Like thousands of other teenagers, I found solace in self harm and substance abuse. I’ve sat alone in darkness (both real and imagined), and contemplated suicide more times than I can count. I had my first brush with a mental hospital in high school. As a young adult, I found another way to self-medicate: work. It didn’t take long to land in the hospital again.
My Welcome to Adulthood wake up call was not just a realization that you had to work hard, take care of yourself, and that life wasn’t fair. It was that I had a lifelong diagnosis that would forever need to be micro-managed. That the words “mental illness” or “bipolar disorder” alone could conjure up seven kinds of crazy when spoken, and telling anyone at a job about it was a nail in the coffin of steady employment. That I was a living breathing risk not just to myself, but to others.
Entrepreneurship gave me a gift.
It opened my eyes to a world where I didn’t have to worry about losing a job because I needed to get my head back on straight in an in-patient program. It gave me the tools and resources to financially take care of myself using my own passions and skills. But it also took me into a world where remaining aware of how I was mentally checking in was vital.
Entrepreneurship is hard.
Hard is an understatement. One of my favorite articles in INC. Magazine was published in September of 2013, The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship and it introduced me to this little gem from Toby Thomas:
It’s like a man riding a lion. People think, ‘This guy’s brave.’ And he’s thinking, ‘How the hell did I get on a lion, and how do I keep from getting eaten?
There are days that I wake up and curl under the covers, burying my head away from gnashing teeth and a ferocious appetite, hating that lion.
The days where looking at my email inbox of three hundred twelve unread messages pushes me into a self-paralyzing panic. The days when the twenty-two cents in my bank account seem to have a voice of their own, screaming Failure! and Loser! The days when my four year old asking for a drink feels like she’s asking for the world on a silver platter. The days when I can be found sitting in the bottom of my shower, crying and asking myself, What am I doing?!
But then there are the days that the lion turns into a kitty cat.
The days that emails waiting for me mean an abundance of opportunities and pathways. The days that depositing a check into my bank account is a validation and success call. The days that three o’clock in the afternoon means playing in the backyard with my kids because I can. And the days that I know what I’m doing, because it’s following my dreams and totally rocking it out.
And the beauty of entrepreneurship is that I’m not alone in any of those days.
The truth is, we all have our things. The things that tear us down, that get under our skin, that apply pressure when we could really use a break. And as entrepreneurs, we have to support each other and rise above our battles together.
If you have struggled in the same trenches of living the life you dreamed of, I want you to know you are not alone. I’m standing right here, right now, swearing to you that you aren’t. And it’s okay to talk about it. In fact, please talk about it.
If you are rubbing up against hard times, long cries, and second guessing, I want you to reach out. Talk to someone. Take advantage of the mental health resources available to you. Get help if you need it.
If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend, or need emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Mental Health Resources
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Active Minds
- National Alliance of Mental Illness
- Mental Health America
For the rest of May, I’m going to dish on keeping your sanity as an entrepreneur, from productivity tips to keeping your health in check.