Setting up a Global Company whilst suffering PTSD
“What they don’t know is I am about to die…”
I still vividly remember the client and the meeting room.
I was sat trying to convince them of the merits of my nascent company, NGS but the room was spinning like a washing machine, their faces were a blur, I felt like I was cooking and it took every bit of my remaining mental strength to stop myself from fleeing the room; this was my normal.
This was the daily challenge I faced.
The moment the meeting was over I had to go and lie on the floor in the disabled toilet with my face on the cold linoleum; this was my normal.
After work I would arrive home exhausted and go straight to bed in my clothes, waking at my alarm getting undressed, showering, getting redressed and heading back to work; this was my normal.
I could not take the tube, I still cannot.
Many times I questioned if this really is my new normal and would it change, could it change?
As with everything, in life you get out what you put in. I had a great upbringing and count myself very lucky.
Whilst I was in the military and had deployed operationally, perhaps surprisingly my PTSD manifested from family tragedy.
I had always admired my father, he was such a strong man, full of life and energy – a real businessman, a great father and a fabulous role model. His untimely death, whilst on holiday in Egypt, was my trigger. At the time I had to take three flights, totalling 25 hours, to get to my mother, only to find out the insurance company would not help and had denied the claim. Not the reason for setting up NGS (although this came shortly afterwards), but I had to coordinate single-handedly his repatriation whilst supressing all emotions; eventually these all came flooding out…stuck on the tube, on a sweltering summer’s day!
Losing a parent is naturally a terrible thing, a real vulnerability that consumes you and the indescribable emotion remains with you for a very long time – even to this day.
But PTSD? Me? Surely not. That’s what you get from being exposed to horrific things isn’t it? So, what is losing a parent?
The first few months of setting up a company were the not the hardest, it hit me sometime after. With the stresses and strains of ownership, responsibility and financial worry, how could I manage this burden?
Building NGS was certainly part of the healing process. We found our ideal office location, we got our investors together, we hired our first staff, we won our first contract and we hit our first operation out of the park (a repatriation of mortal remains from Sierra Leone), and this got NGS on the map for international emergency assistance companies. This gave me the impetus to build on, day by day, step by step.
So, from my experience, by facing the issue head on every day it got a little easier, but only in tiny increments. You start to realise that adversity should not be allowed to take over your life and with some rebalance, you are mentally stronger than you thought.
I never considered suicide – nor do I judge those that do. However, many times I questioned why I was like this and how was I to live my life in such a way; what a waste.
I guess the point of my story is twofold. Firstly, turning negativity into something positive is vitally important. You cannot do it alone so do not be anxious about asking for help.
Second, you have no control of the past so do not let it govern you; you can change your future direction at any time, follow your dreams, be proud of your achievements.