Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD) - A True Story of a Lost Airman
As a Welfare Officer for the Royal Air Forces Association, I have had
many requests for medical equipment, respite breaks, financial
assistance and general "tea and sympathy" visits from a variety of
Veterans, but I faced my ultimate challenge in January 2010 when I met
"David" an ex airman who was suffering with multiple physical problems
and whose needs were many fold. David had served in the Falklands,
Northern Ireland and the first Gulf war to name but a few. He served for
just over 22 years, and in that time had been through some rather nasty
experiences. David had retired from the Royal Air Force in 1999. He was
divorced, lived alone, and had no contact with any of his family
members. He had no friends living nearby. David had almost totally
withdrawn from Society and I was convinced was the author of the book "
A thousand excuses to avoid going out". It became apparent to me that as
well as physical problems, there may also be some psychological
problems, but, David denied that he was suffering from any form of
mental trauma resulting from his RAF service. He said there had been
"incidents" but the memory of them had been buried many years before.
Being quite concerned about David's well being, and not liking to see
what had once been a very active, intelligent and capable man slipping
away into a very dark place, I sought help from Combat Stress and was
advised to print off some information from the Combat Stress website and
ask David to read them when he had a spare moment or two. He agreed to
do this and, after a year of building trust, giving lots of emotional
support and understanding, David opened up to me and admitted that he
was having nightmares and flashbacks from the past and that he needed
help. I think that this was a very brave step as Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder is not a comfortable bedfellow, it is "the invisible wound"
that no-one can see, unlike a broken arm or a cut on the forehead.
David agreed that I could contact Combat Stress on his behalf and start
the ball rolling to get him some treatment. He was assessed in his home
by a Welfare Officer ( ex military) and then by a psychiatric nurse.
Further assessments were carried out by a psychiatrist, followed by a
one week residential assessment at the Combat Stress Treatment Centre at
Tyrwhitt House in Leatherhead Surrey. After being diagnosed with PTSD
during these assessments, David was then offered, a six week residential
treatment course at Tyrwhitt House which he attended and followed to the
letter with great enthusiasm. He was with other veterans who had similar
experiences, but each one had his or her own problems. The symptoms of
PTSD are many and varied. There can be nightmares, flashbacks, anger and
resentment, depression, feelings of guilt, difficulty in forming or
maintaining relationships, violence, alcohol and drug dependency,
tendency to self harm, suicidal thoughts, feelings of worthlessness and
inadequacy and even turning to crime. This is not a comprehensive list,
there are many forms of PTSD. At Combat Stress, veterans are given group
therapy sessions, one to one sessions with a psychiatrist and/ or
psychologist, relaxation therapy and are generally given 100% support to
ease them back in to everyday life by exorcising their demons and
learning to cope with whatever life throws at them.
There is no cure for PTSD, but the veteran is taught to be in control
and to cope with the dark days and troublesome symptoms. There is a 24
hour helpline available for anyone who needs to talk to someone who
understands and cares.
David is now a new man since completing his course at Combat Stress. He
has a totally different outlook on life, is motivated , confident and
happy. He has thrown himself into charity work with the Royal Air Forces
Association and is helping others like himself. Combat Stress are
always there for the Veteran and also, equally importantly, for the
family and loved ones of the Veteran. There are many other success
stories like David's.
The purpose of my writing this article is to encourage anyone who may be
suffering from stress related symptoms, or who knows someone else who
is, to speak to their GP, Welfare Worker, or directly to Combat Stress
to get help. It is not a sign of weakness, and nothing to be ashamed
of, we are all human.The Armed Forces teach you to be strong and tough.
It is so hard to admit to mental difficulties- even to yourself. It can
take, on average, up to 14 years for PTSD to manifest itself after an
incident. With all that is going on today, there are many that will
suffer, now and in the future. I urge anyone in this situation to get
help. I am so pleased that David did. He is my success story and I am so
proud of him. He is living again thanks to Combat Stress.
If anyone would like further information and
would like to talk to me, or David, to discuss his story, please feel
free to ring me on 07760 224992, in confidence.
Honorary Welfare Officer
Royal Air Forces Association
Abbots and Kings Langley Branch