Unstoppable: How Iman Gatti Has Redefined Success While Navigating Society With ADHD and CPTSD

Posted on

One of the ways I feel most alive and connected is by giving to the world what I want the most in life. Before I had my business or my book, I started something called “Lunch Bags of Love” and I would make meals and put little notes and quotes in the kits and then walk around and hand them out to the unhoused population. It wasn’t long before schools and other organizations started getting involved as well.

As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Iman Gatti.

Iman Gatti is a certified grief recovery specialist, transformational speaker and bestselling author.

She works with people to help them recover from grief and trauma, elevate their self-esteem, deepen their authenticity and step fully into the greatness they were born for.

Her bestselling memoir Cracked Open — Never Broken tells the story of her childhood and how she refused to become a victim, instead turning trauma into triumph.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Thank you for having me, I am so happy to be here. I am always truly honored to share my story but I feel it is important to give a trigger warning to your readers, as I do discuss domestic violence and I don’t want anyone to be injured.

It all started when my parents came to Canada from Tunisia, North Africa in the 70s. I am so proud to be a first-generation Canadian, born and raised in Alberta, Canada. I am the youngest of three and the only girl. I think we started out as your typical immigrant Muslim family. My father was a chef and worked away a lot and my mom was this stoic, exotic beauty, who had a passion for taking care of her family and loved being a stay at home mom.

My mother was my whole world and we were inseparable. I was her little shadow. She tamed my afro by wrapping each curl around her finger for nearly an hour every day. She truly took such great care of me.

She was my first example of pure love.

My father was the opposite in many ways. He was menacing and violent. He had no patience and very high expectations of us. He was very abusive and we often witnessed how terribly he treated our mother.

Eventually, my parents split up and there was this semblance of peace and healing in my mother for around a year. She was going to school to learn English, she got her driver’s license and bought a car and it felt really empowering and hopeful during that time.

Unfortunately, that happiness was short-lived and when I was six years old, my father snuck into our home and brutally murdered my mother in front of me.

This left my siblings and I orphaned and I ended up in foster care for the remainder of my childhood.

I was placed in a few homes and suffered a lot of abuse and trauma for another decade.

I often wonder how I even survived any of it , even now at 41 years old, I am still blown away that this is my story.

Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?

I currently live with: Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

While it is obvious to me now, looking back, I actually did not know what these disorders meant until I was an adult.

I was born with neurodivergence, so I suppose that was inevitable.

Obviously, watching my mother be murdered caused PTSD and then being severely abused and sexually assaulted for another decade after being orphaned is what differentiates the PTSD to being Complex PTSD, or CPTSD. The complexity is that there is not one event that caused the trauma and because I suffered prolonged trauma, while my brain was developing, my learning experiences, behaviour and beliefs are intrinsically connected to me as a whole person. I cannot point to the trauma having a beginning or an end because it was enveloped into so many of my childhood experiences.

This became more profound as I matured and I realized that I was very behind in my capacity for emotional regulation.

I made it my life mission to do whatever I could to educate and heal myself so I could be happy.

I realized that I was behind my peers and that I was limited because of my past. I became determined to make something beautiful out of what I had been given. In my case, I had a lot of grief, so I have decided to make that grief and the recovery from it into my legacy.

I want to show the world that you can grow beautiful gardens in manure. All of my shoveling has been for a purpose; either to make beauty where it is least expected or to defiantly cultivate happiness in spite of my circumstances.

No matter what the world gives me, I will transform it into something remarkable. That is the power of healing and resilience. You become an alchemist of sorts.

Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness?

The fact that I survived my childhood and was able to graduate high school and go to college felt huge at the time. I had a lot of obstacles in my way and I remember feeling so proud of that. I think it is important to consider that as a catalyst because I didn’t have a lot of “wins” in my youth.

In my twenties, I traveled as much as I could. I even moved to Scotland for two years and had the time of my life.

I came back to Canada and studied dance and became a professional belly dancer. It was something my mom had taught me as a kid and it was so important for me to celebrate my culture through dance. I think being visible when you are overcoming childhood violence can be a huge struggle, so it was a testament to my healing to be able to perform on stage.

I visited my father in prison when I was 25. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done. It gave me the confidence and determination I needed to keep fighting for my success and took away any power he had over me, mentally. I looked my monster in the eyes and I was never afraid of him again.

