A military veteran from south Cumbria is urging other veterans to ask for support in dealing with the effects of witnessing traumatic events while serving in the British Army.
After years of trying to cope with the effects himself he asked for help and the first step service changed his life for the better. After finally seeking help he now has the tools to help him deal with the feelings he was dealing with and wishes he had asked for help sooner.
From 1975 – 2013 Brian from south Cumbria was a serving soldier in the British Army. He was one of the many soldiers who were sent to defend the Falkland Islands in 1982 and it was there that he saw first-hand the horror of war.
His Regiment went into Port Stanley the day following the surrender of the Argentinians and as a very young Lance Corporal of 23 years old he saw the dead bodies of enemy soldiers violently killed for the first time.
Ever since that first night in Port Stanley, Brian has suffered extremely distressing nightmares. They are so real that he screams out in his sleep and wakes up sweating and terrified.
He said: “I have suffered from these nightmares for years and it may seem hard to understand for other people but to me they are very real and they are often terrifying. I knew that I needed help, but being military I didn’t want to ask for it, I was embarrassed and ashamed. One night I nearly attacked my wife believing that she was the enemy trying to attack me.
“I was mortified and realised that I couldn’t go on like that, but I still didn’t want to ask for help from the military. I went to my GP about something unrelated and I mentioned my nightmares. He recommended that I contact First Step which is run by the NHS in Cumbria.
“The service I received was really wonderful. I had my first telephone consultation within a week or so and then after that within 2 or 3 weeks I started with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and I had this regularly every week. Dawn, the CPN, was very kind and understanding and put things in to perspective for me and actually helped by to ‘ground’ myself quicker following the nightmares. Dawn then referred me to Nikki for some EMDR treatment, which didn’t really work for me, but the discussions I had with Nikki did.
“They have helped me so much. Although I do still get the nightmares they aren’t as bad and when I do I know how to calm myself down much quicker and ground myself.”
Brian only asked for help once he had left the army and he was still hesitant about getting help, even though he knew he could from a range of organisations.
“I know that it is daft now but being from a military background I didn’t want to go to a military charity, I really was embarrassed and ashamed and I felt I would be judged. That’s why the NHS route suited me and was something that I felt comfortable with. The fact that veterans are actually prioritised in Cumbria was great.
“I didn’t want to ask for help while I was serving because I was worried about being medically discharged. I did manage to function perfectly well in my job so I thought I was ok.
“To anyone serving or any veterans out there who are suffering please get help as soon as you can, there’s nothing at all to be ashamed of and it will only change your life for the better. I know now that I should’ve asked for help sooner but I the main thing is that I did, and things are better now. What I saw and what I went through will never go away but now I have the tools to help me deal with the feelings that go with them. I could’ve had those tools years ago, if only I had asked.”