“You’re suffering from chronic depression.”
What?! With those five words, my doctor delivered the knockout punch that I wasn’t expecting. I remember pulling up to my office and just sitting in my car not knowing exactly what to do now. I texted my husband the update and then I just…sat there.
Suddenly, my identity had changed. Only a couple hours earlier, I was a mom, wife, daughter, sister, colleague and entrepreneur. Now, I was a depressed mom, wife, daughter, sister, colleague and entrepreneur.
Honestly, it took me days to really start to even understand how to cope. Not only to decide what the path of healing looked like but, also, how I would talk about it with my family, my friend, my staff, my partners. Would I even talk about it?
Personally, I confided in my most trusted inner circle. Usually over tears, I did my best to string together where I was and how I got to this point. Sometimes, there just weren’t words. Usually, people just wanted to do something to help. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know what it was that would help at that point. An open heart to sit with the tears and, even the silence, was the most precious gift.
Professionally, it seemed much more difficult. I’m certain that for anyone looking in, it was painfully obvious that I was falling apart. In my heart, I felt that telling my team would be the best course forward. We were close – a small team that spent a lot of time together. However, for some reason, this didn’t feel like just my decision to make. Instead, I brought my business partners into the room to update them and let them know that I was needing to take some time away from the business as I began my journey into therapy. The only thing I can remember from that conversation is, “I wouldn’t tell the staff – you wouldn’t want them to think you’re weak.” I agreed that it was probably the strategic thing to do for the business. So, for the next six months, I came and went without much explanation. I would excuse myself from meetings when I didn’t have the capacity to participate that day.
The thought was that I would be perceived as a weak leader if I was honest about my struggle with my team. Instead, I acted like the business owner that suddenly didn’t give a sh$t about her business. In my heart, I knew it wasn’t the right approach but, I said okay to staying quiet about the struggle raging within me. I said okay to losing my own voice as a leader.
The thing I don’t want you to know:
Even sharing this story makes me upset. I’m upset that I let another person quiet me in a place where I really needed to speak. I’m pretty sure that their intent was never to hurt me at the time. Like many hurdles we had come across in our business journey, it was about survival.
I’m even more upset that I agreed to it. Not only for me but, for every person suffering from a mental illness.
The Guidance of My Inner Mentor:
✤ By putting a label on what I was feeling was the scariest and most liberating thing to ever happen to me. Trust me, It was scary for a long time before it was liberating.
✤ Once I was able to put some context around my feelings, I was able to emerge as a stronger leader. One that was more human and more empathetic. I believe finally sharing my story with my staff allowed them to know that being vulnerable in our workplace was okay.
✤ Struggling with mental health is no longer something that I stay quiet about. I have a voice in that conversation. Even more importantly, I can be the listening ear and open heart for someone else who is suffering.
Before becoming a business coach, Jenn established and led a thriving marketing agency – a time filled with challenges, yet great fulfillment. By personally experiencing the highs and lows of business ownership while balancing a family, she gained invaluable insight into overcoming difficulties and achieving goals.
After 13 years, she realized she was ready to expand as an individual and business owner and wanted to assist other female entrepreneurs to do the same. Leaving an established business and embarking on a new path took every ounce of bravery she had, and became one of her greatest accomplishments.