffering, there can be no beauty and fulfillment. The light comes from the dark, and without the darkness there is no real life to be lived.
Embrace the darkness, friends. I promise it won’t swallow you whole and that you’re stronger than you could ever imagine.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I’m the owner and founder of OM Therapy Coaching, a holistic mental health and personal development business. I aim to help people learn how to decode their minds, heal from past wounds, discover their power, and breakthrough to living their best lives yet. I do this by integrating the Western sciences of Psychology and Neurobiology with ancient Eastern philosophies and practices, to create customized programs that focus on helping clients achieve total mind-body wellness.
Online, I’ve created OMTC to be a safe and supportive community for self-healers, on Instagram (@om_therapy_coaching) and on Facebook. Through these platforms, I share free tools and educational resources around mental and emotional wellness and healing, so that people can take their wellness journeys into their own hands.
If clients are looking for a more personalized experience, I offer virtual 1:1 coaching, as well as group coaching through my signature program, Rebirth! My coaching offerings are a way for people to be able to have more hands-on guidance and to be able to access a lifetime’s worth of knowledge and tools.
My goal is to empower you to fully step into who you are, with compassion and courage, and guide you towards finding lasting purpose and fulfillment in your life.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was bubbly, outgoing, empathic, and VERY curious about figuring out how things worked. I was also always the person that people would ask for advice — and I was happy to be asked! It felt good to support and validate others, and I loved the aspect of deeply connecting to other humans and being witness to their inner experiences.
- Website: www.omtherapycoaching.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/om_therapy_coaching
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OMTherapyCoaching
Heather East Photography