In the second instalment of our new series of blog posts, designed to give a voice to the real stories of men suffering with mental health problems, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the focus. A family man, a military man, a man who sought help and, now, a man who would urge you to do the same.

“As a man, admitting that you need help is never easy. So many questions come pouring in. Am I weak? Am I still a man? What will people think of me? What will my wife and children think of me? Will my friends take the mick? It isn’t easy. In fact, actually seeking help is one of the hardest decisions you will ever make but also, one of the most rewarding. Having the courage to say enough is enough, I need help, takes balls. I used to ask myself, is the juice worth the squeeze? Is it worth subjecting myself to potential judgement and humiliation just to maybe feel better? The easy answer. Yes, yes it was.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD in early 2007 following various operational deployments with the British Army and was subsequently discharged. I thought I was ok. I had a short fuse, but who didn’t? I would be aggressive at times, but so was every soldier. It came with the territory. Did I have night terror’s? Of course, but who doesn’t?

“I was always taught to have a stiff upper lip. Head up and crack on. Man up. Any other iteration of how a man should act. I thought I was fine and completely normal.

“In early 2019, the cracks really began to show and take effect on those around me. My wife knew I wasn’t ok, but soon, my work noticed too. I was encouraged to take time off and seek help. Really? Me? I don’t need help. I am fine! I clearly wasn’t. I had avoided seeking help as I knew in order to feel better, you need to feel worse. The outpouring of emotions and the describing of events and experiences would be painful. I really didn’t want to bring that all up again as I had tried so hard to suppress those feelings for so long.

“I was given a number to call to book an appointment to speak with a trained therapist. I was reluctant because therapist’s I’d spoken too previously had left a bad taste in my mouth. I also didn’t know what to say. How would I start the conversation? Do I just blurt out random stuff and wait to be told I’m a nutter? What happens if I cry? I was genuinely scared.

“The night before my first appointment, I didn’t sleep a wink. My mind was racing with thoughts of the past, what would I say to the therapist, what would she think of me, and what could I tell her. Wondering how I would start the conversation. Do I start with the big stuff, little nitty gritty parts, what?!

“Going into the room, I was full of apprehension and dread and I’ve never felt more vulnerable. I’ve jumped out of planes, abseiled down buildings and been face-to-face with the enemy. I’d never been so helpless. Then came the dreaded first question,

“What has bought you here today?”

“Errrrm, I need help.”

“Ok, what do you hope to gain from these sessions?”

“I don’t know, you tell me?”

“That’s not my place, it’s up to you what you want to get out of it.”

“I want to feel better.”

“And what is better?”

“This is where my journey began! My therapist has been amazing. She listens, I mean, actually listens to me. Explains why I may be feeling the way I am, and reassures me that it is ok to feel the way I do. I say the word normal, but her answer is, “What is normal?” It’s all relative. Normality to someone is different to someone else. And best of all, she challenges me. She makes me work!

“During my sessions, we explored everything. My childhood, teenage years, not having a father figure, my time in the military, work, relationships. Self-harm, suicidal thoughts, constant anger and always feeling on edge. Having the constant need for something to happen so I could spring into action and use my long-forgotten skills. I used to think that being involved in a crisis was the only way I could feel alive.

“Through my therapy, I learned that a lot of my issues stemmed from my childhood and not necessarily the military. I learned why I act the way I do towards my children, how I am with friends and family, why I constantly felt the way I did. I also came to believe that things I saw and did while on operations were not bad. I was operating in a way I’d been trained and within the guidelines set out before me.

“Only through exploring these experiences and feelings have I now been able to come to terms with them. Accept them as part of me and move forward with my life. Through my work with my therapist, I have put coping mechanisms in place to help deal with the issues I have. I also have a greater self-awareness and can easily identify potential triggers before they occur. I threw myself into my hobby to keep my mind active and spent more quality time with my family to fill that void I clearly had. My output at work improved substantially and was clearly noticeable to the higher echelon. I became a better husband, father and man. I came to realise how lucky I was to have an amazing support network at home.

“Seeking help has been the best thing I have ever done. It has literally changed my life for the better and I cannot thank my therapist enough. She is literally a life saver. The darkness I had inside me is gone, as is the dark cloud over me. I have too much to live for, and that realisation came to me through therapy.

“I cannot not implore you enough. Seek help. Talk to someone. Do not suffer in silence or alone. Keeping things to yourself and remaining strong as you’re a man and that’s what men do is the wrong way. It takes more of a man to admit when he needs help. Get help. Not tomorrow, not next week, do it now.

“Struggling with your mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone suffers, few have the courage to admit it and seek help. Suffering doesn’t make you weak and asking for help, absolutely shows strength. Be strong, get help.

For so many people talking the first towards help is literally the hardest thing to do. Asking for help can feel impossible and risky, while admitting to ourselves that we aren’t coping or don’t feel happy with how we feel about our life can be really hard to do, especially for men, who can have strong messages about ‘manning up’ ‘being the provider’, ‘being the protector’ and so on.

The difference with what Fortis does it that we make sure that we match you to the right therapist for you, so your time with us is as an effective experience possible. Having protected, confidential time with someone you can trust, where you can speak about feelings and experiences you feel you can’t talk to anyone else about (and verbalising what is going on in your head!) really helps. Therapy works because of the trust and honesty you build in the relationship, feeling safe, not being judged and working together on your beliefs and thinking and feeling differently. It is a life changing and sometimes life-saving (both literally and metaphorically) process.

We’re Here To Help

If you need help please get in touch with us, or pass our details onto someone you know is struggling. You can email [email protected] or call 01472 241794. We have offices based in Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Hull and Louth. We can offer face to face 1-2-1, couple therapy and provide online sessions for everything we do.

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