Veteran Files: PTSD and Entrepreneurship

Written by Antwan Hamilton

PTSD( post traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

Im going to give you a first hand account on my personal experiences and journey of being an entrepreneur with ptsd.

I’m a United States Navy veteran and spent eight years on active duty during the height of our last war in Iraq and Afghanistan. After my final enlistment I decided to go back to college to pursue my art career. During my sophomore year I started an art company entitled“Artificer. The company was an art design consulting company for private and commercial entities. I would eventually gain management and interns as well as a global list of clients within the first year the company was established in 2010.

During that initial year as I was trying to grow the business I was dealing with PTSD. I never told anyone. I tried my best to keep it under control and remain efficient in my studies. After returning home from deployment,“I never came off watch .”I would constantly remain on high alert scanning my surroundings and living like I was still overseas.

I would eventually stop attending my own art shows and other events the company was associated with. I would just hire someone to represent myself for the evening. I didn’t want to be around anyone. The only thing I wanted to do was grow the company, graduate, and cope with my problem however I saw fit to do so.

This next event that happened to me was not only almost fatal it was the final blow for me to realize that I needed help outside of my self.

It was January 2011 and I became involved in a shooting incident during my last semester before graduating. As a result, I had been shot twice. Thankfully the wounds were non-life threatening and I was released from the hospital the following morning. I was beyond thrilled that I was still alive, but personally knew my problem was just beginning.

A few months later after my incident, I was struggling just to keep my sanity and graduate. I had lost a majority of my interns and the company’s sells were declining fast. The prior three years I had poured all of my energy, time, and finances into this company only to see it dwindle away in less than six months. The only thing I had left was an over abundance of was final exams, bills and a ton of questions to answer from clients, friends, and family.

We know that entrepreneurs take risk, and for some of us battling PTSD that risk is doubled. Your’e not only responsible for yourself but for employees, as well as clients. You cannot deliver on your product or service and tell your client your’e battling ptsd.

I would love to end this article telling you how I ordered some magical french fries, ate one and brought the business back in a week with sales going through the roof! That never happened. I even debated on writing this article but after thinking more about it, I knew I had a duty to do so. According to The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs National Center for PTSD studies show that suicide risk is higher in persons with PTSD. Many veterans have very disturbing thoughts and extreme guilt about actions taken during times of war. These thoughts can often overwhelm the veteran and make it hard for him or her to deal with the intense feelings.

I’ve always had a competitive mindset and an exquisite taste for winning. I didn’t know how I would come back but I knew I would. I managed to graduate college and five years later I’m finally picking up the pieces and starting over again. I changed the business name to“Artifiseur”and re-established the entity in Atlanta, GA. I published a book in 2016 entitled“Artifiseur”about my experiences. That was a healing point for me because even though I had nothing tangible to show for the company I could at least record what happened. Someone else can now pick up the read and develop a zero tolerance attitude for quitting while they are on their business journey.

We all have hurdles to jump over dealing with life and some hurdles are bigger than others. You can fall down as many times as it takes to get back up and finish the race. You cant depend on doctors, information, or people. You have to take care of yourself and protect the only intellectual property you have which is your mind. Keep a plan (a few of them), activate, and move on it.

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