If you are reading this, you’re checking out Veterans’ NHS Wales. So from one veteran to another “use this service because they are here to help you”. They have helped me get back from a dark place. It’s not an easy ride but they have helped me with the tools I need to live a less stressful life. Priceless.
On completing my 22 years service I had experienced a lot of trauma and harsh environments which had a deep affect on me and my family many years after leaving the forces. I eventually went to my GP and they put me in touch with Veterans NHS Wales after an initial assessment I started my therapy within a short space of time. The level of support and the therapy I have received has been exemplary.
The therapy itself is very hard and challenging and at times I just wanted to walk out, but my therapist gave me the skills, techniques and knowledge of how to deal with my PTSD, anxiety, depression, anger and low esteem.
Slowly my confidence and self esteem were built as the the therapy continued, now I have a better outlook on life with short and long term plans and goals.
I will always have a deep admiration respect and gratitude for the work they have done and continue to do as they save and make peoples lives better.
I would like to share my story with serving members of the Armed Forces and veterans. Reading this testimonial will give you an idea of suffering I was not aware of. I am not going to go into massive detail of my time in the British Army as I could spend all day and take up the whole page.
At first, I did not really see the symptoms of PTSD. The word alone makes you think ‘No, not me’. Over the years after leaving the army, I took some bad memories with me and bottled them up as this was the thing to do. You were taught as a solider to switch off and get on with it. These memories slowly but surely started popping back into my head when trigged by something. At the time of me serving, I experienced a bad flight in a Helicopter which came in for a crash landing. We thought we were going to die. How I did deal with that memory further down the years and what I was doing didn’t make sense until my therapist explained my behaviour.
Every time I heard a helicopter, I would get up no matter where I was to check it up and watch it make its way past. I did this everywhere at work, home, out with friends I would just get up and walk out of the room without explaining to people what I was doing. The urge was uncontrollable. I felt I had to get up as if my life depended on it. I did not feel at ease until I saw the helicopter pass and safely in the distance. This was just one of many memories. I have various others from time served that were more horrific. It all came more of a reality when my wife of twenty years finally told me I had problems and needed help. At first I was in self-denial of these feelings. And I didn’t believe it was me. Here are some of the symptoms I experienced but chose to ignore in the hope they would go away. I would go from calm to angry in a flash for silly things, avoid friends and work colleagues. I would walk away from my wife when she tried in vain to talk things through. I was reliving the same incident repeatedly just being triggered by smells etc. I would drink two bottles of red wine every Friday evening and would purposely look for the strongest wine so that I would pass out. I would go into a ‘thousand yard stare’ like having blinkers on and nothing else around me mattered. When I started my therapy, I felt uneasy and at one point just wanted to run from the room. It was because of these horrible feelings of awakening all the bad memories that I had placed right at the back of my mind. However, as my sessions continued it felt like a huge black cloud had been lifted off me.
Now to the present day I cannot express enough how I feel. The help I received from Veterans NHS Wales has remoulded me back to who I was and who I have always been before joining the forces: chatty, no low moods, sleeping better, compassionate, reading others emotions better. I have stopped and realised that there is a whole bright world going on around me. I really do hope you seek help from NHS Vets they helped me at a very low point in my life and made me realise that hiding these thoughts and being ashamed of them just made me worse. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Just think of it as the final push onwards and upwards.
A great big thanks to [my therapist] at Veterans NHS Wales, I have now been signed off from Veterans NHS services. I can only recommend that any veteran not feeling 100% to go and get this looked at. It’s very hard at times but be honest with your therapist and stick with it and follow the process to the end. For me it unlocked some deep rooted issues. I now understand the mechanism of my depression and now have the mindset and outlook to effectively deal with it. I now have a joy for life I never thought possible.
The level of support from my first appointment to the last has been exemplary. The treatment was rightly challenging but has been extremely effective – even when I sometimes did not believe it would work. I am delighted to be proved wrong! I am now aware of how to manage my mental health and have seen a marked change in my personal contentment and my previously unacceptable behaviour. The service is first rate. I cannot thank the service enough for the help I have received.
I was a soldier in the Royal Regiment of Wales from 1981-1986 and saw active service in Northern Ireland. During this tour I experienced several incidents that have plagued me since.
Following the completion of the tour I could not understand why my whole personality changed. I found that I was drinking to excess and getting angry and jumpy which affected my family and career. I was experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, mood changes, sleepless nights, night sweats, depression anxiety and stress. I did not seek help for these symptoms and did not speak to any mates as I did not want to be labelled as a fruit loop or basket case so I just put up and shut up so to speak.
On leaving the Army the symptoms continued and I did at one point 2 yrs after my discharge speak to my GP as the symptoms I was suffering with were getting worse. I guess at that time I did not express myself clearly enough as once again I did not want to be labelled as a fruit loop and was embarrassed to be asking for help (maybe this is a soldier mind set).
