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Coming Back from War. Wednesday June 29, 2016

A friend of mine has a best friend, also named Mary. We are each known as "The Other Mary."

This Mary has a son; we'll call him Colin.

When he was eighteen Colin joined the army. He did really well in his training and his mother was so proud of him. He went out to Afghanistan.

In some ways Colin was one of the lucky ones: he came back alive. He came back physically unharmed. But he didn't come back the same.

Colin is quieter now; more withdrawn. He hates loud noises. He was out shopping the other day with Mary when a pallet slipped off a loading truck and fell with a crash. Mary looked round, as anyone might, and saw Colin flat on the ground beside her, his hands over his head. For Colin that loud crash was another bomb.

The family used to love November 5th and the firework displays. Last Bonfire Night Colin stayed at home with the dog. The dog hid under the sofa. Mary says she thinks Colin would have hidden there too, if only he could have fitted his muscled six foot three into that space.

And Colin has nightmares. Nearly every night he has nightmares. A boy of four can run to his mother, climb into bed with her and allow her to sooth the monsters away. A man of twenty-four cannot. And the monsters he fears are not imaginary, but real.

Colin has PTSD. He is, thank goodness, recovering. But he will never be the carefree boy he was, and he can never forget those images that haunt him.

Colin's experience is all too common. The MoD insists that the rate of PTSD, depression and suicide among the serving military and veterans is comparable to that in the general population, but the soldiers who suffer will disagree.

The UK does not keep records as does the US. In the US there are a reported 22 suicides per day among military veterans. Over here all we can say is, that in 2012 (the most recent figures I could find) more serving army personnel and veterans lost their lives to suicide than did in combat. That is a sobering statistic.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, if you have served in our armed forces, you will understand. And you may feel that we, the general public, cannot understand. You know that we Moodscopers experience depression, but it cannot be like yours.

And you are right. Which is why I ask you please, to consider writing for Moodscope. The most valuable service Moodscope provides is a community where you can know you are not alone.

No, you are not alone, but you may need to be the first military voice to speak in order that others may speak too.

Help us widen our reach, so we can serve and help everyone who suffers with depression, whatever the cause, whatever the circumstances.

Thank you.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Sally Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 7:01am

Very poignant piece, Mary. I can well imagine that the images would stay with you and disturb your everyday life. It's a classic case of cause and effect, isn't it? And as we are all made up of the sum of our experiences... I hope we hear from someone who has been in the armed forces to enlighten us further.

Lou Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 7:27am

"The most valuable service Moodscope provides is a community where you can know you are not alone."

Well said Mary and an excellent blog.


K Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 7:35am

Hi, Thankyou for highlighting this but I would like to say that PTSD is not just exclusive to the military, and this often gets overlooked or is seen as not being as significant. I have PTSD and it makes managing the subsequent depression and anxieties that much more difficult and whilst moodscope helps I often feel a little detached from some of the blogs. The military war campaigns have highlighted PTSD and whilst that has helped the general population identify and understand the term, it is automatically assumed that because I have PTSD I must have been in the military. Treatment is slow and almost trial like, with few even medical professionals understanding the depth and scale of the impact on the individual or even how to treat it.

Eva Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 7:50am

Hi K maybe you could write a blog on PTSD from your point of view to help other people who have it and those who haven't to understand it?

Hopeful One Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 8:01am

Hi K- you make a good point and Eva too. I would love to read about your experience.

Jul Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 8:39am

Hello K. I am so sorry you experience PTSD. You must have suffered something quite terrible and now are feeling the consequences.You have mentioned two things here. 1. You feel detached from some of Moodscope blogs and 2. You find the label PTSD generally is applied only to the military. You must have your reasons for thinking this and what you say is interesting. However I think the term PTSD was formulated well before the current military campaigns in the middle east and applies to everyone who suffers as a result of an earlier devastating experience. As Eva and Hopeful One say, we would love to hear more of your experience and how you have been affected by the use of PTSD mainly applied to the military. Also please tell us why you sometimes feel detached from Moodscope blogs. Maybe the two points you make are related.

Leah Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 10:42am

K, Thank you for taking the time to post a comment to express how you feel. In Australia I think there is probably more emphasis on nonmilitary PTSD, with people knowing there are many traumatic events that cause PTSD.I know a few people who have PTSD and none were in the military. Maybe it is different in the UK. I would like to know why you feel a little detached from the blogs. I too would like you to write a blog explaining what you experience on a daily program. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and I hope to read more of your writing soon.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 3:39pm

Thank you K. I echo the requests made by HO, Eva, Jul and Leah. Please do write for us.

