Freelancing and Depression


There's a lot about freelancing which just shouldn't make sense to help depression. In fact, a lot of the elements that make up working from home, or for yourself, can be strong contributors to depression and anxiety; lack of human contact, unusual work hours and the ever ebb and flow of money have certainly been things that have contributed to my own depression. 

There is however this unique and hidden gift lying under the crying snotty panic and fear riddled mess you seem to become when you have depression, and that is that freelancing can be your saviour. 

I'm not trying to sell the notion that it will cure depression and anxiety, trust me, there is no sure fire cure. The cure is unfortunately inside yourself. However, from my experience freelancing has given me the rare opportunity to dust myself off and begin the ascent back to a world where you don't lose your shit over not cooking a risotto correctly (This has actually happened. I'll talk about that some other time.) 

So I present to you the top 6 elements of working for yourself that can help you in your depression:

 You can work to your schedule

Whether that is an emotional schedule, physical schedule, or an actual work load that needs to be handled, you have the flexibility to fit everything in to your day the way you want. The 9-5 grind is merciless and unforgiving to your sudden feelings of hopelessness that could crop up mid-meeting or even on an idle visit to the photocopier.

When you work from home you can work to the beat of your own drum, even if that drum is beating a little erratic one day and slow the next. 

 Flexibility for those all important appointments 

Let's face it, like any illness you need to get medical help if you want to make some sort of recovery. The mind is the same. I have CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and it's an absolute godsend. I love having someplace to go, once a week, where I feel I'm making a positive impact on my mental illness.

The time and day I go for my sessions would be a nightmare to arrange in an office job. And think of all that sick leave ... possibly no sick pay ... No thank you. Even if I'm not functioning even 80% of the time at work, at least I am able to make it into my home studio around my appointments and know that no other time was needed to be taken off. 

Cry ugly, freely - and then pick yourself up

I probably spent around 70-90% of my time crying when my depression was at it's worst. 50% of that time was bent over my keyboard sorting my emails which were getting backlogged. But that is totally ok.

There was no Janet from HR pulling me out to try and motivate me to pull it together so I could carry on with my day, or risk of causing a scene in front of my colleagues. I could cry and cry at my desk, and when I was all spent with crying I could carry on with what I was doing without anyone else passing judgement on it. 

No crazy boss or superior-other hanging over you

It's hard at the best of times to get work done when you have someone breathing down your neck, but when your depression is making you function less than productive, and you work for a big corporation, that can be an issue.

Now I'm guilty of not adhering to this advice because part of my present problem is that my perfectionism makes me my own cruel and unforgiving boss, however if you are a freelancer who loves the freedom from being your own boss then relish in this fact.

The only deadlines and targets are your own, and you make your workload as heavy or light as you need it. You don't have a quota to reach for someone else's profit, you can just work to your own values and goals without destroying your mental wellbeing. 

No clean laundry? Not washed your hair in weeks? You're golden

Everyone always goes to the standard stereotype of a freelancer being someone who gets to work in their pyjamas all day, and frankly I resent it because I loathe working in my pyjamas. I always endeavour to get dressed like I'm going out to work because it puts me in a good headspace.

But when your headspace is pretty foggy and full of negative thoughts and feelings it can be a comfort to know that life can still go on from your desk, even if you're not dressed for it. And even if you have to have an anxiety induced Skype call with a client you can be rest assured that you only need to be dressed for an hour and then normal service can resume.  

Remind yourself: You're living the dream

When you're having the darkest days, remember that you are working a job that (hopefully) brings you joy and is your passion. I have days when I doubt what I doing, the career I've chosen and what it all means. I doubt the choices I'm making, and berate myself for bad ones. But the one thing that lifts the dark clouds is a gentle reminder of the jobs I left behind, the ones that didn't bring me creativity, joy or diversity, and that now I'm not living that life. I'm living a life where I get to draw everyday. And that's something pretty special right? 

Remember though, if you do work in an office or salaried environment you do have rights regarding your mental health, including the right to not work in an environment where there is stigma attached to mental health. 

Make sure you don't suffer in silence. Have at least 3 people who know the ins and outs of what's going on so you don't feel the need to carry the heavy burden alone, if you're working in an office or from home. See them as your lifelines and trust them with your personal information. It makes all the difference between isolation and recovery. 

And if you are suffering from any of the topics covered above, or know someone who is, there is plenty of support out there. Organisations like Mind and The Blurt Foundation  have tons of information on their websites to help guide you in perhaps finding treatment or for helping a loved one. 

Sending out all the good vibes (even to myself),

Deborah x