As a small business owner I wear many hats. In fact, I wear every single hat. Your office has a marketing department. I am the marketing department. Your warehouse has a dedicated shipper/receiver. I am the shipper/receiver. Your retail outlet has stock delivered three times a week. I make the stock, package, deliver, merchandise and sell it. I’m every single position rolled into one person. For small business owners this is the norm. And it’s exhausting. Both physically and mentally. Yet it’s one topic we, as business owners, rarely talk about.
Oh sure we talk about the perks: the flexibility with time, the freedom (both creative and otherwise), the emotional benefits and highs, etc. But we rarely talk about just how difficult it is to run a business, especially a small business, or just how much of a toll it takes on our physical and mental health. Recently a friend posted this article on his Facebook wall. It’s about the psychological price of entrepreneurship. I highly recommend reading it. Even if you’re not an entrepreneur chances are you know someone who is.
I read it. Re-read it. Then sobbed hysterically.
The world is supposed to see the business front. A shining beacon of professionalism, dependability, reliability, positivity, forward thinking, and above all, one that runs like clockwork. And the good ones are. We are all of those things and more. But behind those things we are still human.
So – deep breath – here we go….
I’ve struggled with mental health issues for as long as I can remember. Depression and anxiety are my bedfellows. Over the years I’ve lived with these illnesses and their symptoms to varying degrees; sometimes not at all, sometimes quite severe. The past two years have been hard. Really hard. Like… Really. Fucking. Hard. And I’m OK with hard. I’m OK with struggling. That’s part of life. But about four months ago things went from bad to unbearable. I was blind sided and the rug was pulled out from under my business. I don’t blame anyone or hold any ill-will. The sad reality is someone had to make some tough business decisions and the result of those decisions had a major – negative – impact on my business and livelihood. It’s part of business, and yes, it was a chance I took, but that doesn’t make the reality of the situation any easier to deal with.
The anxiety washes over my skin, permeates me. My body buzzes with the sensation, sending tremors throughout. I lay in bed shaking, in total terror. What’s going to fall apart today?
Four months later I am still trying to recover. To stay afloat. To get by. To just make it through today. Every. Single. Day. Every day is a fight. Every morning I wake up mid-panic attack. The anxiety washes over my skin, permeates me. My body buzzes with the sensation, sending tremors throughout. I lay in bed shaking, in total terror. What’s going to fall apart today? I think to myself, followed closely by Why did I have to wake up? It would have been so easy to just sleep forever. I fight against my thoughts. I hate them. I don’t even have a chance to “think positive” first. There’s just the anxiety. The fear. The dark thoughts. I cry. Sometimes scream. Scare the cats and my husband. I’m full of anger. It consumes and fuels me.
I know this isn’t me. I’m a positive person. I love life. I love my life and what I do. It’s just right now I have no safe space to relax and unwind. There is no break from the stress. It’s coming at me from all sides and I can’t take a break. Being the sole bread winner at home, running a small business that just took a hit, and having immigration costs to deal with means we barely makes ends meet. No vacation time. Very few days off.
Somehow I pull myself together. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes. Sometimes hours. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all and I go about my day, tears streaming down my face, body trembling, with my nervous system on red alert. If you see me with a smile it’s because I managed to paste it on. Because I do still care and am still trying. Behind the scenes I want to give up. I’m tired of trying and fighting. I’m tired of being positive and believing in others only to be let down time and time again. How can I blame them though when I keep disappointing people too?
I make stupid mistakes.
I forget things.
I read without understanding.
Watch TV without seeing the show.
Game without focus.
But I made it through another day. That’s a victory. Right? The world is still here. My little world too. Other victories happened today too. I try to focus on those.
I take a shower in the dark.
Normally I would use that as an opportunity to have a good cry. To let it all out so I can get past it. Today there are no tears. I just stand there. I lean against the shower wall for support. Letting the scalding water run down my body. I know I’m depressed. Severely so and hanging by the thread of a very frayed rope. I’m getting professional help but it takes time for it to make a difference. It takes time to claw my way up from the bottom of the dark spiral and a lot can happen on that climb. I just have to make one more decision for today… keep going or give up?
But I made it through another day. That’s a victory. Right?
I turn the water off, dry myself and get into my jammy-jams. At least I know sleep with come quickly and I’ll have some peace.
I’m so exhausted by the end of the day I know I’ll be out when I hit the pillow. Sometimes before my husband even finishes saying good night to me. I’ll get 4-6 hours of peace then tomorrow I will wrestle my demons again. We’ll argue for a while and they will either go off to sulk in the corner for the day, or follow me around, constantly poking at me.
But wrestle we will.
Then I will put a smile on my face and quietly try again.
Peace, love & naughtiness,
If you or someone you love is suffering from depression please seek professional help. There are many options for those suffering from mental illness and always someone to listen.
For emergency situations call 911.