The following years were no better my drinking increased my relationship with my wife and family deteriorated as I refused to accept that I had a problem.
It was only after 23 years where I physically could cope no longer and had to speak to my GP who referred me to the practice counsellor who after several sessions identified that I could be suffering with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). My GP referred me to the Community Mental health Team who informed me of a pilot project being funded by the MoD and Welsh Assembly Government for veterans with mental health issues.
This community veterans mental health team is based in the UHW, Cardiff. Following my referral I had a short wait before I received my appointment for an initial assessment. I found my assessment very thorough and purposely built around my problems and anxieties on what the issues were. Following the assessment I have undergone further 1-2-1 sessions with the team. These sessions were formed on a no pressure atmosphere in very relaxed surroundings. I personally found it easier to speak to them because in my mind they were neutral and impartial and this helped to take a huge burden of my shoulders. Everything is totally confidential and I can say it felt that at last I’m speaking to somebody who understands what I was going through.
I can honestly state that being referred on this veterans' pilot service has made a huge difference to me and to be able to speak to a team that are focused primarily on the ex-service community who have the understanding of how combat PTSD affects ex-service personnel. I would highly recommend to all ex-service personnel who believe that they are having problems to make enquiries on how to obtain a referral on this outstanding project.
I’m glad that I have taken the first steps in getting the treatment required to help me to move on with my life. I just wish that I had taken these steps 23 years ago!
The years have passed for me, but the memories I have are as fresh today as they were 20 years ago. For too many years I went from day to day without facing up to the reality of what had happened and to be honest it made quite a negative impact on my life. I was suddenly in a very dark place I would get sweats and panic attacks at the thought of leaving my home which was not very secure at the best of times due to a poor relationship with neighbours. I thought no one understands what it is I am going through after the army discharged me with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) so it had a label but it did not mean much to me.
I went from job to job, day to day, doctor to doctor. My medication was at best non-functional. If I spilt a spoon of coffee on the worktop I would smash the jar in pure anger. I would wake up at night with blood in my mouth and on my pillow. I would find myself crying in the toilet or whilst driving in my car. I had several admissions to various psychiatric hospitals but none of the staff knew what had happened to me as I refused to let any one in.
I was finally referred to the Veterans' NHS Wales Service based Cardiff and Vale UHB. I was very apprehensive about going at first. I thought to myself here we go again and the sweats started - the panic was setting in once again. I knew it was now or never and I had a lot of baggage to unload and quite a few ghosts to exercise.
I find myself very fortunate at the moment. My health is not great but I have total support from my wife of five years and she is the engine on my back that keeps pushing me forward.
I met with my therapist for almost 2 years, and I have talked about things that I never even dared whisper to myself, just in case I had to face up to the reality of what was happening. My horrors stem from My time in Bosnia on Peace Keeping ops back in 1992 where I was an experienced Tank Gunner in a Scimitar light tank in a Reconnaissance Regiment.
Our job was to prove routes and to escort aid convoys as well as anything else they found us useful for. I am not going to go into great detail but the sickening sight of what human beings are capable of doing to each other will stay with me for the rest of my life. From kids to women to grown up men all finding themselves displaced from the rest of mankind, it was a very sickening and frustrating time for me. It was very difficult to address this but my therapist with his perfect manner approached it in a very friendly and sympathetic way.
I know that the PTSD may never leave me totally, but trauma focused therapy with my therapist and the correct medication has given me the tools to better deal with things In a more positive way.
I cannot thank the Veterans NHS Wales team enough and would like to take this opportunity in thanking them from the bottom of my heart. Not only have they helped me but they are there for all of us “Veterans” I salute you all.
Ex-Tank Gunner, British Army.
I served as an infantry solider in the 1st Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers from 1999-2005. Whilst in the army I completed operational tours of Northern Ireland and Iraq. Since coming out of the army I have had difficulties in my day to day life from the time I spent in Iraq.
From the moment I came back from Iraq I was a completely different person to whom I was before. I came back from Iraq and on that same day I was making a cup of coffee at my parents house and there was a loud bang outside next thing I knew my mum was tapping me on the shoulder. I had dived to the floor thinking it was a mortar attack. The weeks, months and years to follow were no different. I found myself drinking, fighting, arguing with loved ones, couldn’t hold a job down due to my “I don’t care attitude”, unable to play sports due to my aggression, nightmares, flash backs, crying, and avoiding my feelings. This went on for a couple of years and I lived my life around all this.
I was given medication by a GP to help with my problems but this didn’t help what so ever and I just carried on. I was sent to see a NHS community mental health team which made me feel as if I was insane and this only made my problems worse and made me more angry and withdrawn. I went to the doctors again as I couldn’t sleep and was having severe headaches. The doctor I saw was an ex-service man himself and he referred me to see the all Veterans' NHS Wales.
