You ever find yourself in a relationship so mind-bending that you begin to question not just their sanity, but your own? Hey there, I’m the proud card-carrying member of the “I’ve Survived More Drama Than a Reality TV Star” club. I often ask my best friend why she thinks SO MUCH crap happens around me, and her answer is usually a shoulder shrug accompanied by an “I don’t know.” But if there’s one thing that navigating PTSD has taught me, it’s that interpersonal relationships, whether at work or home, can either be a lifeboat or another wave trying to sink you.

The Office Tightrope

Let’s revisit the office. It’s not just a place to pretend you’re working while you secretly browse memes you can send to your friends; it’s a complex ecosystem of power plays, alliances, and yes, office supplies that are never there when you need them. For someone managing PTSD, this environment can easily become a minefield. Hyper-vigilance, a common symptom, turns each new project into a psychological thriller where you’re always on the edge of your seat. “Did my boss just glance at me for a second too long? Is that a hint to revise my entire 50-page report?” Yes, that’s a bit of hyper-vigilance with the element of catastrophizing. No bueno.

Imagine juggling your daily tasks while your brain simultaneously runs background checks on every coworker who steps within a five-foot radius. It’s like having a non-stop anxiety party in your head, and guess what? You’re the involuntary host.

How does this affect self-esteem? It makes you constantly second-guess your actions or fear the worst can be corrosive. That’s why it’s vital to find an office ally, someone you can vent to or bounce ideas off. Just a bit of validation can turn that office tightrope into a balance beam.

Let’s switch gears for a second and talk about the nirvana that is the home office—or running your own business. When you’re the CEO of your own desk, the only office politics you deal with are whether the dog gets the prime spot on the couch or if the cat wins the chair for the day. Suddenly, your hyper-vigilance is refocused on things that matter to you, like optimizing your website or creating a killer marketing strategy. It’s like taking the best parts of your alert system and actually using them for good.

Being at home, or running your own show, allows for an environment you control. You’re not subjecting yourself to potential triggers every time you walk into a meeting or get called into the boss’s office. You can create a safe space, both physically and emotionally, to nurture your self-esteem. Plus, every win is yours, not diluted by a committee or seized by a glory-hogging coworker. It’s like planting a little seed of self-worth and watching it grow into a freaking redwood of confidence. Not sure how to get your own business started? I can help you figure that out.

The Friends and Frenemies Conundrum

Moving on to friendships, you’ve got those friends who’ve been with you through thick and thin, and those who vanish faster than my motivation to exercise. With PTSD, emotional numbing can become a go-to defense mechanism. When the emotional walls go up, it’s like living in a thickly populated fortress. But let’s be real, while fortresses protect, they also isolate.

This numbness might feel safe but can also make relationships feel like scenes from a bad soap opera, where you’re just reading your lines but not really feeling them. Your friends can sense that emotional distance, and your self-esteem takes a hit. After all, how can you be your best self when you’re emotionally checked out?

But what if, and hear me out, what if we let someone inside the fortress? They can help hold up the emotional scaffolding when things get tough. True friendship is the best counterattack to the isolation that PTSD often incites. I have been fortunate enough to call a wonderful woman my best friend for over 10 years, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to navigate this life without her at the helm of my drama. She truly powers my self-esteem, and I wish I had a magic wand to ensure everyone could have one of these in their lives.

Twisted Love: Where Bad Relationships and PTSD Tangle Your Self-Esteem

Ah, love. You know, that thing that can either fill your sails or sink your ship—especially when you’ve got PTSD. Enter the narcissist or the cheater, and you’ve got yourself a screenplay for a psychological thriller. No one needs that added drama, but if you find yourself playing a starring role in it, let’s just say your self-esteem isn’t getting any Academy Awards.

When your PTSD is partnered with a narcissist, it’s like your avoidance tactics meet their control freak tendencies and suddenly you’re in a spiraling dance of disaster. Your self-esteem doesn’t stand a chance against the constant manipulation and the “it’s never enough” mentality. With every controlling comment or action, you sink deeper into self-doubt, fueling the PTSD symptoms you were already battling.

