Craig was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in November 2015. He joined the Army when he was 16, and in his 23 years of service he completed tours of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Craig turned to alcohol to cope with his symptoms and found home life difficult.
He was aggressive and had night terrors, and became homeless as a result of his mental health problems. For him, discovering pottery making through his treatment at Combat Stress, has helped turn his life around.
"When I left the Army in 2013, I was drinking heavily but I still managed to get, and hold down, a good job. I thought I was fine but really I was using drink to self-medicate and to cover up my mental health issues.
"Alcohol really got a hold of me – I’d go to work, do my job and then come home and drink on my own. It was my partner at the time who said I needed to get help after there were a couple of occasions when I lost it with her.
"I called the Combat Stress Helpline who helped me find a local alcohol support group to get my drinking under control. They then put me in contact with my local Combat Stress community team. I was then diagnosed with PTSD but just after this I became homeless as, due to my behaviour at home, my partner had kicked me out. Luckily my friends and employer were both very supportive and The Royal British Legion helped me to find a flat.
"I came to Combat Stress for a two week residential course in April 2016 and that was when I first tried out working with clay as part of my occupational therapy. I’d seen The Great Pottery Throw Down so was intrigued. One of the occupational therapy technicians helped me get started and that was it, I was hooked.
“When I returned for the six week PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme, I continued to improve, spending many hours on the wheel with the support of the technician. I also had the opportunity of teaching other veterans how to throw pots, which helped me improve my confidence.
For me, working with clay and ceramics is the ideal distraction to keep me off the drink. I find it relaxing and it helps to reduce my anxiety – all food for helping with the symptoms of PTSD.
“I’ve made all kinds of items – mugs, soup bowls, teapots, even a honey pot. Making a jug is my next target. Pottery has started to fill my flat and I now even have a wheel and kiln at home. I have started to go out more, meeting people who have the same interest in pottery – this prevents me from isolating myself. In fact, I’m about to start a City and Guilds course in ceramics. And I often find myself in weird and wonderful craft shops, hunting down pottery supplies.
You can view Craig's work on his website: potteryptsd.co.uk
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