After I had my referral I attended a appointment with my therapist which I found very difficult as we delved back in to my past which is some where I didn’t want to ever go back to. After the first couple of meetings with my therapist it was a lot more comfortable and I started to open up. My therapist was always understanding never pushed me and the biggest thing for me was that he never judged me. On a couple of occasions I had problems and rang him and he offered me an appointment straight away to help me.
The service I had at the Veterans' NHS Wales was next to none. I can honestly say that attending meetings with my therapist has helped me no end and got my life back on track and I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. If there is any ex-service personal reading this I would recommend 110% the Veterans' NHS Wales. I am glad that I took the steps towards getting help and moving on with my life and without the help I received I would dread to think where I would be now.
I served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers from 2005 until 2011. I gathered a lot of experience within the time I served both soldiering and trade. I deployed to Afghanistan in March 2009 as a vehicle mechanic. After a few days of being on tour I was attached to the Royal Marines for the duration of my tour, in which none of the experience I had gathered before could have prepared me for the months that lied ahead.
I returned from Afghanistan October 2009, I immediately felt that I no longer belonged at home and that I was pushed out of all social circles. I suddenly found myself finding it extremely hard to interact with my friends and family. I didn't understand how people were taking life for granted and not realising how lucky they were with the lives that they had. I found it very hard to settle down and enjoy a new job outside the army.
I struggled to keep good relationships with my friends and family. I put a lot of stress on my relationship with my wife and turned to drinking a lot and became very moody. I kept all my troubles bottled up inside as I thought I was too proud to show my real emotions, which only made things worse. I then started to have nightmares and then eventually had flashbacks, panic attacks and struggled to get a good night sleep. It became so bad that I was forced to go to my GP and I then got referred to the Veterans' NHS Wales and was assessed by a therapist. I was very optimistic about having treatment after I was diagnosed with PTSD.
I started my sessions with a my therapist. I was was very nervous and found it extremely hard to talk about the things that I had experienced. She really helped me get things out in the open and taught me how to deal with the situation I was in. It was extremely hard digging up the past that I tried so hard to bury but after every session I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.
Without the help from the Veterans' NHS Wales I don't think I would ever be able to move on from the bad times I found myself in. I would recommend the Veterans' NHS Wales 100% to anybody who finds thereselve in similar situations. I would like to thank everybody at the Veteran Service for all the help and support they have delivered and because of them I can finally carry on with life with my family.
I passed out of basic army training in 2006 and joined my regiment who were already out on tour in Iraq for the last 4 months of their tour. I was a soldier in the Royal Armoured Core in a formation reconnaissance regiment from 2005-2010. During my five years I completed deployments to Op Tellic and Herrick.
It was not until my after my tour of Afghanistan that I noticed a change in my self. I started to drink more and was always on edge due to flashbacks of things I had witnessed to both military personnel and civilians. I was looking for confrontation all the time. I choose to ignore the problem for another few years and did not seek help from the military medics due to feelings of weakness.
I left the army in 2011 and soon started having really bad anxiety feelings. I was taking street drugs and drinking heavily to try and forget certain events that had happened on tour without much success.
I now know that I was starting to suffer with an anxiety disorder called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I was having really bad intrusive thoughts about being ‘Gay’, that my girlfriend was cheating on me and that my food was contaminated. To help me cope and get rid of the thoughts I had to do certain things like check throughout the day about being gay by looking at pictures, videos of girls to reassure myself I was straight, checking my girlfriends phone for texts from other men, and looking inside food to make sure they were not contaminated. This would make the anxiety go but only for short while then it would come back even stronger. I would keep doing these checks to the point where it was taking over and ruining my life.
After a while of being tormented by these thoughts I visited my GP who referred to the local NHS Veterans’ service. Following my assessment I was diagnosed with symptoms of PTSD and OCD. I found my therapist to be very understanding and helpful. After a short waiting period I started seeing him for an hour each week for out-patient therapy. We discussed the events on my two tours and I learnt how to deal with the symptoms.
After 8 sessions of weekly out-patient psychological therapy and almost a year since I first met him my life is so much better. I have dealt with the PTSD and I am not drinking heavily or taking drugs. I have good nights sleep now and my anxiety is much better. The intrusive thoughts of being ‘Gay’ are all but gone. The therapy at the Veteran Service has made a huge difference in the quality of my life.
If you think you suffer from anything due to events that happened to you whilst serving in the British Armed Forces then I would recommend you go to your local NHS Veterans’ Service via this website and self-refer, ring, or email them. Everyone you will meet to discuss your problems are very good at what they do and also very understanding of military life. Most of all they are there to help you so do not suffer in silence.
