Mental illnesses: The dark truth about entrepreneurship

The many triumphs of a startup are celebrated and written about but no one wants to talk about the darkness lurking behind the successes

Updated: Nov 14, 2018 11:59:03 AM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Entrepreneurs’ lifestyle revolves around the ‘Time is money’ principle--achieve more in less time. Long working hours, disturbed sleep patterns, less or no time for exercise and leisure activities become a norm.

During an event organised by a startup, businesses put all their heart to publicisethe event for brand awareness, customer acquisition and celebrating the survival in the competitive marketplace. Quality time is spent in curating the invitation list to select the right investors, entrepreneurs, and media persons.

However, while the tangible and visible achievements of the startup are celebrated with champange-studded events, no one wants to talk about the loneliness, darkness, and the hopelessness that an entrepreneur goes through. Mental health always takes a back seat as no one detects the internal struggle.

The struggle to
» Hide the dark side. » Sustain the public hype.
» Overcome anxiety, burnout, and stress.

Few Questions to ask yourself
Is time money when you strengthen business connections at the expense of spoiling your personal relationships?

Is time money when your mental health deteriorates in a bid to achieve business targets?

Is time money when business plans occupy your mental space while spending quality time with your family and friends?

Monitor your behavioral and emotional responses
Time is self-awareness. Give yourself time to understand your feelings and behavior. Many businesses die a slow death because the founders are scared to show their vulnerablities.

There are lots of people who go through depression without access to support. We are not those people. What creates the barrier to support is that notion that a CEO is a strong tough male figure who acts masculine and doesn't ask for help or assistance, Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh had said in an earlier article. To encourage entrepreneurs, he also showcased his vulnerable side in a post titled, When Death Feels Like a Good Option.

Let go of stereotypes. Never equate activity with productivity. Observe your habits, impulses, routines, and reactions. Be aware of your distractions to make sure you’re choosing them, not the other way around.

Sleep is the first casualty when someone wants to work extra hard, which in my humble opinion is kind of dumb. The second casualty is mindfulness. People start equating worrying as thinking. I always ask them to solve by writing down the pros and cons, and then think of a solution,” JioChat Head of Product Marketing Satyarth Priyedarshi says.

Hope always triumphs over darkness
Time is hope. Give yourself time to heal. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Stop cursing and start examining your issues.

A video by the World Health Organisation (WHO), 'I had a black dog, his name was depression’, beautifully explains the existence, nature and the importance of black dog days.

Surround yourself with happy, warm and genuine people. You can’t change the circumstances, but you have the power to control your reaction to those situations. Take your dark phase as a challenge to find your inner strength. There is always a better life, a better world beyond the dark tunnel.

Be thankful for what you have
Time is gratitude. Give yourself time to be thankful. Replay your memorable moments. Cherish your small success points. Acknowledge the goodness in your lives.

Robert Herjavec, the CEO of Herjavec Group, with a net worth of $200 million (June 2016), had once considered jumping from the balcony of his hotel room.

"I just wanted to end it,” Herjavec revealed to People about his suicidal thoughts when his marriage had fallen apart. His three kids didn’t speak to him after the split.

“Everyone has their kryptonite. For me, it was my kids. It took me to a place I never thought I would go,” Herjavec expressed his helplessness in his interview with People magazine.

To overcome the dark place he had found himself in, and to feel gratitude towards life, he spent time with homeless people in the shelter.

Nothing is permanent
Nothing is permanent. Time is a great teacher. If you are living with mental illness, nothing to worry. Dr. Michael Freeman and his team at the University of California, San Francisco conducted research to understand the link between the entrepreneurship and mental health conditions.

The study revealed that entrepreneurs were more likely to report a lifelong history of mental health conditions. Of the 242 entrepreneurs surveyed, 49 percent of them experienced one or more mental health conditions in their life. Depression was one in 30 percent of all the entrepreneurs, followed by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 29 percent, and anxiety problems (27 percent).

If you have suicidal thoughts or know someone who needs assistance, kindly refer this list of helplines.

The author is a founder of Mushroom Content, aims for making businesses more human with approachable content.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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