Fame, Fortune, and PTSD: Am I Enjoying My Success?

What is it like for someone with PTSD to experience success? Find out on bettysbattleground.com

I’m going to make a somewhat embarrassing admission. Well, it would be embarrassing if most people did not already know it about me. Ever since I was a wee gal, I have wanted to be famous. Specifically, a famous writer. Sure, I have entertained fantasies of being a rock star, or an Oscar-winning actress. On my especially bad days, I’ve contemplated what it would be like to be an infamous serial killer. But my dream has pretty consistently been rich famous writer.

I know, it’s a very difficult dream. Especially when you add the “rich” in there. I think it may actually be easier to gain recognition as a writer than it is to a make a comfortable living as a writer. But dreams are dreams. For better of for worse, we all have our big shiny pie-in-the-sky aspirations. Being a famous writer is mine–don’t get me wrong. I definitely have other motivations for writing what I’m writing these days. Reporting on stigmatized populations is not the most surefire route to fame or fortune…regardless of the practicality though, I’ve had big dreams since childhood.

I have not yet accomplished my dream of being a rich famous writer, in case you were wondering. But I have accomplished some success with my writing, which is a start! Betty’s Battleground was recently ranked number 26 on Feedspot’s list of top 75 PTSD blogs! HealthyPlace, which I also write for, was ranked #2. Pretty sweet! Writing for VICE was definitely a bucket list item; I just turned in my third assignment for their health sciences channel. I’ve had two widely circulated articles on Vox, both of which landed my subsequent radio spots. One of them showed up in my treatment counselor’s inbox as the title post for a mental health & addiction e-newsletter. I’m paying my half of the rent with my writing. Interesting people with blue checks by their names are following me on Twitter. There are still no guarantees on that fame, but it looks like I’m on the road to some form of success.

Problem is, this all doesn’t feel half as awesome as I expected it to. And it’s definitely because of my damn PTSD.

Fame, Fortune, and PTSD

Find out if it's possible to enjoy success when living with PTSD-on bettysbattleground.com

The irony of my first published article on VICE was not lost on me. It’s called “I Have a Pathological Fear of Being Happy,” and it focuses on my experiences of cherophobia, the fear of happiness. That’s not a clinical term by the way, but I love it regardless. I was introduced to it by Sarah Schantz, who also wrote a blog post about her difficulties celebrating the success of her debut novel.

Having that article published, especially as my first published piece on one of my favorite news/article publishers, was a very meta experience. I was living the story while others were reading the story. The day it went live, I loaded my kiddos on their vanpool to daycare. Images of gory accidents flashed through my mind’s eye; Penelope’s skinny limbs entangled in the mesh of the metal; Anabelle begging for her binky while gurgling on a throatfull of blood. It was fucking horrible.

My cherophobia has gotten a little better since that day. Maybe it’s because I’m gradually building my tolerance to success, or maybe it’s just because I am getting farther and father from the days when I had to interact with my abuser in court on a regular basis. Whatever the reason, I don’t compulsively imagine my family’s destruction so much anymore. Which is great! But I still experience a good amount of numbing and dissociation when it comes to my own success.

The Disappointing–And Fucking Unfair–Reality Of Success While Living With PTSD

Everyone wants to be successful. I certainly do. But I also have this terrible abuse history that leads me to feel as though the only way I can “deserve” success is by balancing it with trauma. I don’t want tragic things to happen…as much as I want to be a rich, famous writer, I’d rather see my children flourish. This can sometimes lead me to subconsciously self-sabotage. I have to actively fight that urge on a regular basis.

The other problem is placing too much stock in my success, and having overly high expectations. I spent many years abusing drugs, then recovering from abusing drugs (I’m still recovering, in fact). On top of that, I have a history of extreme abuse at the hands of a man who is very likely a sociopath. I have pretty debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms that get in the way of accomplishing many tasks. I may want to be famous tomorrow, but the actual fact is that what I’ve already accomplished is a big deal. Nonetheless, I feel like a failure.

Right now, I have only one assignment. Notice that wording? Only one assignment. It feels like not enough. That’s in addition to my recurring HealthyPlace assignments, and my recurring Betty’s Battleground posts. That’s not including the five articles I have slated for publication soon. That mentality is demented, possibly a little narcissistic, and it really undervalues my achievements. I actually get depressed on the days when I don’t hear from at least one editor.

Worse, I’m obsessing over success that I can barely enjoy. Success makes me anxious. When I’m not anxious, I’m numb. My traumatic past is robbing me of an enjoyable future. That is not okay.

How Do Those Of Us With Cherophobia Cope With Success?

In my latest post on HealthyPlace, I grapple with this issue. How can we appreciate our success, when we’re kind of afraid of it? If this is something you can relate to, I hope you’ll click over to HealthyPlace and check it out. Watch my video too, and leave me some love in the comments!

How To Appreciate Success, Even When It’s Scary–on HealthyPlace Blogs

Til next time.

3 thoughts on “Fame, Fortune, and PTSD: Am I Enjoying My Success?