My name is Sandy and I am an army veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD a few years ago. I served several years in Northern Ireland in the 1980's and unbeknown to me I was already suffering from PTSD from my earlier army career. Upon leaving the army I worked as a bodyguard and spent 7 years in Iraq. My PTSD experiences came to a head (after 26 years from the first trauma) and I exploded in violence when back in the UK. I ended up in prison.
I lost my wife and home. After a brief spell being officially homeless I found myself living alone. I sought help and eventually met my veteran therapist at the Veterans' NHS Wales in the Swansea clinic. I was the biggest sceptic on the planet as regards "therapy" and the thought of some "civvie" getting inside my head I frankly found laughable. That being said I was lost in a world of alcohol abuse, violence and frequent suicide attempts. I had to give it a go.
In my journey with my therapist through my PTSD I came not only to trust her but respect her too. I couldn't have been more wrong about her ability to "get at me". She opened me up and allowed me to open up in a way I never thought possible for a man like me. I was the hard drinking, hard playing, "nothing gets to me' kinda guy. Who was this woman who could make me see a different perspective? Who made me challenge my behaviour, my reasoning, who made me examine in detail the incidents that were giving me so much trouble.
She did all this without making me uncomfortable. Sure enough the traumas were hard to deal with and I am not going to pretend that my journey was easy because it wasn't. Therapy isn't easy. It's hard to realise that your life has been affected in so many ways, that things could have been so different "if only".
I have spent a year in therapy, for that is what it was, care. She does care and that came across in every session with her. It didn't matter how many times I had to revisit an incident she wasn't about to let me move on until I had emotionally connected with it and she felt I had dealt with it. Frankly if it hadn't have been for Veterans' NHS Wales, my therapist especially, I wouldn't be here today. I would have succeeded eventually in killing myself.
My only regret. Not having sought help sooner. For any veteran thinking like I did in my "dark days" that no one understands, no one can help, you are WRONG. Just as I was wrong. I can't sing Veterans NHS Wales praises highly enough. My therapist is a star, a committed professional and a pleasure to have met and shared my journey to recovery with.
There are a great deal of people, important and very much loved, who have suffered from the wrath that I have poured out over some 30 odd years. Every one I have loved and cared for has been left scarred in one way or another, mentally or physically. It did not matter until it was over and there was no going back.
A life time wasted. In January I will be 57 years old and only now, much wiser. Two years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD and OCD. After a short while I began therapy with my therapist and 28 weeks on I now have a basic understanding of what my life has been about and why I was who I was.
I am by no means proud of my past, but at least I have an understanding of why. I do not know how long this journey will be, and I know how hard it has been this far, but I do know that without the help of my therapist, I would be very unsure of my future, and life span. I like me now, and I love life, my life. It is still a lot of hard work, but the mist is clearing and understanding the process makes it a lot clearer.
Prison, alcohol abuse, drugs. Did any one person when you were leaving the armed forces explain to you what the transition to being a civvy would be like and how hard that transition would be? I know we are all different and we all handle things differently. If you have questioned yourself in any way, shape or form about your behaviour and then you have come up with this answer: “I will be OK, I can handle it”, then you are hiding from the truth, as I did for so many years and to my regret, and on a lot of occasions, to my disgust.
My therapist and the people within Veterans' NHS Wales are amazing, they are dedicated to us, and they care. They help us to understand what we have been through and how, with the processes, we can live a full and happy life. But what I feel is important is, we will understand just how hard we have made it for the people we love and who love us. All these people care, and this part of the system needs to spread. The knowledge of Veterans' NHS Wales should be blazoned all across the media. So we Veterans and those who will be Veterans in the future know that we do matter, even in civvy street.
To my therapist and all the people behind her and the Welsh Government, thank you from the bottom of my being for caring and giving the help and support so badly needed. I like me now - who can you like? Thank you.
I served in the Army for 22 years, on leaving the service I was awarded the M.S.M Meritorious Service Medal. My trade was being a recovery mechanic in the R.E.M.E that consisted of trade training, mines and booby traps. I also undertook section commander range management and numerous infantry type courses to better my soldier skills.
I spent 17 years of my career in Germany, Hameln, Munster, Osnabruck, Gutersloh and Fallingbostel, two years in Cyprus and my last posting was as a trade training instructor. During these tours I was deployed to Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Cyprus and Canada. As a recovery mechanic you are tasked to a variety of tasks sometimes mundane other times to some horrific accidents involving numerous casualties. A lot of the time the casualties were still trapped in the vehicles.
