Why in the World I Transitioned into Coaching

Monday, December 21, 2009 8:10
Posted in category Setting Goals

By Ellen H. Brown

Note: People often ask me why I decided to become a life transitions coach, after working as a writer for more than 25 years, so I decided to share the story behind my transition with you in today’s post.

Several years ago, when I decided to become a life transitions coach, many people wondered what in the world I was doing, and I suppose, their confusion was understandable. After all, I had worked as a writer for my entire life and was running a successful business, as a writer, specializing in health and wellness.

So what was up with becoming a coach, they wondered. Or, as one of my writer friends so lovingly put it, “Did you just wake up one day and decide you wanted to be a life coach, or what?”

Uh, not exactly.  My journey actually unfolded over the course of more than a decade, and was anything but a passing fancy.

My Journey Into the Dark and Murky Underworld

It all began about 11 years ago, when I was working as a home-based writer, and memories of sexual abuse and rape suddenly began flooding my consciousness. It was a good thing I was self employed, at the time,because what happened over the course of the next few years sent me spiraling out of control.

In the beginning, I experienced intense flashbacks and body memories, which forced me to re-live the abuse that occurred when I was young. At times, I was blind-sided  by waves of physical and emotional pain.

At first, I couldn’t believe what was happening to me, and I wondered how I could have forgotten these brutal acts and why I hadn’t remembered them before.

For awhile, I hoped and prayed I was inventing these horrifying images. That the physical pain I was feeling was fake. That I was creating a fantasy.  Because that was more comforting than believing that the people I trusted had betrayed me. But the more I resisted, the more the memories persisted. On and on, like a never-ending nightmare.

The good news is that when I finally allowed myself to believe the memories were true, the flashbacks and body memories tapered off and eventually stopped.  But there was still plenty to overcome. Over the course of the next several years, I did a great deal of healing, in therapy and support groups and with the help of my wonderfully loving husband, Jeff and some supportive survivor friends.

Dealing with Abuse Takes Time, But How Much Time?

They say that dealing with child abuse or any difficult loss takes time, and that’s true. But in my opinion, it doesn’t need to take THAT much time, and sometimes, if you’re not careful, it can take a lifetime to move beyond the pain. One day, I realized that my life was slipping away, and I had allowed my entire identity to become tied up in being a “survivor.”

At that point, I realized I had a choice. I could continue to wear my “survivor label” like a badge of honor and blame others for what I didn’t like about my life. Or I could take responsibility for my life, and realize that my past didn’t have to define me. Yes, I was a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, but I was so much MORE than that. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to THRIVE!

It was probably no coincidence that I began exploring my spirituality at this same time. I had never been religious, (and I’m still not) but suddenly I wanted to believe that all these memories had bubbled up for a reason, that there WAS, in fact, some divine plan. That something good would come of these heart-wrenching revelations.

Transcending My Past and Helping Others Thrive

Over the next couple years, I traveled on a spiritual journey of faith and forgiveness that transformed my life. While I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, the abuse I experienced taught me an important lesson: that I possess an amazing strength and compassion that can never be broken, a powerful spirit that can never be extinguished. Painful though they were, those experiences shaped me into the strong, compassionate woman I am today.

My spiritual journey ultimately led me to the realization that I could make a difference in the lives of people who have faced adversity, including survivors of abuse. Though it took me awhile to decide what form that might take, I finally decided to become a coach, because I wanted to help people move forward rather than taking them back to the past to explore their wounds.

After graduating from the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland’s 18-month-long Gestalt Training Program and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, (an ICF-accredited program) I became a certified professional coach.

Today, as a life transitions coach, I am honored to help clients navigate challenging life transitions such as job loss and the loss of a loved one (and the transition from survivor to thriver) with courage, hope and optimism, so they can create the lives they truly desire.

Ellen H. Brown is a certified professional coach, based in Cleveland, Ohio.

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11 Responses to “Why in the World I Transitioned into Coaching”

  1. Thomas Waterhouse says:

    December 21st, 2009 at 8:44 am

    How incredibly loving and courageous to share your journey towards healing! Yes, very often sexual victimization can be repressed for years and then as you share, one day it floods like an emotional tsunami! It’s so exciting (and encouraging) that you moved from “survive” to “thrive”. You are a beautiful “healing healer” and I applaud you and your work! I am certain that your story will encourage countless other “victims” to claim their right to thrive! Thank you so much Ellen.

  2. Ellen Brown says:

    December 21st, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words, Thomas! Together, we can help people see that they have the power to thrive. I am so grateful that you are traveling this journey with me.


  3. Janet Auty-Carlisle says:

    December 21st, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Ellen, I too work with abuse and I too choose the word thriver. Thank you for putting a voice to this global issue. Victims are often silenced, it’s what their perpetrators rely on and, early on, victims learn that speaking up can be dangerous. Your decision to put a voice to your personal past, to your experience and to your growth is a courageous and compassionate one. I honour you. With deep thanks for your work, living la vida fearless, Jan

  4. Ellen Brown says:

    December 21st, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Thanks so much for what you said, Jan. What you say about silencing victims is so true. I really appreciate your support, and I’m grateful that we are both part of a movement to help victims and survivors transcend their past.

    With much gratitude,


  5. Neill Neill says:

    December 21st, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I’m so glad you told your story. Most who survive and then thrive become invisible. They get on with creating their lives in which their past sexual abuse is no longer relevant. Like other healed trauma in their pasts, it has shaped them, but no longer defines them. On that dimension, they are invisible.

    So for someone like me who has experienced abduction and sexual abuse as a child, (plus other trauma) and later worked through it, it has been a particular treat to meet you, a kindred soul. Thank you for being you.

    Love and blessings,


  6. Ellen Brown says:

    December 21st, 2009 at 11:24 am


    I, too, am so grateful to have met you! It feels good to be sharing my story. I hope that it will in some small way help other people see that they are so much more than whatever happened to them. I do think it’s possible for so many more “survivors” to become thrivers! Thank you for sharing YOUR story and for making yourself visible.

    Hugs and Love,


  7. Carla says:

    December 21st, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Hi Ellen! It is inspiring to hear your story and to see that you have found freedom beyond the past, now knowing that you are defined by who you truly are and not by what happened to you. I wish you all the fulfillment and excitement of helping others find the same!

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  10. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker says:

    October 14th, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Ellen, thank you for sharing your story of recovery. You are a voice of hope, authenticity and gentleness. I am glad that I have met you.

  11. Ellen Brown says:

    October 15th, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Thanks so much for your kind words, Patricia. I am so grateful to be able to have the strength to share my story!

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