Wellbeing / Health & wellbeing

Depression – and the lies it tells soloists

One of the worst things depression does to a person is tell them they’re a worthless fraud. Well I’m here to show you how depression lies, and how to fight back.

11 September 2015 by

So there I was, happily driving along the sunshine lit road of life. My new business name was registered, the website was built, business cards were delivered, social media was sorted and I was ready to launch my new coaching business out into the world.

I was confident it was going to be a huge success; after all, I had won a coaching award, I was very clear about my ideal customer, and I knew that I could help people from the numerous client testimonials I had gained over the years.

I was living my passion and my purpose, and the possibilities for me and my new business were limitless.

Then I turned the corner.

And was again plunged into the dark tunnel of depression.  The darkness was utterly complete, as if I were suddenly cut off from the world, all alone in an unfamiliar place. The direction I had been heading in, was lost and there was no GPS signal to help me find my way out.

"You compare yourself to everyone else and you can quickly convince yourself that you should just give up on your dreams because you will never achieve anything. "

The funny thing is, it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I find myself in that tunnel, it is always a surprise. There are never any warning signs (or at least none that I see).

Having been on a rollercoaster of ups and downs in the last eleven years, it was suggested to me recently that I may have Bipolar Disorder, something which I have now had a formal diagnosis for.  Due to this, I have periods where my energy is greatly increased, I feel supremely confident and am full of brilliant ideas. These creative and slightly manic highs are swiftly followed by very deep and dark lows which seem endless. I go from feeling as though I could change the world, to barely being able to change my clothes.

The worst thing about these low periods of depression? It’s the lies.

Depression says things like:

  • Who do you think you are to believe that you can help other people?
  • How can you help others when you can barely help yourself?
  • You are a fraud and one day soon everyone will find you out.

It’s no use trying to think positively or focus on gratitude, because depression also says:

  • You’ve got no right to feel sad.
  • Think of all the people who are much worse off than you; you should be grateful instead of being lazy.
  • You are so pathetic; everyone would be better off without you.

As a result, you begin to question every skill you believed you had. You compare yourself to everyone else and you can quickly convince yourself that you should just give up on your dreams because you will never achieve anything.

Well I’m here to tell you that’s not true. Here are some of the many things I’ve achieved in business while also battling depression and mental illness.

  • In 2010, I was awarded ‘Best Newcomer Coach of the Year’ by the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Coaching.
  • I successfully carried out workshops on managing stress and reducing anxiety for a local women’s refuge.
  • I was presented with an award for ‘Greatest Contribution’ for a women-in-business mentoring program.
  • I was part of a consultative team within a networking organisation for businesses committed to working with integrity, inclusiveness and equality.
  • I worked with clients both in Australia and internationally to assist them in managing their own lives and businesses. Here are what two of my clients had to say:

“Sharon has an amazing ability to communicate with warmth and sincerity and I particularly  like that she helped me realise I don’t need to be perfect and I can make small changes over time.”

“The best thing about working with Sharon is how open, honest and genuine she is, and how she instils in you a deep sense of trust – the feeling that she truly understands.”

Not bad right?

It’s important to remember depression isn’t rational, it’s not sensible and it does not work with logic. It is paralysis, fear, overwhelm, shame, emptiness, exhaustion and loss: loss of self, loss of purpose and in some cases, loss of life.

Whenever I find myself being pulled down into the abyss, I take time out to reflect on the above achievements and words from my clients.

It’s not a cure – but when depression is lying to me, it really helps.

Do you suffer from depression? Do you have any tools for managing your depression when it’s telling you lies?

—-

If you are feeling sad for more than a few days, are lacking your usual confidence, feel hopeless, unworthy or lost, or you are tempted to self-harm or self-medicate, please take the first step.

Reach out to a trusted family member or friend.

Or call one of the organisations below:

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
  • Mens’ Line Australia – 1300 78 99 78
  • Salvos Care Line – 1300 36 36 22
  • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
  • In an emergency you can contact your GP or visit your local hospital.

For more resources on the subject of small business mental health and to learn how many leading bodies and organisations are rallying to add their weight to this important topic, visit our information page on small business mental health.

Sharon Chisholm

is Chief Sorter Outer at Your Mind Health Matters, helping her clients improve their confidence and manage their mind health challenges. She assists them in removing emotional blockages, creating focus and direction, and moving forward towards their goals.