K Sat, Jul 2nd 2016 @ 3:30pm

Hi, in response to the requests above and if it helps others too, here is my account of what living with PTSD is like. It is only recently that I have been able to state I have PTSD, even though it has been with me for a long time, and whilst this blog is under a blanket of anonymity even writing this is considerable progress for me. So how do I explain it? I can give you the science, and I guess some of that is necessary but as far as possible I would like to share what it means for me. So I apologise if this is not what it is like for others, or if I use terminology that is not specific but this is what it feels like in my head and in my world. So firstly the science bit, the brain is very very clever and the unconcious bit has far more control than we could ever conciously hope to understand. Everyday it processes a million stimuli, most of which we are completely unaware of. It files the information away and when it does it gives it a date stamp, which allows it to be organised and retrieved. However, when a trauma occurs the brain struggles to process this information, maybe due to shame, guilt,lack of support or just because it is so traumatic, we don't really know, we just know that in some people, with some trauma's this occurs. The result of which means it doesn't get a date stamp and it doesn't make it into the filing cabinet. Because of that the brain doesn't really know what to do with it, so it floats about being replayed and trying to be processed. This memory in whatever form, becomes so entangled with reality that the brain percieves a threat when in reality there is none. This may involve a trigger or it may just be played in the form of a flashback but the brain cannot distinguish reality from fiction and as a consequence the whole body responds as if the threat is real. So how does that feel? For me I have gone from being able to perform a challenging dangerous occupation to being unable to walk around a supermarket. The whole world feels unsafe. Everyday circusmtances become irrationally threatening, and because the concious brain knows that not to be the case and you tell yourself that you are safe, there is a lot of internal conflict. Imagine being chased by a tiger, its running after you and you can hear it pounding towards you, how you would feel? what would your body do in response to that stress? Now imagine that you see tigers everywhere, you know they are not real but your brain continually tells your body that they are, so you are constantly running away, but you can't get away because it is in your head? I'm in a constant state of alert, as I type this I can hear the pounding of my heart in my head, I feel nauseous and as for eating and sleeping my body thinks I am under attack it doesn't want food and it can't rest until the threat has gone? but again how can I get rid of a threat that isn't real? For me I distract and avoid, I avoid things,places and people that may provide a trigger. I use techniques to distract myself from the flashbacks or the possibility of them occurring, this works in the short term, but neither of these are long term solutions because the brain still needs to process that trauma. Eventually, after awhile of this constant state of alert my brain goes into a state of futility, it almost kicks into defeat and thinks I can't fight this anymore and it shuts down, this is depression. I then sleep like there is no tomorrow, I feel fatigued beyond belief and I lose all sense of fear or purpose, this is a blessing in disguise. The relief when it first arrives is tremendous, at last some rest but then I am unable to function and I struggle to even find the energy to talk. I am vulnerable too in this state I feel nothing and I don't care what happens to me. So when people asked me why I feel detached sometimes, this is why? Because my depression is a result of the futility of fighting something that isn't real or possible to overcome and I struggle to relate sometimes to the blogs on moodscope. The practical helpful tips on occasion are useful but at other times it is impossible to achieve because of the situation I am in, and that only increases the futility furthermore. At the moment my stress response is so over worked that I regularly experience hallucinatiions and stress induced epilepsy. My brain is so alert and traumatised it now cannot process everyday information properly anymore and it is this mixed in with the unprocessed trauma that is projected into reality. At these times I quite literally feel like I am going mad and scared that I will lose my grip on reality entirely. I have been reassured that is not the case but that is little comfort during the small hours when you have a brain that literally will not switch off. I have had help in understanding all of this but as yet I have not recieved any help to overcome it. There are advancements in this area and I have the military to thank for that too, but in my area they do not have the capacity to deal with PTSD nor do they fully understand it, and as a result that increases my futility and depression too. I apologise for the length of this blog, only it is not any easy thing to explain without background and I hope this is of help to other people. As a sufferer of non military PTSD there is still a war, and I am under attack, but it is in fact all in my head. K

Eva Sun, Jul 3rd 2016 @ 12:46am

Hi K, thank you for your explanation, and well done for putting it into words, I know you mentioned this is a big thing communicating about the ptsd. I hope this helps us as a community to understand a bit better your predicament, and will maybe help others going through a similar thing to know that they are not alone. I guess as you say understanding the process is a first step, and working out how to tackle the symptoms will be the next. Do they have methods to deal with the next step in other regions? I note that you say there isn't any help in your immediate local.

