From Depression to Startup – Part 3

A three-part series chronicling my journey starting up my business, Brilliant Socks, and my continued recovery from depression.

Part 3: When Depression Resurfaces

This is Part 3 in a series of posts chronicling my journey starting up my business, Brilliant Socks, and my continued recovery from depression. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

I wanted to write this article sooner. Much sooner. The last time I wrote about this experience was nearly nine months ago and I was full of optimism.

At that time, I was optimistic that I could get my business off the ground. But more so, I was optimistic that I could have the mental health that would allow me to do so.

That hasn’t happened. My brain doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. At this present moment, I have yet to fully recover from a depressive episode that has left me with much doubt on whether I should continue working on my business.

It was earlier this year when I was beginning to regain my confidence again after more than six years off from working full-time. I was beginning to have trust in myself again. I was beginning to see a way through a long history of depression toward better days ahead. My life felt fuller, my days felt productive, and I enjoyed working on the business.

But then a roadblock appeared while launching my business. Now, for any business trying to start up, roadblocks are bound to happen. This particular roadblock should have only required a slight detour around it. But I wasn’t strong enough to deal with it at the time. I may have felt stronger compared to how I felt at my worst, but that wasn’t enough. I just didn’t have enough resilience inside me when the roadblock appeared. Instead I crashed right into the roadblock, taking along much of my mental health with me.

The roadblock related to finding the right supplier for my sock brand. I had spent months communicating with suppliers throughout Asia, and had narrowed down my search until only one candidate remained. When I had found this supplier, I felt really happy. This supplier made high quality products. They could make the designs I had envisioned. And they could do so at a reasonable price. Most importantly, they were easy to speak with. This was particularly comforting given that most of my communication with other suppliers seemed like both parties were having a tough time running emails through Google Translate.

But at the very moment I was hoping to complete my first order of product samples, the supplier went silent. All correspondence I sent from that point on went unanswered. It was the business equivalent of being ghosted.

I waited for a response. And waited. I was hoping to eventually hear back from the supplier, assuming they would reply with a good reason for their silence. My search for suppliers to date had left me burnt out, and I didn’t want to think about having to settle for another option.

When it became obvious that I was never going to hear back, seeds of doubt began to sprout throughout my unsteady mind. I thought: I can’t even get to the point where I can order samples! Why do I think I can actually start a business?

Thoughts full of pessimism and shame began to ravage my brain until it was difficult to think about the business without feeling incredibly anxious. I had wanted to start the business so badly. I had inextricably tied my my own sense of self worth into my ability of being able to start my own business. But I was failing. So my self worth vanished.

And so it happened. It happened so subtly that it’s tough to really remember when I started to feel this way. Life started to feel meaningless. My depression was back in full force.

My daily routine was frustrating. It was very tough to sleep. And racing thoughts would render any sleep I could get to be quite restless. When I would wake up, I would feel extremely tired. And whatever energy I had seemed to convert instantly to anxious energy. Anxious about the present moment. Anxious about my future. Anxious thoughts so heavy it glued my body to my bed.

When I did get up, which would only happen because my anxiety had subsided just enough for me to do so, I would eventually fall victim to thoughts about my life feeling meaningless again. And then I would feel another dose of heavy sadness. Which would only make me want to go back to sleep to avoid that pain. But of course, it was near impossible for me to get restful sleep. And so that pattern continued for months.

But I am still here. It has been over a year since I started my journey into starting my small business with essentially nothing to show for it. Yet. A shift in perspective has helped me regroup. I no longer feel slighted about the supplier ignoring me. I instead feel grateful for avoiding a scenario where I could have found out too late that choosing this supplier was a mistake.

But even more helpful than this change in perspective, I regained some of my self worth again. With time, I managed to detangle my sense of self worth from the state of my business. And with that, the sadness eventually began to fade. The anxiety became more manageable. I was finally able to get some restful sleep. Life felt like it is worth living again.

My depression happens in waves. And at this moment in time, the waves feel gentle enough for me to give things another try. Realistically, given the finances of trying to start a company on my own, it will very likely be my one last try.

My new goal is to have a soft launch of the brand by the end of this year. Although this is much later than I had anticipated, I can’t spend much time mourning that lost time. Now that my mind is feeling a bit better, I can’t focus on thoughts that could make me feel worse again.

I have recently developed new ideas about the sock brand and gained a renewed enthusiasm about the business. I have also thankfully gotten some help along the way to identify more candidates that could become the right supplier.

As long as my mind allows, I hope to do a better job at chronicling my journey here. Either I will be here talking about my progress towards launch, or I will be here coming to terms with deciding to quit. In either case, I will be okay. Or at least the voice of depression, which constantly tries to tell me that I will not be okay, has quieted down just enough for me to believe otherwise.

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