One of our members has kindly and very bravely shared her lived experience of the impact of her husbands service related mental health. This is totally unedited and the words as written.
When I was asked to write this blog for mental health week I did have to have a think about doing it because I wasn’t sure if I ready to talk about the struggles I faced behind closed doors. I will leave things out that I don’t feel ready to share but this is my story.
I met my husband when I was 21, he had been out the army a year and wasn’t in a good way and I was 21 with no idea what PTSD was and the effects it would have.
When we first got together we had both been working full time he tried so hard as many do to hide the night terrors away from me. He struggled in the jobs he was working so he swopped and changed quite a bit. He was also just starting with combat stress who later turned out to be useless.
The last time my husband worked was 2012 he lost it when used a scape goat to get back at my father. He tried to pull the supervisor through a hatch window in the office. Little did I know then that I would have to give up work, he started to forget to turn the cooker off and having pan fires or dissociate leave the house and forget who or where he was. I was frightened and had no clue what to do or who to turn to and actually felt quite alone.
I ended up having to give up work for 6 years. Fought to get him the help and support he needed. Combat stress wouldn’t help as he was to complex for him. NHS didn’t really understand and some things that he just could not discuss. Our relationship with our family struggled as he was so up and down and again I felt like I had to choose them or us, even though he said I didn’t need to choose them. I would attend family gatherings by myself most of the time and if he came I couldn’t really relax I was always watching for things which may set him off, we always have 2 fronts the normal one we want people to see and what is really going on when its just me and him. I think it changed me as a person. I think during this period my mental health got effected aswell and didn’t really have time for myself or give myself time. So I do what most people do and comfort eat putting on a shed load of weight. He also gambled a lot and we would struggle for money.
I couldn’t have a carers assessment because he wouldn’t talk to them so I couldn’t have the extra to be able to do nice things for me.
Back in 2015 I pushed him to join a group activity that he would enjoy made him go by himself and put himself out there and little did I know this would have a massive impact on both of our lives. He started to get a purpose back attending every event didn’t matter where in the county or Europe it was. I also met a lovely lady who became one of my best friends whose husband suffered like mine. He then also did another activity run for veterans which helped him even more.
In 2016 I decided it was time to do something for me and I trekked the Great Wall of China with help for heroes. This was for me a very tough experience and looking back I should have done more training but I managed 3 days before my lack of confidence got the better of me and I gave up (this is the first time I am really admitting it), I felt guilty for letting the team down and being to slow which effected my mental health and I think if it wasn’t for my friend back home talking to me I would have done something silly.
I then went on to complete my training for complimentary therapy. I have also managed to go on holiday by myself with my best friend and also spa days and just generally taking more care of myself.
It was there I decided I wanted to go into healthcare and applied for a job which I didn’t think I would get and now a year in I am loving it and looking to better myself, all with the support of my husband. Although he has struggled with his own problems he has always been my biggest supporter.
I would not say he cured of PTSD as I don’t think that will ever get better but I would say we are in a better place now. We still have our bad periods but I have taken a “put on your big girls pants” approach. I will always fight to get him the help and support he needs and fight for others to.
Something I have learnt along the way is its important to have time to yourself to switch off and enjoy being normal and not “wife” or “carer” and to remember I am not on my own there are others who will support you.