K Sun, Jul 3rd 2016 @ 7:25am

Thankyou Eva, as you maybe aware unlike a physical injury where I can choose where to be treated and source a specialist that maybe out of my area, with mental health that is not possible, and as such I keep getting told that there is no help available. This process along with a lack of understanding of what it means to live like this has done little to help me recover and I have given up trying.

Hopeful One Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 7:57am

Hi Mary- I hear your impassioned plea so well written - " an honest tale speeds best being plainly told" as Abraham Lincoln would have put it.I am so glad to read that Colin is getting the therapeutic help he needs bearing in mind the horrendous statistics you mention for PTSD. I gather that many of these brave, courageous and selfless individuals who are prepared to lay down their lives to protect the freedoms we all enjoy, so far away from home, in countries who don't care a fig for them, are then treated in this shabby way when they come home.Is there a PTSD group that we Moodscopers can contribute our collective experience and wisdom?Or invite them to write here?

This gem won the second place in the Stella Awards.

2nd Place: Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, successfully sued the owner of a night club in a neighbouring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. This occurred while Ms.Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.

Jul Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 8:30am

Hi Mary. What a wonderful blog you have written. It's unimaginable the horrors, the military must experience whilst on overseas missions. Many are young lads who come back with memories that no human being should have, that will stay with them for life. They have to adjust to normal family life on returning and this is just not possible. I have so much sympathy for them. It's a subject I feel so very strongly about. I know there are support networks available for them but not all returning soldiers fit in to these groups and find themselves having to deal with their trauma alone. They have no physical injuries to show for their experience in the field and therefore look normal. However they have seen their friends killed by improvised explosive devices, tried unsuccessfully to save them and feel guilty for coming back alive but their families to be fair to them are just glad to have them home alive. I do hope your message today will reach some of these people and they will join our group and get some respite from sharing and reading about all our problems. It is so great you have chosen to write about this Mary. Thank you! xx

Anonymous Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 9:29am

I have recently been in touch with Combat Stress - 15 years after my father died, having never been properly treated in an RAF mental health facitlity for depression and a nervous breakdown. I've requested by father's medical files that were never passed on to our local GP when my father left the RAF - which meant there was no continuity of care.
The lack of support for my mother and for us children has meant that we have legacy of unresolved questions which no one has ever bothered to answer or address. Consequently the whole family has had to deal with issues of low self-esteem and heightened anxiety. Had the RAF been more proactive and holistic in their approach, my father's mental health issues might have been "contained" and not adversely affected my whole family.

Jul Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 10:30am

This is so sad. Do let us know if you manage to get hold of your father's medical records. I feel so much for your mother and you and your siblings. What a legacy to have to live with all these years. I am glad you felt you could write to Moodscope with your story.

Julie Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 10:36am

How negative and inaccurate to say 'the monsters he fears are not imaginary but real'. Having suffered PTSD I know that the repetitive memories which haunt PTSD sufferers are real memories, they are not monsters as you so fancifully describe, and as they are memories they are not real in terms of the events happening in the present as the original event was.
And with the right help, support, and time healing can and does occur from this very serious condition.

Mary Wednesday Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 3:13pm

Julie, thank you for your comment and I understand what you say. I choose to use the word monsters having read books written by veterans. Monsters was the word two of them used, so I have used it here. Demons was another. I chose not to use that word. Everyone experiences things differently. I do not suffer with PTSD, so I can only use words previously used by those who do. I accept that your words would be different. I hope you can appreciate the point of my blog although you disagree with the words I have used.

Julie Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 10:37am

How negative and inaccurate to say 'the monsters he fears are not imaginary but real'. Having suffered PTSD I know that the repetitive memories which haunt PTSD sufferers are real memories, they are not monsters as you so fancifully describe, and as they are memories they are not real in terms of the events happening in the present as the original event was.
And with the right help, support, and time healing can and does occur from this very serious condition.

Skyblue Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 12:30pm

There have been wonderful advances in trauma recovery therapy in recent years and these therapies should be the first port of call for a returning vet. Anything less than that is just not acceptable. Also, as others have mentioned, ptsd is not just the domain of military people. The following can produce ptsd: Physical trauma as in car accidents, sporting accidents, surgeries and medical interventions
• Inescapable attack, violence, threat of violence, abuse of any kind, rape, incest, torture, war or conflict
• Natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis
• Unrelenting stress, bereavement, divorce, loss of a loved one
• Childhood neglect or abandonment, betrayal or other trauma
• Birth trauma, severe illnesses, high fever, drowning or choking experiences
• Witnessing any of these events
Thank you, Mary. I'm sure you've reached many people today with this. xx

