Running a Creative Business with Postpartum Depression

What if I told you that this first paragraph took me 10 minutes to write.  I am totally just sitting here unsure of how I even start a post that is so different from what you would normally find here, but something that is so much a part of me I wanted to share.

I have postpartum depression and it shapes the person I am today both in my home life and creative life, which in turn shapes my creative business.

Like many women out there I struggle with PPD every day.  No one ever told me that over 3 years after having my last baby I would still struggle with it, but the reality is that I do.  Sure it is managed by medication and monitored by my doctor but the day to day life with PPD can still catch me off guard.  That isn’t even considering the pressure of having your own business.

Most days and weeks I am good, banging out work and life and everything  but then other days, not so much.  The reality for me is that running a creative business with depression is so incredibly difficult sometimes that the only option is for me to step back for a few days and try and settle myself, because man I get overwhelmed easily.  Trust me when I say that if you are struggling with this too, you are not alone.

If I had a job outside the home where I had to get up and get to work by a certain time and perform my daily duties I could totally rock that with PPD.  Not every day would be sunshine and rainbows but I could do it because I would have a boss with expectations.  With a creative business though, you are your own boss and can be flexible with all things other than firm deadlines which leads to struggle sometimes.

For instance every week I blog on Tuesday and Thursday and I find the more prepared and ahead of schedule I am, the more successful I can be.  Even then there aren’t hard and fast deadlines that need to be met so if my mind is all over the place that is an easy thing to let slide.  The world isn’t going to end if I don’t blog on a Tuesday.

But for PPD and other forms of depression it is a slippery slope, the more you put off the more overwhelmed you feel and therefore you just can’t shake it and start working.  Every person is different but for me that’s when the anxiety sets in and I just get less and less motivated to just start something.  And really, most down days it is just a matter of starting something and the rest will naturally happen.

Just the other day I was talking to my group of girl friends and I told them I was struggling.  These girls are my people who I can tell anything to, who I know won’t judge me but instead support me.  I shared with them that just that morning it took me an hour of psyching myself up just to get up from the couch and sit at my computer to respond to an email.  Y’all it honestly took me an hour!  But wouldn’t you believe it that once I sat down I got into the groove and got quite a bit of work done.

So if your victory for a down day is getting up from the couch and responding to an email celebrate it, because I will be celebrating it right along with you.  No one says you have to conquer the world, sometimes it only takes an email to celebrate.

The most important thing is that if you feel like something is off or you just can’t shake the down feelings please speak to someone about it.  Too many times people are scared or ashamed when it comes to mental health when in fact they should be treating it like anything else that requires medical attention.  Talk to your spouse, your doctor, a friend and even me.  I am always here to talk, please don’t be scared to reach out.  Getting help really is the first step.

With all of that said, over the last year of running my creative business with postpartum depression I have found ways to keep motivated through the ups and downs and I really wanted to share them with all of you.  So here are 5 ways to make it through the down days.

  1.  Get organized:  For me this meant getting a planner.  The key here for me is to not make a to do list a mile long and then get overwhelmed and not do anything.  I come up with 1 or 2 things that I would like to get done for the day and anything more is a bonus.  The best part is that I have learned to take a task such as sewing a Laurelhurst and break it up into each step.  So Monday morning may be print pattern pieces.  Monday night might be tape pattern pieces together and so on.  By breaking it up into small steps I can look at something like trace pattern pieces and get it done instead of seeing sew Laurelhurst and get overwhelmed.  Plus it means more things being marked off as done.
  2. Setup a routine: As I mentioned above I blog on Tuesday and Thursday, that is something I determined over the summer was a manageable amount considering the time I have to spend.  If you set a schedule for yourself and know that every Tuesday you send out a newsletter then it becomes habit and feels less overwhelming.  Plus if you are having some really good and productive weeks, you may get ahead which help covers those down days.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others:  This one is no surprise to anyone but something we still all do. I live by the motto in my business that you can’t compare someones highlight reel with your behind the scenes.  What you are seeing from everyone else on their blogs and social media can’t be compared to your hour long struggle to make it to the computer.  We never know what other people are going through so stop trying to live their life and just focus on what is going to work best for you and your business.
  4. Self Care: This is going to look different for everyone but for me this means making a fresh cup of coffee and watching a show while the kids nap.  More recently it is doing a pilates video with my husband after the kids go to bed.  Just do something every day that makes you happy and energized, it will allow you to come back to your work in a better frame of mind
  5. Enjoy the freedom of having your own business!  Sure there are deadlines and things you ‘should’ do but if there is one main benefit to having your own business it is that you call the shots.  So if you are overwhelmed or burned out from the whole thing then take the day off to go to the park with your kids or hike in the mountains.  Do it because you can!

