I have been going through depression for the past couple of months. I have written about this before. I have struggled with depression like every other entrepreneur and startup founder. I never had the courage to admit it before but after I started blogging it has become a lot easier. Depression is a weird state of mind, there are many things that I am thankful for but there are so many things that keep gnawing on me. My biggest failure to date has been my inability to launch a fund that invests in Founders in Iceland. I have not given up on this quest, although my wife keeps reminding me that it’s about time I gave up on it and got a real job. I think maybe she is right. I continue to invest whatever money I can scrounge on founders to help them build their dream. It has been extremely rewarding to watch these founder and their companies blossom in front of my eyes, I think I am doing right by doing what I do. I help, coach, mentor, invest, plead and beg with every team that I work with to build great products and companies. To date I have not lost money investing in a Founder that I believed in, my friend Paula Gould reminds me that there is still time for me to lose money 🙂 I think she is right. 6 years is a short period of time to gauge my track record but I still think it is worth noting that if you make money investing in a startup the first time, it is luck, but if you can consistently do that then maybe there is something more to it, or that is what I tell myself to justify what I do.
Anyways moving on…
Now that Startup Iceland is done, I have a chance to watch all the talks in leisure. I was particularly struck by the authenticity of every speaker, it was just awesome to see all of them speak their mind and not talk about how successful they were but how they fought through their struggles. I think it inspired me to rethink my own depressive state of mind. I tell myself every time I go through depression, I come out feeling stronger. I have read all the books that I can lay my hands on to understand depression. Depression is always a feeling that emanates when you have to “give up something”, the dilemma that you go through manifests itself as a depressive state. The act of giving up is hard, like giving up the comfort of being in your mother’s womb to face the world. All of us go through this, some of us deal with it much better than others. Depression is also a healthy sign of psychological growth. I am going through a major phase of psychological growth. The only way to get out of depression is for me to take responsibility for my own state and work on growing.
I think the best explanation was in one of my favorite books, The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth:
The period of intensive psychotherapy is a period of intensive growth, during which the patient may undergo more changes than some people experience in a life-time. For this growth spurt to occur, a proportionate amount of “the old self” must be given up. It is an inevitable part of successful psychotherapy. In fact, this process of giving up usually begins before the patient has his first appointment with the psychotherapist. Frequently, for instance, the act of deciding to seek psychiatric attention in itself represents a giving up of the self-image “I’m OK.” This giving up may be particularly difficult for males in our culture for whom “I’m not OK and I need assistance to understand why I’m not OK and how to become OK” is frequently and sadly equated with “I’m weak, unmasculine and inadequate.” Actually, the giving-up process often begins even before the patient has arrived at the decision to seek psychiatric attention. I mentioned that during the process of giving up my desire to always win I was depressed. This is because the feeling associated with giving up something loved-or at least something that is a part of ourselves and familiar-is depression. Since mentally healthy human beings must grow, and since giving up or loss of the old self is an integral part of the process of mental and spiritual growth, depression is a normal and basically healthy phenomenon. It becomes abnormal or unhealthy only when something interferes with the giving-up process, with the result that the depression is prolonged and cannot be resolved by completion of the process.
There are a number of changes that are going on in my life right now that I feel I need to get help. I am choosing to see a psychotherapist, even though I have read through all the books and I understand what I am going through I think it will help me to talk to someone else. If you or anyone you know is going through depression please “empathize” with them, I don’t mean “sympathize” but understand they are going through a difficult self transformation and you can help by being there. Not trying to help them by “fixing” what they are going through but just being there to listen to them and understand.