It’s a difficult time of year for those who have Served or are serving in the Armed Forces with PTSD.
The seasons are changing, the clocks have gone back, the leaves are falling and the nights are darker than ever. For many of us the coming and going of the seasons highlights forthcoming celebration days. Days we stop for just once in a year to pay particular heed to a national or personal tradition.
October 31st brings Halloween, an imported ‘holiday’, a day that barely used to register other than the horror films shown on TV and the extra large pumpkin displays in supermarkets. Now the ‘spooktacular’ time of year seems to infiltrate every corner of modern society, with decorations adoring every other household in many towns and cities. Children dress up in costumes and paint their faces ready for a gleeful evening of ‘trick or treating’ on their neighbours.
All fun? No harm? For most this is a fun time of year to indulge in some light-hearted festivities. But what about for our Serving Personnel and Veterans who suffer from emotional conditions such as PTSD? Or the family members of those who have been physically injured in action. For them a strange, random knock at the door has a very different meaning than an innocent ‘trick or treating’ child will intend.
Tensions can build and the ripple effect can be felt through everyday life, at home, in relationships and at work.
“Halloween is a bitter-sweet sensation: on the one hand my grandchildren love the colours, the masks, the dressing up, the trick and treating – on the other hand as a mother of a physically injured serviceman I busy myself indoors trying to block out the potential trigger from yet another ‘knock on the door’.”
Mother of a Physically Injured Veteran and Ripple Pond member
Less than a week later and it’s Guy Fawkes, another time of year steeped in the tradition of celebration. Local organisations vie for attendance by putting on bigger, better and louder displays of jaw-dropping fireworks and bonfires. The smell of smoke and gun powder, the jostle of crowds and the ‘ooo’s’ and ‘ahhh’s’ of spectators at the tremendous bangs and flashing lights.
All fun? No harm? For most it’s a time to wrap up warm and enjoy getting out in the cold with family and friends. But what of our Serving Personnel and Veterans who have combat PTSD? Who served in war zones where the smell and sounds of an explosion mean something very different. Where in some way or another, their lives changed for ever, whether through a physical injury or emotional difficulties.
And what of their family and friends who support their loved one through the horrors they face over again with every bang?
“The apprehension and tension is worse than our every day life, as he could just go off at any minute.
This is not a life”
Partner of a Veteran with PTSD and Ripple Pond member
A week later again and it’s Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. An important time of tradition in the British culture to remember the fallen. This year the Royal British Legion put emphasis on remembering not only those who had fallen during The Great War and World War 2, but also those who have fallen in more recent conflicts. The cost to human life is astronomical, in lives lost and those who’s lives have been changed through conflict.
For those who return home physically injured the price is often self evident. The rehabilitation, re-training, adjusting to a new way of living and learning to live again is less obvious. As are the scars of the incident that injured them, haunting sights, smells and feelings that don’t just disappear. For their family members, they also have to learn to adjust their way of life, their life expectations have to change and they have to cope with the inevitable hurt of watching their loved one suffer both physically and emotionally. They also have to manage the trauma of finding that someone they love is miles from home in a dangerous place and has been injured. Many of them don’t know if their loved one will make it home alive. This is no small hurdle to overcome, even once their loved on is on the road to recovery.
Regardless of the war or era, those who come home in one physical piece are seen as the ‘lucky’ ones, but quite often their battle is only just beginning. The war inside; remembering lost friends and the guilt of surviving, and flashbacks and nightmares of situations most could never dream of. Their injuries are internal and less obvious, but it’s important we remember them and what they have sacrificed for our nation. The life the family members forgo to support the loved one who is struggling emotionally doesn’t return. Whether it’s ‘walking on eggshells’, seeking support, preparing for potential triggers or watching the person you love struggle to live with themselves, life has changed and rarely goes back to how it was. How can it?
We cannot carry our members through the hard times, we cannot force them to keep going, to keep supporting their injured loved one and we cannot force them to take care of themselves. But we can be here walking beside every single member whenever they need us. We will support them by providing a listening ear, a supportive word, signposting to other organisations and by ensuring they never feel alone.
“Although I am a newbie here. speaking to you on the phone made me feel I was not alone and being on this group even for the short time has given me hope. I know it’s not an easy road I am going to walk to help my OH but I will walk it with the support of the lovely members here”
Ripple Pond member supporting her husband