How My Mental Health Battle has Strengthened Me as an Entrepreneur

The intent of this article is not to give medical advice, but to raise awareness of this issue and offer support. If you are struggling or know someone who needs help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

My story isn’t extraordinary.

I haven’t overcome one in a million odds. It’s not special or unique.

It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s common, far too common. I face the same struggle 1 out of every 3 entrepreneurs faces everyday. I’m a business owner, an influencer and a community leader that endures a seemingly, never ending battle with mental health every day.

My struggles with anxiety started in high school, and when I lost my dad to suicide as a senior, a seed of depression was planted in me. I was so numb from the loss that I wasn’t even able to acknowledge the mental state I had been living in until years later. In the meantime, I survived the only way I knew how, by jam-packing my schedule to avoid any downtime where I might have to confront the thoughts of loneliness, disappointment, guilt and unworthiness buried in my brain.

With high ambitions and an attraction to shiny new projects, I jumped on the opportunity to co-own a Public Relations firm my last year in college. It kept me busy and occupied while engaging a passion for growing brands and working with other creatives I didn’t even know I had. I was on top of the world, or so I thought.

After a year and a half, I decided it was time for me to branch off and start a business of my own. I thought I loved PR, I thought my passion was working one-on-one with clients. Well let me tell you two things I learned rather quickly: 1) managing every single aspect of your own business is exhausting and 2) spending every day working one-on-one with clients will launch you into burnout if you’re not careful (especially at a point where I was significantly undercharging for the work I was doing).

Smell something burning? Don’t worry, it’s just me.

Top that off with some family issues, eviction threats, and utility shut offs from insufficient income, I was fried – mentally, physically and emotionally. This was the first real burnout I’d ever experienced. The first time I couldn’t bring myself to do my work, live up to client expectations, or keep the fire for my passion lit. It was a completely foreign sensation to me. Naturally, I slowed down, not by choice, but by depletion.

That’s when the anxiety and depression I was already prone to slapped me in my face.

Looking back (and by that I mean just a few months ago), I can’t pinpoint an “ah-ha moment” where I decided enough was enough. There wasn’t anything life-changing that happened to initiate the pivot I needed.

Before I move on, please note that I am not a mental health or medical professional. I want to emphasize that the tips and suggestions given in this piece are not to be construed as medical advice. Once I was ready to talk to someone about the death of my dad, I had an incredible therapist who armed me with skills and techniques to cope with the stress of life. Medication was also a part of my healing process. Because my therapist focused on tools and not just the current situation, I have been able to apply what I learned to many areas of my life, including the mental struggles I’ve faced with my business. I would not have gotten to the point where I am today, where I have the strength to openly discuss my journey, if it wasn’t for the professional help I received.

As much as it sucked to rapidly decelerate, it wasn’t until I got to the point of nonconsensual inactivity that I was able to identify that I was depressed. I didn’t know it then, but this awareness was ultimately the ignition of pulling myself out. So as you sit here reading this, nodding your head in agreeance and resonance, you are already preparing for the upswing, for the comeback. It might take months for you to be able to act on this awareness, as it did for me, but you’re nourishing the truth that you’re not in the best place, that this isn’t the standard of life you want to live by, and that is how the renewal starts.

Awareness facilitates acceptance.

Once you let acceptance in, you can start to explore the deteriorating forces. If lack of motivation is the symptom, acceptance opens the gate for identifying the ailment itself, which might be that you don’t feel sufficiently rewarded for the work you’re doing (if you’re undercharging), maybe your values aren’t aligning with your products (you’re creating to please your audience instead of creating to fulfil your heart), or perhaps simply neglecting diet and exercise are leaving you too exhausted to maintain your energy levels. Lack of motivation can be caused by a number of things, and by finding the root of it (as opposed to treating the symptom) you can figure out what small, manageable changes you can start making. When you know where the symptom spawns from, it’s not as mysterious as it once was. The more you understand something, the less control it has over you.

In addition to demotivation, I’ve also used this process to discover what the sources of my self-doubt are and what triggers tend to initiate my negative thoughts. When these mental pitfalls start to walk in, I combat them by asking “why” instead of letting them just sit around in my head.

Getting comfortable with my own mental space was the most beneficial component of facing my struggle and ultimately lead me to become a much stronger business woman. I mean, we spend every hour of every day inside our own head, so we have to start making amends with what’s going on there. It’s essential to note this doesn’t mean changing, criticising or judging because whatever you’re feeling within any moment is valid. Instead, it means putting reflection before reaction and awareness before neglect. Yoga, meditation, and self-development practices (like making time to read and journal) helped guide me through this process of reconnaissance.

A successful mindset isn’t about always being positive, it’s being able to see what every experience (internal or external), both the good and bad, has to offer.

You are incredible just for making it this far in this post, which shows your dedication to begin paying attention to your mental health. This battle isn’t easy, but by confronting it, you will come out stronger and more resilient because of it, which will also translate into the strength and tenacity of your business. Focus on the present and keep putting one foot in front of the other (maybe even taking the time and space to rest in between). Slowly, you will start to see the light that can only result from a walk through the darkness. In the meantime, know that the Rising Tide Society is here for the validation, support, and encouragement you need!

Allyn Lewis

Allyn Lewis is an ambitious entrepreneur, publicist, blogger, and yoga instructor dedicated to inspiring others and strategically helping dreams come true. What stemmed from a love of dance and modeling has grown into a passion for building and growing brands in the entertainment, lifestyle, and fashion industries. Over time, Allyn noticed the personal and mental toll owning a business was taking on not only herself, but also many of her clients. This led to the development of her current innovation, Gem Nation, a communal approach encouraging entrepreneurs to extend their focus beyond fostering a profitable business into striving for a successful, fulfilling life. When not creating, Allyn enjoys catching up on the latest episode of Scandal and is also an ice cream enthusiast.

9 comments

  1. I absolutely love this! Kudos to you, Allyn, for putting it all out there. Depression and Anxiety can be absolutely crippling not only to the individual but their family and/or other halves as well. Too many people suffer alone, thank you for starting the conversation of such a very important subject.

    Reply
    1. Allyn Lewis

      Your support means the world to me, Kim! I could not agree with you more – depression and anxiety affect more than just the person suffering. I think a big part of the issue is that friends, family, and loved ones simply don’t understand mental illness (and we can’t expect them to) in general and they don’t know how to provide support. It’s one of those things that’s really hard to “get” if you haven’t dealt with it personally. That’s exactly why it’s so important that we start talking about it – to make the conversation less foreign and more supportive.

      Reply
  2. Allyn, you will help so many people just by sharing your story! You are one brave lady.

    Reply
    1. Allyn Lewis

      It’s because of the incredible support from people like you that I’m able to be brave about my story! <3

      Reply
  3. Allyn, this is such a beautiful testimony you’ve shared! These issues are real for so many people, and so many people don’t even realize they’re struggling with them. Thanks for bringing awareness to this topic. It’s a beautiful way to educate and reach out to others who are experiencing this. I know from experience how isolating depression can be. Self awareness really is key to begin the process of healing!

    Reply
    1. Allyn Lewis

      Carole, thank you so much for your kind words. I really hope that through creating more conversations like this people see that they’re not alone in whatever they’re dealing with. The more we share our own stories, the more we can inspire others to keep going. We all go through so much more than we’re willing to admit, but the more we share, the more support we raise. <3

      Reply
  4. Lovely lovely Allyn, a beautifully written post, as always. I will be sharing on my page.
    With love, Sharon.

    Reply
    1. Allyn Lewis

      You are absolutely the best, Sharon! I am so honored that we connected. <3 Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.

      Reply

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