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3 Tips for Navigating Bipolar Disorder as an Entrepreneur

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When you’re manic, there’s no stopping how high you can go. You don’t have a plan. You over communicate your goals– your plan for world domination. You have endless and boundless energy. You sleep less. You become cranky. You get sloppy. Things fall apart. You don’t need to play catch up because you’ve already moved onto the next thing. Business is booming, money is coming in but you’re burning out at the same time and friends and family are confused, hurting and praying for your stability.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

You lose almost everything.

This isn’t the story of every entrepreneur living with bipolar I disorder, but it is mine. Now — three years and a pandemic later — I’m stable, balanced and easing back into being a business owner. I have accountability, a plan for my business and impact, support and an emergency plan, but none of this wasn’t established overnight. It began with me taking an honest inventory of my life to say “I don’t want to go back there again, but I always don’t want to be stuck and shrink myself.”

My work is to end mental health stigma, and a lot of what I do is create social media content. My therapist and psychiatrist often remind me to set healthy boundaries around my use of Twitter and Instagram. Comment sections can be triggering, and the constant ticker tape of news can send me into a depressive state. The challenge is upholding these boundaries while trying to grow my business. As entrepreneurs, we’re often selling, engaging with customers and building our brands. I’ve learned that managing my mental illness doesn’t need to inhibit how I do business, but it very well does inform it.

Here are several ways I manage my bipolar disorder as an Entrepreneur:

1. Sleep comes first

 As a #girldad, husband, full-time employee and side hustler, I live very full days. I often view my time outside of my day job as an opportunity to invest time in my family, manage business inquiries and develop content. 

But, when my clock hits 9:00 pm, I know it’s time to slow down. What’s helped is aligning my bedtime routine with my daughter’s. I take my medications around her bath time. I’m disconnected from my phone during story/prayer time. And, I’m cueing up the evening’s chill music or show I’ve watched a million times (The Office) so I’m able to relax into rest as soon as possible. This is all a continual work in progress. Sleep has been one of the most challenging to manage. Because of how I’m wired, at times I get a burst of inspiration to write a blog, work on a pre-launch or read up on how other entrepreneurs are growing their businesses. But, fortunately, I’ve been able to curtail this by offering up reframes for myself. Instead of “I have to do this right now, sleep must wait.” I say, “If I get rest, I’ll be able to bring my fullest self to this great idea.”

2. Accepting the gap

When I think about life before my major manic episode, I grieve how much on a roll as an entrepreneur. Now, as I slowly rebuild, I’ve felt called to accept the gap. That is the space between where my business is now, and where I’d like to see it become. Ira Glass talks about this, as does Tracee Ellis Ross. It’s not a one-and-done thing. Sometimes I’m angry because I wish life would speed up. Sometimes I try to find shortcuts to success. Thankfully, I have supportive people around me who remind me that all great things take time. I aim to learn as much as I can as I experience the ebb and flow of business.

3. Keeping “yes” sacred

Being invited to guest on a podcast, speak at an event or consult for an organization is some of the best affirmation. But, boundaries have saved me from taking on more than I can manage. Thinking back to my “why,” holding tight to my values and refocusing has helped me to protect my mind and my energy. If those offers came, then more will.

My therapist left me with some powerful words the other day. I was lamenting about how I’m afraid that I’ll never be as productive as I was when manic. How I was afraid to go back to being that person. She said, “I hear you. You’ve been through this terrible thing. But you can still accomplish everything you want without mania.”

So that’s my message for anyone trying to hustle while feeling discouraged about their diagnosis and working to actualize their dreams at the same time. With a plan, a system of accountability and values to anchor us, we absolutely get to impact the world with the business we’ve built.

Photo by Rui Silvestre on Unsplash

Originally published: June 21, 2021
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