  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing this great article. I’m a screenwriter and my writing took me to a close to success moment where having placed in this contest, I was in a room with a major Hollywood person and could have possibly gotten a foot up but my P.T.S.D. ruined the moment because of the racing heart/I can’t breathe, then the familiar tunes from the Magical Misery Tour, all in my head, about what an”…” I am. You can fill in the blanks. I kind of leaked out of the room, hoping to not draw attention to my shameful retreat.
    I had a chance to meet with a fellow writer, the year prior, because I had won first place in this festival. He was a contributor to Creative Screenwriting and had been a producer on a film, having interviewed James Gadolfini for a part in the film. My social anxiety was so bizarre, he would not respond to further attempts at contact.
    Having had a father who was a violent, sociopathetic pedophile, it basically changed my biology. It’s almost like I became allergic to human contact. Walking out to get the mail was something akin to climbing into a bathtub filled with snakes. I did almost marry a Playmate who was also a super model in Europe but my P.T.S.D. and abuse of alcohol ended the relationship after six years.
    So, I now have three ready to go scripts and am sending them in for coverage before I submit them. I’m paranoid about my P.T.S.D. rearing it’s ugly head and sending me into a tailspin of panic. I am much calmer and have mentioned in past responses that I have some techniques with which to cope. I feel I have this one shot. If it doesn’t work, then I guess I’m going back to school to become a licensed therapist.
    The thing I recognize in my own struggles with having happiness, is that I have finally come to an understanding that “he” can’t take anything away from me because he passed away almost a decade ago. I had to take my happiness away because to be happy is to know something about yourself. To know your likes and dislikes. To allow myself happiness would most likely have led to suicide. I wasn’t allowed to eat out of the fridge. He counted the apples. So not allowing myself to have happiness and choices, meant I nearly became homeless. Because I barely had any idea about what was healthy, which means comfort and well being. Being that I am a major dissociative (?), my body was basically an empty parking lot. I am finally making okay money and it took forever to allow myself to buy myself food. For the first time I have a sense of wanting different types of food, instead of eating the same thing over and over again. “Don’t color outside of the lines” was kind of my survivalist mantra. And don’t use color. Because choosing colors that make me happy would lead me to have connection to my soul.
    Betty, thanks for a great blog. I enjoyed your video. This is a great resource and it is good to be in contact with people who are like unicorns. It’s like the world is full of mules and how do I talk to a mule when I’m a trauma unicorn. Most people run for the hills when the stories start coming. I just have to remember to breathe.

    • I’m sorry about your father. No child should have to endure that. I honestly don’t understand why people who don’t want kids have or keep kids. I don’t know how long you’ve been reading my blog, but earlier in the year my abuser came back into my life and was taking me to court to try to get custodial rights for our son. My son lives with my mom. I loved him so much when he was a baby…still do…but my PTSD was so severe, I was suicidal, and I eventually began abusing drugs. Even before the drugs came into the picture, I knew I could not provide the level of support he needed. Because I loved him, I game him up. It was very hard…I don’t think a lot of people realize the heartbreak involved…but it was also the right thing to do. So anyway, I understand the difficulty, but I also wish parents who were not emotionally or mentally equipped to care for their children had more support, even when that means giving their kids up.

      Good luck with your latest project! If you’d ever like to guest write here just email bettymama206@gmail.com. I’d love to publish some non-conventional stuff, like a short script format post about PTSD or something would be very cool!

      • Hey Betty,
        P.T.S.D. is a sucky deal. I would have made a lousy parent when I was younger and in the thrall of my P.T.S.D. At least you had the wisdom to see where you were at and remedied it. My question is, why the P.T.S.D.? The drugs were an attempt to balance out the unbalanceable. New word. I think.
        Decriminalizing drug use and looking at it a psychological issue would be an amazing step in the right direction. Which may be the way the country goes when we get through this disaster with Sessions trying to demonize Marijuana useage. I mean, pot/hemp is basically a God plant in my estimation. In all of its application. And I can’t smoke it because I’m one of those people who becomes extremely aggressive and paranoid when I use it. I have used the hemp oil for my P.T.S.D. but couldn’t afford to continue.
        Hopefully you have forgiven yourself for not being able, at that time, to be there for your son. The problem with this type of disability is that it basically drives every decision you make. Can I stand in line at a bank and cash a check? I can’t hold down a normal job because I can’t be in enclosed spaces because the panic kicks in. It’s like being on an unending roller coaster ride with some of the most wicked curves and drops and turns. And you’re the only one on the ride. I nearly lost my job as a caregiver because I had never held down a job where I had to work around people so intimately.
        Thanks. My dad saw me and my brother as his rape toys that he could access when nobody was looking. The problem was he had to barely feed us because it would look bad if he had severely malnourished children. Draw attention to him. I was just something to be used and discarded when finished. Being what used to be called a Multiple, is the thing that saved my life in some ways, but there’s this little shop of horrors, being my body, that keeps over reacting to normal situations. The P.T.S.D. is my personal reminder of the stuff that happened that I mentally stepped away from until it was over.
        When I watched your video the thought that came to mind, something I’m using now, is instead of focusing on all of the things that went bad in a recent situation, find three to four positive things that I did as well. It has helped.
        Your ex sounds like he’s a sociopath. I’ve tuned in for about a week and read your posing on P.T.S.D. night mares. Sounds like a demon. These people thrive on watching others suffer. His joy is going to be knowing he’s causing you mental pain because you left him. I’m assuming that’s what happened. It’s like binge watching all of the really bad Lifetime movies about sociopaths. Everything will come up again but you find the strength to get through it. You’re a tough cookie.
        I don’t have any scripts about P.T.S.D. Thanks for the invite. If anything strikes me as post worthy, I’ll send it to your email. Hang in there.

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