Northern Ireland, getting caught up in riots and going out daily carrying out covert ops. Bosnia, seeing some very traumatic sights. Kosovo, we had to deal with huge amounts of refugees and a great deal of animosity towards us. In 2001-2002 while at 2 Battalion Fally I started getting very depressed making the nightmares worse to deal with, causing lack of sleep and very irritable and angry. When I eventually got the bottle to report such, nothing was really accomplished. The doctor didn’t seem at all interested, in fact, I felt like a right loser. I even went to see my Company Commander, somebody who I had served with before. In fact his advice was for me to relinquish my rank of Staff Sergeant to get a UK posting. I had no support from 2 Battalion whatsoever, in fact I felt like a leper on reaching the UK. I was called into the ASM’s office and basically had a strip ripped off me and told to get a grip.
Mental health difficulties were never addressed in the Army and the way we squaddies dealt with it was by drinking, fighting, fight not flight! The nightmares were getting worse with me waking up after punching out and smashing ornaments that were next to the bed. Without realising I was getting extremely irritable. I started giving up reading and carrying out my hobbies because I was having trouble relaxing. I gave up working on gas appliances because my concentration level became very poor. My wife and I lost our pub putting us in huge amounts of debt. My house from my previous marriage started getting repossessed and my children decided that they wanted nothing more to do with me. On reflection I wasn’t really coping very well, I was definitely extremely aggressive and would fight at the drop of a hat, in fact I was turning into a complete idiot.
Flashbacks and intrusive thoughts were part of the norm and could seriously distract me for some minutes. Trying to forget my experiences was not an option it was there etched on my mind making me a ticking time bomb. Being in so much debt and floundering around, my wife talked me into getting in touch with SSAFA who helped us get back onto our feet and they advised me of Veterans’ NHS Wales but being a proud man I just thought I could carry on as normal. What a fool. After having a bad nightmare and hitting out at my wife I had to bite the bullet and lose my pride and called phone the number that I was given.
I spoke to someone in Cardiff that said that there was changes happening in the service that would cause a backlog with initial assessments, thinking that was me getting fobbed off again I forgot about it. Out of the blue a letter arrived inviting me for an initial assessment at Pontypool, County Hospital. I was nervous, in fact, very, very nervous. My wife came to be my rock. The assessment was extremely emotional with me just blurting out loads of experiences to the poor veteran therapist who just seemed to take it all in and listened. My god, the first time somebody except my wife was actually listening and taking notes.
Being told that she believed I was suffering from PTSD just made me think that I was going mad, a nutter. I need a shrink to help me cope, what a weak man, Jesus you’re losing your mind. Yes, it seemed quite easy once I’d told my life story to the veteran therapist. I wanted to stick with someone I trusted. Trauma focused CBT - when you first start treatment you mentally and physically have to force yourself to attend the treatment sessions because you dread looking, thinking, dreaming about your past and the sights that you’ve seen. When you’re in the swing of things it starts feeling quite normal and interesting, sounds weird but I wanted to learn more. At the end of treatment if feels like you’re losing something, security blanket springs to mind but now I feel I can help other sufferers.
With the help of medication life does start feeling as though your mind can be bordering on the side of normality. The skills that you learn in treatment helps so much that it can snap you back to reality so quick. Physically I don’t think I’ve ever been so fit, it was a way of working through my treatment. I now feel as though I can talk to people about PTSD and sights that I’ve seen despite the sights being so cruel – which I can also edit for other peoples sake. In fact, the way I opened up to family and friends was at my wedding in the groom’s speech. Spur of the moment I decided to forget my written speech and told everyone what hell I’d put my wife through and how much she has helped keeping me on the straight and narrow. Social functioning, ha!, what’s that? Due to my wife’s work patterns we don’t have a social life which happily suits me fine, don’t do mixing with civvies.
Mental health is a sickness, it’s not the plague or leprosy, you have a right to lead a normal life but to do this you have to listen to your veteran therapist and if set tasks carry them out. It’s not worth lying to them. How can they know if things are getting better if you’re going to be a looser and not tell the truth? In the end the only one you’re lying to is yourself. If I was asked to assess Veterans' NHS Wales I’d say they are bloody fantastic, look at what they have done to me. I was a complete and utter wreck and now I have got the confidence to address my issues and volunteered to stand in front of professionals to help them understand us, the forgotten ones.
I was reluctant to ask for help off anybody and thought if I just carried on, time would be a healer, but after 13 years of avoiding my PTSD symptoms it was worse than ever. I was pushing my life to the limits at every opportunity either driving fast or riding my motorcycle to the limit. I was getting into debt, and then I finally heard of my two friends who committed suicide. I finished work for the first time in my life to receive treatment it was a risky move but I had no choice. I finally listened to my wife, to see a doctor or that's it.
The Doctor diagnosed me with Severe PTSD. I was reluctant to talk about my past, it had been a while but still felt like last week. I was so angry but sad inside, over thinking everything, this was my end. I had written letters and diaries of how I felt, and every time I read them I hated the person I had become. I thought I had nothing to lose, so I spoke to a therapist.
