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Derek's Story

Derek's Story

Derek served in the Army for more than 17 years, oblivious to the damage that was done to his mental health. 

“I enlisted in the Army when I was 18. I’d enjoyed many weekends with the TA volunteers, and I needed a better job, so it was an easy decision.

"Over my 17 and a half years in the Army, from 1969 to 1986, I travelled the world, visiting 33 different countries, and I undertook six tours of Northern Ireland too.

"I really enjoyed my time in the Army, but I know now that all the different experiences I had took their toll on my mental health.”

When Derek’s son was born in 1984, he wanted to stay in London, so decided to leave the Army. He then spent 20 years with Thames Valley Police, before working as a driver for Mercedes and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency. For a long time, life was busy, and Derek felt fine. But when he stopped work, his past flooded back and things rapidly took a turn for the worse.

“It was when I retired in 2015 that my mental health issues began. I had time to think about my past and it didn’t take long before the bad times took over. I began to struggle with depression, anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks. I started drinking, I withdrew from my family and friends, and I only saw the negative side of everything.

“My wife took me to the doctors and after explaining I was ex-service and ex-police, I was referred to Combat Stress. 

“During my treatment, I was introduced to hobbies through occupational therapy

“I tried lots of different things but model making, using my own initiative, is something that really helped me and I continue to do to this day.

“While I was at Combat Stress, it was also recommended that I take up sports, even at the age of 67. Since then I’ve represented the UK in an international competition for archery in Las Vegas and been to Tampa Bay, Florida for the Warrior Games to compete in archery, shooting, swimming, cycling and discus.

"This was an out of this world experience and really brought me out of myself. 

"They showed me a way to cope. I am no longer afraid to say I have PTSD and have problems. I would say to anyone who finds themselves feeling like I did – ask for help, don’t be ashamed. It happens to a lot of us and there is help available from Combat Stress and other organisations.

"Your memories never leave you but thanks to Combat Stress, I now have strategies to cope.”