In 2018, Lissa Harris, a writer for Entrepreneur Magazine, opened the door for the discussion of the prevalence of mental illness among entrepreneurs (click here to read her article). With nearly 46 million Americans suffering from a mental illness in any given year, odds are high that if you’re reading this article, you have a mental illness—or at least symptoms of one. Shockingly, only 41% of those get any kind of help for it (See more here). Why are Americans so afraid of others knowing about their mental health issues? What is it that has us avoiding this discussion?
When I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in 2017, I had a pretty good sense that something was amiss but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was that was fucking with my life. At the time of my diagnosis, I was moderately successful in my sales business, had just graduated with my Masters in I/O Psychology, and was working on building my consulting practice on the side. When it came to work, I could stay focused, and frankly, was damn good at performing in each of those areas. Yet, when it came to my marriage, I was a shit-show. I couldn’t figure out why I was a great performer in some areas of my life and a mess in others. Getting the diagnosis helped me find the help I needed. Granted, there isn’t a complete happy ending, but I am gaining traction (as of this article, my wife and I are separated). What surprises me is that going through this experience is helping me grow in ways I never thought possible, and what I know is that I am not alone when it comes to mental illness.
I have been coaching and consulting business owners, professionals, and leaders since to market crash of 2008. I’ve noticed a trend. Each of these people, while highly successful, battles internal demons when it comes to their mental health. They may not have a diagnosed illness, but they definitely suffer from depression, anxiety, insecurity, lack of focus, and many other mental challenges. Each of them says they needed someone to talk to, but didn’t quite feel they were at the point of needing a therapist; though I did recommend that to some of them. Hell, I needed a therapist and it made a huge difference in my life, but I avoided it because of the stigma around it.
Here's the deal. If people like Oprah Winfrey, The Rock, Ryan Reynolds, John Nash, and many other can be wildly successful while dealing with a mental illness, so can you and I. It’s time for us to get rid of the stigma that mental illness carries. This isn’t the 1940’s. We are learning more about our minds and bodies than we ever did throughout history. By owning our challenges, we enable others to do the same. I’m inspired by people like Aaron Harvey, founder of Intrusivethoughts.org, who said:
“ …the pressure of my anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts became unbearable, For more than twenty years, I tried to suppress terrible mental images about hurting myself and the people I love. When I couldn't live in silence any longer, I finally confided in the Internet to help understand these intrusive thoughts. I had to dig through never ending lists of symptoms, treatments and academic research on psych forums and YouTube for any useful information. I didn't feel any relief until I came upon Rose Bretécher's article, 'Pure OCD: a rude awakening.' She used humor to shed light on the darkness of living with pure OCD and because of that, she forever changed, if not saved, my life. This article and the lack of empathetic OCD resources online helped me realize there was a clear opportunity to use my professional skills to create a resource with a youthful look and tone of voice that also humanized the experience of living with intrusive thoughts, promoted a holistic treatment plan and elevated conversations about mental health in the media."
Are you a professional, business owner, leader who suffers from mental battles? You are not alone. We get you! We know what it’s like to have a mental illness while venturing into the world of creation.
Here’s what I recommend for you to get the help and support you need:
1. Stop hiding your mental health issues. Share what you are going through with a safe person. If that’s not a therapist yet, find someone you can trust to confide in
2. Create routines to help you manage your challenges. Let’s face it, they may never go away, so you need to learn to work alongside them
3. Learn as much as you can about managing your illness and work on implementing that in your life.
4. Oh, did I mention “Get Help” This isn’t a battle you need to fight alone. There are people who are ready to stand alongside you.
In closing, Mental illness is way more common in America than many want to admit, and if you are a business owner, chances are you will face mental challenges at some point that are more than you can bear. By hiding it, you are causing yourself a disservice. There are many who are prepared and ready to help you get through this. The beauty is that you can succeed despite your mental challenges, so reach out to someone you trust and have them walk with you as you go through it. You’ve got this! We believe in you.