Our Member's Stories
By providing our range of support services to our Ripple Pond families, we have been lucky enough to witness them adapt, grow and overcome some of the many challenges they have and continue to face.
It is never easy and we truly admire their heart, courage and perseverance. Here are just a few of our many success stories.
I remember vividly receiving the phone call from the psychologist confirming my husband’s diagnosis of PTSD. It was on the day of our daughter’s funeral. The pregnancy that had ended too soon resulted in the child we’d never fully know, and who’d never breathe in this world, being placed in our arms. We were awash with grief, stumbling, trying to make sense of the heartache we felt. The phone call brought a sense of relief as at least now we had a diagnosis which would explain the darkness that seemed to loom over at times on the horizon. Perhaps now, we were closer to a closure. Closer to a cure? The reality is though, like so many know, there isn’t a cure, per se, at least not one that we’ve found. There’s treatment. There’s medication. In time there’s a new normal, but one with limitations and fences ringed around it to keep them safe, to keep you safe. The point of diagnosis brought with it, a steep learning curve. It was like the lid came off and no amount of pushing or shoving could put that lid back on. We found anger and aggression just leaking into our home. The dark cloud on the horizon had officially ‘moved in’. My husband would go away for treatment, to learn and come back awash with a terminology I didn’t know, more broken than before, with memories of the past vividly being relived in front of him. We learnt that to rebuild, he had to let go and stop pretending that he was ok. We had no idea about the brokenness and the fear he had been hiding, the trauma he had tucked away, because army men are ok…until they are really not ok. Closely following the anger, was this world of depression and anxiety, where even the simplest outing became a place of fear and angst. Meanwhile I was sat in a world of grief, for the child I had lost, and the husband who’d disappeared, desperately trying to look after our two small children at the time. Organisations like the Ripple Pond are absolutely vital. They offer a space that just isn’t available more ‘typically’ where grief and emotional support are concerned. Whilst there is treatment for Veterans, the families who live in the shadows, learning to understand and navigate the monster that is PTSD have been cut loose. How do you explain to a world around you, that your husband isn’t a bad person, he’s just not well right now? How do you explain that he’s trying, but he’s lost in a trauma that his profession didn’t protect him from, nor prepare him to deal with? At 16 my husband, carrying a proud sense of duty and a desire to serve his country, signed up to the army. He signed up to do the right thing, but at 16, your brain is still developing. The training that prepared him to cope in the harsh realities of a military service in both Iraq and Afghanistan, was one that taught him to bottle his feelings, work harder and turn his fear into aggression. Which when coupled with trauma is a toxic combination, which manifests into an even more toxic delivery. Organisations like the Ripple Pond, allow and make time for a conversation society doesn’t have space for. A space to grieve the partner who’s struggling, a space to learn the lingo, understand the triggers, find ways to protect yourself and protect your family, campaign together for a safer world, for more to be done and for the families to be heard and our children provided for. Our story is not alone – and neither are we. There are so many of us. There are so many stories. As a pastor of a local church, I see some of the struggle and the heartache that exists across society, some of the places where life has simply been unfair. For us, our faith has been a huge part of our recovery and the introduction / housing of a new normal. When I don’t feel strong enough, I run to God. When I’m afraid, I have someone to put my trust in. For me, my faith is not about wondering why something happened, but it’s about finding help in the struggle and continuing to hope. As part of our journey, I wrote a book called Courageous, telling some stories from the Bible while honestly telling some of our story. I wanted to reframe the conversation for those who are walking through what feels like an endless journey. The courage you show, is phenomenal. There are so many amazing people that I’ve met through the Ripple Pond and other organisations who won’t be defeated by their circumstances, but still choose to make the world a better place. Courage isn’t always the gigantic moments that make the news headlines, but the simple determination to hope, to believe, to keep loving and giving, to not give up and to not lose heart, and to make the world better for those struggling. That’s what we have to give.
