Mental Health Week: Is It Just The Small Business Blues?
For every mental health week or #BellLetsTalk day, for EVERY day, I encourage you to face up to how you really feel while running your awesome business. If you are like one of the 121 million people world-wide diagnosed (remember MOST mental health issues are not diagnosed), your business blues may actually be a diagnosable form of depression.
Depression has a stigma that must no longer be ignored. It is a serious, but manageable illness.
Just like when you need help to run your business by hiring an assistant, a marketing expert or a coach, you need help with your mental health.
You deserve to be the happiest healthiest entrepreneurial rockstar you can be! We deserve you to be the healthiest you can be — what you do matters.
You are Small Business SUPERHERO!
Running a business is for champions. And even champions get knocked down sometimes. The true sign of a champion is picking yourself up even when it feels the hardest. Especially when it feels the hardest. This is you right? You feel knocked down at times, but you pick yourself back up and keep going on. Heroic! That’s you.
- You can do this! (You are not weak or pathetic, you have an illness that is manageable)
- You are awesome! (Your worth and value of what you bring to this world is not minimized by having a mental health diagnosis)
- This too shall pass! (The anxiety, panic, sadness, fear, rage or questioning your worth always pass – tell someone, journal, call your local help line – it passes when you reach out)
I know. I am a small business star, just like you. And, I have lived with postpartum depression and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD is a diagnosed form of symptoms related to a woman’s hormonal cycles. But NO – it’s not just PMS. It’s a serious form of PMS affecting 8% of all women.
Getting My Head Out of Sand to Find My Superheroic Self
It used to be more natural for me to hide and not ask for help. I really accepted my mental health diagnosis in 2010, 3 years after my third child was born. I likely had been living with undiagnosed PPD and PMDD since not long after my first child was born in 2003. I launched my business in the throws of becoming a mom three times within 5 years, constantly angry at myself for not ‘doing it all better’ and was often faced with the conversation in my head ‘perhaps I am not cut out for this’ that lead to other scarier thoughts. (C’mon – even without any diagnosable depression, 3 children under 5 and a new business is not manageable in the way I thought it should be… thankful for hindsight!)
There is often conversation around me about “how did I/do I do it?!” – be a full time parent and run my businesses, that is.
Accepting The Truth Emphasizes the Awesome
Some months at that time, I had fewer than 10 truly “well” days. I also have suffered with migraines since the age of 16 which affects me 1-3 times per month for 1-5 days at a time. It’s not a quality of life I recommend!
PMDD has differing challenging symptoms for everyone. For me, my unmanaged PMDD showed itself in depression with hallmark signs of withdrawal from family and friends coupled with rage.
In 2010, when I finally accepted my hormonal rollercoaster was not just a symptom of me being ‘less than capable’, I told my doctor. My doctor told me to start with low dose medication with a long-term, but not forever, prescription. The primary purpose was to reset my sleep with the hopes that better, quality sleep would reset my other issues contributing to depression. It worked!
Within 16 months, I had managed with medication, 2000UI Vitamin D daily, proper amounts of rest, and ACCEPTANCE that I am just fine as I am, my hormonal depressions balanced out. I now can walk in this world as most perceive me, most of the time – confident, successful, a go-getter, a connector, an informed small business helper.
These are all the parts of me. I am who I am because of everything about me.
I am not sure I always have the right support system around me to help. Primarily because, even in a most supportive environment, depression of any kind is an invisible illness that when noticed is ugly and uncomfortable for others. It is my job to stay well rested, take meds (no longer needed, but if I felt I needed them again I would not hesitate) and self-care. Self-care means asking for help. Always. Demanding it.
What I am sure of is that my mental health improved when I was diagnosed by my doctor, without judgment, and full of kindness and ideas for varying ways to manage it (not just meds!).
Simple Steps to Be a Small Business Superhero When You Are Down
I have some very specific activities related to my business and my lifestyle that help me significantly in coping and growing my business at the same time. Perhaps these will help you too:
- Champion others. Often. I sometimes felt like screaming HELP ME! NOTICE ME! This is my truth. But as a professional business woman this is not really something I could do online, obviously. So instead, I promote others, I champion others, I comment to others with kindness on social media. I know this bolsters them and their business which is a core part of my business values anyway. But it does something for me too — it creates conversation when I need it most. The gratitude from others reminds me of my self-worth, it calms me and it reminds me of my purpose in this life so I can stay grounded in reality, not caught up in my depression which tells me other stories.
- Blog/Write. I don’t blog about mental health. But I write because writing feels great. I’m a linguist at heart. I love putting ideas together on paper. It’s cathartic to write for EVERYONE. I write about business because it feels great! You need to write, on a blog or in a journal, about whatever gets you juiced up! You’ll forget about your blues or mental state of mind by sinking into writing something you love.
- Speak. I am an introvert with PMDD – this means I have to have “alone time” and quiet time to recharge my engine. However, I am adrenalized by small group and public speaking. In front of a group, sharing business ideas and motivation, I feel most super heroic. The natural endorphins that create happiness are in full operation when I get to share my voice out loud. I create these opportunities for myself. You can use your voice in the same way, or other ways, just don’t isolate yourself so that you never get out and speak with your actual voice!
- Use social media to be connected 24/7. Often when you need someone, there is nobody around. Having social media as a core part of your marketing platform gives you 24/7 access to online communities that benefit you personally and professionally. Someone is always awake and available! I don’t necessarily communicate about ‘how I feel’ but rather communicate regularly about business or life as an entrepreneurial parent. This, for me, is normalizing. It is helpful to others when you share, and it is helpful to you.
- Only work with people I really like. Fortunately, I really like most people! But I won’t hang out with dream killers or people who have alterior motives for being connected to me. I won’t be used or manipulated. I won’t be taken advantage of. I am in the world to do great work with great people who are as motivated, as human, as me.
- Remove the need to be perfect. Perfectionists often can’t work. And the key to success is action. If I gave in to depression, migraines and perfectionist tendencies, I’d have enough negative self-talk to be immobilized. Fortunately, I easily overcame the perfectionist in me when I became a mother. And the pragmatic planner in me, who always has a new idea and actions to follow, keeps me moving forward always. It’s often not at the pace I’d like, but it’s always in the forward direction. I silence the perfectionist and just act no matter what.
- Ask for help. Okay, this one is a lie. I don’t ask for help even now as often as I should. I am constantly in practice of learning how. And so do you. When I know more about this, I’ll let you know! If you know how to do this better than I do, please share in the comments!
Not sure if you have the “blues” or depression?
Reach out and get help in either case. It’s not your place to diagnose yourself. So call your doctor and ask for help. If you are in distress, call your local help line.
Join the mental well-being movement and help remove the stigma around depression. Those who live with mental health issues are superheroes living with invisible illness. Champion them! Champion yourself.
originally written: May 2012 // updated: January 2016 & September 29 (broken links to Mayo Clinic corrected since original post)