The first time I was asked to do a public presentation after I’d finished with Billie Goat I ended up in hospital with a heart scare. I barely made it through my presentation before finding myself in the cardiac emergency room. I can remember saying to John “it started just as I was talking about my failures.”That was back in 2013, and I am grateful to say that it wasn’t a heart attack but rather an underlying condition aggravated by extremely stressful situations. Nevertheless, for months after that event I was scared to talk about the mental health challenges I had faced as a small business owner. Typically,  this fear is related to the stigma around mental health and weakness in business; not living up to entrepreneurial stereotypes. For me, however, it was about lack of control. It was fear that even a thought or conversation might trigger a physical stress reaction.

mental health and small business

It took time, mindfulness practice and self-acceptance for me to overcome my fear, and even today there are fleeting moments  when I walk into a meeting to talk about small business mental health needs and I wonder if this talk will trigger me. Thankfully though today I have a lot of mind tools in my kit to reassure myself that my story is safe to tell.

As clichèd as it sounds, I can see how having time on my side has helped.

More than anything, time has proven to me the value of just holding on. Just get through each scary moment because with time that memory (or trigger) may not wield the same power. I am so grateful that I held on. Not everyone who struggles in business is able to. When I’m trying to explain the importance of my work to small business providers I often refer to the stats that overlap for small business owners and suicide rates in Australia.

97% of all businesses in Australia are small businesses (email me for the break up on size etc). A small business owner in Australia is typically a male in his mid 30’s to late 50’s. The second highest cohort to suicide in Australia are males between the ages of 45 – 54. Knowing this scares me. It means I have to keep talking. It means I want to share the value of time for some lived experiences.

Today I have learned that for the second year in a row Fortitude at Work has been named in the Top 20 Australian Business Blogs by Smart Company. Time has enabled me to talk about my mental health journey; advocate for all of us in small business; and now talk to others about how they can support small business people who are facing challenges.

I know when you’re in a moment of distress it hurts, but try to remember to take a moment too and trust that time will be on your side eventually.