If I hadn't suffered from postpartum depression, I wouldn't know my full potential. As they say, "it's darkest before the dawn."
It was a Wednesday. My boss was leading a team meeting and out of nowhere, I completely melted. I can't even remember what set me off, but there I was, crying in front of my colleagues. My boss asked me to "hang back." He was aware that my performance was lacking but hadn't had the nerve to confront me until he had no other choice. He was sympathetic to my state of mind but also had a business to run. In the kindest words possible, he said I needed to "get my shit together or I was out."
I had plans to meet my longtime friend and former coworker for lunch that day. Walking to lunch, tears poured down my face. I tried my best to compose myself, but she instantly knew something wasn't right. As a fellow mom, she knew the struggle of finding yourself in this new role and recognized the deep pain she had felt during her own postpartum depression. She sat with me for two hours and I laid all my pain on the table. Finally, after I had nothing left to share, she told me, "you need to start your own business."
That was it. That was all I needed to hear. In those seven words, she handed control back to me. I was not going to be a victim of my circumstances; I was going to own and change them. On the walk home, I designed my entire business in my head. I also made a commitment to first make things right with my current employer. I had a one-year-old son, a full-time job and debilitating depression, but somehow, I was going to do this!
Within a month, I had the business name, a mission, website and daily meetings scheduled during my lunch breaks with someone whom I could learn from (hint, hint…there is something to learn from literally everyone!). I reached out to every strong woman leader I knew and asked for their thoughts, opinions and any connection or education they could offer. I was still reeling from the dark cloud of depression, but I was starting to gain some control and it felt amazing. I dedicated myself to getting mysales numbers up at my current job during the day, loving my family for those couple hours I had my son in the evening and spent every other waking hour developing the business.
Entrepreneurship (much like motherhood) is a thankless, grueling, lonesome mission. I needed encouragement and inspiration to help me maintain consistency. My commitment to connecting with people helped bring a little motivation every day. Every time I met with one person, I asked to be introduced to another. My confidence rose, my network expanded, and my ambition and energy level grew alongside my increasingly packed schedule. I worked out in the early morning, meditated almost daily, and started eating better, all in addition to my full-time job and developing business. I was now able to wake up and get my kid ready for the day, I showed my husband more love and appreciation and most importantly, I showed myself more love and appreciation.
In allowing people to help me and putting myself in a vulnerable position, I gifted myself confidence and inspiration. Not only was I returning to my pre-motherhood self, I was surpassing her. I was becoming who I've always wanted to be. My network even led me to a psychiatrist and mindfulness coach (yes, that's a thing! And a resource every person should seek out!) who both helped me rewire negative thoughts. I became a kinder, more empathic person focused on helping people connect. My business SAVED MY LIFE.
To be clear, the work is far from over. I forget to meditate for weeks at a time, I lose motivation to workout, I'll grab fast food because I have no energy to cook and clean, and occasionally feel like all this work is for not because my business could still fail. But I have two years of evidence of what can happen through hard work and focus. When I'm discouraged, I remember where I came from and where I want to go. Just today, my mindfulness coach led me in a visualization technique that started with recalling the joy and excitement of when my business was still only an idea and extrapolating that feeling forward to my future goals.
Depression is isolating, but I found connection and vulnerability to be an integral part of my recovery. To be clear, the road to mental health is long, winding and full of peaks and valleys. And my story is no different. I am still very much in the process of healing, but had it not been for the opportunity to create and connect, I wouldn't be where I am. Find the thing that excites and scares you. It may seem overwhelming, but there is a good chance that the very act of chasing that dream will help pull you out of the depths and give you a chance to seek help. Yes, there will be hurdles and heartache, but nothing is more empowering than taking control of the wheel on the road to reaching your fullest potential. Besides, what do you have to lose?!
Breanne Kiefner, Founder of Root Adventures