The Gardener Wed, Jun 29th 2016 @ 3:10pm

In our village were two general stores run by women whose husbands, never seen, were 'out the back'. they'd both been gassed in WW1, no hope of work or family - and I don't think the pension, or whatever compensation they got, would keep them alive. In our French town were two 'heroes' of the resistance, who suffered horrendous torture at the hands of the Gestapo. Their wives nursed them through years of terrifying nightmares. There is quite a strong 'Ancien Combattant' organisation, don't know if it's on a par with the British Legion. Many long term effects do not figure in any statistics - my father in law was in Egypt in WW1 - he suffered from a diet which wrecked his digestion so he could never again eat many foods.As Mary and others say - these things need attention - but the need for money, specialist help and understanding is staggering.

S Thu, Jun 30th 2016 @ 8:30am

Thank you Mary for highlighting this, Sx

Orangeblossom Thu, Jun 30th 2016 @ 8:54am

Hi Mary, had less time to read this blog until today. Thanks for highlighting the difficulties of those who fought in the military and the living nightmares they face on a daily basis.

Benjamin Thu, Jun 30th 2016 @ 12:22pm

As a military member, but one without combat experience, I have known plenty of fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have wrestled with mental health issues. PTSD is really a tiny fraction of the military mental health challenge. Even combat sequelae are a tiny fraction, though serious. Large problems stem from reintegration after multiple 9 mo - 15 mo long deployments away from family. Enormous problems stem from the process of getting off active duty. Many who do so are coming from a situation of toxic leadership or are medically retired; but those who 'age out' face another difficulty, a sudden loss of community and identity. For all the complaints, the pay is steady and generally good. Furthermore, there is a somewhat comforting game in the way that the local community creatively mitigates the indignities and stupidities of central bureaucracy. This, by the way, is one of the three major problems with toxic leaders: they don't join the right team in that fight. The other problems include: lowering the value of the joint identity (i.e. making one ashamed of being 'one of us' because the toxic leader is also 'one of us'), and mis-training/mis-selecting future leaders.

On the whole, the chief things that most military members need following service are community, identity, mission. Fortunately, these can be provided by any of us, to them, and do not require specialized training or expertise. Most military members, given the choice to join in the collective care of another, will find the service uplifting and the camaraderie steadying. This, perhaps, is what moodscope members can best provide the military members, as the moodscope members both offer and accept care.

Tutti Frutti Thu, Jun 30th 2016 @ 7:52pm

Benjamin thank you for setting out the whole range of issues our military are facing. Best wishes TF

Caroline Ashcroft Moodscope Fri, Jul 1st 2016 @ 6:44pm

Excellent Benjamin. Thank you for that information. I can totally understand what you are saying and it would be great to help a few. Kind regards. Caroline Ashcroft

Stephen Fri, Jul 1st 2016 @ 10:04am

Mary, thanks for posting this. As a former Army Reservist who served on operations in Iraq I can certainly relate to what you wrote. I should also acknowledge some of the other posters, particularly K for pointing out that PTSD is not just something that affects the military, but can affect anyone who has been through a traumatic experience. However modern media coverage has probably contributed to a far greater public awareness and perception of the impacts of military operations particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 15 years.

Still though the perception is skewed to the obvious, visible, physical injuries. Mental health issues often go unseen, and as Benjamin points out, PTSD is just one aspect of mental health issues that impact serving and former members of the Armed Forces. Perhaps I will write a blog contribution in future to describe my own situation more fully, but in summary, after returning from operations where I spent 6 months working at a high tempo and state of alertness I found it incredibly difficult to adjust back to civilian life, particularly at work where I found myself frustrated by the apathy, inertia and triviality of my co-workers. It took me a long time to calm back down again (and I've never enjoyed Bonfire night since...). More recently having essentially left an active role within the reserves I've felt an enormous gap in my life that the military used to fill. Although I'm still in contact with comrades, informally and through various military affiliated associations, I miss the very close camaraderie of the military family and the active participation in military training and operations.

In recent years my civilian work environment has also changed significantly and become very much busier, more challenging and required me to be away from home a great deal, but unlike my military service it has been quite an isolating and negative experience. I've struggled between bouts of depression and low mood to more extreme behaviours and excessive drinking. Ironically I felt far more in control and sure of myself in the military environment in far more uncertain and dangerous situations than I currently do in a demanding but "not unsafe" civilian situation.

Jul Sun, Jul 3rd 2016 @ 4:27pm

Hello Stephen. I have only just read your and others comments. I and I am sure many other Moodscopers would love to read a blog based on your own experiences. Caroline at would welcome your contribution Please email her at

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