I’ve started and stopped writing this post a hundred times. It’s hard for me to find the words to describe depression and what it can do to a business owner who is not getting the medical help that she needs.
Although it’s hard to share, I hope my own story of depression can inspire someone who is struggling to take the steps to improve their situation and – as a result – improve their finances and their business.
My Experience With Depression
About a year ago, I spent most nights sobbing uncontrollably before bedtime. I was a very overwhelmed mother of twins. Honestly, I just barely survived their first year of life, with all the sleepless nights, breastfeeding, pumping for two, and waking up every three hours on a schedule to make sure my two premature babies got all the food they needed to reach their ideal birth weight.
I moved across the country when they were five weeks old. We moved literally on the day I would have been 40 weeks pregnant with them. We were living in a town where I knew no one, where I was thousands of miles away from both sides of my family. Two days after moving, my husband started his third year of medical school – a brutal transition for him, and one that neither of us ever wants to relive again.
In the midst of everything, I was barely treading water with my work.
I had several articles due every day. Usually I would squeeze them in during the twins’ naps and at night. I never walked our dog. Sometimes I would forget to feed her, and I’d find our trash bags ripped apart in our living room during my late night feedings with the twins.
In sum, my life was a total and complete disaster. However, like many new mothers, I hid behind the shame.
I mean, I had just given birth to twins – a boy and a girl. It’s like I had won the family lottery. Who was I to complain that I got to stay home with them and make money writing? Behind the veil, though, my energy level was so low that the thought of just lifting one baby – let alone two – into the stroller to go for a walk might as well have been climbing Mount Everest.
My finances were just barely hanging on. I was having trouble keeping up with my work, and I had no energy to take on any new business.
Finally, after one horrible day with my kids, I took a drive when my husband came home from work just to have a moment to myself. I had some of the worst thoughts I’ve ever had in my life on that drive. So I went home and talked to my husband about everything. He insisted that I get help immediately.
If you are a business owner struggling with depression or think you might be depressed, here is my advice:
1. Seek Medical Help
I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was feeling.
Keep in mind that when I went to see a doctor for the first time, I was in serious denial. Having never been a mom before, I thought that I was simply tired.
After all, everyone talks about how exhausting the first year is, so I thought that with two babies, I was just doubly exhausted.
Once I started to describe everything I was experiencing to my physician, I realized I was a generally happy and hardworking business owner before having children.
This made me feel even worse – not to mention horribly guilty. I love my kids so much that I could never imagine not having them. But because there were so many changes after my pregnancy, my doctor diagnosed me with postpartum depression. He also ran my bloodwork and found out that I have a serious B12 deficiency, which can cause extreme lethargy.
2. Follow the Doctor’s Orders
Once you go to your physician and get some answers, you should listen to his or her advice. A lot of people ignore a doctor’s advice. That wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere.
I started taking vitamin B12 regularly to improve my deficiency. Just days after my appointment, I found it easy to get up and do the dishes, when before just the task of walking across the room had felt like a massive burden.
My doctor also instructed me to work out every day. I’d always been athletic growing up, taking classical ballet for more than 20 years. However, I completely stopped working out when I had my kids. Like I said, I couldn’t even remember to feed my dog.
I was determined to get better, though, and I started doing yoga. Yoga was perfect for me – actually, it’s perfect for anyone with ballet training. It was slow enough that I didn’t feel like I was exerting too much energy working out, but involved just enough strength and stretching to relieve stress and improve my mood.
3. Rebuild Your Relationships and Your Business
I started to feel better and had the energy to move around, take my kids outside in the stroller, and generally embrace life a bit more. Then, I turned to my business. I reached out to clients whom I had turned down a few months before. I asked current clients if they had more work. Next, I hired a virtual assistant. I asked her to reach out to advertisers to whom I hadn’t replied for months.
When I had the clarity of mind to sit down, sort through my e-mails, and take back control of my business, I realized that I probably lost out on about $10,000 or more from business that I turned away because I was too down and depressed to even think about using energy on a new client.
When they’re in the thick of depression, many people don’t think about financial implications. For me, I lost out on growing my business.
Luckily, once I started feeling better – a few weeks after seeing my doctor – I felt a renewed sense of motivation for my work.
Soon, I found that my writing got better. I noticed that sitting down to complete my work didn’t seem so hard. I was more likely to schedule phone calls, reconnect with colleagues, and reach out to clients I wanted to work with.
During the darkest moments of my depression, I was just treading water with my finances, my relationships, and all my duties as a work-at-home mom. Sometimes I look back, amazed I functioned at all. I am grateful I had the discipline to do what I could, despite being quite sick at the time.
If you’re a business owner and you think you might be depressed, please seek help.
I’m glad to say that I’m feeling much better. I’m really enjoying my children and my work these days. As I write this, I just returned from traveling in Europe for a month, taking my family and my business on the road.
My only regret in this whole journey is that I was too stubborn to see that I needed help. I can’t imagine how great my business would be now, had I received help sooner. These days, though, I’m trying not to look back at what could have been. Instead, I try to focus on what I can achieve now that I am once again healthy in mind and spirit.
If you are reading this story and think you or a loved one may be suffering from postpartum depression and needs help immediately, please call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)