Comments

  • Sharon, given it was ‘RUOK?’ day yesterday, this article is so timely. There are so many people suffering in silence with mental illness. This article isn’t just interesting, it could be life saving to some. Thank you for sharing your honest, raw story. And also, thank you for shedding some light on the awful lies depression tells people. This is an article for everyone to read, not just those in business.

    • Thank you Lucinda and I really hope that it helps people. It is SO important that we eliminate the shame and stigma about mental illness. Yes, my brain doesn’t always function in the most effective way, but I can still make a contribution to the world and help others. x

  • Sharon, you are so gutsy and inspiring and I take my hat off to you. Depression sounds like the pits, and bipolar disorder must be particularly tricky to navigate. I am in awe of your ability to share your experiences so bravely and so articulately. Your piece shines light on the issues for those of us who aren’t affected, and helps make it safe for those who are to seek assistance. More power and strength to you and to all who travel a similar path.

    • Thank you so much for your beautiful comments. It is scary to speak openly about these things and potentially it could affect the success of my business, but what’s far more important than my business, is my desire to raise understanding and acceptance. People do not have to feel alone and scared, they do not have to feel worthless and as though they are failing. The more I (and others) speak openly and honestly, the more people whose lives will be saved and what could be more important than that? x

    • What Jayne said!

  • Hi Toni, what a great post and thank you for sharing your story. Having the support of the right medical team is vital to recovery. It took me four therapists to find one I connected with – the key is to keep trying. I love your analogy about the big city – for me, when the darkness hits and the lights go out, it’s as if a fog descends that makes it not only hard to see my way out, but hard to think, hard to communicate, hard to breath. Everything feels simply too hard. It’s great that you recognise what triggers you. What business will you be starting? Nope, you definitely don’t “need” a certificate – often when we’re feeling low and we’ve lost our sense of self-worth and confidence, we think that external validation in the form of a qualification or a certificate or a testimonial will make us feel less like a fraud, but I learned the hard way that it doesn’t. When I won the coaching award, I was convinced that somehow I’d conned them into giving it to me (we’re talking about some of THE top level coaches in the country) or that they had given it to me out of pity. It took a lot of work on myself to recognise that I can and do make a difference, but that acknowledgement can be stolen in the instant that depression comes knocking. Self worth can ONLY come from one place, within. I wish you all the success you so richly deserve on your road to wellness and within your future business. x

  • I’ve only just seen this post, Sharon and for me it’s very timely – so, thank you! I’ve had many periods of dark depression in my life, and lots of counselling. Although, I’ve chosen not to take medication for it. It’s just never felt right for me. I’ve been in quite a funk for the last few months. I wouldn’t necessarily call this episode depression, but I feel directionless and disconnected from life – and from my business. Maybe it’s more mid-life existential crisis? I’ve lost my mojo and I’m just going through the motions. Still delivering for my clients, but as a quiet patch approaches, I’m at a loss for how to keep the momentum (and self-confidence) up and find new clients. It doesn’t help that I also have anxiety… I like what you say about reflecting on your successes. I’ll try that! What I do find is working is meditation – either of the mindfulness variety, or the more spiritual sort. I just need to make it a habit! Thank you again for sharing your experiences.

    • Hi. Thanks for your comment and I’m sorry to hear that you’re also having a tough time. Anxiety alone can be utterly exhausting and overwhelming, so to have that plus feeling below par would be awful. I also need to schedule in regular meditation as I find it quiets my mind and allows for self-healing thoughts. Perhaps if you’re struggling to find your oomph, go back and look at your business and all the things you love about it. I think that if we are doing something we are truly passionate about, that fills us with purpose, it is easier to stay motivated and connect with potential clients. As you know, there is lots of help out there if you need it. Warm wishes, Sharon.

