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Entrepreneurship & Mental Health: Time To Remove The Stigma

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone, and that's okay. If you decide to embark on this treacherous path with no linear outlook with the understanding that some days you'll be on top of the world, while other days, you'll wonder why the hell you got started in the first place. After featuring many entrepreneurs through the Black Girl Ecosystem, a question we ask is, "Has there been a time where you wanted to walk away from it all?" The answer was, "Every day." But, there is a caveat. Despite having those moments, you then realize how much impact your idea, your product, your service is having on the world––then it makes every bit of it worth it.

However, the truth is, entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. There is a psychological impact on entrepreneurship. Often, people have poured their life savings into a venture, or put 100% faith in suppliers and other people who are supposed to follow through (and didn't). Ultimately, there is a dark side to entrepreneurship, which isn't always on display.

Most see the accolades, wealth, and status, but there is a severe and underlooked dark side that has many entrepreneurs battling mental health diagnoses such as depression and anxiety. May is Mental Health Awareness, and BGV hopes to highlight some of these complexities while normalizing these issues to remove any stigmas that plague entrepreneurs from seeking the support they need.

Researchers found that 49% of entrepreneurs were dealing with at least one mental health diagnosis (such as ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, addiction, depression, or anxiety), with some of these diagnoses being co-morbid (more than one). There's a paradox here. Entrepreneurs are creative geniuses in their own right, and creative minds tend to be more affected by life circumstances than most.

There's a high and low to entrepreneurship. Even on my journey of entrepreneurship, when business was good, it was really good, but when it was bad it was really bad. But, with the mind of an entrepreneur, many thoughts are sometimes happening all at once. This could be the catalyst for new ideas. For instance, when an entrepreneur's energy is low, this space allows for more solutions and ideas, and when their energies are high, it helps with fast decision making, etc. But the highs and lows can often lead to burnout, shame, and severe depression.

Entrepreneurs are familiar with taking risks. Which means you have to be comfortable with a level of risk. But, what happens when you take those risks, and there isn't an immediate return? Do you continue to move further into uncertainties? Or, do you return to play it safe by getting a job and getting that much-needed security? There isn't a right or wrong way, but again, these highs and lows, the knowing and the unknowing causes a lot of emotional stress. We recently interviewed an entrepreneur who cashed out her 401K to expand her venture. That is stressful when you have everything riding on one thing, the thing.

The world of entrepreneurship doesn't leave a lot of room for vulnerability. There's this idea that you need to have thick skin, and you need to be brave all of the time. Societal pressures prevent entrepreneurs from speaking openly about their internal struggles, so they hide in the shadows living double, sometimes triple lives.

This is often called high functioning depression, or high functioning anxiety, etc. Most are charismatic, energetic, sociable, but when home by themselves, there's a relentless pain. This in return makes them neglect their overall health. When you're susceptible to mood vulnerability, you'll look for any relief. Some will engage in emotional eating, or other forms of addiction, mood variations such as feeling positive one day, then intense rage and irritability the next.

Brené Brown says, "Keep your shadows in front of you because they won't be able to pull you down from behind."

So, what can you do? You can seek support. Find a therapist or a coach that is familiar with and experienced with entrepreneurs. Know that self-care is a matter of self-preservation. This means that you must choose you before your business, you must choose you before your family, your friends and anyone or anything else. You must create a routine that nourishes your soul, that keeps you at peak emotional, mental, and spiritual states. But most of all, talk to someone. Know that you're not alone, and the more that you live openly about your struggles, you won't suffer in silence.

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