Going through a relationship breakdown:
owning a business while sh*t is falling around you.
Mental illness is something that needs to be de-stigmatised. It’s a real issue in our industry and whilst a lot of people downplay its impacts, at Shootzu, we don’t intend to. If you are going through a rough patch, please reach out to someone; LIFELINE, BEYOND BLUE
Everyone is aware of the physical nature of being the person behind the camera. There’s a tongue in cheek attitude to “the lifetime value” of a TOG or VOG being a lot less than your standard corporate employee because of the unusual poses, the heavy camera equipment, the long hours of standing, the lack of food provided at an event and the eventual wear and tear on the human body ….
But there is no joking when it comes to the impact of mental well-being of our highly demanding, at times, extremely solitary existence.
Our industry is largely categorised as micro businesses. We have 1-2 people operating within our business and everything relies on us. We are the marketer. The salesperson. The financial controller. The operations officer. The camera operator. The head of editing.
Even if you outsource some of these elements, keeping across them is said to be how you are successful. That’s a LOT of pressure for 1 or 2 people. Anxiety and depression is rife but often swept under the carpet because of unrealistic expectations.
This article does not purport to delve into mental well-being as a whole but looks specifically at what you can do when you experience a relationship breakdown and its impact on your mental health while trying to run your business.
(Names changed, but based on a true story).
Ed was a serial entrepreneur. He was used to ambiguity and the ebbs and flows of business. He diversified his skills to reduce his risks. When he found himself needing to recreate himself after a stint overseas, he worked at building up his video business. He had a fiancée and together they decided to launch a business that would set up their financial future. On paper, he’d done everything right. Everything was intertwined. Their finances. Their directorship. A family trust. Their taxes … and their outlook.
Except their future as a duo was limited. His marriage broke down due to one sided infidelity (on her side) and a significant breakdown in trust. Not only did he have to unwind the business structure and become a sole director, but he had to go through the process of turning up and shooting weddings which was in direct contradiction to the dark moods he was suffering.
Anyone suffering from a breakdown will recognise the feelings of:
– guilt (that you could have done something more), – betrayal,
– misplaced affection and loyalty (this one is hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t been there … while others are bad mouthing your spouse to “make you feel better”, you are experiencing feelings of defiance and loyalty to said spouse) and
– ultimately sadness of an imagined future that will never reach fruition.
Ed is a fiercely loyal, fiercely private person who uses humour to diffuse situations and to mask any feelings of anxiety or self worthlessness. His belief in loyalty meant he spent over a year trying to repair an irreparable relationship and this did a lot of damage to his mental well-being. Humour wasn’t going to get him through this situation alone because internally he was breaking apart.
For Ed, it was a dark time. And luckily for him, his immediate community rallied around him. They rallied around him because he opened up about his vulnerability.
Expressing vulnerability takes work and you need to choose who you trust. Unfortunately we are in an extremely hedonist society where everyone is busy and busyness is destroying their ability to connect. Note: that doesn’t inflict every person. You just need to seek out the right support. Ed’s experience is sadly a common one.
At some point, a relationship breakdown or an event that rocks you to the core could happen. When it does, try to ground yourself and reestablish your own self worth.
1. Find your community.
Find a handful of people who you can talk to. They might serve different purposes. And you may divulge only elements of yourself. The aim is to have a number of people to turn to to get you through the dark times.
2. Ask for specific help.
Most people will rally around you if you are specific about what help you need. Do you need a second shooter (for the company and to take the pictures you might miss)? Do you need someone to take the burden away from editing for awhile? Do you just need someone to bring you food and a laugh when you don’t feel like leaving the house? Don’t be afraid to ask, and if you find it falls on deaf ears, ask someone else.
3. Don’t stop working.
As much of an oxymoron as this may sound… working, and surrounding yourself by people will actually give you purpose. That said, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Get people that you trust or who are highly recommended to shoot for you. Work, but at a slower pace if you can orchestrate it.
4. Talk to someone. A professional.
We don’t purport to be specialists, but you need a good psychologist or counsellor to bounce ideas. Meet with a few before you choose, as the wrong fit can be a step backwards in your journey to mental health. You need to have good rapport with this person and believe that they have your best interests at heart.
5. Surround yourself with good people.
We advocate community over competition. But there is no more pertinent time to get your community standing up for you than when loneliness envelopes you. Ed’s community expanded as far as becoming friends with some of his clients.
6. Get active.
Ed found solace in running … even though he wasn’t a runner. Physically forcing yourself to get active gives you an outlet for both your anger and sadness and the endorphins give back some of the energy that may have depleted.
7. Take time out to rediscover yourself.
Just as letting your business run to the ground during this time will add more financial pressure and anxiety, becoming a workaholic where your life revolves entirely around your business isn’t the answer either. When someone goes through a relationship breakdown, everything gets thrown into question. Try new things. Take up a hobby (even if there “is no time”). Meetup with new people.
8. Sort out your financial separation.
Everyone’s situation is different but dwelling on finances stops you from being able to move on. Engage a lawyer if required; draft up an agreement and move on as soon as possible. When your business is in question, it becomes even more pertinent to sever your ties swiftly.
9. If there are kids in the equation;
keep the negativity behind closed doors but show them it’s ok to be sad and hurting. Ultimately they are your no. 1 reason to come out of this situation unscathed.
10. Talk. Don’t bottle it up.
And take one day at a time
The key takeouts:
Whilst a relationship breakdown will feel like your world is crumbling, and your mental well-being will be rocked by a relationship breakdown, there are ways to strengthen your outlook one step at a time. Find your community. Lean on your community and talk to a professional. Keep on working, but whilst you might want to throw yourself wholeheartedly into your business, resist, regroup and take some time out to focus on yourself.
Join the Zu Crew for more tips & tricks
We’re here to help grow your photo and video business.