  • Well said Sharon
    I would like to save you are brave (because you are) however this also denotes that it is a big deal to talk about depression openly – and it shouldn’t be.
    We shouldn’t have to be brave to talk about what is a very wide spread issue and one that may be even more widespread among creatives and entrepreneurs – we certainly have more triggers!
    Lets hope more people through the community follow your lead and talk openly about these challenges and the world will be better for them and everyone
    Have a ‘sunshine lit’ day 🙂

    • Thanks Matt. It’s funny, I struggled with writing the post because it would have been much easier to just keep quiet, BUT then I would have been confirming to myself that mental illness is something to be ashamed and embarrassed about. Only by speaking about it can we help others and to me, that is the most important thing of all. 🙂

  • Sharon, thanks for this enlightening article – this issue is so critically important to all people in business but especially soloists, many of whom have very little time to build a mental health support infrastructure around themselves. I’m keen in my business (also as a soloist!) to open up channels for others who face not only mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, but also burnout that results in many highly skilled professionals giving up and returning to paid employment – and then regretting the move!

    • Hi. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think it’s imperative for us soloists to have a strong support network around us.

  • Greg Jor

    Thanks Sharon. I think your words are right on. Take care and all the best. Greg.

    • I think you have the key there Greg, self care absolutely must be non-negotiable, but unfortunately it seems to come last with so many of us. Business owners are often putting their own mental and physical health needs at the bottom of the list.

  • What a wonderful, honest, brave, raw article Sharon. This should be publicized to a much wider audience. You are an amazing and strong woman.

  • Gerald Richards

    The sad case about mental illness is that there is still a stigma associated with it. Was recently on a post and an individual stated the following about mental illness “The problem with labeling something as an illness, the person becomes a full card carrying victim and no longer has to take any responsibility for the thinking patterns that took them to where they are”. That’s like saying people with cancer see themselves as victims. The range of mental illness is as varied as the range of many illnesses, such as cancer. It is these pseudo-psychologists and psychiatrists that pontificate on another’s condition that frustrates me and makes me realise that an education program has to be forthcoming and ongoing.
    Because it can’t be seen many cannot understand it. We fear what we don’t understand and we don’t understand what we fear. Observers will remark “Why would they be depressed they have everything?” little realising that depression is no respecter of rank or privilege.
    There can be an attitude in business of uncertainty around someone who has a mental illness and so I’ve been careful not to mention my own experience with depression. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel because more and more people are talking about this illness. Examples are Lance “Buddy” Franklin and Ian Thorpe. When my mother had cancer in the 1950s it wasn’t spoken about. Now look at the publicity about it. I see mental illness being the same, but not taking 50 years. And the more we talk about it the more people are aware of it which is the first stage to change.
    Sharon I commend you for having the courage to speak out and share your experiences. Thank you

    • Hi Gerald. I really like what you said about “depression is no respecter of rank or privilege” and I couldn’t agree more. If living with gratitude or thinking positive thoughts were enough, I certainly wouldn’t be depressed. I completely understand your reluctance to mention your own experiences out of concern for your business, but yes, the more we speak openly about it, the more understanding and help will be available. Warm wishes, Sharon

  • Thank you Sharon for a great article bringing attention to this sometimes debilitating illness. I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression in 2003 by my Psychiatrist. Even though I have been in a deep and dark space over that time, and heavily medicated, I have managed to return to tertiary study and graduate with a new career and start my new career with a new small business of my own.

    I totally relate to your story and know that I struggle with my self worth and compare myself to other professionals in my industry. However, I am doing better in recent years loving what I do for a career and trying to manage a healthy balance between work and personal time. It is encouraging to know others share similar experiences in business and that we can push past the demons and be successful with good support and management from our Doctors, Friends and Family.

    • Hi Darren and thank you so much for sharing some of your story with me. That deep and dark space can be so encompassing and overwhelming, that it feels as though we will never come out the other side. The fact that you have been able to return to study and change your career is truly inspiring. Balance is so important and yet so hard to manage when you’re in the grips of depression, but with open and honest discussion and the right support, we can still manage great success. All the very best with your new business. Sharon. 🙂

  • Came across your article today just as I was about to plunge into a giant pit of self doubt and repeatedly asking myself why haven’t I ‘made it’ yet.

    Thanks for sharing your wise words, and your coping strategies. A great read, like a warm cuddle.

    • Hi Kate.

      I only just saw your comment, so apologies for not replying sooner.

      That whole self doubt thing is such a debilitating challenge isn’t it? Just when you think you’re all sorted, it creeps back in like a ninja, attacking when you are least prepared.

      I love your comment about the warm cuddle, thank you, that’s such a compliment. xx

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