About 4 years ago, I hit publish on a post titled Confession: I am an absolute failure. In that post, I talked about how I completely failed as a freelancer at the beginning of my journey, but how I was taking the lessons with me as I moved forward in my career.
At that point, I attributed how I let my first few clients down to my inexperience and my emotional struggles.
But I thought once I figured it out, and I was more experienced, things would get better. And they did.
I figured out what worked and what didn’t, what I’m passionate about, and what clients and work truly make me thrive. I even went in house at an agency to grow my skill set, which was a change on its own.
Yet, there are still a few things that keep getting in my way.
Feeling stretched too thin.
Feeling like I have to explain myself over and over.
The uncertainty that I’ll have the motivation to be creative on any day.
And in looking for a reason behind the fact that I still feel stuck no matter how hard I work, I always blame myself. Maybe I’m not cut out for this, I tell myself, until I get a burst of energy and the opportunity to work with a team that gets me.
Then the spiral begins again.
I never feel accomplished. Ever.
I’ve spoken at major industry conferences. When I am in a conversation where I don’t feel belittled, I actually thrive, and dare I say, sound smart.
But the reality is, I always feel like that girl attending her first networking event with business cards she printed at FedEx that afternoon.
I don’t sleep. I do my best work after midnight. I have to set certain boundaries and expectations with my work environment. When you’re in an agency setting, this may mean that you’re setting this expectation with a new project team every 2-3 months. I was working on 4-5 different clients, feeling overwhelmed and unable to communicate my needs, I would shut down.
I felt like a failure every time. The feeling of letting down team after team after team, even when you try to set boundaries and expectations wears on you.
But until recently, I didn’t know that there was a legitimate reason for all of this besides the general anxiety and depression I feel.
Suddenly, I had a name for that missing factor in my inability to move forward, no matter how hard I tried.
Now, that means that besides setting expectations around my communication style, I need to disclose that I have Bipolar Disorder to every team I work with and explain what that means?
Now, I have to look at my past mistakes and see where it truly was my fault and where I literally couldn’t overcome an obstacle; I didn’t even know was right in front of me.
A decade later, I still love what I do, but I am so incredibly exhausted.
Let’s be honest: No matter how far we’ve come in accepting mental health struggles of those around us, the pace of the marketing world doesn’t always give allowance for someone finding their footing with a mental illness, let alone every single person we come across.
Everyone’s fighting their own battles, but how do we fight for ourselves?
That’s what I have to figure out during this leave from work.
But first, I have to accept that while I have made mistakes in the past; I am not a failure.
So easy, right?
If you have tips for managing expectations and when to disclose a mental illness (which I guess qualifies as a disability), hit reply.
I also want to leave you with some resources because we are all in the middle of dealing with a pandemic that’s taking its toll on our mental and physical health. I hope you’re showing yourself some grace.
Doing What Matters in Times of Stress: An Illustrated Guide is a stress management guide for coping with adversity (World Health Organization)
Managing Stress Associated with the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak from National Center for PTSD (PTSD isn’t just for post-combat. We’re all dealing with a form of it.)
Sending you love and strength,