Taming the black dog of depression as an entrepreneur
I wanted to call this post “I wish I was dead” but decided against it because it was, well, too depressing. The reality is though, that’s exactly what was going through my head this morning as I was finally taken over by the black dog of depression.
I’ve been pushing myself outside my comfort zone a lot lately. Putting myself out there a whole lot more, trying new things in my businesses and digging deeper within to define and ultimately fulfill my purpose.
It all came crashing down when…are you ready for it…I stood in a small puddle of water on the kitchen floor from an icecube that had fallen out of the freezer earlier and melted. I mean seriously WTF right?
But that’s what happens when it all becomes too much. It’s the smallest thing that is the ‘icing on the cake’ that tips you over the edge and into the depths of darkness that is the black dog of depression.
Are you at risk as an entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur, I believe we are in a higher risk category for experiencing depression (along with teenagers – which is just even more heartbreaking!). This is purely my own personal analysis and I’m not sure if there are any statistics to back up my theory but the life of an entrepreneur is kind of like a roller coaster. There are high high’s and there can be extremely low lows.
We put ourselves under so much pressure to achieve our dreams and get our ideas out into the world. Always creating, solving problems, hustling, and pushing to meet deadlines (often self-imposed) and achieve more, more, more. We often take high risks and do the things most others wouldn’t dream of doing. But it comes at a cost.
Renowned for taking on everything ourselves it’s no wonder we often end up feeling depressed. Feeling like a failure, doubting ourselves, our ideas, our abilities and the essence of who we are.
There are often times we want to throw it all in because our invention or idea isn’t working…yet. But as an entrepreneur, we aren’t the type to be satisfied with mediocrity either. So, if we do go and “get a job” like our parents or friends are often telling us, then we are at an even higher risk of falling prey to the black dog of depression because it’s not who we are.
And don’t even get me started about the lack of security. Usually, as an entrepreneur we are stepping into the unknown. Creating solutions, exploring ideas and starting businesses where no one else has been before. There’s no one to tell us how to do it. No one to guide us. It can be a very lonely game.
The black dog of depression can get anyone
In society, there’s a misconception that you have to be in a shitty situation to become depressed. Homeless, on the streets, in an abusive environment, or poverty stricken. And yes, all of these factors can lead to depression. But the black dog of depression can affect anyone, in any situation. Entrepreneurs are often the last people you would expect to fall to its prey because they seem so brave and courageous. Forging their way into the future.
This is where it is more dangerous because society doesn’t expect the person who is seemingly doing well to be at risk of depression. In fact, I felt guilty for being depressed and wasn’t going to share this with anyone because, after all, what have I got to be depressed about?
As I sit here in a luxury home, with million dollar views, I get to work when I want to, and travel the world continuously. I am basically living the ultimate dream. I am in a loving relationship, have wonderful friends and a huge caring family. I have the best life!
But that’s what the Black dog of depression does! It twists everything around to be negative and gives you a waterfall of negative thoughts. In the depths of its grasp for the past couple of weeks I've been thinking, “I am so stupid”, “my husband is better off without me”, “I am no good”, “I don’t deserve all this good” and even “I wish I was dead”. Yep…it had me thinking that it would just be easier for everyone if I wasn’t here. WTF right!
7 things you can do to tame the black dog of depression
So, if you or someone you know is familiar with the black dog of depression then you may be interested in how I went from wishing I was dead, to being able to be here with you and writing about it such a short time later? Here’s what I did:
1. Recognise it
This may seem like an obvious one but when the black dog has its claws in you it’s really difficult to see it for what it is. There were tell-tale signs over the weeks leading up to this moment for me.
I cancelled appointments, wasn’t getting anything done, didn’t do my exercise (which I love). I didn’t feel like eating, didn’t want to socialize (which I also love), I was quieter, felt lethargic and basically had no interest in life. The earlier you can recognise these signs, the easier it is to get out of it.
2. Ask for support
This isn’t an easy one because the stigma associated with depression can make you afraid of being judged. But the truth is people will want to help you and will be glad to because they love you.
I told my husband I was heading towards rock bottom and needed his support. He willingly obliged, as he always does, and increased the number of daily hugs and gave me encouragement.
