Depression for Entrepreneurs
I run a publishing and media company dedicated to helping the DIY learner crowd (folks ages 35-75 who want to learn stuff in less-traditional ways). My business is based on professional speaking, creating online and offline courses, and a lot of personal interaction with the community I have the pleasure to serve.
Oh, and I was once diagnosed with clinical depression.
What’s worst about depression is that people mistake “having a bad day” with depression. That’s like saying “fish” when you mean “JAWS.” Depression is a bunch of chemical nonsense that makes you feel horrible, takes away a lot of your energy, makes it harder to pick better choices, and makes joy seem like it might never come back again.
It’s not the blues. It’s not a bummer. It’s a mess of chemicals. You can’t cheer me up. I just have to ride it out, and yet, I’ve come up with some ideas to help entrepreneurs and others figure out how to live a “YES, AND” life around depression.
AN ENTREPRENEUR’S BUSINESS IS CHAOS
I am a creator. My business is almost 100% content (creation and delivery). But that means a few things.
1.) My days are almost never the same.
2.) I rely on having a sharp and worry-free brain.
3.) Money is never steady-state, because I’m paid for what sells, not by some magical money fountain.
Guess what’s the worst part of all this? For people with depression, those are all the triggers. Chaos, worry, and matters like money are the perfect storm of depression triggers.
But if you suffer from depression, I haven’t told you anything you don’t know. Yet. I have some tools I’ve been working with to help me through.
STOP THE SCRIPTS
When we’re down, we also play a lot of “scripts” in our head, and also act them out physically.
I’m down, so I’m going to stay in bed, pull up the covers. It’s going to be a bad day. I can already tell.
So, instead, one way to punch depression in the mouth is to get up, get out of bed, and take a shower. (This might sound absolutely lame to non-depressed people, but when you’re down, this is like saying, “Okay, now, diffuse the bomb and recreate the DNA of a tiger.”)
Another is that we say lots of horrible things to ourselves when we’re depressed and we say them definitively.
I’m down. I’m going to be down for days, because that’s how it goes.
Our minds are very willing to listen to that script and help us. Maybe instead, say, “I’m down, but I’ve got a lot to get done. After this shower, I’m going to make a much smaller list and I’ll tackle what I can today.”
See how this works?
WHAT NOT TO DO WHILE DEPRESSED
I’m speaking from experience, but mine only. Your mileage may vary. When I’m down, I have this “well, forget it, I’m taking my ball and going home” kind of attitude. I am also far less helpful in negotiations, as everything seems bleak.
Try to avoid huge decisions. Avoid any conversations that might get hostile or volatile. If you can, avoid any media experiences (like interviews or the like). Essentially, work more on the “inside” or “grind” stuff, and less on the “great human skills” and “hi, mom!” stuff.
Sign nothing while depressed.
Also, don’t share too much of your depression with your online world (places like Twitter and Facebook). Not from shame. It’s because what happens far too often is that people try to “cheer you up.” When you’re down, that’s the least helpful thing. If you need help, remember that depression is an offline event.
LIVE A “YES, AND” LIFE
As an entrepreneur with a very hectic schedule, and a lot more creativity-minded requirements on my life than most people, I’ve had to learn how to function while depressed instead of scripting my life around it. In improvisational acting, there’s a very popular expression called “yes, and.” It means, never let a story hit the wall by saying no. In business terms, never say no or even but.
Creatively, this is brilliant. It’s a bunch of talking cars. Yes, AND the young hotshot is at odds with the old and fading star.
It’s also useful for living. “I sometimes get depressed AND I’ve got work to do.” When I want to pile the blankets over my head, I say, “I’m down. I’m miserable. AND I have a deadline that I missed, so I’d better get going on making that up.”
With that mindset, depression is never an excuse. It’s just another variable to deal with, something that might impact outcomes, but only to the extent of what we can’t manage (with lifestyle choices, with the ideas above, and sometimes with medication).
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I spent the whole day being depressed, which ate up a lot of my time, so I’ve got some work to get done.
When he’s not battling the wet blanket of depression, Chris Brogan is president and CEO of Human Business Works.