In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I am sharing my mental wellness journey publicly for the first time.
You’ll discover why I began therapy at age 19, why I left my career as a talent agent, and how I discovered my dharma in psychotherapy.
If you have ever wondered why I am passionate about vibrant mental health or why I put out tons of free content, you will find your answer in this episode.
And if my mission aligns with your values, near the end, you’ll find an invitation to help me create a movement to make mental health information more readily accessible to others. ♥️
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
The Beginning of My Mental Wellness Journey
I came from a “normal” dysfunctional family (like nearly everyone does) and considered myself a fairly well-adjusted, happy kid.
But due to a severe snowstorm, one winter, my college shut down for two weeks. Suddenly, I had a bunch of time on my hands, and I began to feel depressed for the first time in my life.
I felt a lack of energy. I didn’t want to get out of bed or see my friends.
I did not know anything about depression or anxiety at the time and didn’t understand what was happening, but I knew enough to seek help from the counseling center at my college.
This began a nine-year, life-changing relationship with my therapist, Bev (who you might remember from Boundary Boss). Even after I graduated, I spent years taking a train from Manhattan to Long Island every Monday night to see her.
A Shift in Perspective
As my therapeutic journey progressed, I experienced a profound shift in perspective.
Before therapy, I thought everything was set in stone like we just had to play the hand we were dealt in life to the best of our ability.
Through therapy and reading self-help books, I realized not only could I say I don’t like this hand, but I could also say I don’t like this deck and I don’t like this game.
Therapy also helped me see choices I hadn’t realized were there, and over time, I became empowered to change the direction of my life.
For my best tips on elevating your everyday mental wellness, download the guide here.
My Therapist’s Intervention
During my last year of college, Bev told me, “I think you are an alcoholic, and if you do not seek help with a 12-step program, I will stop treating you.”
It took hearing this from someone I respected to see my behavior for what it was because drinking was normal in my world.
I told Bev, “If you think I’m an alcoholic, then everyone I know is an alcoholic.”
She calmly replied, “That may be true, but I am only treating you.”
Fair point. I stopped drinking.
Becoming sober accelerated my mental wellness growth because drinking created its own problems. Instead of focusing on what I wanted to focus on in therapy, like creating the life, relationships, and friendships I wanted, we had to focus on putting out relationship explosions and fires.
When I stopped drinking, I realized the arsonist was me.
Being a Talent Agent Wasn’t Fulfilling
After I graduated, I became a talent agent for supermodels and celebrities. I negotiated contracts for Pantene, movie deals, and TV commercials.
As my mental health steadily improved, I became more successful, but I was still in an unhealthy industry.
At the time, being in entertainment was toxic, and having professional boundaries was difficult. The clients I represented and the casting directors I worked with were my age. I inevitably socialized with them.
Additionally, the healthier I became psychologically, the more interested I became in helping my clients – the models – get into drug treatment clinics, therapy, or eating disorder clinics.
I also stopped caring about the Pantene deal, at least in the way I should have for the job I had.
I stayed a couple of years longer than I should have. I kept picking battles in an effort to change the degrading culture of the entertainment business.
The more I grew and changed, the less I fit into entertainment. I did not want to be part of the emphasis on physical beauty. I felt like I was doing something outside of my level of integrity.
I am not dissing anyone, I am just telling you what happened for me. Plenty of lovely people work in the entertainment industry.
But it was not my why.
My why was to always be of service.
Growing up, my mom – a helper, volunteer, and deacon in her Methodist church – told me, “If you can, you have to help other people. If you have more, you have to give. If you can volunteer, do so.”
Being of service was sort of considered a moral obligation in our family, but it was my natural calling. I am such a social person. I have always loved people. And eventually, I knew it was time to change careers.
Quitting My Job
Changing careers was difficult. I was running the New York office of a bicoastal talent agency. I had a fancy job making a lot of money, and I was nervous about living on less. (I also did what I wanted with my dough so I had about $900 in the bank when I quit my job…not exactly fiscally sound 👀.)
I remember telling my father how I wanted to go to grad school to become a therapist. He laughed and asked, “Why?” I said, “Because I’m not happy. I don’t feel fulfilled doing what I’m doing.”
His exact words were, “Sounds weird.” 😂
Eventually, he came around and supported me. But making this transition required believing in myself – that no matter where I find myself, I will figure it out.
As if the pressure wasn’t high enough, I only applied to NYU. I didn’t want to move far, and its program had a clinical focus, which would help me open a therapy practice after graduating.
But I went to a cruddy undergraduate school and hadn’t been in school in nearly 10 years. I honestly thought getting into NYU was a looooong shot.
And then I was accepted.
I was terrified, but I reframed it as anticipatory excitement. Could I do it? I guess we’ll find out!
As soon as I started the courses, I knew it was my jam and where I was meant to be.
Fulfilling My Mission
I had a private practice for many years, and in 2008, I created a public platform. By 2011, I had my own website, and by 2015, I had created online courses. I decided to keep a few longtime high-profile clients and switch my focus to my public platform and courses.