I knew it would be me and them and it would be confidential which was really important as this was my biggest secret! I felt at ease with my therapist who targeted my issues and prioritised my immediate thoughts in order to become more stable. Then we began analyzing my thoughts. It was welcoming to hear that I was not alone and I didn't have to feel so guilty having another point of view from the therapist did really help. I know my PTSD will never be healed but I am now in charge of it rather than it being in charge of me. My veterans therapist saved my life and I, my wife and two little boys will always be thankful, I gave trauma focused therapy a go and it saved my life. What have you got to lose?
After completing 14 years as an infantry soldier it was time for me to hang my boots up and leave the Army. Having sustained injuries during my service I was medically discharged June 2013.
I completed 3 tours during my period Kosovo and two Iraq. As many before me the time spent in these places seemed great, you finally got to do your role as an infantry soldier.
Every situation you faced you knew you had the companionship and support from your fellow soldiers. This was all too good until the dreadful day of when you leave and you realise for the first time you are by yourself.
After leaving I thought that I had the necessary skills to progress in my new life but little to my knowledge was that inside I was actually struggling. My wife informed me that I was becoming a different person and that I was moody, anti-social and would not interact. I passed this off thinking I’ve been like this for years. The only time I thought she was right was when fireworks went off in my town and the activity actually scared me and I had to go inside.
This carried on and I could eventually see a different side to myself. I couldn’t engage I was aggressive and distanced myself from those I love.
I eventually went to the GP and spoke to a nurse who informed that I could be struggling with PTSD. I laughed at this and thought not me. I was given information to which my surprise summed me up to a T.
I had my first session in the January 2014. When I got there I thought this would be a waste of time but once the talking started I never actually stopped for 2 hours.
I had many sessions with my therapist where he gave me guidance and knowledge to understand my condition and recognise the signs. He also helped me through the difficulties I faced in the work place and we discussed that it’s ok to have a break and actually relax.
My therapist become a pillar in my life and managed to influence me in a positive way to which I am going to pass on to others and work towards becoming a counsellor which I start this year September 2015. With the experiences and knowledge gained I will endeavour to make a change and aid those who like me require it
Without the aid of Veterans’ NHS Wales I would not have been able to change my ways and not come to the terms of my PTSD. I recognise and can adapt to certain situations. I understand that I have a long way to go but with the tools I have been shown and the full support of all Veterans’ NHS Wales I believe that I can have a better quality of life.
I hope that if you are reading this that you at least make contact and start making changes in your life.
This service has helped me overcome my trauma. I have had a lot of treatments over the years to help me deal with my madness – this has been the first time that I have been shown how past trauma can affect present trauma, and in doing so allowed me to see the whole picture for the first time. This has allowed me to understand how my anxieties were all part of the picture. Now, without them, it feels better and at the same time scary, as I have no excuse for my bad behaviour. Thank you for all your help. I am very grateful.
I have decided to speak out about my experience's in the Royal Air Force, and other law enforcement agencies, as I believe there may be a reluctance to confront or admit deep feelings by ex servicemen outside the 'normally' perceived role of the front line direct combat veterans. I do not intend to undermine the extreme horrors witnessed and experienced by the combat specific men and women of recent conflicts, but would seek to include the sometimes equally harrowing experiences of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, and the support and reserve/territorial contingents, and more.
I served in the RAF from the late 60's in to the late 70's in a trade group that sometimes brought me in to direct contact with conflict and causalities. I specifically chose this role at the age of 17 years, and experienced events that were to remain with me, and revisit me sporadically throughout my subsequent years in law enforcement until my recent retirement. I realise now that these experiences have been lurking in my subconscious since that time, suffering the classic symptoms of a stress related psychological issue. These came to a fore in 2010 when I suffered a significant brain trauma, and after recovering to a certain extent from the physiological effects, the deeply disturbing memories from my earlier service came to revisit me with a vengeance.
My personality changed in the extreme after this event, and caused me some fairly traumatic problems. I suffered behavioural issues, depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other symptoms that I did not realise were all related to my my previous career. My GP treated my symptoms with medication, but urged me to seek specialist help from professionals who dealt specifically with these 'problems'. I refused being referred for Psychological assessment several times, but eventually agreed as my life was not as it should be, and I was beginning to realise that something was amiss. I saw and was assessed by the appropriate specialists, who diagnosed a possible form of PTSD, either related to military service or the traumatic brain injury, or a combination of both.
I was referred to the Veterans' NHS Wales service, but declined the offer of treatment as I was of the opinion that this service was intended for recent combatants returning from the more recent Afghan and Iraq theatres of conflict. I did not want to take up the time and resources that I thought other servicemen were more deserving of. I resisted for some time until persuaded by the continuing decline of the quality of my life, and the insistence of my GP. After an initial assessment by a Veterans Therapist I was diagnosed as suffering with PTSD, which was in some ways a relief, as I now had an answer, and something I could start to focus on and with the aid of the Veterans Service, possibly relieve myself of this burden.
