H4H_Anna _portrait

Anna McCulloch

Love and Commitment – Anna’s Story

When Anna first met her now-husband Daniel, he had been out of the Army for over two years and appeared to have moved on and settled into civilian life. But shortly before the couple married in 2014, he began to suffer terrible flashbacks and barely slept.

Daniel saw and experienced many things whilst on deployment that had a lasting effect on him psychologically. Upon his return, his thoughts were riddled with terrible flashbacks and he barely slept.  His mental health plummeted, leading to fits of rage and lashing out, with Anna often bearing the brunt of it: “Things got progressively worse and worse. Daniel would just snap at even the smallest thing – things in the house got smashed, walls were punched and we didn’t know why. The doctors just thought his condition was normal for guys who’d served.

It wasn’t until Daniel was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that Anna knew just how severe his condition was. It wasn’t just controlling his life, but hers too: “I was worried about us going anywhere in case it triggered anything in Daniel. He’d have flashbacks just walking up a street and panic. We had to avoid going anywhere. He wasn’t able to raise our children either because he would either ignore or shout at them.

Anna didn’t know who to turn to for help and was stricken by feelings of guilt for not knowing how to help Daniel: “I felt I was failing him and not looking after him as I should do. Daniel was having a horrible time and, although I wasn’t negligent, I just didn’t understand what he was going through. Everything he said to me I took to heart – I didn’t know it was his illness talking, not him. Our marriage was on the brink.”

H4H_Anna _detail

It got to the stage where Anna was so worried about Daniel she wouldn’t leave him alone in case he tried to take his own life. The last time she did, he drove the car onto a railway line hoping for a train to come past and hit him. Anna hoped her extra care would make him feel safe. Instead it made Daniel feel even more desperate because he was used to being the man of the family. Anna explains: “Because he wasn’t able to look after us he felt he’d lost all his credibility. Not just with me but from all his family and friends too.”

But amongst all this suffering, Anna never forgot the love she had for Daniel and the commitment they’d made to each other when they got married. She knew things had to change so contacted the Royal British Legion who put her in touch with the mental health charity Combat Stress: “Daniel was put on a course to learn more about his PTSD and how to deal with it. Combat Stress also told us about Help for Heroes and what they could do to support us so I gave them a call.” 

Picking up the phone to talk to Help for Heroes was a decision Anna says completely changed her and Daniel’s lives. They may have only just become part of the Help for Heroes family, but they’ve already been on their first day out with their children; made possible by the Charity’s fellowship group the Band of Sisters. It was their first outing together in nearly four years. For Anna, just getting Daniel out of the house was a big step in the right direction: “It was massive. Things have already changed significantly. Daniel is feeling more optimistic and is spending more time with the kids. We can even go shopping together now. It’s great we can start doing those little things together again.”   

Getting back the man she married drives Anna to do the best she can for him every day. A constant reminder of her love and commitment to Daniel and her family is the tattoo on her back. Showing a woman with thorns around her neck and a gun to her head, it is a symbol of what Anna was going through when her husband’s PTSD was at its very worst: “My tattoo is reminder that when you go through the toughest times in life you can choose to continue or stop. I think you always have to choose to never give up, never give in; especially when there’s someone else who relies on your support and your help.”  

The challenges Anna and Daniel will face continue. It would be all too easy for her to feel overwhelmed and throw in the towel. But her continued strength and refusal to give in is inspiring: “There’s still a long way to go and we need take things slowly and one step at a time. But now I feel hopeful for the future.”

Whatever that future holds, Anna says being out of the woods with Daniel still by her side makes them stronger: “We’ve been a through a lot together, the sort of things most couples never have to experience.”

Now with Help for Heroes Anna believes they can finally move on from the struggles she and Daniel have been through over the last few years: “Daniel and I have been right on the edge but we’ve persevered and come through it. We’ve now got all the support we need and are on the road to recovery.”

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