Battling depression while running a business: my story

Battling depression + running a business = holy crap, this is scary to share

Are you trying to run a business while you have depression? If you're a business owner with depression, click through for loving, compassionate business advice you won't find elsewhere.

Next week, a film crew is coming to start working on my next project, which focuses a great deal on bringing fun and light-heartedness into your business. The videos will be easy, breezy dares to enjoy yourself more right where you are, without spending any more money or time on your business tasks than usual.

Before those are revealed, I’d like to come clean: I’ve been battling clinical depression since 2001.

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Following a semester abroad, I returned home in love but unwanted, disillusioned and exhausted to boot. The following semester, I spent hours curled up under my desk curled into a ball. Sometimes crying, sometimes so wracked with pain that tears were beyond me.

Lucky for me — I’m also an achiever.

I keep getting shit done, no matter what, so I got straight A’s while I wanted to die.

My achiever side also doesn’t want to be too vulnerable, so only my roommate caught glimpses of that despairing soul who couldn’t crawl out from under her desk. When I finally got myself to a doctor, I walked in, sat on the paper-covered table thing, and told him I wanted to kill myself. Plain and simple. That was my introduction to the twenty milligram prescription that has saved my life.

There are plenty of people who will judge me for being on medication; let me say, I’ve tried working out, diet, stress-relief, and praying it away over the course of more than a decade. One person I trusted told me that if I just believed in Jesus more, I’d be absolutely fine. I told her that if I had only Jesus in my bag of tricks, I would have killed myself by now. (No lie, and no joke.) While no one questions the right of people with high blood pressure to take a pill — or of people with diabetes or cancer or any other “real” disease to medicate their bodies — people are always recommending ways for me to cure myself of depression. Only my brain is wired wrong. I’ve tried to go off the meds and have failed every time. (Please, tell me I’m not freaking alone in this!?)

And those are the people who believe depression is real! There’s another camp: those who think I’m just sad, so I should just pick myself up and “get over it.” Only I’m not sad.

depression kristen kalp
Most of the time, depression doesn’t feel like sadness. It just means you just don’t give a shit.

In my case, depression at its worst means I don’t want to leave the house — AND I don’t give a shit about anything happening in it or outside of it. Johnny Depp could walk into the room and tap-dance; Batman could arrive to take me for a ride in his Batmobile; a herd of alpacas could arrive to sing The Star Spangled Banner with kazoos; still don’t give a shit.

This means that, on particularly bad days — which are rare, but still happen — I don’t actually care about my family or my pets. Not even a little. Because they are included in the blanket of “not caring about ANYTHING” that descends. I don’t care about myself, either, and languish in bed or on the couch.

And if the house catches fire? Don’t care.

If I gain 10 pounds in 12 hours by eating only ice cream? Don’t care.

Depression is deadly because you just don’t care.

In business, this means that on those bad days I ignore e-mails, ignore sales, push off meetings, and sit. Not because sitting is better than all those things, but because sitting is the epitome of not giving a shit.

Then, of course, I beat myself up for behaving so “badly,” and the spiral descends, and descends…

Depression means I have to fight to get out of the house, let alone enjoy myself.

I’m well-versed in how to have more fun in life because I have to fight for every ounce of it that I get. Every time I find the energy to play games in the yard, to paint, to play tourist in my own town, or to take an impromptu trapeze/parasailing/ziplining lesson, I’m beating depression.  (See: that time I made my yard into an art gallery.)

Because I refuse to let it win; I refuse to let myself sink into the mire of not giving a shit. I’ve fronted with my achiever self for all these years, telling you how to get more shit done and how to enjoy your business more. But the back story? The part where yes, I achieve and I teach and I write, but I also fight to give a damn about anything some days? You deserve to know that, too.

If you have depression, know that you’re not alone. Know that you can make goals, whether business or personal, and actually have the pleasure of reaching them. (Yes, pleasure! Feeling, baby!)

Yes, there are bad days; days when you literally can’t get out of bed and you feel like a zombie.

But when you get out of bed despite how you feel, you’re kicking depression in the teeth. When you shower, even though you don’t mind your own stink; when you put on real clothes, even though you’re not going anywhere — you’re beating depression.

When you take care of your business and even plan for the next few months, even though you’re not sure you’re going to be around — you’re beating depression.

When you are present enough to laugh because your pets are being silly, or your best friends are making jokes that have roots in years of friendship; when you don’t cancel that new thing you wanted to try — when you actually go and do it — you’re beating depression.

Every time you enjoy even a second of your daily life despite the forces that are trying to keep you feeling nothing at all, you are winning.

WE are winning. And I’m so damn proud of us.

…and if you’ve never had depression? Share this article to show your support. Because you don’t know who’s hiding their battle — and your kind words can provide the courage those peeps need to open up and share the hard bits they’re achieving hard enough to gloss over at this moment.

P.S.  Here are short, practical, and simple steps for managing both depression and your business without retreating into a hole and hiding until a few months have passed.