the jenn hayward show Author Comedian Speaker

Jenn Says Stuff: Mental Health and Entrepreneurship

Many people know my position in life as one of transition. We are selling the house to pay off Canada Revenue Agency, have become full time entrepreneurs and have no regrets. Now the rest of you are caught up. What most people also know is that I have Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental health disorder that has resulted in two hospitalizations. It also resulted in a book called Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist because not only am I a comedian who suffers from mental health issues, I am also an entrepreneur.

I met my husband when we were both on welfare. This was well over 20 years ago. I had many business ideas, but lacked any idea how to start them. I knew I wanted to get off welfare and eventually applied to go to university and got in!  I had a strong social justice (feminist) outlook and thought working in the prison system might be a good career.  Perhaps I could be a Parole Officer and make upwards of $50K per year! Oh the dream!

I went through university, and while my book details it more, I seemed much more “normal” in life. I escaped through taking a full load of classes and working full time. I also volunteered for two boards in the city because I wanted out of my life! I wanted money!!!

I was hired directly from university into the provincial government and then the federal government. I spent 14 years realizing that I truly do not want to be a public servant. I always had “things” on the side. Projects, shows, productions, IDEAS! I loved working on a good cause but in the end, I knew that the public service was not for me. I was hospitalized in 2010 and through therapy realized it was time for a change.

I left for the non-profit world!  Yes here I finally belong….oh wait, I got fired. I have never gotten fired before, it was not justified but I truly hated the place I worked so I happily left and accepted a job at a second non-profit. Okay this is it, I am happy, I am…oh wait…the funding to my program was cut. Also, the funding for my husband’s program was cut. We um, well we better figure something out soon!

I started a delivery company for my family and began my comedy consulting and producing, which was one of my “side” projects before. I have so many mentors, and today on mental health awareness week I thought I’d lament about entrepreneurship and mental health.

I left the security of the government and a very hefty paycheque for the life I have now. I love the work I do now. It comes with balances though, as an entrepreneur if I don’t work due to mental illness, I don’t get paid. If I don’t get paid, we have no food. There is an urgency and pressure that is both scary and exciting at the same time. I no longer have days where I hate myself; oh sure I have days where I am depressed, I have days where I hate parts of me, but I do not have days where I feel like I am worthless. I am providing for my family (such that our money is right now) on hard work, and on my IDEAS! This is validating, to know that it is my ideas each day that are keeping us afloat. No more do I use my ideas in meetings to be told “that would never work” in the government. No longer do I have to pretend to not be a comedian because a donor might get offended, no, now I am me; a crazy comedian who manages to live each day despite my disorder.

I am very depressed today as I write this. The toll of the house selling is wearing me down, but I am refreshed that I can talk about my mental illness and not have it work against me in my work. My clients know who I am and they hire me anyway because I am good at what I do. I have less money, but I have freedom, and apparently, this is the validation I need to move forward. It was not as simple as being “unhappy” in my day job, It was 100% crushing each day to work for other’s and to feel unappreciated. Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I need validation. I need to create that for myself because I would kill myself working for other’s but my mental health would get in the way and I would be written off for being too “emotional”.

So every day I meet other entrepreneurs. I gather strength from these women and the odd time men. I may spend a day moping in bed every now and again and I surely make up for it later working and hustling to gather clients.  Many other entrepreneurs are in the same boat. For some they were nurtured to be entrepreneurs, but for some of us it may be our only choice to not just survive, but to thrive.

Cheers to anyone with mental health issues that makes it out each day alive. Cheers to anyone who does this while providing for themselves and family and cheers to anyone who gives it their all each day. I have no regrets as an entrepreneur. None. The pages are unwritten, and day by day I survive and then take a little time to thrive, because at age 42 I know who I am, what I believe and what I want to do, and nothing, including the oft debilitating disorder, will stop me.

Also floss.

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