And let’s not forget about pairing PTSD with a cheater or a liar. Oh boy, talk about lighting a firework in a closed room. The trust issues you were already managing amplify by a thousand. Every text they send, every late night at work, feeds your hyper-vigilance and kicks your self-esteem while it’s already down. You’re always in a state of questioning your worth and wondering why you’re not enough to keep their attention, or what you have done wrong. Another true story.

But hey, not all is lost. It’s crucial to remember that the problem isn’t you; it’s the toxic relationship and their inability to understand your peculiar needs. Your self-esteem deserves better, and you can start by detangling it from relationships that don’t serve you, even if this “break up” can drag you through the mud. Once you get out of the mud and clean up, you will feel a million times better, stronger, and wiser. It’s time to break the cycle, step back, and realize that you have the power to redefine what love means to you. Your self-esteem and your PTSD will thank you.

The Family Circus

Let’s tackle the original team of emotional architects, your family. Families are like that mixed bag of candies where you never know if you’re getting the sweet one or the sour one. With PTSD, the family can be a reminder of the traumas that shaped you, especially if they were the ones to inflict or enable it. Yet another true story. But they can also be a valuable support network, if you have that. In my case, my children and my best friend are my whole family.

Living with PTSD often includes an encyclopedia of triggers. Family gatherings can feel like walking into a library of those volumes, each interaction a potential paper cut. How does this impact self-esteem? Well, it’s hard to feel good about yourself when Aunt Karen makes a snide comment about your career, your hair, your outfit, of when Cousin John decides to make a comment about your being single, triggering memories of not being “good enough.”

This is where the power of choice comes in. You can choose who you engage with and how deep that engagement goes, and you can even choose not to attend these gatherings if they inflict more negativity than positivity in your life. It’s your family, yes, but it’s also your life and your mental well-being. Choosing to invest more in supportive family members can be an act of self-care and a boost to your self-esteem.

Don’t get me wrong, family can be a lifeline, but it can also be like navigating a hedge maze blindfolded while juggling flaming torches. You’re supposed to feel safe and supported, but what if your family is the source of your trauma or simply doesn’t understand what you’re going through? PTSD doesn’t just turn off when you enter the family home; if anything, sometimes it cranks up a notch.

Now, let’s pause and remember that family isn’t always blood. Sometimes it’s the people who choose to stand by you when you’re in the arena fighting your inner demons. In fact, your chosen family can sometimes provide the emotional padding you need to deal with the hard knocks of life. These are the folks who see you—not just the scars or the moments when you’re coming unglued—and still say, “I got you.” And let’s be honest, in the battle against PTSD and low self-esteem, sometimes that chosen family can be the game-changer you never knew you needed.

Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum

Navigating relationships with PTSD is like choreographing a dance where you’re constantly learning (but keep forgetting) the steps. It’s okay to miss a beat or two; the important thing is to keep dancing. Surround yourself with people who can laugh with you during missteps and cheer for you during victories, no matter how small.

You see, my friends, PTSD might shape the way we see the world, but it’s not the lens we have to view ourselves through. So let’s recalibrate those lenses, let’s fine-tune our focus, and let’s see ourselves for the survivors, the warriors, the heroes we really are.

Life’s a rollercoaster of relationships, especially when you’re in the VIP cart of the PTSD rollercoaster, where the drops feel steeper and the turns more disorienting. But remember, you’re not alone in this, not by a long shot.

Living with PTSD is like wearing glasses with lenses that slightly distort everything. Sometimes the distortions make us doubt ourselves, but it’s also an opportunity for clarity, a new perspective on who truly values us. So laugh at the awkward moments, learn from the painful ones, and most importantly, keep dancing, even if you step on a few toes along the way.

Diana Giorgetti
Diana Giorgetti

Diana Giorgetti is a multiple trauma survivor, author, idea brewer, problem solver, professional freelancer, and web-designer. A graduate of the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern University with degrees in Psychology and Education Law, she is passionate about helping others, scuba diving, and writing (though not necessarily in that order). She lives in Miami, Florida with her two children and three dogs. She is the author of "The Fundamentals of PTSD: A Guide to Disemboweling the Disorder and Reclaiming Your Life," "PTSD & Relationships: A Survival Guide to Love and Be Loved," and "The PTSD Warrior Healing Mindset: Changes in Habits and Routines to Help Retrain the Brain After Trauma," and she's working on her fourth self-help book. You can find Diana's books on Amazon: