The horrors that led Doncaster soldier to PTSD -- and how experts have helped him into 'remission'

A former Doncaster soldier who saw horrific scenes while serving with the army has told how the stress came back to haunt him in later life.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 4:24 pm

The veteran, who asked to be known only as Paul, has since received help from specialist services from the Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust’s (RDaSH) Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Team (IAPT), and describes himself as ‘in remission’.

He is urging people in the same position to get help and said: “No matter how big or tough you’ve been in your life it’s OK to say ‘I’m broken, help me’.”

Paul served with the army for 12 years, in Germany and Cyprus – but aged just 19 saw horrors including a man decapitated.

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Paul, and his puppy Milo
Paul, and his puppy Milo

He said: “When I was 19, I was serving in Germany, and I saw a decapitation.

"Many years later I started having nightmares and as time went on the nightmare got longer, and longer, and longer, and it involved literally all my senses. It wasn’t just visual, you could smell the cold and the diesel in the air, you could feel the wind, hear all the sounds.

"I wasn’t really until I came out of the army in the 90s that I started getting that image."

It progressed to the point he could see the images during the day when he was awake.

But four years ago, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder struck just before Christmas. His family supported him, and Paul headed to the GP. He received some support, but the disorder started getting worse, with flashbacks both day and night. Then came lockdown.

Paul, who owns a convenience store in Wetherby, moved into the shop, to reduce covid risk to both customers and family. His mental health started to deteriorate further. After a brief admission to hospital following a severe episode, he started receiving support from RDaSH’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Team.

“I made attempts to end my life twice during lockdown,” said Paul. “After coming out of hospital I went to IAPT. I knew I needed support and treatment.

"IAPT counsellors helped me, they took me beyond the points I was remembering and unlocked how I took charge of the situation. I wish I’d gone to IAPT for this support 20 or 30 years ago.

“They made me realise I always prioritised others rather than looking after myself and that it was impossible for me to fix everything for everyone,” he added. “IAPT sessions have helped me to get better. I consider myself to be in remission and this has been helped by changes to my lifestyle, I no longer rely on alcohol to suppress my problems. My family life is better than ever especially with the addition to the family of my puppy Milo..

“I’m at peace and not scared to go to bed anymore.”

He said he would always have the visions but had been taught how to process them so that they would not cause him the same upset.

Log onto iapt.rdash.nhs.uk for an assessment or call Doncaster 01302 565556.