It’s taken me more than a decade but I’m proud that I can pick up on signs of burnout, anxiety or depression and take steps to minimise their impact. Great! It’s only part of the story though. It leaves out the less positive reality that when these things happen, one of my coping mechanisms is to remove myself from the world, sometimes for days at a time. Not the most productive thing to do for your career.
I’m quite accepting that this is how I need to manage my brain and that therefore any success I do have will take longer. I have to be more careful with burning the midnight oil in front of my computer or taking on more projects. When I was training teenagers I talked all the time about how you could live with anxiety and depression and still be very successful in your career. I didn’t tell them that in dealing with your condition, things will take you longer. I didn’t tell them that in being responsible and learning coping mechanisms you’ll also sometimes hate yourself for being ‘lazy’.
If you don’t know me, this might sound like an excuse for being lazy and that’s definitely my biggest fear when I take off to bed for a day. I fear the label lazy (and selfish) like hearing the Jaws theme tune while swimming in the sea. That fear makes me work harder on the days I feel good but too hard and I’ll create an energy deficit that needs to be replenished later. Balance is that elusive thing we all aim for and I aim for it one hour at a time.
Working in digital media and taking advantage of all the tools I teach other people to use makes the world of difference. I work on an almost completely flexible basis. Podcasts help me when I’m feeling anxious (as do audio books), social networks help me feel connected when I cocoon myself away and Skype keeps me working on those days when leaving the house isn’t an option. Honestly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about teaching other people is because I live the absolute value of digital literacy, every single day.
In the interests of wasting even more time, I would love to interview other people who live, thrive and work hard to balance their anxiety and depression with their career and aspirations. Like anything, it helps to hear from others who share our struggles and talk about our coping mechanisms, highs, lows and learnings (that doesn’t sound like the right word but I’m going to go with it).
If you’d be willing to let me ask you a few questions about what it’s like to be ambitious while living with mental illness please give me a nudge either here in the comments or privately by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), on twitter @JenniferDBegg or if you know me, PM me on Facebook.
Sometimes it’s just good to share xx