But sometimes that's not enough. I also have a regular therapist I can book an appointment with. I could have also called one of the many hotlines (listed below). These are manned by caring and professionally trained people who are experienced in supporting you. Utilise these excellent services! You don't have to fight this alone.
3. Nurture your body
It’s easy to abuse our bodies when we feel depressed because we want to numb the pain but that will only make us feel worse. So, as a rule, I don’t have anything in the house that will ever make me feel bad. That way, the temptation isn’t there.
If I am tired or hungry it’s easier for the black dog to take over my thoughts so I make sure I get enough rest and eat plenty of healthy food. I'm also a fan of meditation and power naps too. Research has proven that low blood sugars can bring on anxiety which can lead to depression so nurture your body with energy producing foods and adequate rest.
4. Go outside and/or exercise
Vitamin D increases the serotonin (the feel-good drug) in our bodies. So, go sit outside for a little while and soak up the rays. Even if it’s cloudy, the fresh air will still benefit you.
Exercise also produces serotonin so take yourself on regular walks. If it’s pouring rain or too cold out then find a step and just start with some step ups to get the blood flowing. You will instantly feel better.
5. Pat a fur baby
The unconditional love you get from a dog, cat or fur animal is like nothing else in this universe! It’s so powerful. I curled up on the dog bed with one of our fur babies. She’s a true nurturer and as I stroked her super soft hair she licked my hand. She knew I needed love – they always know.
If you don't have a furbaby available to you then call up a shelter and volunteer for half a day. Both the act of being of service AND being surrounded and connecting with the animals will have you feeling much better about yourself and life in general in no time.
6. Do something you know you're good at
A lot of the time, the black dog of depression focuses on what you’re not good at. It targets you when your confidence and self-esteem is at a low point. To flip it over and release its grip on you, go do something you know you’re good at. Something you can’t get wrong.
I love making scones and it’s almost impossible to get it wrong so that’s one of the things I did. Remind yourself of the truth…that you are capable and it will give you a boost of confidence in yourself again.
7. Connect with nature
Not everyone can (or wants to) go out and hug a tree. Even though, that can be hugely rewarding (give it a go some time! Just make sure it’s got no ants on it LOL) But everyone can connect with nature. Go and find something alive such as a plant, flower, tree, or even a grass lawn.
Sit and really focus on the micro details. Look at the tiny little hairs on the stem of the plant. Become fascinated in natural beauty. Lose yourself in the wonder of something that is part of a bigger picture and it will ground you back into love and gratitude for how incredible life on this planet really is.
Other things you can do to tame the black dog
These are the things that worked for me this time but there are plenty more that I use too. Such as taking a nice long shower or bath, taking a time out and reading a book in a cosy nook, watching an uplifting movie, jumping onto a YouTube channel that is full of funny and inspiring stories.
I have a list of things that make me feel loved, safe and valued because that’s what I need when the black dog of depression grabs a hold of me. Write a list for yourself now, while you are ok so that you have it for when you aren’t.
Be prepared so that if the black dog of depression grabs you, you can minimise its impact on you and your life/business. Remember to take one achievable step at a time and keep repeating the items on the list until you are back to your true self.
If you are having suicidal thoughts or feel you can’t deal with the black dog by yourself, that’s totally ok. The most courageous and loving thing you can do for you and those you love is to pick up the phone and call your local hotline for support. I have listed some below for you.
Australian National Help Lines and Websites
1300 22 44 36 Information, advice, support from trained mental health professionals 24/7
13 11 14 Provides a free, confidential and anonymous 24hr counselling service for adults needing emotional support.
1800 61 44 34
An online and telephone clinic providing free assessment and treatment services for Australian adults with anxiety or depression.
Information on symptoms, treatment and prevention of depression and bipolar disorder.
1800 650 890
Free online and telephone service that supports young people aged between 12 and 25 and their families going through a tough time.
1800 55 1800
A free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.
1300 78 99 78A telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way.
American National Help Lines and Websites
1800 784 2433 - ( 1-800-SUICIDE)
1800 273 8255 - (1-800-273-TALK)
I1-800-852-8336 - (1-800-TLC-TEEN)
1-866-488-7386 - (1-800-4-U-TREVOR) - Crisis intervention & suicide prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth
1-800-273-8255 - Press 1