Entrepreneurship and Mental Health: The “D” Word That No One Is Talking About

depression

Before I dive into the “D” word, let me rewind. Blogging used to be an outlet for me to express myself to like-minded people. I would come home from school with all my bottled up teenage angst and spew my feelings to the tight-knit online community I had found. We bonded over animated movies and Janelle Monae. We talked about our desires, our downfalls, and societal pressures. It was messy, it was honest, and it was awesome! Now, I feel way more confined to what I’m “supposed” to be writing about and what’s best for “my brand”. I understand that, but I hate it. I am not happy all the time, and being in business for yourself isn’t as fun as it may seem. It’s not all coffee cups and cute mugs and your path isn’t always peppered with wins. You’ll fail, you’ll lose money, you’ll constantly wonder whether you’re doing the right thing or making the right move. 

While my teenage angst is gone, it’s now it’s replaced with deep and constant introspection. I’m a thinker. Blame it on the anxiety but I’m always thinking about my actions and the actions of those around me, and how I fit into certain groups. Add that anxiety to the pressure to succeed and earn more and more money and you have a killer recipe for an amazing and glorious mental break. With all this pressure coming from all sides I want to express myself. I want to write. There are times when I’m dying to write about feelings, like loneliness,  jealousy and the “D” word. I know no one is stopping me, obviously. But there is this imaginary standard of perfection that I feel I should follow now that I’m seen as a “business blogger/entrepreneur” and it’s killing me. And I’m not the only one feeling this way (please read that article).

Anyway, in the past week my thoughts have mutated from the usual tiny little anxiety monster, to a giant, hulking behemoth soul-sucking creature. I know I’m “supposed” to give you tips on how to make your life better. It’s literally in my bio, that’s what I do, but this past week I’ve been feeling so…..depressed. There I said it! No, this isn’t one of those posts where I give you 10 ways to spice up your life when you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a rut. I can’t tell you what to do when you’re feeling uninspired. I can’t give you 6 ways to shake that quarter-life crisis. Because I’m in it.

I have this overwhelming feeling of emptiness that I try to fill with accomplishments. Everyone always tells me I’m always doing cool things. And I guess I am. I have an online shop, an online publication, I’m solo-traveling to Korea, I have multiple digital marketing clients and I’m planning a super awesome event. When I think of those things I feel good for, let’s say….10 minutes. Then it’s back to the gaping hole. Then I scramble to find the next accomplishment. To take the next step. To elevate to the next level. It’s exhausting. But the alternative is staying up even later than I already do, letting the emptiness wash over me, and drifting away into a sea of apathy- a place where nothing gets done.

Mixing anxiety with depression is not the kind of combo I’m into. I prefer the two-piece with a biscuit at Popeyes. *cough cough, if anyone want to bring me food *cough*. But unfortunately right now, this is what I’ve got. A fear of being judged. Fearing that I’m not good enough, pretty enough (shallow I know, but honest), smart enough, accomplished enough, charming enough. Then the depression sinks in and all my fears are confirmed. While I’m not yet in the sea of apathy, right now I’m clinging to my life vest in an ocean of uncertainty.

Being an entrepreneur, Black annnd Nigerian is like a triple whammy when it comes to the mental health stigma. But being quiet doesn’t help me. So I’ll take whatever comes of sharing my feelings to the interwebs, even if that means getting labeled as “negative”.

What about you? Have you ever wrestled with the “D” word? How do you get over the feeling?

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  • Proud of you for sharing your truth my friend! Depression is hard to talk about and as someone who has struggled with major depression and am still battling it, I can say that different things help different people but one thing everyone should remember is depression is an illness just like the flu, measles or a broken leg. It should be treated like an illness instead of just being sad as it is more commonly viewed and anyone who has been depressed can tell the clear difference.

    • Thanks Mugabi! I think that’s a super important point. When you’re not feeling well, you’re not feeling well. You can’t just shake it off…you need time to heal.

