I’m Not Okay, and That Needs To Be Okay

I’m not okay.

Today, I turned 38, and it’s been a really tough day. I have a lot on my mind right now, and a lot of complicated things are weighing me down. Running my own business has been very hard, in addition to a lot of additional stress coming from raising five kids (with three of them being teenagers!) is pushing me almost to my breaking point.

I still haven’t been able to get over the death of my brother, even though that happened back in 2020. That experience completely changed me, in ways I didn’t even understand at the time, and in ways that still don’t really make sense. Now, in addition to all the birthdays I keep track of each year, there’s a death day on my calendar as well, and each time my birthday comes, I know September 25th is right around the corner.

In 2021, a year after he died from a heart attack, I found myself in an emergency room, afraid that I might be also dying from heart failure. That was a wake-up call of sorts, but I’m not exactly sure what the lasting effects were. Aside from a tremendous amount of anxiety and a lot of trouble sleeping, I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of what are clearly some deep issues I need to work through.

One of the hardest parts of being a founder and business owner is the sheer loneliness of it all. I’ve written before about how depression is a monster that lurks beneath the surface for a lot of people who work alone, and even how it can also be a silent killer. I learned about this when my friend Dan, a fellow solopreneur who was just like me in many ways, committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and seven kids. That’s something I think about every day: both remembering him and also trying not to succumb to the same struggle that ended his life.

On top of all that, last month, I received a diagnosis (not life-threatening) that was not all that surprising but was (and is) still hard to accept and understand. So, now, I have to add that into the mix, and, if I’m just being honest, I’m having a really hard time these days.

I’m still here, and I’m still fighting, but sometimes, my goodness it sure does feel like a fight to just get out of bed in the morning, go to the office, get work done, then come home, get everyone safely off to bed, then start all over again the next day with no end in sight.

What comes next? I’m not sure. But one thing I intend to do is start writing about it a lot more. Writing about who I am, where I come from, and my story of how I got to where I am now, as a husband, father, and business owner. Writing openly and honestly about the challenges we face, quietly, and how to cope… and also just writing about little things I notice, and aspects of startups, marketing, and running a business that I find interesting.

I am a little bit afraid that by writing about topics like pain, confusion, and stress, and by being open and vulnerable about my own struggles, rather than just saying “Life is tough, but I’m fine,” some people will read this and get the wrong impression.

For example, for the past 16 years, I’ve tried really hard to keep my business and personal lives completely separate. But by posting here, that may no longer be the case and I may have current or potential clients who find what I say here and rethink their decision to work with me. I certainly hope that’s not the case, but that’s out of my control.

One thing I learned for sure today, on my 38th birthday, is that I really don’t like the question “Are you okay?”

I’ve gotten a few text messages and phone calls this week from well-meaning people who love me and want to wish me a “Happy Birthday.” I certainly appreciate all that, but I’ve felt a lot of pressure to give them a good report… to tell them that my day was wonderful.

A few folks I spoke to have literally asked me: “By the way, we haven’t talked in a while. How are you doing? Are you doing okay?” They’re clearly saying it in a way that expects a positive answer. They want to be reassured that I’m fine.

I’m sad to say that I lied a few times this week. I told people I was okay, and that wasn’t true. What I’d like for people to know is that I’m not okay, and I need that to be okay.

As I said, I’m still here, and I’m still fighting. I’m trying to figure it all out. But I’m not okay.

P.S. Yes, I am taking action and seeking professional help. If you are struggling like me, I recommend you do as well.

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