I started a shoe company when I was 30, became a public speaker, wrote my first book — my memoir, Cracked Open ~ Never Broken, became a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, built a house, got married, had a baby, wrote three children’s books, joined Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and became a bodybuilder.

As of right now, I am set to do some modeling and television interviews and my reach online, for this quarter, is at 445 million.

Make no mistake, when you read it like that, it sounds delightful and smooth, but the suffering to get to each of those accomplishments was very painful. I have had to kill off so many versions of myself and attend every funeral and rebirth. I am just determined and always looking for a way to make things work. I am so grateful that I never gave up. More amazing things are on the way for sure.

What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?

You cannot be everything all of the time. What you identify as a “limitation” is a place to lean into with profound love and care. Try not to think of it as a dead end but more of a construction site.

You may have to go slower at times or find a new path or invent a new route. Just keep going even if you feel like the slowest person because speed doesn’t matter. It matters that you stay the course. Most people will give up, even the most capable and privileged people give up. Your limitations can make you creative and resourceful — use them to your advantage. Most people aren’t forced to look at their limits so they impose their own on themselves. It is a gift to know yourself deeply; use it!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

There is one man, Ron Campbell, who I call my “Dad” and who has been a mentor, best friend and, of course, father figure since my mother passed.

He has been my champion, my confidant and the one person who has supported me and lifted me throughout my life. Without him, I would not be here.

He has made all of the difference to me and there are no words to describe the love and admiration I have for him.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

One of the ways I feel most alive and connected is by giving to the world what I want the most in life. Before I had my business or my book, I started something called “Lunch Bags of Love” and I would make meals and put little notes and quotes in the kits and then walk around and hand them out to the unhoused population. It wasn’t long before schools and other organizations started getting involved as well.

Another cause that is near to my heart is working with survivors of domestic violence. Ten years ago, I began working with an incredible government-funded organization, where I provide workshops on grief recovery, self esteem and life skills. The people I have met through that program have become people I care about so deeply for years after they graduate.

I am also honored to be the Master Trainer for the speakers at YEG Mental Health, a wonderful organization that is on a mission to raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness by helping educate and produce events that promote inclusion, diversity, hope and inspiration for those living with and loving someone with mental illness, while also raising funds for underfunded mental health programs in Edmonton.

Something that I don’t think I will ever get used to is when someone tells me that reading my memoir or attending my talks or working together has saved their life. The amount of people that have shared with me that they left their abusers or chose not to take their own life because my work has helped them feel seen and less alone moves me in a way I cannot describe.

Outside of my daughter, this work, my work, is my life. I am living in honour of my mother and showing my little girl that showing up and being who you know you are takes immense courage; and courage is contagious.

Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.

Please check out my video for my 5 things: https://youtu.be/fSeMhkLjb6c

  1. That we are not “less than” because of our neurodivergence and mental illness. Likely, we are doing more than a typical person.
  2. My brain is magical — ADHD and C-PTSD have allowed me to view the world and myself differently.
  3. I want people to be considerate of my needs, but NOT to see me suffer from them.
  4. It is vital that I have boundaries and be the biggest champion of my mental health.
  5. My trauma is not my personality, but I cannot separate myself from my brain.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“There will always be people who tell you that you can’t do things; don’t be one of them.” Jeff Gatti

“Amazing problem solvers are people who have had a lot of problems.” ~ Ron Campbell

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Hakan Lindskog, the COO of Neurohacker Collective. Fourteen years ago, he was the CEO of an online media company I desperately wanted to work for. I saw a position open up to be his executive assistant. I quit my job, sold everything I owned, loaded my car and drove 17 hours to apply in person. I arrived and was told they were about to offer the position to someone else. I insisted they consider me. I sat in the foyer for six hours because they kept trying to send me away by saying they were in meetings. I kept running down to plug the meter for my car. I sat there until I got five minutes with HR. I made a deal that if I could meet Hakan for 10 minutes the next day, I would go home. I got my 10 minutes with him and it must have been convincing because he hired me that day and we worked together for three years. He was the best boss I’ve ever had and by far the kindest and most talented leader I’ve ever known.

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!

Unstoppable: How Iman Gatti Has Redefined Success While Navigating Society With ADHD and CPTSD was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.