Beryl began her military career in the RAF when she was 20 in the mid-1970s, and became a fighter controller; managing air defence craft to intercept unidentified or enemy aircraft.
Later moving into administrative positions her workload was wide and varied – she served all over the world from London to Cyprus, Germany to Texas.
Beryl’s work, however, would soon begin to take its toll.
“I began to be ill around 1990”, she says, “I was working in the Ministry of Defence in London; it was at the time of the Kuwait Crisis and the first Iraq war. It was my job to liaise with the wives and families of captured or injured Servicemen. I could appear to be organised, unflappable and caring, the one who could help people through a crisis but when I began to lose colleagues, things came to a head.”
It was also part of Beryl’s day to view distressing footage of aircraft crashes, “When there was an aircraft accident, we’d have a Board of Enquiry”, says Beryl, “I had to see gory pictures and read all the harrowing details – these were my colleagues, my friends.”
“In the past I was known for being vibrant, full of life, strong and unflappable but it all crept up on me. I couldn’t do it anymore. For several years I carried on working. I was hanging in there but I was a nervous wreck. I was worn out.”
“After 19 years of service I was invalided out of the RAF with a diagnosis of depression. I moved to France and whilst I had some great support from a GP who happened to be ex-military I felt I needed more help. I was having such violent, disturbing dreams – and simple tasks like visiting the shops were difficult. I was so edgy and tetchy all the time.”
Beryl then had an assessment with Dr Walter Busuttil, our Director of Medical Services. “Walter diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – it was an eye-opening relief. I wasn’t going potty - there was now a chance things could be put right.”
“I was the first woman to attend the PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme. On the course we learnt how our brains work, how memories are formed – when you have PTSD you don’t make proper memories and you don’t ‘file’ them properly.”
“The treatment is tailored to you – that’s one of the most important things. It was special and individual. I’m hugely better now – together we were able to do it; I say ‘we’ because Combat Stress got me back onto the road to recovery. I’ve had some great support along the way but they gave me my life back, as my husband, Terry says - ‘they’re the icing on the cake!’.”