Why I'm Crying On A Tuesday Night (and it's totally ok)

So here we are, dear reader.

It’s a Tuesday night and it’s been a full workday and I’ve had a great day, replete with yoga to wind down, and I’m sobbing in front of my computer because a lot of feelings I’ve suspected to have over the last few weeks are bubbling to the surface and WHOO HOO, let’s ride the tears express and understand that it’s ok for a service-based business to have big feelings.

Hi, my name is Megan, and if you didn’t know already, I have clinical depression and anxiety.

A few months ago I was talking with a dear friend about running a service-based business and being open about our mental health issues. To be honest, I don’t remember if we were speaking in hypotheticals or if a client had actually pushed back, but I do remember the crux being this:

They think that by posting about my severe anxiety, it means that I’m not operating at 100% and thus there’s no way I’ll be giving them the high-level service they’ve paid for. But it’s totally the opposite. If anything, because I feel like sh*t, they’re probably getting 110% from me because it’s something I can control, and when things get this bad mentally, my self-care suffers, not my work.
— a dear friend who shall remain anonymous

She has a point. Whether it’s capitalism or the idealist in me or that mid-western “put your head down and get to work” work ethic, when I’m having a serious low and panic attack, my work doesn’t suffer. I just ignore the fact that I’m not firing on all cylinders and plow ahead (no, I know this isn’t healthy, it’s partly why I’m crying tonight - hello, residual feelings).
It’s the glory of running one’s own business - it’s perfectly acceptable to work oneself into the ground.
It’s lauded!
And if I can hide my mental debilitation behind hard work, lookit me, I’m such a productive member of society!

Jokes aside, it’s also a reason we need to break the stigma of mental illness and mental health care.

Because it’s FINE to be open about having depression and anxiety and PTSD and bipolar and what-have-you, but there’s an ugly unsaid assumption that this won’t happen in any arena in which it could affect potential client relations.

...this is ridiculous.
And now that I’m typing, a little condescending.

I may have mental health issues I need to tend to daily - sometimes hourly - but in no way am I defined by those diagnoses you read in the intro (and frankly, I could care less about those diagnoses, but in the joy that is US healthcare, they’re real freakin’ helpful with billing insurance for the mental healthcare I receive to help me function).

I may be having one of the lowest, hardest days in months, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting anything less than the enthusiastic and focused 1:1 you paid and scheduled. In fact, it’s probably the highlight of my day.

I may have been metaphorically vibrating with panic from a sleep hallucination since 4am this morning, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll still be designing the sh*t out of your website and branding suite.

My mental health is an incredibly important part of who I am.
And if it’s the thing holding you up from hiring me - we’re probably not a good fit anyhow.

This isn’t a case of “you can’t fire me, I quit,” but an opportunity to make it clear that if you’re uncomfortable with my talking about my mental health struggles, it’s not me - it’s you.

So let’s recap with why it’s perfectly ok for service-based businesses to have big feelings:

1. It’s not me, it’s you.

If you see me posting about my own mental health and immediately start worrying about your project, pump your brakes.
Have you been feeling neglected?
Is there something you’re worried I overlooked?
Were you thinking these things prior to my post? If you were, then you needed to email me long ago.
If examining your level of satisfaction with my work didn’t happen til after you found out I have a mental illness, that’s on you.

2. End the stigma.

If my sharing my mental health journey doesn’t phase you - you go, Glen Coco.
But that’s not always the case.
And when you hear folks using derogatory or ableist language - call them on it.

3. Trust me to be a professional human.

Shit happens.
There are always act of God clauses.
If you would be understanding about a death in the family, you need to be understanding about a mental health flare.
Trust me to communicate my needs to you.
Trust me that I’ll do everything in my power to keep your project on track or work with you to amend expectations.
Trust me to handle an unexpected event the way you would trust any other professional with any other emergent need that was ‘real’ (cuz we all know mental health doesn’t count - EYE ROLL).

If you’ve never worked with a solo-run biz also grappling with mental health - congrats, popped your cherry!

And if you needed to hear this because you’re afraid to divulge your own struggles - welcome.

Megan DowdComment