Mental Health Survivor and Entrepreneur on Building Her Business While Managing PTSD

Mental Health Survivor and Entrepreneur on Building Her Business While Managing PTSD

The mental health stigma remains a cloud of shame with many fearing discrimination or alienation from family, friends, even society at large. Approximately 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of mental illness.

HLG Scans Founder Charmaine Gresham has dealt with depression pretty much all her life, beginning in her adolescent years. Gresham has faced some tremendous highs and very dark lows, but she prides herself on still standing and not being ashamed. She challenges the notion that you can’t be successful if you have a mental illness.

For Gresham, it’s about knowing trigger moments and how to efficiently work through them via professional counseling and meditation. Black Enterprise contributor Chanel Martin discusses with Gresham how she is able to build her business and take care of her family while managing her mental illness.

Chanel Martin: Tell us about your business. What is it? How did you get started?

Gresham: HLG Scans was started out of necessity. My newborn daughter was having sinusitis health problems, and I had to constantly take leave from my corporate job to take care of her. I finally decided I didn’t want to choose anymore and started the process of developing HLG Scans L.L.C. HLG Scans is a multi-dimensional electronic document management company. We have three subdivisions: federal contracting, online products and services, and small business services. HLG Scans is a certified Veteran Owned (VOSB) and Women-Owned (WOSB) Small Business.

We provide third-party vendor services to federal government agencies from administrative to minor construction outsourcing. Our online division provides interactive tools, training, and consultation to transform your traditional office into a digital workspace with the ability to work from anywhere. Our small business division, provide scan conversion and electronic document management services to help local business owners save money and increase office productivity. The workplace is an ever-changing entity. Technology is changing the way we do our business. Things that used to take weeks, now only take hours and minutes. Electronic document management is becoming a requirement and no longer a luxury.

As a mental health survivor, entrepreneurship can be very stressful. How do you manage your diagnoses while pursuing your entrepreneurial efforts?

Mental illness is something I’ve dealt with in one form or another for a majority of my life. Before I was clinically diagnosed with PTSD, I would continually have highs and sometimes feel so low that the only thing that got me to a place of recovery was prayer and determination to see another day. With mental illness, your trigger moments can feel like a deep dark hole you’re constantly trying to climb out. Normal habits, such as getting out of bed, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, can easily be put on the backburner because you’re too exhausted to get out of bed. I would have slept my life away I could. With PTSD you’re constantly struggling with past demons. It’s like playing a broken record in your head. Usually, with PTSD, you’re triggered by past and present moments of stress. You’re trying to win this battle in your head and everything you hold dear gets damaged in the crossfire. It can be utterly exhausting fighting with yourself.

Sometimes my moments of depression could end up lasting for a week, with me struggling to find a real reason to keep pushing. When you’re not adequately dealing with your mental health, nothing gets 100% from you, including family, friends, and your business. Sometimes I would go a week without being productive, things weren’t getting done, and it showed. I was trying to do everything myself, which made me stressful, which made me depressed. The goal for any business is consistency, and that’s something I could not give because I wasn’t dealing with my issues. Once I started treatment, delegated some responsibilities, and learned to take a break and breathe; things began to change for the better. Contracts began coming in, and real progress has been made across the board for my business. I want a happy and fulfilling life, and I deserve it. My main priority is maintaining a positive outlook for my family and me, which includes medication, regular counseling, exercise, and meditation.

What is a typical day in the life for you?

A typical day for me includes early morning meditation; getting my daughter ready for school, and meeting with my trainer for an exercise session. I then return home and start my workday which includes: virtual meetings with my team, responding to emails, reviewing my to-do list, developing new online products, social media interaction, live video trainings, and local networking meetings and events. I usually meet with my counselor twice a month to decompress. I always feel refreshed after our sessions.

What advice do you have for others who may feel that a mental health diagnosis would limit their ability to build a sustainable business?

First, you must openly acknowledge and accept your mental health diagnoses. It’s not a death sentence or something you should be ashamed of. I would suggest seeking physician care, professional counseling, regularly participating in activities that bring you peace and joy, and if you have a triggered moment, don’t beat yourself up. We’re all beautifully flawed human beings.

What motivates you to keep going?

I do believe there’s an anointed strength in me that keeps me going through all the trials and tribulations of juggling three hats (business owner, mother, and wife). I’ve had tremendous growth because through it all, I kept going. Unfortunately, sometimes I don’t take the time to pat myself on the back because I always see something that can be better. I’m slowly learning to stop and smell the roses; enjoy the moment of achievement and growth. I’m also learning that no matter how busy or driven I am, to always make time for me. Enjoy the different vices that help me relax and just be. Mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s a part of me, and I have to love all parts of me—no matter what.