Wirral veteran, Alison Williams (41), has become the latest cover star of the Combat Stress spring magazine after the leading veterans’ mental health charity supported her to regain her confidence and rediscover her voice.
Alison, who served in the Royal Air Force for 13 years, was chosen to join Gareth Malone’s Invictus Choir in 2016 and performed at the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida last May. For Alison, who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), joining the choir was a personal challenge and a chance to put the skills she had learnt at Combat Stress to practice.
“I did a lot of singing in the past but when I became unwell, I stopped singing. I totally lost my confidence. I found out about the Invictus Choir just after I had finished my six-week residential PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme. Part of my recovery was to find a new focus and re-engage with something I’d enjoyed previously. The choir looked like the perfect opportunity for me.”
Before receiving support from Combat Stress Alison used to find it difficult to travel alone. “I’d have to take my mum with me when I took my daughter to school.” But when the choir met for the first time, she had to travel over 200 miles from home and stay in a hotel on her own before meeting everyone the next day.
“It was really challenging to be away from home – I found it very stressful but I managed thanks to the coping tools I’d learnt at Combat Stress,” says Alison.
After rehearsing in the UK, the choir flew to the States for the big performance. “There was an awful lot to take in. I had to get used to wearing a special earpiece as I was singing solo. And we had to rehearse the choreography for when we walked onto the stage. I had to park any anxiety and just get on with it.
“It wasn’t really until a few months later that I realised how much I had overcome. I can now travel on my own with reduced anxiety levels and I’ve just started a make-up artistry course at college, something I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do a few years ago. I’m even having singing lessons – just for pure enjoyment.
“I’m still part of the Invictus Choir – we have several performances planned for this year including one at Twickenham this April
“My recovery is a long-term project but thanks to the help of Combat Stress, I’ve come an awful long way. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved. Mental ill health does not discriminate it affects men and women equally and across society. I urge anyone who feels they are not coping to seek medical advice as support is out there if you and your family need it."
Sue Freeth, Chief Executive at Combat Stress said;
“It’s fantastic to see the Alison using the skills she learnt at Combat Stress in a way that has made such a positive impact on her life.
“Combat Stress makes a real difference to the lives of thousands of ex-servicemen and women across the UK with mental health problems. In the last five years we have seen a 71% increase in referrals, it’s vital that we raise awareness and support for the charity to enable us to continue to provide this life-changing work to every veteran that needs our help.
“We wish Alison the best of luck with her make-up artistry course and singing in the future.”