The 8th – 12th June is Carers Week, and Help for Heroes would like to thank all those who care for their loved ones, not least the members of our Band of Sisters fellowship who provide support to their wounded, injured or sick husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, siblings and children. Adam and Kelly have shared their story:
In the summer of 2009, Kelly met Adam on an online dating site. Kelly already knew Adam had a military background from his dating profile but it wasn’t until they started chatting that she found out he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Adam joined the army in 2002, enlisting as technical supply specialist in the Royal Signals. In 2003 he was taking part in snowboarding in Austria as part of his adventure training when he damaged his knee. That injury never healed properly but after a fixed amount of physiotherapy he was back involved in the full activities of his regiment. Within a year of the injury he was posted to Iraq where he experienced frequent mortar attacks on the base and was regularly shot at. He was also bullied by a female NCO and the combination of experiences led him to try and take his own life. It was noted then that he was showing signs of PTSD.
By 2006 following the death of his mother after she was diagnosed with advanced cancer, he volunteered to go out to Iraq again, this time with the secret hope that he would be killed over there. Although he survived that posting, he did have at least one very narrow escape in which he lost good friends and these shocking experiences worsened his PTSD.
Kelly met Adam almost one year after he was medically discharged from the army. She says at that time, “he was a broken man”.
Adam told Kelly early in their relationship that he had PTSD. She says, “I’d noticed a couple of scars on his arm and from there he told me about his experiences. We were quite open and honest about it.” But at no point did Adam’s condition stop Kelly wanting to be with him. The couple moved in less than five months after meeting, “he asked me and I jumped at the chance”, and were married by March 2011. Kelly says that from the start, “I never had any doubts, we just instantly clicked and I felt like I’d known him for years.”
She has supported him as has he gone through the process of seeking help for his PTSD with the charity Combat Stress, with whom he has done four, two-week inpatient courses. She also encouraged Adam to seek the right medication so that he can cope better with civilian life. The therapy has made small improvements in Adam’s behaviour.
Kelly says, however, that Adam has been told his PTSD is likely to be with him for life and that it would be very hard for him to ever return to work. Adam also has extensive physical problems caused by his original knee injury from 2003, including arthritis in his knees, deteriorating hips and fibromyalgia which means he is in near constant pain and now needs to use a wheelchair.
By 2012, Kelly was forced to quit her own job as a debt collector to be Adam’s main carer. His PTSD manifests itself in many ways. He has regular nightmares and wakes with night sweats. He has OCD and on bad days can shower up to seven times a day, and he also suffers from memory problems. She says, “He can tell me everything about his army life and childhood but he wouldn’t be able to tell me what he did yesterday if I asked.” The strain on Kelly is clear, she says she does everything around the house and is worried that “if I left him on his own he would burn the house down.” There have been near-fires in the past as Adam has put a pan on the stove and forgotten he has done so.
Emotionally Kelly says she has learnt to adapt herself to her new life by working in two modes, the wife and the carer, flitting between both depending on how Adam is coping at the time. Kelly says that, “I can feel lonely. Sometimes I feel I am living by myself and that there is not another person here, as he is so shut off.”
Kelly has found support from Help for Heroes Fellowship network, Band of Sisters. She says, “If I’m having a bad day, I can log onto the Facebook group and someone is always there who will help pick you up and give you advice. It’s been amazing.” Last year, Kelly went on a respite break to a Champneys spa with the Band of Sisters. She describes the trip as a godsend as it gave her time to “switch off and recoup” from having to worry about looking after someone else. It helped, she said, that she was with eight other women from the Band of Sisters who “understood what my life is like”.
Kelly and Adam are now looking to the future. They are currently on a much needed holiday to Lanzarote together, provided through Help for Heroes and Kelly has used her experience with PTSD and has recently taken up a position as a therapist for Therapies 4 Forces. And of course, the pair remain “soulmates”. As Kelly puts it, “if anything, Adam’s PTSD has bought us closer together.”
Click here to learn more about how Band of Sisters can support you and your loved ones.