Entrepreneurship and Depression

Entrepreneurship and Depression

The story of Robin Williams’ death yesterday was tragic, one of the funniest men in my lifetime, taking his own life because of depression.

Mork & Mindy house – Boulder CO

I’ve started this post a number of times. Inspired by both Brad Feld and Ben Huh – I have admired both men for their transparency (and I’ve told them both). But I haven’t had the heart (or will?) to complete the post and actually make it “live”. I guess I felt like one more voice wouldn’t really matter. Until now.

Depression is a reality. Not something a “positive attitude” overcomes nor a simple series of platitudes that will help you rise above. I’ve endured through two bouts of depression in my adult life. For me, it was chemistry compounded with circumstances of being an entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong. Being an entrepreneur had risks that (I thought) I understood when I took them on at the time. In retrospect, I understood the risk, but I didn’t understand the loneliness.

Some of my close friends understood, while others pulled away because they (and I) didn’t know how to deal with it. Thankfully, the closest people in my life didn’t pull away. Thanks to my wife, Kathryn, and my best friend, Glenn, for not pulling away.

You see, when people don’t know how to deal with uncomfortable situations in their lives, they generally withdraw from the situation. I saw that when my wife went through a battle with cancer 17 years ago. There were people who said they would be there for us and weren’t. I don’t blame them, they didn’t know how to deal with the uncertainty and confusion of cancer, so after the platitudes, they withdrew to a safe distance to live their lives. A distance that was comfortable for them – but out of reach for us.

That’s the challenge of depression. When you have a friend in the midst of it, you have to decide to walk with them through it or not. If you decide to be there for them, you have to walk all the way through. Part way through won’t help them.

The act of making this post is similar. It’s risky. What will (normal) people think of me? But the reason to post isn’t for them, it’s for the person that’s struggling with depression. For them my risk is super small, especially if it helps just one person walk all the way through and not give up.

There were days, dealing with depression, that simply getting out of bed was the toughest decision of my life. There were other days that I thought the world would be better off without me.

Life is hard, it doesn’t turn out the way you expect. But people who love you and show it, do make a difference. Will you do me a favor? Will you walk through it with one person today? This week. This month.

I promise you it will be uncomfortable for you. But, it may just save their life.

9 Replies to “Entrepreneurship and Depression”

  1. Dave, great history. My father fought depression for years. He was a successful business man who lost a 40 year company to a Multinational swallowed his business. He had a hard time dealing with the situation and depression hit him hard.
    He passed away in 2012 still feeling guilt about the situation as father and as business man.
    Great advice for young entrepreneur!

    1. Hey Paulo, thanks for commenting. What I mean specifically it taking the risk to be transparent with your experience as well.

      The more people realize they aren’t alone, the more help that will bring to people that struggle with depression.

      thanks again!

  2. It takes a lot of courage to sit with someone in their pain and depression. It is awkward and uncomfortable, but only until we stop thinking of ourselves and instead look to help others. Unfortunately I am not foreign to the feeling of hopelessness you describe, but like you, I was fortunate to have a few good friends who cared enough to be there for me. Then it was my turn to make myself available to others and help them the same way. Thanks for sharing this, Dave. I am so grateful we know you and Kathryn.

  3. Dave

    I agree, RW was one of a kind. It is sad that he;s gone…that he ran out of hope, apparently.My own life has known very deep darkness and despair. You are so right, we do not know how to deal so well with others pain.And..somehow….Grace is bigger and can bring hope,often in slivers.
    Hope you are well, its been a long time,there’s some stories we could share 🙂

  4. re: “What will (normal) people think of me?”

    We will think you are human (whether we are “normal” or not)!

  5. Well said, Dave. There have been a couple of dark times in my life where I have thought about taking my life. I thought I was going into depression when it was actually my blood sugar that had reached 700. It’s amazing what symptoms show up for something like high blood sugar! Now that I have had a temporary “slight” experience of what depression like….I wouldn’t wish that on anyone!

  6. Thank you for your revelation. I think a lot of times people just don’t have any idea of what people are going through. If they knew thy would want to stand by them. I appreciate you and your willingness to share. Hopefully it will help someone going through a very dark time…I have never experienced the darkness, but I can imagine it can be pure hell. I love you man, like a son and and a very good friend. I appreciate all you do…

    1. Dee, thanks for the comments. Isolation is the fertile ground of depression. Entrepreneurship appeals to the rugged individual, Horatio Alger hard work and determination stories. We praise the positive outcomes at the end of the story, but ignore the other part in the middle of the stories.

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