These days, I introduce myself as a writer and podcaster. Proudly too, I might add. I say this because it’s taken me a long while and a lot of internal work (!) to embrace my new identity since a major career reinvention that started in 2014.
I write and publish Midlife Cues, a weekly publication that explores a well-lived midlife. And I produce the accompanying podcast, Second Breaks, where together with my guests, we examine what it takes to make midlife the best phase of our life.
I’m a New Yorker who moved to Florida as part of the “big career change”. In September 2021, I’ve undertaken another big life change and temporarily relocated to Asia to be with my mom, who has mild dementia.
What mental health means to me
After many years of not understanding “what was wrong with me”, I met with a therapist in 2008 who helped me put a name on what I was going through: clinical depression.
Through those sessions, I learned to recognize the signs and over time, I got good at spotting their onset so that I can double down on my own coping strategies.
Depression is simply a part of my human experience
But most importantly, working with a therapist helped me accept that depression is simply a part of my human experience. I don’t need to explain it or rationalize it or give excuses for it.
I stopped thinking that there was something wrong with me or with my life in general.
I learned how to give myself some grace and to honor what my personal needs are. And to devise my own set of strategies and techniques to help me cope and avoid a prolonged “dark spiral” as much as I can.
Knowing that I suffer from clinical depression from time to time helps me define what mental health is for myself.
I strive for balance… a mental ability to go with the flow of life while minimizing bouts of depression or deep melancholy. It’s maintaining a sense and true belief that no matter what’s happening, I can get back to my center and find peace and calm.
How I care for my mental health/wellness today
I use a combination of rituals and habits that help me maintain the mental balance that I’m striving for. Daily journaling helps me get the thoughts out of my brain and it helps relieve some of the mental energy that would have otherwise been taken up by these thoughts. I start my mornings with a short meditation practice. And whenever I feel things are getting away from me, I return to this simple meditation practice at any time during the day.
I lived by the water in Florida and most days, I do my walking to catch the sunrise. I have to recreate this routine here where I live now. I do miss living by the water.
The one thing I’ve done that’s not a daily routine or habit – but has helped me tremendously – is to honor my needs. As an introvert and Enneagram Type 5, I have a deep need for time alone to recharge my batteries.
I’ve released the guilt for attending to my needs.
In the past, I may have felt guilty for asking for this time for myself. I’ve long learned to release the guilt 😉.
Systemic and social factors that have had an influence
I came to entrepreneurship after a long and successful corporate career. I put tremendous pressure on myself to succeed in my next endeavor. Part of this came from perceived external pressure (i.e., family and friends “looking over” and expecting smashing success from this career reinvention). And part of it came from my own expectations of myself — success used to be “easy” in the past as long as I worked hard and applied myself to whatever I put my mind to.
Of course, entrepreneurship is a totally different ball game from a corporate career. My early years were beset with frustration after frustration. And these pressures and expectations that were running in the back of my mind created the perfect storm for depression, anxiety and deep melancholy.
Entrepreneurs are on a different journey, and others may never “get it”
Looking back, I think the turning point for me came when I began to reach out to other women entrepreneurs and shared some of my stories.
I began to understand and embrace that I’m on a different journey and that others who aren’t or haven’t been on this journey may never “get it” just as I didn’t at first! Vive la difference, as they say.
I learned to define success differently. Not in terms of “less achievement” but a different kind of achievement. I learned how to honor my needs and to be loyal to my self – as much as I’ve been loyal to societal and social expectations.
The main mental wellness tip I have found useful
Seeking help. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help – whether that be a professional therapist or from a supportive friend.
I used to hide the difficulty I’m experiencing from everyone else, thinking an admission that I needed help was equivalent to saying I am weak and have lost control of myself. Of course, this isn’t true.
One of the most courageous things we can do for ourselves is to admit we’re having a hard time
In fact, perhaps one of the most courageous things we can do for ourselves is to admit and say, I need help.
The one thing I would share about mental wellness with women entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship – especially for first time business owners – can be very lonely.
Even if you did not suffer from the occasional bouts of depression before you started your entrepreneur journey, it’s likely that you will experience the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with the experience.
I have found that having supportive relationships with other women entrepreneurs to be really helpful.