POST Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often mentioned in the media but what is the reality behind the headlines for those living with a sufferer? Mother-of-three Rachel is all too aware. In 2010, “the wheels came off the trolley” when her husband Jack was diagnosed with PTSD and Dissociative Disorder…
FOR me there had been a slow downward spiral of stress and anxiety with him worrying about work things and having a shorter fuse at home.
Jack spent nine weeks in a German hospital and ten months out of uniform. He was then able to return to work whilst continuing to have weekly treatment.
Although managing to carry out his duties to a high standard, he couldn’t deal with work and family life. At home he struggled and I found it hard to cope with my family and friends being so far away.
Hoping for change
At the end of 2012 we were posted back to the UK and hoped for a new start, but as the months have passed Jack has become more ill. He finds sudden or loud noises unbearable, frequently asking the children to be quieter.
Recently, I was in a church with our three-year-old daughter when she said “we should bring daddy here because it’s very quiet”.
I find mental illness very isolating because Jack has found it difficult to come to terms with his diagnosis. Initially he didn’t want me to tell anyone why he was in hospital or off work. I couldn’t speak to friends about it and had to make excuses.
Jack is emotionally very detached, particularly from me. He is incredibly tired and has to lie down to sleep or withdraw throughout the day. He finds social situations very difficult and avoids them if he can.
I go to lots of things on my own with the children. He gets stressed and anxious, obsessive and agitated. It is on-going.
Jack is also very good at putting on a mask as he has done for quite some time when necessary. Some friends say to me “oh, he seems fine” and “but he’s got so much going for him”.
It has been hard to find support and someone to talk to about my situation and Jack’s condition. I discovered the SSAFA Families of Injured Service Personnel (FISP) support group and attended a meeting in Manchester.
One of the main topics was PTSD and a highlight for me was to sit down with a support group project worker and discuss the disorder.
This gave both my eldest daughter and I the opportunity to find out more about the illness and ask questions with a health professional; something we hadn’t been able to do before.
Attending the FISP support group was the only external support I had received since moving back to the UK.
As the children have got older they have become more affected by their daddy’s illness. My husband has recently been in hospital again and I have had to be everything for everyone. I have to deal with my own desperation and worry and that of my children too.
A close friend suggested that I contact Young Carers, which I did and was eventually referred to Rethink, a national mental illness organisation. I was also put in touch with Home-Start.
Since joining Rethink I have been able to talk to people in a similar situation as myself and this has really helped.
Does Rachel’s situation sound familiar? You can access support here:
• Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner’s chain of command or encourage your soldier to do so
• SSAFA FISP support group ssafasupportgroups.org.uk/fisp
• Rethink Mental Illness www.rethink.org
• Young carers www.youngcarers.net
• Help for Heroes www.helpforheroes.org.uk
• Home-Start www.home-start.org.uk
• Click on the PTSD health advice at www.rcpsych.ac.uk
• Visit www.mind.org.uk for further information on Dissociative Disorder
• Joining Forces app available to download
• Combat Stress/Rethink 24-hour helpline – Freephone: 0800 138 1619
• AFF’s Health & Additional Needs Specialist, Karen Ross firstname.lastname@example.org