I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur. I think that is an overused term for anyone that has a good idea. I know true entrepreneurs and they are at a different level than most folks. I am a small business owner that at any given time is searching for ways to improve the business, grow, learn, help others, and make enough money to keep the heat on.
I also struggle with depression. Deep, dark, sometimes bottomless depression. I go to therapy on a semi-regular basis in order to talk through my issues. I try to eat healthy, exercise when I can (but not nearly often enough), and generally do the things I can to alleviate stress. I am not on any pharmaceutical medications, not because I shouldn’t be, but because I like to explore all other options before I turn to drugs.
Reflecting back to my previous careers, it is evident that my symptoms were just as prevalent, but with a blanket of financial security I could dismiss them. “Gotta work harder to make more money to be happier” was a typical mantra.
Leaping into small business ownership, I was under no illusion that the journey would be easy. But I was unprepared for crushing self-doubt during these early years. I’ve been relatively confident in my abilities my entire life, but putting those abilities to the test in order to self-sustain is a whole different ball game. That is when the true symptoms of depression began to show themselves.
Depression runs like a river through my family, and I am very in tune to the signs, symptoms, and effects that depression can have on you and those around you. I’ve watched them for 42 years.
In my constant search for self-awareness, I came across this article that absolutely nailed my given mindset and the steps I am taking to deal with it: http://allynlewis.com/the-mental-cost-of-owning-a-business/
Take the time to read that article right now.
The article focuses on the issues that small business owners face, the depression, the comparisons to others, the feelings that you have to put up a false front in order to fit in with the other social media success stories.
I have felt every single one of those things since starting Firelance Media.
It also provides some valuable insight to what you can do to alleviate some of those feelings.
In spite of what may appear to be insurmountable personal mental challenges, I do everything I can to maintain a positive outlook. I am unwavering in my vision of success for Firelance and am 120% committed to achieving that goal. I believe in the work that I do and appreciate all of the support that I get from clients, friends, and strangers I meet daily. I know that I am not alone in any of this, and that my problems may seem absolutely insignificant when compared to people with REAL struggles. But that’s the funny thing about depression – it can be masked, shoved inside, avoided, or ignored….but it’s still there and avoidance of the issue does not negate its existence.
A typical work week for me is somewhere around 80-100 hours. It has become normal to be tied to work, to stop having casual conversations, or to stop living in the moment because there is always one more email to send, or text to respond to, or Facebook post to get out.
A lot of people work just as hard as me, if not harder. I am VERY lucky to have the life that I do, but much of what is seen is surface coating at best. The point I am making is that without a level of balance, relationships suffer (ask me about my failed marriage), health suffers (hello, Love Handles!) friends get ignored, and stress continues to mount. Trying to serve all masters without first taking care of yourself is not the answer. I have said many times that life is far too short to sit in front of a computer all day every day. Get out, live life. If your clients and friends are worth a damn, they will understand and even encourage the behaviour. It’s not always easy to follow this advice, but never once has it failed me.
This is not meant to be a “woe is me” or some sort of pity-party for Matt. It is not self-serving nor a masked request for compliments. But in the case that someone out there actually reads this entire blog post and thinks that there is no light or help or way out, know that there are many others just like me, just like you, that are going through exactly the same thing. Reach out to us, find comfort in stories and shared experience, and make it through one more day. Vulnerability is not a flaw.
Success, however you define it, may not be in your immediate grasp but find a way to focus on your health and create balance. I promise it will be worth it.
Matt Stagliano is a photographer first, and firearms / outdoors enthusiast second. His work has appeared in countless magazines and online outlets such as RECOIL, SKILLSET, Guns & Ammo, Concealment, Breach Bang Clear, Ammoland, and others. He spends most of his time running Stonetree Creative, a full service portrait studio in Maine when he is not on assignment as Firelance Media. Learn more about Stonetree online or follow him on Instagram (@stonetreecreative). On Facebook here.