  • This article is incredibly brave and I appreciate you sharing your personal experience on such a vulnerable topic. I’ve been battling with the D word myself.I try to get around it by staying busy with something like my blog but even then that’s starting to be a trigger for me. I’ve just been feeling stuck, like I should be farther ahead than where I am right now, and for that reason I feel lost. Hopefully I’ll figure out where I’m going and best of luck to you Jacque. I want you to know I admire and look up to your successes and appreciate your willingness to share your realness to.

  • Jacque!

    Even in times of anguish you’re still so inspiring!! I love when you open up and are honest because it helps me realize, im not crazy and someone else knows what I’m going through. I think it’s so easy for us to keep quiet about these sensitive mental issues bc we assume no one will understand before we even open up about them.. But reading articles like this, no there was no magic list to solve this issue, but it’s still a step in the right direction. You’re showing people who aspire to be entrepreneurs what it can really entail and I applaud you for that! It’s like I had all these misconceived ideas about college, and when I got there it totally wasn’t what I expected… I wish someone were more honest with me about what those not four, but five years would really be like…. I’ll end this novel here. But like I always tell you, you can never do any wrong, so just do what makes you happy!!!

  • Jacque – when I stumbled upon you and your blog last year I knew you would be someone who would just “get it”. I admire your transparency and openess. Entrepreneurship is tough and too many people make it seem like it’s the most hollywood thing ever. I’ve cried, been disappointed, lost clients, and even struggled to pay bills on MANY occasions but I’m still going strong. We have to tend to our inner selves first and foremeost because it matters. Otherwise depression will simply eat us alive. Love this article!

  • Jacque – when you tweeted about writing this the other day, I was all YAAASSSS because it’s a real thing… and being able to discuss it is freeing in and of itself. Triggers vary, effects don’t discriminate. As a ‘slightly’ older reader, the tip I have is if you get to a third day, reach out to someone, especially if you don’t feel like it (using ‘you’ in the general sense). That’s a rule of thumb I’ve used to keep me from going way over the deep end. That and volunteering with seniors or children; it’s a struggle to get out the house but once I’m there, I’m glad I did. Hopefully doing one or both will help someone else. Thank you for your courage and transparency.

  • Jacque,

    Thank you for your honesty. I can completely relate to what you addressed in this post. There are enough ups and downs in life as it is, and being an entrepreneur takes it to a whole other level. I definitely wrestle with the “D word.” It’s a struggle, especially right now as a 25 year-old Millennial doing what’s right for me and not what I “should be” doing. What helps me is surrounding myself with affirmations (and reading self help books). I allow myself to feel upset, depressed, scared, etc. and then I dig deep into affirmations because positive and negative thoughts can’t coexist. This has seriously helped me pick myself up quicker than I would before.

  • You are so strong and brave and beautiful for sharing this, Jacque! As entrepreneurs, I think our ambitions and creativity come with a price when you enter into this lifestyle. However, at the end of the day, it’s this up and down ride that creates our resilience to do anything and everything! Every struggle has strength and when we share our stories, like you did here, other people uncover strengths they didn’t know they had. I also have a post on depression and entrepreneurship (http://hitthegem.com/the-mental-cost-of-owning-a-business/) which went so viral earlier this year that it broke my site. I’m telling you this because this topic is SO important. Keep talking about it. Your words are so elegant and impactful. I also run a Facebook Group dedicated to addressing the tough stuff, the mental aspects, of owning a business. If you’d like to join us, please let me know! <3 Keep up the beautiful work.

  • I’m proud of you for sharing this! I struggle with the “D” and anxiety myself. I haven’t fully gotten it under control, but I’m working on it. Don’t be afraid to go see a doctor for help too. Sometimes medicine is the key. I’ll be honest, when my doctor first prescribed the medicine I wasn’t happy about it, because all my life I felt like people who had to take medicine to control their mind was weird or crazy. Now I know it really helps and can make a huge difference. Also, I just try to redirect my energy or just take sometime to be by myself.

    Oh yeah, I recently started taking yoga classes too. They really help with relaxing as well.