It’s been a minute since I’ve blogged.  It’s just been too difficult for me to come on here.  After the excitement and pride I felt for producing what I think is a great season of Love Games, we were hit with a very harsh reality, a shock that had me questioning whether we’d be forced to shut down the business.  I can’t go into detail for legal reasons, but there were things that happened in our finance department that made me spiral into depression.

Forgetting about the qualification of people, I beat myself up for being so trusting and not a harsher micro-manager.  Anyone who knows me, who has been managed by me knows that I believe people should take responsibility for their work and have a sense of pride and ownership, and that given trust and respect anyone can flourish.  Perhaps I looked through rose coloured glasses, or perhaps they are some areas that you can’t afford to have that outlook on.  Whatever the answer might be, I spent months not sleeping, working hard, seeking advice, just trying to figure a way out.  I haven’t got that answer yet.

 I then got an opportunity to talk about some of these issues when Janice Matwi decided to do a piece on sibling business – and therefore on Media 365 – for her e-zine Corporate Heelz.  While I could only allude to some of the issues we were facing it made me want to open up more. 

What I did find when I opened up to my friends, and some of the women that inspire me including Octavia from the Twenty Ten Club,and Yvonne from Al Jazeera, was this incredible support.  I felt like I was on the edge, and through their words of encouragement and helpful suggestions, they slowly talked me off the ledge.

My very good friend – also an entrepreneur – Mutale, sent me an article that really pointed to how I was not alone in this situation.  Many entrepreneurs have got to the point of nearly (if not actually) losing everything.  But they stuck it out, and when they made it back, they learnt from their lessons.  It was really useful.  But I also felt that we’d been here before – ok not as bad, but definitely here, and I thought we had learnt.  Perhaps it was just my turn to learn the lesson to appreciate how tough it was for those that came before me, and for us to bond further in the growth of this company.  (Now I understand why there are so many wantrepreneurs – it’s safer!)

I looked around me and realised that many of those closest and dearest to me were in the same boat, all suffering severe financial issues, with no sign of how to get out.  The depression getting the better of them.  This is a real issue that we take for granted – depression is real my friends.

Depression is not new to me, I think for the larger part of my life I have suffered with depression – I read somewhere that it’s a common affliction of Type A people – we’re too hard on our selves – our harshest and worst critics.  But over the years I’ve learnt how to deal with it.

To some the answer seems to lie in crawling back into bed and shutting yourself out from the world.  And you know, that’s really tempting and inviting – there are no problems in your bed, under your comfy duvet, watching bad day time TV with the phone off and a bottle of wine in reach. (Sounds great even now).  But the reality is that wallowing in misery actually just intensifies the misery.  You have to get up and face the world with your fighting spirit and never give up.  These are some tips that I have learnt that I encourage others to use when the feeling of sadness begins to take grip – but you have to be aware of it to catch it early.  

Get Up and Move

Exercise is one of those things that is like a super everything.  For almost any problem you have you find that exercise is suggested to address it.  There is something about getting your body moving that lifts your mood.  It also helps clear your mind so that you can think clearly.  There is a couple of things that I find can happen when you’re depressed – either you have knee jerk reactions and make decisions that don’t help you in the long run, or you get frozen and can’t make any decision.  Exercise allows you to have options.  And remember, if you don’t take care of your body, it won’t take care of you!

Do Something!

Addressing your problems head on is always a good idea.  Seek expert opinions if you have to – with your bank manager, financial advisors, lawyers, whoever you need to – or even people who have gone through the same thing before.  Maybe you’re not in the position to get that kind of expert advise yet, but then tackle your problem another way.  Begin by writing a to-do list of all you can do to get out of your problems and then start working your way down the list – try the smaller things first – those immediate wins will help boost your confidence and give you energy to tackle the big tasks.  It may seem insurmountable now, but it really isn’t.

Talk to your creditors too.  Let them understand your situation.  This is really difficult in Zambia for a couple of reasons: 

    • Being broke is a laughable offense.  Or an insult.  It is scandalous to be broke in Zambia, people would rather pretend to afford a livestyle or a business that they can’t.  Behind the scenes they are drowning in debt but are trying to ‘save face’.  Having a better understanding of money, and being comfortable with it will allow us to all have healthier conversations about finance, debt, budgeting etc.  It’s better to be honest about your situation than ruin yourself further or hide from your creditors.
    • Everyone is in the same boat.  Because of the fact that Zambia is a cash based society, with very few people having access to credit there is a knock on affect when the cycle of payments is broken. If my client doesn’t pay me, I can’t pay my suppliers (or employees), they can’t pay their employees, the employees can’t pay their landlords, or maids, the maid can’t send her kids to school and so on, and so on.  Most people don’t have excess cash to put towards savings or anything, excess cash is used to pay a bill, pay a debt, or get better food in the house.

But we have to just deal with facts, if you can’t afford to pay your bills, get on a debt plan and begin to trade out of your debts.

Get Creative

Taking your mind off your problems and doing something creative can help you find a creative solution to your problem.  Paint a painting, paint a wall, do some gardening, go dancing, read a book.  Anything that will put a smile on your face.  The distraction helps so that you also don’t tire yourself thinking about your problem – this will also drain you and make you more susceptible to depression.

Get Spiritual

I’m not ‘religious’ by any means.  I was brought up a Christian and did Sunday school as a child.  I don’t think I’ve been to church regularly since I was about 12.  But I don’t knock the power of faith.  And when I’m down, I do turn to God.  Prayer is my way to have someone to talk to, and I do think God listens to us all deep down.  I find it comforting and relaxing, it allows me to also put my problems in someone else’s hands and let’s me focus on what I can control.

If you’re not a praying person (or prayful as they say in Zambia), you can also try meditation.  It’s all about being still and quiet and focused.

 

Call your Cheerleaders

Your support network is absolutely crucial at this time.  You need the people who will surround you with love and encouragement.  These people help remind you why you are special and highlight your great points.  This positivity boost is also another way to keep you encouraged and ready to take on the world.  I’m am eternally grateful for my sister-friends, my family, and my boyfriend that drives me insane.

Don’t be Scared (I tried to say it with a American southern drawl)

Talking about a mental illness of any kind is quite taboo in the black community – saying you have depression is like admitting you’re mad!  But the moment we talk about it we allow others to also talk about, and to start acknowledging that it might not be such an insane thing after all.  I’m sure people will spread this around like crazy – OMG Cathy suffers from depression, shame, maybe she should be committed. (I wouldn’t mind being committed if it means creditors will stop calling me and I can rest :))

This isn’t a long term solution sadly, and sometimes you might get depression when it’s past the point where any of those help.  And then you do need to take your day of hopelessness (as we call it) and just veg.  But then put back on your fighting gloves and get back to winning.  If you’re still a live, you still have the fight in you and the opportunity to succeed.  

And it’s not an easy path to walk.  You’ll find that one day you’ll be fine, feeling you can do this, you can conquer it all, and then the next day you’ll find that your water has been cut off and you’ll burst into tears, and think it’s all too hard and want to give up.

I’m still struggling with this but I don’t plan on giving up.  I have to go back to figuring out how we do come back but I’ll try to keep you posted on my life in Zambia and what I learn and any other strategies that work for me too.

Thanks for listening.

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