Veteran’s Voice is an account of how PTSD and Post Trauma Response is a reaction to being exposed to an event, which is outside the range of normal human experience. It is a normal human emotional reaction to an abnormalsituation. Everyone reacts differently to different situations and it doesn’t have to be a life threatening experience for someone to respond in this way. It just has to be perceived by the victim as a traumatic event. It is a psychological phenomenon. It is an emotional condition, from which it is possible to make a full and complete recovery.

Micky Barrett left the Army in 2005. He was looking forward to going home to see his family and catch up with some of his old friends.

To say that the world outside had changed was an understatement. Teenage boys were starting to look more and more like teenage girls and vice versa. Brutal attacks and fights that broke out on the streets were between friends. It seemed as if these young men and women just didn’t care. His country, the country he was proud of, that he had fought for and tried to make a better place for everyone in it, was falling apart.

He tried to find work on the outside but there was nothing to suit him. In his most desperate days, he ended up drinking with friends, some he knew from before his army days and some were new acquaintances. Drinking alcohol had become the only way he could get to sleep and even then it was intermittent. He was tired all of the time.

Jenny, his on and off girlfriend, noticed how he had changed since his homecoming. The spark that was there when he used to come home on leave was gone. He never seemed to get excited or motivated about anything. She told him to get help because his anger was becoming uncontrollable and at times he scared her.

After seven months as a civilian, he managed to get a small flat in the centre of town after being successful at an interview for a plastics processing factory. The job was a doddle to him and he couldn’t quite grasp how the other men were always moaning about either their shift pattern or how much work they had to do.

He just got on with whatever it was that needed to be done and didn’t complain. When work slowed down, he would paint a floor or clear and wash out a cupboard. He had to be doing something. The others hated him for this because his behaviour only exposed their incompetence and made them look lazy and useless. Which in many cases, they were. 

One afternoon, Morris, one of the men on his shift knocked a steel drum off of a ledge and it sounded like gunshot. Micky collapsed in seconds to the floor and although some of the other men just stared at him in shock, Morris laughed out loud at his reaction.

Curled up in a shaking heap on the floor, Micky tried to stand up but his body was frozen. The shift manager came through and cleared the area, telling everyone to get out. Jake, the shift manager was a veteran soldier too and knew what he was witnessing.

He sat down on the floor with Micky and waited with him until he felt safe enough to sit up. In Jakes office, he managed to ground him, back to the here and now, asking him questions about his parents, their dogs, his girlfriend and what he was doing for Christmas.

Micky, still not breathing properly, answered all the questions and said that he felt better. Jake sent him home and told him to stay away until he had been given an appointment to see the company EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) counselling service.

It was during EMDR (Eye Movement Dissociation Therapy), that Micky realised how he fitted the criteria exactly for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and associated symptoms. It explained his explosive anger and depressive episodes. He reported that he had never been seen, diagnosed or treated for any emotional issues and didn’t understand any of it.

The therapist explained how traumatic information can be stored in the brain to act as a reminder of similar incidents – pattern matching, every twist and turn, sounds, colours, even tastes and smells. She described how the incident at work had triggered his parasympathetic nervous system and prepared him for fight or flight. However, in this instance, he had gone into freeze mode and was unable to do either.

Over time, the EMDR and interventions of VKD (Visual Kinaesthetic Dissociation), helped him to process all the details of every traumatic incident or near death experience that he had ever experienced. It was a hard road for him, having to revisit every horrific moment that he had experienced, especially from his time in Bosnia.

His family noticed how much he was slowly changing, he was calmer and more approachable. Jenny had begun to warm to him more, so much so that they decided to get married.

Micky decided that he could never go back to the job at the plastics factory because he didn’t trust himself not to kill Morris who had laughed at him. So he found a new and more exciting job with a security firm within the leisure industry.

Unfortunately, not all veterans’ lives pan out, so positively like Micky’s did. Often homeless and lost, many end up being ravaged by drugs and alcohol in an attempt to stop the horrors that they have witnessed from playing over and over again in their minds. Private therapy costs money and often, ex-servicemen and women

simply can’t afford it and so they add to the relentless long waiting lists for NHS assistance.

Thank goodness though, that there are services available to assist ex service personnel, such as SAAFA and Walking with the Wounded, Help for Heroes and similar. They are owed so much more, but many would settle for just being given some respect in terms of how they are treated when they come home.

Sue J Daniels
MBACP & UKRC (Snr Accred).
EMDR Accredited Practitioner
Professional Counsellor &
Trauma Specialist

 

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