Successful with PTSD – Is It Possible?

The way you define success has a lot to do with the answer to that question.

The answers are more a spectrum than a binary response. People who experience PTSD can be very successful at work, running companies, being self-employed, being part of teams, taking risks, developing their entrepreneurial concepts and making work happen. People who experience PTSD can also have extraordinary difficulty being somewhere on time, focusing on tasks, interacting with others, remembering details and not, as it were, freaking out.

I’ve been on both sides of the experience. I’ve had days that I could barely get out of bed to feed myself, that I couldn’t focus on anything and stared at the tv for hours, that I was so triggered I had to get away from other people, that I’ve freaked out, that I had no executive function (planning and prioritizing) and that I just couldn’t keep my life together, much less my work.

I was diagnosed with PTSD nearly 4 years ago, about two years after the trauma that handed it to me. I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to live the life I wanted, or one that I even liked. It has been a long, hard journey with so much work. Not just the work I do professionally, and the work it has taken to make my entrepreneurial venture a success, but the work I have had to do to repair what I can of my brain and all the things that went horribly wrong after the car wreck. It’s hard to work professionally when managing yourself takes so much work!

For me, it’s been possible, although a long time in the making. Running my own company may not have been the best way for me to go about it, and I have certainly made a lot of operational mistakes and missteps and had a few failures in the process. A lot of my work struggles have been directly related to my having PTSD. Boundaries, time management, communication, motivation, focus and prioritization have been my enemies at times.

It has all been worth it though. I’ve been worth it, as I now believe. What I did not think possible is now happening, and I’ve even been sought after by two organizations at once, both making me great offers to join their teams. I’ve chosen to go with the organization that will be the most fulfilling for me and, I think, be of the greatest long-term benefit. I’m feeling really successful for the first time since my diagnosis – and I graduated with two master’s degrees on time, had a significant work promotion, started a company and helped small businesses get off the ground since!

And I think for me, right now, success is measured by my feeling successful, by my ability to experience a positive emotion related to my hard work. It has been a long time since I’ve been excited, since I’ve felt capable, since I’ve been able to view myself as successful. Those things were lost to me after the car wreck, and I’ve been plagued by low self-esteem and low to zero self-confidence for so much of the last five years. Now, though, it’s different, and better. And possible.

man in red crew neck sweatshirt photography
Photo by bruce mars on

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