Dave served in the Royal Navy for 11 years from 1979 to 1990. He was just 19 years old when he went to war on HMS Intrepid during the Falklands conflict in 1982.
“We were in “Bomb Alley” getting air raids constantly – I couldn’t sleep for three days,’ says the dad-of-two. ‘We saw horrible things. We had survivors of (RFA Sir) Galahad come on ship after she was bombed – they had 90 per cent burns.
“We were right next to HMS Antelope when she exploded. We were dodging death every day.’
After leaving the Navy, Dave became a bus driver. He got married and had two daughters. It wasn’t until 20 years after the Falklands that Dave’s mental health problems began.
“My family was away at the time – all of a sudden I started crying, having flashbacks and nightmares. I didn’t understand what was going on. I went to see my GP and broke down. He realised that it was PTSD and sent me to the NHS. But I didn’t feel understood there so I managed it myself for 14 years.
“But my problems became 5,000 times worse after the death of my sister in 2016. I was afraid to sleep because I knew what was coming at night. By then I knew Combat Stress might be able to help so I made contact.”
Dave undertook a two-week residential course at a Combat Stress treatment centre and later the charity’s six-week residential intensive treatment programme for PTSD.
“When I stepped through the doors of Combat Stress, it was the first time in 35 years that I felt safe.
“PTSD is like being in a dark pit - one that has no light or escape. Combat Stress gave me the light to go for.
‘I was broken, they gave me my life back – they saved me. They gave my wife her husband back and my children their dad back. I owe them everything.”
Through undertaking occupational therapy during treatment, Dave had a chance to explore painting and baking. “I’d never painted before but I had a go and found I enjoyed it. Whilst I’d always loved cooking, I’d never baked but in the occupational therapy kitchen, I started with flapjacks, lemon drizzle cakes, cheese cakes and anything else I could have a go at. I still bake at home now - I find it really relaxing and it takes me to another place, a happy place.
“I’m always going to have bad days but the good days outweigh the bad days now. Before I went to Combat Stress it was a constant bad day – in fact there wasn’t such a thing as a day, it was just bad.”
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