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How I Turned My Passion Into a Business Despite My Anxiety

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In 2014, nine months after my third child was born, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I was glad to finally have an answer for what I was feeling and a few doctors to help me through it. I started medication and therapy and got some clarity about my mental illness. And then I did something really surprising: I started a business.

It began with a simple desire to create. I’ve always had that passion and my hobby at the time was sewing, but soon I yearned for something more. I wanted to share what I created with others. Ironically, social situations often left me overwhelmed and shaking from simple things like small talk and eye contact. But I still wanted to reach out to others in some way.

I decided to make small zippered pouches with some colorful fabric I already had on hand. I thought people might find them as useful and adorable as I did. I had to stretch and grow my sewing skills to make the items look professional. The common anxiety-induced perfectionism insisted on exactness, but I was able to put some of that aside when I focused on the passion, joy and beauty I was working with. I finally put some items up for sale on Instagram, and to my surprise, they all sold in the first 24 hours!

The high that came from making a sale was amazing. More than a simple transaction, it was validation! Validation for my hard work, my struggle and the skills I developed to get me through. This was a place in my life that had nothing to do with my mental weaknesses and everything to do with my creative strengths!

I opened a store on Etsy and developed a “let’s see how far this can go” mentality. The more I designed new accessories, the more I realized I loved this job and people loved my products. But was it really the best timing? Was it OK to start a business when my situation wasn’t predictable? At the beginning, there were still days I was so low that I couldn’t get myself to do anything extra, anything that required self-discipline.

When I thought about it carefully though, I realized this new shop was exactly what I needed. For starters, passion prevents apathy. Days that might have ended in needing to curl up in a dark room to escape the world instead have ended in designing new bags and playing with vibrant fabric.

Also, work makes me focus on others. Women are depending on the delivery of exceptionally made accessories, which helps me escape those feelings of doubt and wanting to retreat that I commonly experience with anxiety. I’m giving my customers a unique gift by making something that doesn’t exist anywhere else until I combine fabric and thread.

Now I have a thriving shop and I am able to enjoy this new path instead of being anxious about it. I’m working through business classes and learning all about photography and web design. I never would have learned these things without this business. And I never would have learned how strong and creative I am unless my anxiety led me to rediscovery and growth. Of course, there are still anxiety-prone moments, days and weeks. Of course I still struggle with doubt, apathy, feeling overwhelmed and anger. But now I have a reason and a way to keep going.

Starting a business at the worst time ended up being the best timing. I will never regret the choice to do something brave and bold, something that serves others and puts beauty in the world to alleviate the chaos.

Follow this journey here.

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Lindsey Sanders lives in Los Angeles where she works as a small business owner and mother. She’s an expert sewist, friend, Coke drinker, and book reader. Click here to see her irresistible accessories born out of anxiety and rediscovery.

Originally published: October 16, 2017
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