I have recently almost completed a course of treatment which was in itself harrowing initially, but which got progressively more productive as I was shown how to address the negative aspects of my reasoning, which I had been nurturing for many many years and which had become a habit. I have been given the tools to understand and process my thoughts in a more realistic and positive way, and I have become far more content and am actually beginning to enjoy and appreciate the good things in my life.
I still have dreams, I still remember some of those events, and never really want to forget them, but I am now far more able to see them, and judge them in a more pragmatic way. The treatment is almost complete! Am I glad I sought help? Absolutely. I will never forget those events, they are part of my life, and should never be denied. The essence of my message is that psychological issues such as PTSD are not the exclusive domain of the 'front line' soldier. Be you Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, British Army, and believe you are suffering because of a traumatic event of any nature, I would urge you to seek out the services of Veterans' NHS Wales Service. They really can, and will try and help you, they did me, and I will never regret making that decision, don't suffer in silence. Good luck.
I was a medic for 6 years. I deployed on two operational tours (Telic, Herrick). I noticed after my most recent tour that “things” where different about me. I felt anxious, jumpy and unable to maintain focus in life. I would use very appalling coping mechanisms such as drinking every day, the use of drugs and keeping thoughts and feelings bottled in. I managed to live like that for four years before finally it become extremely overwhelming and had to seek help. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that there was a problem and it was never mentioned in conversation. I felt that I was weak if I had a problem and was living in denial.
I started to attended therapy sessions with a veteran therapist from Veterans' NHS Wales. It took me a while to get use to the treatment. After a few months I noticed that the treatment was working. I did have minor slip ups along the way but with the support and advice from my therapist I was back on track making progress. I learnt a lot of new ways to cope with my mental health. There are many coping mechanisms available and it’s just finding the ones that work best for you.
A message I would put out to any serving / ex-serving men and women of the British forces is to seek help if you are experiencing any mental health issues ideally whilst in service or when they leave. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Don’t keep them bottled up!! Seek help!!
I served nearly 25 years in the British Army in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. On my second tour of Afghanistan during combat operations, I was exposed to the true horrors of war. As the Company Sergeant Major, one of my responsibilities was casualty management. Throughout this tour I dealt with countless casualties which included soldiers wounded and killed in action, wounded and dead insurgents, wounded and dead civilians including women and children. I also dealt with the aftermath of a suicide attack which was dreadful. For me the ‘near misses’ did not seem to effect me but the dead and injured civilians really did.
It was on my third tour of Afghanistan when the acute sign of PTSD hit me. It is important to understand that from the point of being exposed to the traumatic events and from experiencing the acute signs of PTSD was four years! Although there were the ‘warning signs’ that things were not right in my life (e.g. showing signs of avoidance) between the time of exposure to the traumatic events there was no obvious signs of mental health problems. When the acute signs of PTSD hit me it was horrible, I could not stop crying, things started to slow down around me, I starting having nightmares, seeing images of dead people the anxiety was horrendous. I felt ashamed for what I did.
As I was still serving, the Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) provided care and treatment. This included medication and therapy (EMDR and CBT). For two years I received treatment but I was barely holding my head above water, fighting the illness, trying to do my job and hiding my illness. Although, I was slowly getting better, life was a real challenge. I used to sit on my bed before work and cry then wipe my eyes and go into work. I used to cry when I left home Monday morning and again when my wife picked me up at the station at the end of the week. I knew that the ‘environment’ was not aiding my recovery. I was finally medically discharged in 2014.
After I left the Army I continued to take my medication but I I knew that I needed more treatment. This became clear when I started my first civilian job because after six weeks I started to rapidly go down hill again. Things got that bad that I went on the sick and then a few weeks later I handed in my notice. It was during this time when I contacted Veterans’ NHS Wales.
In my time in the Army, after being under the care of three separate DCMH’s with a mixture of positive and negative experiences, I was sceptical that the NHS in Wales could provide the level of care that I desired.
In my experiences, I consider this bespoke unit of NHS Wales to be excellent. The Veteran Therapist (VT) that provided me treatment was outstanding. I found that she had a holistic approach to treatment. That is, as well providing therapy, she took into account all the factors that would affect my recovery. For example, in our sessions, she explored how my home life, my work environment and wellbeing of other family members could impact my recovery. She suggested ways to combat problems in these areas. Furthermore, she gained regular updates from the CMHT regarding my response to medication. The actual therapy that she provided was Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). CPT helped me, by giving me a new way to handle my distressing thoughts and helped me gain an understanding of these events. CPT helped me learn how going through a trauma changed the way you look at the world, yourself, and others. I soon learnt that the way I thought and looked at things directly affects how we feel and act.
