Jumping into Technicolour Unprepared : Mental Health and Starting a Business
By Cotton & Push
“Take it easy” is usually the most heavily repeated advice given to you if you’re someone who
struggles with anxiety, depression, panic, fear, or any other manifestations of ill mental health.
Starting a business is probably one of the most strenuous and chaotic challenges one
could take on. Not a recipe for success then, eh? However, one should never fear any challenge and
humanity has proven to us that humans can accomplish great goals in the face of much
adversity, if they can get off the sofa. The topic of mental health is of course, so vast and so
hideously unmapped to us still. This is just a personal blog, and so I would like to share some
personal observations...some insights into how my daily struggles have affected me in my quest to
become a successful business owner.
Sometimes, I find that I struggle with the simplest of tasks. Should someone ask me to fill up
the fuel in their car or assemble a piece of furniture, even put up a tent or do the dishes in a
friends house, my brain seizes up. If it is not a task I have done before, if it has more than one
step to it, I do not know where to start. Setting up my first Christmas tree after leaving my
childhood home was a bit traumatic, but now that I’ve got the routine down and I know how the
tree is meant to look, I’m a bit calmer about the whole thing. Often it helps to have someone
guiding you in these tasks. However, when it comes to starting a business, it is almost like jumping
into the world of technicolour that Alice experienced when she discovered Wonderland.
The technicolour Wonderdland is a world that you are indeed not prepared for, a world which requires
you to learn new skills on the spot. The initial jump into this world is horrific, it’s frightening. You go
from being quite content in your everyday life, spending your spare time decorating your flat, to
writing a business plan, setting up a website, doing market research for this venture that is a very
daunting, very scary, but very thrilling thing.
One quite common manifestation of mental health struggles is the ever present hum of
low self-esteem. Sure, you do not need to struggle with mental health difficulty to experience this. However, when one is subjected to daily torment from their mind, they are usually faced with
daily feelings of inadequacy and the fear that they are not good enough. You can just about
manage to squash these every now and then when you need your confidence to reign, when you
are about to perform in an event or lead a team in the workplace. Being the conductor behind
the train that is your business means developing an ever present sense of confidence and even
bravado. Every interaction is an opportunity for marketing, for proving yourself, for selling your
business. Feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem don’t have much of a place in business at all.
Following the death of Steve Jobs, career mentor Bud Bilanich wrote, “Steve Jobs was confidence personified. And self confidence is an important key to your life and career success.” Great...
yet another hurdle to overcome.
Most of us are not Steve Jobs. We must remember that optimism and confidence take effort.
Trying takes effort. We must also remember that we are only human and we must accept our limitations.
I tried anyway, tried even if there was a chance it would fail. At least I tried. I realised my limitations and sought help right at the beginning. I completed a course and for that I was awarded with the guidance of a business mentor for two years. This has been a true gift – not only does he help lift my spirits and boost
my optimism, he is a mirror to me. He reflects all of my accomplishments back to me. This has a strange impact, almost like an out of body experience. It’s very likely I will spend the rest of my life doubting myself, but I can start to weigh up my successes and my pros when I need to, just like my mentor does for me.
The last hurdle I want to talk about is Depression Versus Motivation. You know what, I would love
it if I were that character Cameron Diaz plays in ‘What Happens in Vegas.’ If you’re not
familiar, she is a 6-am rising, fresh smoothie drinking, efficient, bubbly, effervescent and
intelligent finance executive, who walks to work everyday just blood bursting with energy and
a can-do attitude. Do people like this exist? I don’t know. They must do – how they don’t burn
out, I am not sure. Motivation…it’s a tricky one to achieve. Most people would say that if the
passion is there, the motivation will follow. In theory, that’s excellent but what about when you
can’t move from one spot on the sofa because you feel there is no point in existence? What
about when you spend days in the same little routine around your coffee table, only leaving the
house to get food. What if you, like many others have felt the agonising slow torture of
depression, and the husk of a human being it leaves of you, taking away any desire to better
yourself or turn your day, your life around. These periods of all-encompassing sadness usually
come and go. They can be long lasting, but they don’t stick around forever. When you are free
of them you must be thankful for the clearing of the fog, and use your time well. Hell, I’ve
learnt to even work inside the fog. With enough training and perseverance, your mind CAN be
overcome, even if for an hour or two in the day.
Whether you’re struggling with your mind or not, starting a business is a challenge, a big task.
It’s important to seek help, learn from others, surround yourself with positive influences who
believe in you and most importantly, to believe in yourself. Building an empire is terrifying, it’s
also incredible. Having the privilege and the push from within yourself to undertake such a
mission is inspiring. It should inspire others, even if it was hard for you to get there. If anything, the
harder it was for you to get there, the more inspiring it will be.