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.
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.