Words from Partners - Rachel

Peter & Rachel close"When Peter came home from Iraq he was not the same person. He looked like a ghost and acted like a robot. It was like his soul had gone" 

Having been on four tours to Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq within five years, Peter had reached breaking point. During this time he had uncovered mass graves, watched helplessly as friends died in front of him and seen women and children who had been butchered.

Back at home, his wife Rachel felt powerless as Peter descended into a mental abyss. "I didn't know what to do. I panicked and cried my eyes out when he put on his uniform and went off thinking he was on patrol in Northern Ireland, I couldn't go chasing after him because I had the children to think about."

Peter doesn't remember these ten months of his life, when he slept under the dining room table and went AWOL in the middle of the night. Nor can he recollect throwing his medals in the bin, including the Military Cross, awarded after he saved a colleague from a blazing vehicle while under attack.

Rachel says, "He started sleeping on the settee. He would wake sweating from terrible nightmares. I would come down during the night and check on him. Sometimes I would find him rocking crying his eyes but not saying a word. I would just sit there with him, too scared to touch him.

"His behaviour was different and changeable. One minute he would be ok and then he would explode. He wasn't an angry man before all of this. He was paranoid, confused and didn't know who he was. I managed to shield the kids from most of it but it was an absolute nightmare."

Everything came to a head on a family break to a holiday camp. "We were watching a cabaret act when he had his first flashback. It was really shocking. He thought he was on patrol in Northern Ireland and didn't stop shaking for days."

Fortunately, his doctor put him in contact with Combat Stress.

Rachel says, "I have met a lot of people who don't have a clue about PTSD. I didn't, so I really welcome there being an awareness campaign."

After receiving medical treatment, counselling and practical support, Peter is finally back on his feet, having lost his business, his health temporarily and almost his family. He credits Combat Stress with 'saving their lives' and is grateful for all their help.

Rachel says, "We have been through the mill. It put a great stress on us but Peter is a lot better now." In fact Peter is in his second year at university and has landed a management job. At last the future is looking up for the young family. "We are living more of a normal life now," adds Rachel. That's something she hasn't been able to say for many years.