I would consider Veterans’ NHS Wales as a superb example and the ‘Gold Standard’ on how mental health care for veterans should be delivered. This standard of service must be rolled out across UK. Thank you Veterans’ NHS Wales!
After serving four years in The Royal Fusiliers, at twenty-two years I left the Army and the job I had lined up fell through. I had recently bought a house for my new young family. I quickly declined mentally and my sleep would average two to three hours a night. I would lash out and become very self-loathing because of my time in Afghanistan. I felt like I deserved more for what I was put through during my tour. Then when I gained nice things or times I would quickly ruin it in a self-destructive manner. It began to have a huge effect on my home life and as my daughter got older I realised I couldn’t carry on living the way I was – as it would have an immediate effect on her. I contacted my doctor and was put on various medications and I quickly became worse. My last option was therapy. I was given a very experienced ex-serving therapist who could really relate to me. I was given the skills and confidence to deal with my issues in a positive way. I will always be grateful for the time and professionalism as I feel they genuinely saved my life. To all the staff at Veterans Wales, thank you and I owe all my future success to you all.
My story is rather different to most of those helped by Veterans NHS Wales. I left the Army in 1998 aged 55. During my 29 years of service, I experienced many potentially hazardous events, but none caused me lasting trauma.
In 2013 I ruptured my oesophagus and was taken by ambulance to hospital. Unfortunately, I was misdiagnosed as having had a “coronary event” and was put in a side room on the cardiac ward. Twenty-four hours after admission a doctor discovered that the pressure of blood and stomach contents which had leaked into my chest cavity through the rupture had caused my right lung to collapse. I was suffering from severe sepsis and my condition was critical.
I was transferred to another hospital for an emergency operation which, against expectation I survived, but spent three weeks in an induced coma, paralysed and on life support as the staff struggled to defeat the sepsis. I spent five weeks in ITU and nearly three months in hospital. One of the consequences of an induced coma is PTSD, which was exacerbated by the sepsis.
I suffered delirium, hallucinations and nightmares throughout my time in hospital, based largely on my military experiences, but twisted and magnified out of all proportion; they were terrifying and remained with me. But I was not told I had PTSD for over two years, and even then was not offered treatment.
Five years later, concerned at the continuing lack of sepsis awareness across the Health Board, I gave a series of talks to hospital staff on the importance of rapid diagnosis and treatment of sepsis, culminating in addressing a large sepsis conference in November 2018.
However, repeatedly revisiting my experiences was traumatic and brought the PTSD to a head again. The nightmares and flashbacks were ever-present and devastating. I couldn’t sleep and was diagnosed by my GP as being severely depressed. My behaviour was erratic and unpredictable and I frequently couldn’t contain my frustrations. My wife was both concerned and frightened. So was I, but I still insisted that I could handle things and didn’t need help.
Then one evening my wife saw an interview on television of a serviceman who had been treated by Veterans NHS Wales and she suggested that I contact them. But it was only after a particularly traumatic outburst that I finally admitted, as much to myself as my wife, that I needed help. I was still reluctant to ring though, as I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted as I had left the Army twenty years previously and the trauma was a result of the twisting of my military experiences by the combination of induced coma and sepsis.
My wife put the ‘phone in my hand and said “ring now”. I did and the lady I spoke to could not have been more kind or understanding. She arranged a telephone triage with one of the therapists, which was followed by a face-to-face meeting. The therapist told me that I would be taken on and treated, and that I would be cured. This was such a firm and positive assurance that it gave me confidence that I could perhaps be well again.
Following a short wait for a slot I started treatment in June 2019. At first, I was puzzled why my weekly sessions with the therapist were largely conversational, but this gave time for us to get to know and trust each other.
When the actual therapy started, I found it demanding but manageable. I was never pushed too far and sessions always ended with the therapist ensuring that I was settled and content to leave. She would also emphasise the gains I had made and was never anything but positive and encouraging. Yes, it was hard at times, but I could see progress after each session as more of what had caused me trauma was addressed and the burden of it was reduced.
It took time to work through the trauma, but as well as treating the PTSD, the therapist gave me ways of coping with the chronic pain from the physical damage done to me by the sepsis. These tools I have found invaluable and use them daily to good effect.
I was assured that, no matter how long it took, the therapy would continue; reassurance I was grateful for. The therapist also told me that I would know once I was cured, something I found difficult to believe at the time, but it was true. After a session, which I took to be part of the ongoing treatment, I suddenly realised that I was cured and that the weight of PTSD had been lifted.
I have had a one-month follow-up contact and will have a six month and twelve month contact to check I am OK. Most reassuringly the therapist promised that should I need help in future, all I have to do is ring and help will be there.
If you are reading this, you will already be on the Veterans NHS Wales website. Your next move should be to ring and ask for help – you will get it and it will change your life. Remember, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of courage.