Some of you know that I’ve had my own run-in with major depression. For those of you who didn’t, now you know.
Most of us already know that depression is common: the oft quoted stat is that roughly 7% of the general population has had at least one major depressive episode. But that number balloons to a whopping 30% when we start talking about entrepreneurs. I’m willing to bet that number is even higher for IT business owners.
As if those numbers aren’t bad enough, it turns out that 62% of entrepreneurs feel depressed at least once a week, and 46% of entrepreneurs say that mental health issues interfere with their ability to work.
The crazy part is that many of these people don’t know they’re depressed. Even crazier is that your business can be going gangbusters and it can hit you like a ton of bricks out of nowhere for no good reason.
There are several reasons for that. First, there’s a huge amount of pressure on business owners not to show weakness. They’re afraid that their staff will think they’re on a sinking ship and that their customers and business relationships will disappear.
Unfortunately, there’s some truth to that. For the most part, I learned pretty quickly not to talk to anyone about what was going on. Fortunately, my business was mature enough that I was able to get it to run itself reasonably well. In cases where I had to, I’d usually tell people that I had health issues that were affecting my cognition, or in select cases where I had to, flat out tell people that I was depressed or had mental health issues.
Most of the people I told were understanding and supportive, but I could tell some people only understood to a point. Many of my customers told me that they had travelled the same road. Several offered their time, an ear, and advice. Some followed up with me to see how I was doing and still do to this day. I am very fortunate and grateful to have such a supportive community of business owners around me.
The tricky thing about telling people that you’re depressed is that everyone thinks they know what it is. Everyone’s felt a bit blue before, right?
Mental health diagnoses have a way of weaving their way into popular culture. Calling yourself “paranoid”, “anxious”, “OCD”, “depressed”, “bipolar” or even “schizo” is so common that people think they actually know what they mean. They don’t.
This is doubly true for depression, even moreso in men where it manifests in ways that you might not recognize it. I’ll describe how depression affects men in the next blog post.
Well-meaning friends, family, and the internet will urge you to get outside, go for a walk, and get some exercise if you’re feeling depressed. There’s a subreddit called /r/thanksimcured that curates bad mental health advice from around the web.
If you’re having a bad couple of days, or even mild depression, going for a walk probably isn’t bad advice. But if you feel like you might have major depression, if you’re in a funk that you haven’t been able to shake for more than a couple of weeks, then that advice is about as good as telling someone to put on a nice pair of pants so they won’t break their leg. Would you tell your schizophrenic friend to go hit the gym so they’ll stop hearing voices? It’s no different with major depression.
Mental health and depression are genuine medical conditions. You need to treat them that way. Nothing can destroy your business faster than a mental health problem. It impairs you judgment, destroys relationships with customers, staff, vendors, and partners, and makes it nearly impossible for you to get business done.
I know it feels like something you can just push yourself through — believe me I have tried — but you can’t push through depression any more than you can walk on a broken foot.
If you think you may need help, go see a doctor.
If this article was useful, interesting, or even a little entertaining, please like, share or comment, or make a donation to my Movember campaign in support of men’s mental, prostate, and testicular health.
This post is one in a short series on men’s mental health. We’ll be back to our regular posts on IT business and remote support soon.