Life is crazy-busy. That’s how Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling puts it. She’s right, especially if you own your own agency or small business. Add a coefficient of about 12 if you have employees.
The result is little sleep, little down time and a nervous energy that often manifests in anger, isolation, hysteria. And yes, depression.
I know of what I speak. I started RGM Communications in 2007. The initial euphoria of a long-held dream diminished when I experienced the daunting tasks of being Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Client Service Manager, Chief PR Strategist & Tactician and Chief Tax Payor. Plus Husband, Father, Coach, Errand Runner, Mommy #2, on and on. C-H-I-E-F. One boss from yesteryear used to tell me that employees will never be able to understand why the business owner is a crazy loon sometimes. He’s right. The pressures are relentless, with cash flow ever on the mind.
My point: Depression is real. It’s a dripping faucet that wastes personal resources such as energy, motivation, creativity and vision. And for us Driver types-–those of us who want to make it happen and will do whatever to make it happen, depression is a thorn that is hard to pull out and move on. It’s irritating, fueled by shame, and in some cases, a debilitating disease. That means sales swerve and hit highs and lows; action items fall through the cracks; excuses are too commonplace. And guilt rules every day.
Sounds hopeless. Sounds like it’s time to give up, give in and just forget it. And, perhaps, such confessions may risk client relations and sales prospects. That’s regretful since medical resources report that nine of 10 people suffer from depression. A January 2011 blog post in Psychology Today reports “the percentage of people treated for depression tripled in the early 1990s. Overall, about 8.7 million people in this country received treatment for depression in 2007 compared to about 6.5 million in 1997.”
So is it hopeless? No. Giving up and giving in is not an option. It’s a sign that you must clarify what’s real, what’s not, and the work you need to do (or not do) to battle it. You now must become the Chief Personal-Care Officer. The Chief Self-Care Officer. There has to be a self-examination built on courage and support. Overcoming emotional chaos is built on the foundations of admitting your weakness (“Oh my god, not that!”) and then taking action.
Here are some steps to take when Big D creeps into your life:
Action. Decide that depression will not rule your life. Decide on actions and small steps that will clear the fog, offer hope and get you on track.
Admission. It’s time to look at yourself and affirm what you do best. And to admit what you don’t do well. Look at your career strengths and weaknesses, but also dig through what makes you tick and your flaws. Here’s The Big Secret no one ever talks about—or admits: We are all flawed. We’re all Damaged Goods, from kings and celebrities to presidents and paupers.
Accountability. It’s in our DNA to go it alone. To drive and push and cram and make “it” happen. We’re soloists, Lone Rangers, Supermen and Wonder Women. We do it alone. Not now, not this time. You and I need others to lean on. We need a trustworthy accountability partner that can cheer us on, challenge us, listen and empathize. Accountability shakes off the barnacles that push us into deep waters and destruction. Accountability is for strong men and women willing to be vulnerable. Willing to hear the hard stuff. And admitting it.
Check The Speed Limit. I have a lead foot. I push it all to the floor most of the time. I zip and zap so fast that I miss a lot. Check your speed limit, slow down a bit. Discover clouds in the sky again, or rays of sun breaking through the clouds. My favorite “breather” is just having a conversation with my 9-year-old. He recently told me he wished he could gather “air in a ball and throw it really hard.” Not sure what that means, but hey, it was fun talking about it. Slow it down.
God Stuff. Yeah, spirituality matters. It’s a quest to find solace in solitude. It is taking time to examine self, a Higher Power and matters of the heart. The result is usually profound personal discovery. Take it slow. Journal your thoughts. Read. Counsel.
Wise Counsel. Sometimes (usually) depression is too big, dark and scary to confront alone . That’s when professional counsel is required. Why do we fight it, and perceive seeing a counselor as a weakness vs. a strength? Doesn’t it take more character and courage to confront the issues than to avoid them and live through the personal hell for an entire lifetime? Find a quality counselor. That’s not always easy to do. Make sure you try three or four counselors before it feels right.
Meds. Who in America isn’t on anti-depressants? Depression may be because of external circumstances and relationships, or some emotional issue. What we forget is that depression can also be a chemical deficiency in our bodies and brains. Find out, get tested and talk to a psychiatrist. It can mean the difference between feeling a lifetime of gray to growing as a vibrant, vivacious person. Don’t settle for “what is.” Seek “What Can Be.”
My story of depression is too long (and depressing) to share here. But it’s real. And common. I admit that depression’s grip was unyielding. I’ve not always been at my best, nor do I profess Complete Restoration. I have “not arrived” but the journey is brighter, more hopeful and enjoyable.
Get back to business. Back to life and family and fun.
Enjoy the ride. It’s over before you know it.