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How Freelancing Helps Me Accept My Depression

I have bad days; the sort of days where I don’t want to get out of bed, where I find myself eating breakfast (but actually microwave popcorn) as late as noon. I try to trick myself on these days. I try to get myself to believe there’s still a full day in front of me, that I haven’t wasted any time because I had planned to do so much today. I had planned to achieve something today, but it’s noon and I’m eating popcorn and I’m just not certain that will be the case.

At this point, the best I can do is accept that I won’t be getting work done today. At this point, the best I can do is a shrug and an “oh well.” This is not a defeatist attitude. I am not, contrary to my own thoughts, lazy. I know by now that fighting the feeling can make it worse. I know by now that pretending this isn’t a bad day only leads to more of these days. So, at this point, I accept that today will not be a “work day.”

This acceptance may be one of the most difficult things for me to do. Society has not prepared us to look in the mirror and claim failure, or even setbacks. Human nature does not readily accept that a bad day or what is called “laziness” is natural. For some of us, this is natural. For some of us, we have to own up to every day, even the ones we have to call “lazy.” As someone who has always thought of themselves as an achiever — as a high GPA and high dreams kind of person — this sucks. Even worse, it’s terrifying. I’m afraid feeling this way will hold me back from accomplishing my dreams. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to get something done again.

So, I have these bad days, or whatever you want to call them. This is where my work, surprisingly, becomes a blessing. This is where my work lets me breathe.

Being a freelancer means I am allowed to have the days I need. Yes, it can be challenging in terms of money, in terms of clients who have bad ideas, in terms of finding work that excites you. This can all take time and patience, but more importantly, freelancing gives me time. Being a freelancer means space for me to learn how to handle the days where I don’t work, where I can’t work. There are days when I sit and stare at Word documents and trust me when I say, no matter how hard you stare, words won’t appear. There are days where I have to put my work aside for fear of messing up everything I have already written. There are days where I’m tempted to send off work… unedited. Thank goodness, this has yet to actually happen.

On the other side of the page though is all the good that a non-traditional job structure can bring. There are days when clients refer me to new clients. There are days where I can complete multiple projects plus my own writing. There are days where I remember why I chose writing. There are days where I feel accomplished. There are days when I feel like I’ve done something, and I have.

This is entirely because I have the opportunity, because I have the room to have the bad days. This is because I don’t have to waste precious energy on fighting off bad days when I know they’re there to stay. I get to accept the unproductive days because truth is: I can’t always help the bad days. What I can do is work hard when I feel capable, produce content I’m proud of and ultimately be accomplished, even if it takes more time. Freelance writing has given me the time I need. Freelancing has helped me learn that it’s OK to need more time, and in fact, I am still a good worker, a productive person and an excellent writer in spite of this.

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Thinkstock photo via YekoPhotoStudio