We are in the midst of a mental health crisis in our country, and unfortunately, there is still a stigma about mental illness.
While we can talk to each other about our projects, our coworkers, even the intimate details of our term sheets -- anything that goes on inside our heads is off limits. We are made to feel ashamed if there's anything "abnormal" -- as if we could figure out what normal was without talking to other people.
Unfortunately, that means over 50 percent of people who have mental illnesses (like depression) go undiagnosed. I was diagnosed as bipolar at 18 years old. While most people know this as "manic/depressive," I was lucky enough to be "hypomanic" -- a pervasive, non-irritable, semi-euphoric state.
That doesn't sound like "depression", does it? I'm more like "Dr. Jekyll and Katy Perry" than Mr. Hyde. At work, I lead teams in product development, get on stage to give keynotes and coach people one-on-one -- not to mention how I write for a living. How could I do all those things with something "wrong" with me?
For those who have any type of depression, this is an all too common tale: when you say something out loud, an internal monologue strikes it down as incorrect (in a "you're wrong, you stupid idiot" way). Over the years, that can chip away at your psyche until it becomes a Herculean task to open your mouth.
People like Brad Feld, Paul English and Tim Ferriss have all spoken out about how their depression affected their business -- and how they ultimately used it to fuel their work and become more successful. Like them, I have had amazing professionals and supportive friends and colleagues.
For small business owners and entrepreneurs, there is often no one to turn to. Small business health insurance generally doesn't cover mental wellness, and many liability insurances won't cover you if you have a history of anxiety or depression -- so even getting help is a real risk to the business.
If you're looking for a quick, permanent "cure", you're out of luck. However, here are some suggestions to help you live a healthy and successful life.
1. Keep a Diary
One thing that's hard about "mental wellness" is, it seems so intangible. However, there are apps out there that can help you track your mood, your emotional triggers, your habits -- everything. The great thing about these is they'll notice patterns emerging and be able to prompt you -- or your friends and family -- if things look to be taking a turn for the worse.
In my own experience, the longer you do this, the better you are able to understand and even control your emotions -- and one app I've tried that is designed to help with this is Moodtrack. Other great options are WellTrack and My3.
2. Talk to Someone
When you're in this situation, you might not have anyone to talk to, or you simply may not want to talk to anyone you know. Thankfully, there are solutions for that as well. I have built a great network of coaches and friends that I trust, but I recognize that not everyone does.
For those, there are some apps to the rescue. I.M. Well, 7 Cups of Tea and Ginger.io are great. They're free ways to chat with trained people -- confidentially.
3. Read a Book
It's easy to get stuck into a trap of feeling that you're alone, and no one can understand you. Reading the stories first hand of people who have been where you are and pulled through can help.
Some to check out are Success to Die For by Lynette Davis, about the struggles women go through as entrepreneurs, From the Depths of Madness by Jeremy Sharp, a modern take of Girl, Interrupted -- from a male perspective, and Play it Away by Charlie Hoehn, a handbook on how to deal with anxiety. All are short reads that give you actionable tips and the most important thing -- hope.
The more you hold back, the worse things can get. Your work, family, and friends can all suffer from this -- if you think by not seeking help you are protecting them, try a different perspective.