As you may have noticed, I put out lots of free content.
I have friends with more profit-driven businesses who question why I spend money producing two podcast episodes a week, have over 30 free meditations, and do numerous no-cost challenges.
Truthfully? Because it’s my dharma.
My purpose is to reach as many people as possible to reduce suffering and elevate joy.
I teach you tips, techniques, and strategies to help you understand your mental wellness and make decisions that elevate your joy and limit your suffering. (The guide for this episode contains many of them – download it if you could use simple mental wellness strategies in your life!)
I was excited when Boundary Boss came out because it aligned with my mission to reach more people. We did a whole campaign to get it into libraries because I don’t believe mental wellness should only be for people who can afford it.
It is your birthright, whether you are broke or a zillionaire, to be mentally well (according to me).
If someone cannot afford the book, I want them to be able to read it at the library.
While I make money with my public platform and courses, I balance it out with my free content designed to make mental wellness information more readily available.
I wanted Boundary Boss to be the only thing people needed to help them have better boundaries. And we have testimonials from people across the world who say it transformed their lives, which warms my heart.
On top of this, The Terri Cole Show is on the charts in over 66 countries. My last challenge included people in over 100 different countries.
Every time these stats come in, I am beyond happy. I have a whole group of women using my work in Beruit. I cannot tell you what this does for my heart. 😭
There are many folks who need access to this information in countries where a credit card is difficult to get. There are also misogynistic countries seeking to control women. These are the people I am trying to reach.
We put 25% of all purchases towards scholarships because I want to enable as many people as possible to take my courses. For example, a woman in Argentina wanted to join a course, but her monthly income was the equivalent of $50 USD. A scholarship enabled her to take the course.
There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other people, seeking to lessen their suffering, elevate their joy, and embrace vibrant mental health.
I could have 10 high-profile clients and make more money doing so. But they are not my clientele. In my heart, our human family across the world is my clientele.
Help Support My Mission
Aligned with my mission in life, I recently started an affordable, $15/month membership. You get access to behind-the-scenes content, monthly Q&A calls with me, input on the content you’d like to see, and more.
Your $15/month directly supports The Terri Cole Show and contributes to our positive ripple effect in the world because it allows me to continue making free content for those who need it.
You can also sponsor a membership for someone else. And yes, 25% of your $15/month goes toward scholarships as well.
Many of you have told me this material is life-changing. I know it is, and I believe it is, which is why I am committed to this for life. I cannot imagine doing anything else, and I can’t imagine this won’t light me up 25 years from now in the same way it does today.
I appreciate you being here, reading the blog, and supporting my work. I hope you support it because you find it valuable. You being part of my desire for positive world domination is deeply meaningful to me. It is how I know you are my people – because you are here. Because my work resonates with you.
If it is within your means, I would love for you to join the membership and help me make this a real movement. Let this be something good you are doing in this world. If you are interested, check out all the details and sign up here.
Thank you for witnessing my story. I appreciate you and the impact we are making on the world and the potential we have to make more. To help you along your mental wellness journey, I put together a guide with simple mental wellness strategies you can use to uplevel your daily life.
I hope you have an amazing week and as always, take care of you.
Thank you so much Terri. I feel jealous that you were able to have therapy at 19 and that you got a well paid job early in life as that helped you get to study what you wanted. I'm 51 and my whole life I've been juggling getting enough money to study what I want to. My family was pretty dysfunctional; there was a lot of trauma, unintentional neglect and little money. I became a Nun at a young age believing that would bring the most meaning to my life. The Congregation I joined has a mental health mission. I left at age 32 though, as felt burnt out and not able to study what I wanted to. I accepted to study to become a Nurse as that's what I was told was needed at the time. I've been a Nurse for over 25 years and regret it. Slowly I've managed to do a Psychology degree while working full-time to pay for it. I'm now doing a Masters and feel my mission is to be children advocate. I want to be able to support children mental health. Thus, I feel that our missions are united Terri. I hope to eventually start a Coaching Practice and do as much free work as I can to support parents, educators, children and anyone dealing with children. My neurodivergent 8 year old child says he also wants to help children. Who knows, if I cannot do much because I'll run out of time, perhaps my son will continue this mission.
Terri, sister, I love you and your mission.
Ps I have the Boundary Boss book and love the way you write.
Barbara, I am witnessing your dedication to finding purpose with compassion and joy ❤️ Right on to being a children’s advocate and becoming so clear on your mission! And I am glad you enjoyed Boundary Boss ❤️
Thanks Terri! Your boundary boss tips really help me patch my leaky ones, by giving me a healthier sense of self, and what's reasonable to expect from myself and others. It still seems like a long road ahead, but it's nice to know there are angels like you to help me draw out my map, and where I can go in healing noticing my dysregulations or misperceptions and working towards my wellness…anytime.
Awww, thank you, Kath ❤️ I appreciate you and I’m so glad my content has helped you!