- KidsHelpPhone Ages 20 Years and Under in Canada 1-800-668-6868
- First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness 24/7 Help Line 1-855-242-3310
- Canadian Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419
- Trans LifeLine – All Ages 1-877-330-6366
Since I’m in Ontario I’ll list those relevant to this area:
- National Mental Health Help Line: 1-866-531-2600
- London & District:
- London Mental Health Crisis Line: 519-433-2023
- Distress Line: 519-667-6711
- Seniors Helpline (SHL): 519-667-6600
For a listing of Canadian Crisis Centres check out The Lifeline Canada Foundation.
For more information on mental health check out The Canadian Mental Health Association.
Know a small business owner that you’d like to help? Here are some ways:
- Place an order or buy something. Of course this is the “easy” solution. Shopping local, whenever possible, is a great help to local businesses and the economy.
- Can’t afford to buy something? That’s OK! Volunteers are helpful. Most small business owners could use an extra set of hands or eyes. Help with running the store or events, doing research projects, filing, data entry, etc. are all easy ways to help your favourite business. If you have a skilled trade why not donate some services, or trade services, with your favourite business. Lots of us little business owners are happy to help each other out! After all, we’re all in this together.
- Social media support. Like, comment and share! Word of mouth is key for small businesses. That’s the main way we get, and stay, in business. So sharing our posts, events, business pages, etc. are one of the most helpful things you can do. Grab a small stack of business cards for your favourite places and hand them out when you get talking to people. You’d be surprised how often I refer customers to other businesses.
- Co-Workers. Small business owners often work alone and some of us don’t have customers coming and going all the time. This means long, isolated hours plugging through our days. We don’t have co-workers to take coffee breaks with or someone in the next cubby to run an idea by. Be a “co-worker” to a small biz owner! Offer to be someone that an isolated business worker can go to: to bounce ideas off of, to set goals with, to be accountable to, etc.
- When in doubt… ask! You never know how a small business is really doing. Again we try to put on that brave, professional face, even when our hearts are breaking. If you love what someone does, don’t be afraid to ask them if there’s someway you can help out.
Like what I do? I can use some help! In addition to the items listed above I’m also looking for the following:
- A group of people interested in forming a creative collective on the main floor of 232 Dundas Street. It is a big space! I have a few people interested already and am looking for more. The idea is to have the store front as a collective market for artists throughout the city. Behind that would be workshop/meeting space. Then studio spaces in the back rooms. I would stay in the basement. I’m working out a proposal and costs. If you’re interested in this idea please contact me to discuss.
- Or someone to move into the main floor space at 232 Dundas Street who doesn’t mind me staying in the basement. If you’re looking for a storefront, know someone who is or are interested in sharing a space with me here’s the listing for the space. The entire main floor is available for rent or just the space the former store held. My studio is located in the basement.
- Benefits of having me on site:
- A second set of hands with years of retail experience to help cover the main store: for your breaks, busy times, sick days, etc.
- Depending on your business/needs you have access to an on-site professional seamstress, merchandiser and customer service associate.
- Depending on your business/needs our businesses can be a team! We can share ideas, brainstorm, motivate each other, work together to build our dreams, etc.
- Benefits of having me on site:
- To host your workshops! As long as the main floor is vacant I have access to rent that space for events, workshops, pop-ups, etc. The space can be rented by the hour or day. Right now it’s a blank canvas so there’s lots of room to play. If you have an idea let me know. Let’s create some great events for the community!
- Participate in my events/workshops! I have a few ideas lined up already. If you’d like to be involved in any of these (as a participant, volunteer or expert in your field) just let me know.
- The Naughty Market: a popup market for kinky business owners. All local handmade products. The first one is happening this coming weekend! Saturday, March 25th from noon-7pm. I had a few vendors drop out due to scheduling conflicts so a few tables are still available. We’ll be having another one in the fall too. If you know of vendors that would fit this category please forward them this post, have them contact me or give me their contact information.
- Alternative Spring Pop-up market for local artisans. Not quite as kinky as the kinky market but a place for alternative vendors to showcase their work. There’s lots of shows for mainstream artists, not so many for us alternative folks!
- Trans 101: A workshop series geared to the MtF community. Each workshop would see experts from London talking about how to make the transition easier. We already have local make-up artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists, and experts from the trans community lined up.
- Group craft and sewing classes on all sort of topics!
- Last but not least, at the end of the day I may have to move my studio. And at this point I’m not sure how much notice I’ll have. If you have space or know of a space for rent please consider me and send the details my way. If you’re able to help with painting, minor renovations and moving please also let me know. I will probably have to start a GoFundMe campaign if it comes to this. Details to follow as things progress.
There’s no denying it… life is hard. I don’t expect things to go smoothly or perfectly. I’ve been through enough trauma and change over the course of my life to know better. I have always been a fighter. One who tries no matter what. And I want to continue to do so. I just need a little helping hand for awhile. Maybe even an extra pat on the back or an extra-squishy hug!
To my clients, both current and potential: I am still here. Despite it all. I am still here. Still trying. Still diligently working on your orders, caring about your ideas and visions, and being excited about your life events! I may not be as bubbly when we chat and my hugs may be slightly less squishy but I am still here for you.