How have you handled your down days?  Do you have any tips or tricks you could share in the comments below to encourage others struggling with depression.

5 comments

  1. Jennifer Hill says:

    Ah, bless you, hon. That ‘and even me’ really touched me. I really understand everything you say, I truly do. I feel for you and appreciate your honesty and kindness. Yes, people are often scared, and especially ashamed, about having a mental health difficulty, which is so sad. Maybe less so for the younger generation, at least here, near London, though that’s only anecdotal; I may be wrong. Certainly true of people of my, your Mum’s, generation, for whom it’s been a topic never discussed until recent years. I’ve had mental health problems similar to your own all my life and have only really been getting to grips with them recently. Your 5 point guide, or 4 point if you don’t have your own business, is fantastic, and I agree completely. I also break tasks down into small steps and enjoy crossing them off – big black lines! Points 3 and 4 are very important. I would REALLY love to both get more sewing done and to start my own blog, and perhaps in time my own business, but I really identify with your descriptions of feeling overwhelmed and your huge difficulties in getting started. I will apply your points 1 and 2 to these goals, which I’m sure will really help; maybe I could have thought of this before, but seeing it in black and white from someone else makes it seem clearer and more obvious, somehow! Thank you, Kimberly, and always be incredibly proud of what you have achieved, which is truly amazing! My tips are the same as yours, and most fundamentally to think about mental health problems as you would physical ones: get medical assistance, do what you can to help yourself, and know that it’s not your fault so don’t feel bad about feeling bad, rather you have a right to expect understanding, sympathy and support. Thanks again, Kimberly. Jen

  2. naehconnection says:

    Oh Kimberly, I really didn’t know that PPD could last for so long. I’m so sorry for you. My mom has depression and it took the doctor so many years to find the perfect medicine. She’s now (almost always) feeling really well and energetic, but I remember the times very well when even getting up from bed was almost impossible for her. Periods of time with many appointments or things that have to be done, still are difficult for her though. I’m sending many good thoughts your way. You have all my admiration for being boss while having PPD. You rock and I really wish you as many good days as possible!

  3. Ginger says:

    I’ve struggled with depression most of my life. Two suggestions I’d make that have helped me — be willing to share your struggle because you will find out SO MANY people are struggling with the same thing. Depression can make you feel different and isolated. When you tell people your story and you hear theirs, it helps you realize you are not alone in the fight. My other suggestion is to exercise regularly. I know… last thing you want to do when your depressed… but it really does help chemically by increasing endorphins and other feel-good hormones. Make it priority just like taken your meds.

  4. Darcy says:

    I can totally relate to this. Im not sure if it is all PPD for me, I have struggled with depression/anxiety ever since college, but I did have it worse after I had my daughter. I didn’t really even like her for the first 3 months, which made me feel like a total failure as a mom and I hate to even admit that! Now I love being a mom, but I struggle with finding the balance of being a mom and a business owner at the same time. I feel totally overwhelmed at times like you talked about. That and lots and lots of self doubt! Anyway, thanks for sharing you heart, you are for sure not alone. I think you do amazing work and you should be proud of it! I do the things you mentioned and totally agree with them. I also really try hard to fill my mind with positivity whether that be reading books or listening to podcasts. I try to avoid the news because it just depresses me more!

  5. Hi, Kimberly. This is 2018 now, but I have just become familiar with your business recently, and I am treating myself at work on my lunch hour by reading through your posts, and came upon this. I really identify with your struggle – I have those days/weeks myself! I especially love this statement: “you can’t compare someones highlight reel with your behind the scenes”. Especially in this day and age of facebook, that really rings true. Thanks for posting and for creating all you do!

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