Yes, I have been there

I was in Bosnia in 1993 for 6 months. During that time (supposedly as UNHCR) we were:

  • Shot at.
  • Caught in the cross fire of other warring factions.
  • Had artillery shells and Mortars fired at us (and I mean within feet of where we were).
  • We had little rations.
  • Ran out of water.
  • And were on 2 hour readiness to bug out.

“You can go to the ranges and serve in the butts but no-one can prepare you for the feeling of coming under fire.”

The feeling of helplessness, fear and the thought of dying are emotions thankfully most people do not have to deal with many times in their lives. To have to deal with these emotions on more than 12 times in just a few weeks e.g.:

  • Having artillery shells explode so close to you that you can hear the shell above your head rotating.
  • The force of the blast and the heat and noise generated is un-imaginable to those who have not been there.
  • Being shelled without warning and totally unprovoked, everyday at lunchtime for over a week is scary.
  • Being woken at 4.30 in the morning by mortar shells exploding so close to the building you are sleeping in that it rocks the whole place violently…

“These are extremely frightening experiences to put it mildly.”

I won’t go into my personal experiences any more than this here but suffice to say they were enough to ruin a 8 year career in the ARMY. I gave up certain promotion and have suffered for 9 years since my tour.

I have had the:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Anxiety
  • Shakes
  • Sweats
  • Paranoia and everything’s else that goes with that…

Oh! and not to mention the:

  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Complete loss of pride & dignity.

I have nearly committed suicide to the point that I would have nightmares where I would jump with the rope around my neck and then awake as the rope snapped.

“I’d say I’ve been there?”

I never got any help until it was almost too late. I was saved by 3 amazing ladies from America. Sandy, Marci & Betty. All were trying to help ex-service personal and that is why I do what I do now.

I am trying to provide information and help to other people so that they won’t have to go to the places I have been, do the things I have had to do and suffer the unimaginable pain and suffering I have had to endure during the past 9 years. No-one can possibly imaging the loneliness , isolation and despair that comes as part of the territory of suffering with PTSD. Only those who have got PTSD will ever know.

I have been to Audley Court myself and Tyrwhitt House. They are both good places in there own way. No they do not suit everyone and I did not get on at all in Tyrwhitt House (in fact I left on the second occasion and refused to go back) but that was me. There are many thousands of people who have benefited from Combat Stress and as they are the only people who really care about us and provide information and help, I for one can only thank them for this.

True they might not be your cup-of-tea but unless you give them a chance you will never know. You cannot drink alcohol and they don’t tolerate bad behaviour! Okay you might not like that but there are a lot of vulnerable people there and I do not think that 2 weeks without a drink is too much to ask for the help they can give in return.

“You need to go there in the right frame of mind and with an open mind to help and support.”

They do not pry or harass you but instead provide a stable environment with others who are suffering like you and if you want… they will listen, advise and give help. There are group and one-to-one sessions for you to attend and the onus is on you to be open enough to accept the help they are offering.

That said, it took me several visits before I really relaxed enough to get any benefit from the place. I was really screwed up though and it took a lot of time to sort out my head. I now have no job and a 50% War Pension (service attributable to PTSD). The little money that gives me and my state benefit does not come near to the £17,000 job I lost because of PTSD but then I am still alive, getting better and now trying to help others who really want the help… and those that don’t YET!

I hope that I have helped relieve your concerns about me? If you still need any further proof then read all the messages (from people like us) in my guest book:

http://www.ptsd.org.uk/guest_book.htm

http://www.ptsd.org.uk/guest_book_archived_messages_1.htm

http://www.ptsd.org.uk/guest_book_archived_messages_2.htm

These are written by fellow sufferers and these people really know what it is like to suffer.
I hope to hear from you again so that I can help you if you want me too?

“I am not a medical person, just a fellow sufferer who will provide an ear for you to talk to, whether you want to moan, cry or just talk. I never judge and your confidence is always the most important thing to me. It will never be broken.”

Take care my friends.

Andy

One Response to Yes, I have been there

  1. Hilary Horton says:

    Hello Andy

    Thank you for this website and the compassion you show others. A rare thing theses days. I just wanted to say hello as a fellow sufferer and comrade.

    I am a retired nursing officer from the RAF. Diagnosed with severe PTSD and compassion fatigue in 2004 following my tour in IRAQ. As a clinician I refused to accept the diagnosis and suffered the terrible symptoms and loneliness of PTSD for 5 years before an emotional collapse led my GP to organising emergency treatment for me under the care of NHS Psychiatrist and mental health team. I made a good recovery following definitive Emdr treatment and Psycholological therapy and am back working clinically now. But like you PTSD never leaves and one of the worst symptoms for me is ‘emotional numbness’ which has meant a single life since 2004
    I have been asked by the veteran group to start a PTSD club/support group…what do you think? Would it work? What form would it take? I must says since I wrote and published a paper on what happens when the doctors and nurses get PTSD? I have been inundated with requests of help from all sorts of people particularly in the emergency services; and this week a train company has asked if I could help a train driver back to work after recovery from PTSD resulting from fatality on his train line.

    I have studied the American way of handling PTSD at some length among the Vietnam vets and am encouraged and inspired by the idea that recovery can be helped by story telling in a safe environment; and not a clinical setting. What do you think?

    Look forward to hearing from you but will understand if I don’t. And well done Andy reaching out to others is more than a lot of Professionals dare do on this subject.

    Kindest regards

    Hilary

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