As many people know, as it is not a conversation I shy away from, my fantastic hubby was diagnosed with PTSD in 2011 after his last tour of Afghanistan. The run up to and post diagnosis was a particularly difficult transition as we were in our early 20s and our lives changed forever. Learning to live with a new reality was often very difficult not least because PTSD is an “invisible” injury and often people would appear to be judgmental and disbelieving of his diagnosis. What people often do not see is that although he came back from war alive (thank god, there are others not that lucky) and in one piece that he came back changed. Night terrors, suicidal thoughts, crowded places, unexpected loud noises and survivor’s guilt now all consumed my once fearless and carefree husband. In those extremely dark days without the support of our family and friends I dread to think how life would be different now. I only wish that I had found The Ripple Pond sooner as it often felt that by talking about the impact at home to my own support system that I was betraying. “Finding The Ripple Pond was life altering.” My husband had a particularly bad relapse with his PTSD and was in a very dark place and I was given the details from a psychiatrist and I found a space that people just got it. I didn’t have to justify why things were the way that they were or feel isolated, they just got it. For the first time in years I felt that the complex feelings I had towards living with someone with PTSD was normal, and seeing others living with similar experiences made me feel relieved and lighter.
I stumbled upon The Ripple Pond at a time when I desperately needed help and support living with my husband with PTSD. His illness had got so bad that I was at the end of my tether, trying to juggle being a good Mum and keeping myself healthy so that I could be the supportive wife too. It’s pretty much impossible to do all of this unless you are Wonderwoman. Support from The Ripple Pond’s online Facebook group has been an amazing method of support. I felt relieved that I was no longer suffering on my own and could vent in the group and receive comments of support and encouragement. It didn’t really matter if someone couldn’t help – it was the fact that there were people feeling just like me. As a spouse of a service person who has been wounded in service, there is nothing put in place to offer us help, I have had to seek help and support on my own. Suffering from anxiety which yes, is attributable to my husband’s illness has made life difficult. The NHS refused my request for counselling. I firmly believe that when any service person is diagnosed with PTSD, the whole family should be offered help, not left to fend for themselves when they may not even know where to start. I am a veteran myself so was pretty clued up but that is not always the case for all. Support from The Ripple Pond is fantastic and I can’t recommend them enough for people in my position. I am grateful daily that I made that phone call.
Amy and Joe have been living with Joe’s PTSD for many years. They try to re-enforce the positives and ignore the negatives, working hard together, which at times is not easy. Their message is simple: as bad as this illness is, with determination and support, we can come through it as a family.” In our house PTSD is not my husband, it is a third party, an uninvited guest we all need to keep in check. The children know about him and they know it is not daddy. It is a disorder, an injury of the brain we are all working towards re-wiring, re-enforcing the positive links and pathway’s, and ignoring the negative. For several years it has been all consuming. If I don’t take this time or effort or energy, if I don’t pick up on when things are taking a turn for the worse, notice if Joe is struggling and don’t step in in time there are consequences for all of us. “We are critical to Joe’s recovery; he needs us there every day to support him. I simply didn’t have time to think about myself.” When he is doing well we all rejoice and enjoy him taking part in more but it is a very narrow edged sword as very quickly the extras, putting out the bins, reading the children a bedtime story can become overwhelming and tip him over the edge. I am then left juggling the demands of four children confused and upset at daddy’s outburst. The mother bear instinct kicks in to keep them safe and defend them from PTSD. Sometimes all Joe needs to resolve the issue is a hug, some kind words and then several hours downtime to discuss what just happened and talk through strategies for next time. Because there will be a next time. I am realistic. I still do not know if a full recovery is possible or what that consists of but what I do know is that we get better at managing the symptoms of PTSD. The tough times come when I take my eye off the ball and do not give him the time or consideration he needs. Since his diagnosis, the main thing I miss is someone to look after me. Joe used to do that. I could keep the household running, through deployments and house moves because he would support me and look after me. Therefore, charities such as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity and The Ripple Pond are so important. They have given me respite, helped in times of crisis. The Ripple Pond offers support daily. With meetings, online or in person and through social media. It is a place I can offload amongst people who understand whilst positively supporting others. I tend to go on when I am feeling good and try to spread positive stories as that is what we need, and I find it therapeutic. To me The Ripple Pond is the only organisation that has really been there daily to talk to, to listen, to signpost and for peer to peer help. The feeling you are not alone or on your own. When you feel you are failing at juggling everything there are others who understand. I remember my first meeting introducing myself when I heard of others who had been living with PTSD for 10-20 years. It hit me like a brick. We were in the depths of crisis and had been for months, I barely knew which way was up, there was no way I could see this situation continuing for twenty years!!! But as the shock wore off, I realised these people were living with PTSD. It had not gone away, their status quo had not changed. There must be some equilibrium that can be reached that can be sustainable in the long term. These were strong people who had suffered a lot but had overcome and whilst they had bad days, they got through them. And with The Ripple Pond they did not have to get through them alone. I have made friends, some who live locally, who I can meet and even share jokes with about living with PTSD.