In almost every industry, there is a renewed focus on mental health. Sometimes the emphasis is on the mental and emotional wellbeing of employees. For others, the goal is to create a workplace supportive of emotional and neural diversity.
It should come as no surprise then that Timely also has a deep commitment to the mental health of our employees and our suppliers, customers, and owners. But, as with everything we do at Timely, we do things a little bit differently. At Timely, we want to hold ourselves accountable to not only talking about our values, our commitments, and our values, but also to living them. And this starts with me, as a co-founder of Timely, to lead by example and act in ways that demonstrate our values.
At Timely, we're putting in the work to create a culture of openness, honesty, diversity, and inclusion. At its core, we want to create a company based on trust. We want our staff, our suppliers, and our customers, to be able to talk to us about the challenges they're facing and know that we will respond empathetically. We want our staff to know they can be vulnerable at work and that we will support them.
So it's time that I live the values, and be honest about my own mental health challenges. At various times in my life, I have been treated for anxiety and depression. I've practised different types of therapy and treatment. Throughout these experiences there was never a treatment or technique that fully felt like it worked. This year I was referred to a psychiatrist by my GP, and after our initial consultation, and a few weeks of trying different medications for my ongoing depression, I was diagnosed with ADHD.* I am now medicated for both ADHD and depression, although both conditions still impact my life constantly.
So, what does this mean for me at Timely? Well, firstly, I have that type of ADHD where I exhibit few, if any, physical symptoms. Instead, my ADHD manifests itself as a persistent internal monologue, "racing thoughts" that can make me feel overwhelmed. But my ADHD also leads me to be impulsive, which means I may say or do things without thinking, then obsess over them later. Symptoms such as these make owning a small business particularly challenging. As a small business owner, each day is filled with making clear-headed choices quickly and decisively. But, ADHD also inhibits your ability to observe your actions, behaviour, and consequences objectively. So when situations turn out poorly, those with ADHD often believe that an adverse outcome is their fault, even when - no, especially when - it isn't. These tendencies lead us to preemptively assume that everything will go wrong and we'll always be to blame. This is most noticeable for me with our customers at Timely because, in my mind I've convinced myself that our customers will, at any moment, decide to stop drinking coffee entirely and become a mindless hoard of kombucha devotees. And somehow, it will be my fault. To date, this has not happened. And I'm happy to report that we have many customers who have ordered coffee from us literally hundreds of times.
Just as my ADHD can make me act impulsively, which may appear to those around me as indifference, my depression can also make me catastrophise situations. This combination of symptoms can make it hard for staff and co-workers (and my wife - sorry, Ashleigh) to “read me”. I can feel powerfully about minor problems (like why can't everyone just put toilet rolls on the rail in the same direction) but then feel inappropriately nonchalant in other situations that are, objectively, a lot worse (like that time I accidentally drove a forklift into a door… everything was actually fine though I promise).**
The purpose of this article is not just to share my own experiences, but to try and show you that it's okay for you to do the same too. It can be challenging to be vulnerable, as we're most easily hurt in moments of vulnerability. In the corporate world, even high powered proponents of mental health awareness rarely demonstrate behaviour necessary to building a culture they say they want to encourage. So the societal expectation never changes, and we feel as though we should say nothing about our own struggles. For small business owners like myself, the cultural narrative is that to be in a position of authority and leadership, you must appear strong and certain at all times. The reality is that I am not strong or certain of myself most of the time. And I'm taking this opportunity to try and convince myself that I don't have to be.
I hope that when you interact with Timely, you know that you don't have to be either.
*This is an abridged version of events. Receiving a diagnosis takes a lot of time and effort and is never as simple as this recount makes it sound.
**I also acknowledge that ADHD can have symptoms some might see as advantageous. For example, my ADHD means that I have a very low tolerance for authority and established systems. I have a neurological inability to accept things just the way they are. Instead, I can quickly grow impatient when situations seem unfair or inefficient. However, it's important not to sensationalise the arguably positive traits of mental illnesses and disorders. Those in positions of privilege experience these advantages disproportionately to others. Underrepresented people still have a more challenging experience pursuing both a diagnosis of neurological disorders, and treatments appropriate to their situation and specific needs.