2018 was a hard year. Like, no job, post-graduation, living with my parents, post break-up, rock bottom hard. I spent most of that year piecing myself and my life back together while also running away from any new problem that came up. Although I felt like I was a total failure, I wouldn’t change that season of my life for anything. Nothing is more important than taking control of your mental health and building your ideal, most beautiful life and I’m glad I had the opportunity to be uncomfortable, grow, and take responsibility for myself and my life. I’ve done many things this year, including starting my own business full-time, but I still believe taking care of myself and my mental health was my biggest accomplishment.
It hasn’t been easy though.
I was diagnosed with bipolar II and general anxiety in February of 2019. Now, this was not shocking news to me, and it definitely did not turn my world upside down. I have been dealing with depression since I was about 15, so someone telling me that my mind isn’t the most optimistic one out there was not a surprise.
In March, I began the deep dive into remote work. I knew if I spent one more month in a cubicle sending emails for 8 hours a day, I would absolutely lose my mind. All I wanted to do was travel, or at least leave an hour early if I needed to go to an appointment without feeling like I would get fired. I hated working a 9-5. I hated not being able to do whatever I wanted. I hated only having 2 weeks of vacation a year. I hated it all.
I read, watched, and listened to what others were doing, what jobs were possible for me to do remotely, and what would allow me to live life the way I wanted. I signed up for every freebie that came up on my Facebook newsfeed and watched every webinar I could for months. After finding out I would be a horrible VA, I began doing social media management and fell in love.
I began my business in April while I was still at my desk job and things just shifted immediately for me. I felt so driven and determined to make my business be a success for me. I worked so diligently, I felt creative, and I felt free knowing that this was my way out of my miserable job and my way to the freedom I wanted so badly. I haven’t felt those feelings of determination or joy in so long. I thought those driven, focused days would never end since I was finally doing something I wanted to be doing.
I was wrong.
You see, one lesson I learned this year is that you can change aspects of your life for a quick fix but finding and fixing the real root of the problem takes time. I was never happy, so I spent a lot of time trying to fix my surroundings, my routines, anything that seemed to be adding to my bad mood. Although my job was one thing I constantly tried to fix, I still have bad days even though I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.
Every solopreneur, boss babe, and digital nomad on Instagram preaches about mental health. Everywhere I look on social media, I see someone meditating in a tree, cooking a vegan meal in a facemask, and pristine journals with eloquent writing and quotes filling the page.
I see everyone piecing themselves back together though glamourous self-care routines, perfect yoga poses, and flawless smoothie bowls. When I’m pulling myself back together, I don’t look like what’s on social media. I definitely will not take any selfies since I haven’t showered in days. No fresh, colorful vegan food because I haven’t gone grocery shopping in a week since my limbs feel like they’re filled with cement. You won’t see me at any yoga classes because why would I get out of bed if I don’t need to? I need to sleep.
What I’m trying to say is that there is an ugly side to mental illness that we don’t see or hear about from our favorite influencers and boss babes. I felt bad about how I was acting when I would feel depressed because of everything I saw about self-care and mental health on social media. Facemasks didn’t make me feel better and going for a walk took two days of will power, how did they all do it? We see the pretty self-care but ignore the crying next to the toilet at 2 am. We ignore the suffocating guilt from not being able to get out of bed, the dinners of oatmeal and black beans because you have no food and the dullness in your eyes from bearing your own thoughts for so long.
Once I realized that I could change everything in my life to be perfect and never worked on fixing my mind, I will never be truly happy. Although starting my business was a change in my life that needed to be made, mental illness or not, it didn’t solve all my problems like I wanted it to.
One aspect of being a digital entrepreneur I didn’t know I would appreciate so much was being able to be gentle with myself when I need to be. I’ve learned that being gentle with myself is the only way I’m able to change how my mind thinks about working and my mental health. I’m able to take the time to be sad or anxious when I need to and still be able to run my business effectively. Wake up feeling a bit down? I’m able to stay in bed and start my day a bit later than usual, something I would have never been able to do at my desk job.
Mental illnesses stick with you through everything. Though they’re more apparent when your life seems to be in shambles, my mental illness is still with me on those days where I’m working for 16 hours and I still feel like I should be doing more. It’s there when you land a new client, it’s there when you miss a deadline, it’s just something that became part of my entrepreneurial journey that I never expected.
With self-care being so prominent on social media, I challenged myself to talk about the hard times, too, not just the good days because let’s face it, the entrepreneurial journey has a lot of bad, hard days. My self-care will always look different than someone else’s, but my story could be similar and help others who may be where I was a few months ago. I encourage a raw and real conversation to begin around mental illness/mental health in the entrepreneurial space, not just self-care, but the bad days, too.
Be gentle with yourself today.