The Business of Depression
Can I Start My Own Business if I Live With Depression?
I live with depression. For a long time, I only acknowledged my anxiety because I thought that was more acceptable in society. But there is a big difference between the two, and I couldn’t evade the truth forever. I also used to say I suffer from depression. And while yes, that is true, labeling it as such, at least for me, threatens to keep me in its darkness rather than reminding me that my depressive episodes will end and I will keep on living. (I don’t say any of this to downplay another’s experience with the severity of their diagnosis, this is simply my experience)
Recently, I became an entrepreneur. I became an independent consultant for a health and wellness company and it quite literally changed my life. My physical health has never been better, my complexion has cleared up, and after years of living with pain and bloating, I can finally eat without consequence. Even my mental health has been better. I know now that certain foods make my anxiety worse. Certain foods make my depression worse. The gut is known as the second brain and I am living proof that that statement is true. So much of our serotonin, the happy hormone, is produced in our gut, so understanding nutrition and which types of food are good for healthy serotonin production and which are inhibitors was an absolute game changer! I stand firmly in fighting against mental health first by taking control of nutrition. By doing so, then what you’re left with is the natural state of your brain chemistry. And that is not always something we can fix.
For the past almost two years, I have been on antidepressants. On several occasions I have tried to go off of them, only to experience my depression and anxiety tenfold. Needless to say, I went back on it. The only reason I was trying to eliminate it is because I didn’t want to be a person who needed it. I wanted to “prove I was stronger” than my depression. I was listening to the stigma of the world and judging myself against it. There is nothing wrong with being someone who needs to be on antidepressants. It does not mean I am not strong. It does not mean there is something wrong with me. We don’t tell someone with a broken leg that they are weak, or with cancer that they need to “snap out of it,” so why was I accusing myself of those things when mental health is just as equally a sickness.
Let’s get back to the entrepreneur thing. Because yes the particular business I am in has helped tremendously in having some kind of control over my depression, but because it is a valid illness with no real definitive whole cure, I still struggle. Today is one of those days. Usually, it hits me first thing in the morning, but today it didn’t. I got through about an hour or two of my day before I felt it setting in. It’s like when you know you’re getting a cold, you take extra vitamin c or whatever you need to do to brace for it, but still, you know it’s coming whether you like it or not. I have felt it coming the past couple of days but didn’t know what it was until it started creeping in today. All of my distractedness and lack of focus and fatigue over the past few days finally made sense. So I braced. I sat down. I prayed. I posted on social media about self-care, because if there’s anything my depression has helped me do is to let others know they are not alone in their struggle. And then I got back into bed. I sat and felt guilty for awhile knowing that I was not going to give my business the attention it needed today. Wondering how I was ever going to grow my business if I let this “stupid thing” interfere. But then I re-read what I had just posted to other people and decided to extend myself the same grace I would a friend. So I allowed myself to feel it, and I got back into bed and slept. I slept for over two hours hoping when I awoke I would feel different. I didn’t. But that was okay. I started to feel guilty again as I knew I had a power hour approaching where I had the opportunity to work alongside other consultants, but also knew that I would not be able to focus enough to get anything done. So instead I showered, I cried a little, and I made myself a healthy lunch shake. Things that didn’t require more effort than I was capable of exerting.
I also googled. You know those moments. You feel certain symptoms and it’s WebMD to the “rescue.” This time I googled having your own business and dealing with depression. And I found I am certainly not alone. I also found that many have intentionally started their own business because of their depression. They knew that a set schedule would make life more difficult, they knew taking sick days for their depressive episodes would lead to guilt and anxiety. They knew powering through rough days would result in bathroom break breakdowns and errors because of a lack of focus. I became so encouraged. For the past few months, I have felt like God was leading me to my business and though I could see benefits in starting it, I didn’t necessarily have a big picture of why. I had played around with the flexibility of it and the additional income of it and the accessibility of it but after today’s experience and reading the words of other survivors it finally clicked.
This was my why.
We’re asked fairly consistently, “What is your why for starting this business?” But again, I couldn’t find the right words until today. Why this was the business for me, why I’m choosing self-employment/entrepreneurship, why this specific business? I desire to be true to myself and who God made me to be, I embrace my business because I want the flexibility of being able to do just that. With this business I can set my own hours; on my high energy focused days I can work more so that when I have those darker days I can afford to work less without anxiety, without guilt, or a boss to reprimand me for taking the time to tend to my health. With this business, I am constantly learning more about how to effectively feed my mental health the physical food that is beneficial. With this business, because I can nurture myself in these ways, I am then more knowledgeable and well-nourished both physically and psychologically to be able to help others find the same kind of peace.
I used to be angry that God created me with mental health “issues,” just as I was annoyed that I was created with so many food sensitivities. But now I get it. If these weren’t a part of my reality, I wouldn’t know the joy of learning how to navigate them and I wouldn’t have the passion to help others do the same. Having these struggles doesn’t make me weak. If anything, it has made me stronger.
If you’re reading this and you’ve been wondering if it’s possible to start and grow a business while living with depression, please know you’re not alone in wondering this. Please know it is possible. Please know, it may even be more beneficial to your mental health to do so. I obviously cannot speak for everyone in the world as to what will work best for them, but I know for me, this is the only option that allows me to fully be me, depression and all.