The hidden wounds of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affect not just those in service, but their families too. This was clear with Gaynor whose condition affected her so badly that severe anxiety prevented her from leaving the house or even getting out of bed. Now, she says support from Help for Heroes has offered her another place where she can feel safe and secure.
Gaynor, whose husband still serves in the RAF, developed PTSD after she became ill whilst living in the Middle East during a posting in 2013. The hospital conditions were so inadequate that she would be put onto a bed with no sheets, left for hours without attention, given wrong medication and was handled by untrained medical staff.
“It was just one problem after another,” she explained. “I was in such severe pain but was given just one paracetamol every 8 hours. Because of the culture there, men weren’t allowed to see me so I was completely covered up and shut off from everything. The whole experience just changed me as a person and I became a shell of my former self. The anxiety has remained a part of my daily existence.”
Gaynor, a former Civil Servant living in Bristol, went from being a keen gardener who loved the outdoors to somebody who couldn’t fathom getting out of bed in the morning. She would have nightmares and flashbacks about her time in the hospital. Whilst her husband served in Afghanistan, Gaynor would turn to gardening as a comfort to help the days go by quicker and take her mind off her husband being away. But after her experience in the Middle East, she was unable to face going out into her garden.
It was SSAFA who encouraged her to get in touch with Help for Heroes. After contacting Hidden Wounds, Gaynor was signposted to the Help for Heroes Occupational Therapist and Horticultural Therapist. Tedworth House is home to a fully-adaptive horticultural area with raised flower beds to allow the wounded, injured and sick to use gardening as part of their recovery. Through working with Lucy, the H4H Horticultural Therapist, Gaynor was able to leave the house and start spending time in the outdoors again.
Last week, she spent time at Tedworth with her husband on a wreath making course, socialising for the first time with other injured service personnel and their families.
“I just love coming to Tedworth House, it is my safe haven. When I’m anywhere else but at home or at Tedworth, my anxiety will often get the better of me. But whilst at Help for Heroes I know I’m safe. As soon as I’m through the doors at Tedworth, I take a deep breath and feel myself relaxing.
“As a Service wife, you often feel in the way and just the ‘wife of’ somebody. But with Help for Heroes, for the first time ever, it was about me. I felt properly supported and cared for by someone other than my husband for the first time in a very long time.
“When I most needed it, Tedworth House opened its doors to me and has changed the outlook for my future. I have a long way to go in my recovery but knowing Help for Heroes view me as someone important has given me so much strength and I feel like things will get better.”