The festive season is always a tough time for James*, his second tour of Afghanistan finished just before Christmas four years ago and when he returned – he wasn’t the same person.
The Corporal had always spent Christmas time with family, and in 2012 he and his wife were due to visit her family for Christmas but once he’d arrived back on British soil, his attitude towards spending time surrounded by loved ones had changed.
James, who is based in Tidworth, now found himself wanting to spend more and more time alone and suggested to his wife that they spend Christmas by themselves: “I knew deep down that I should want to be back with family after being on tour, but being alone felt right, it was what I needed” – his wife spent the period with her family and he stayed at home by himself.
James couldn’t recognise the change in himself, and this led to the breakdown of his marriage. He says: “I always had an excuse about how I felt, I would put it down to work stress, day-to-day things, but it was so much more than that.”
“I had a wake-up call when my appendix ruptured earlier this year but didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn’t want to bother anybody – then when I was going into surgery, I felt really alone and I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.”
After this, James knew he had to speak out and was diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression, but still struggles to speak about it and hasn’t yet told his family or friends.
He’s involved with Help for Heroes as the Core Recovery Events are run by the Military Personnel Recovery team at Tedworth House: “Coming to Tedworth House Recovery Centre is great. It’s a really good atmosphere, everyone here has a mutual understanding. I have really enjoyed art therapy as I’m focused when I’m painting and through the meditation class I’ve been sleeping a lot better, which means I have more energy, which means I can function better in my day to day life – instead of it being a vicious circle, it’s a virtuous circle.”
Help for Heroes are asking people to send in their own messages of support for our Heroes and their families. They’ll be displayed in our four Recovery Centres so that everyone there can read them and perhaps get their own boost too. Send a message of support to our heroes this Christmas by visiting www.h4hchristmas.org/ourheroes/