Diane and David Richardson, from Cumbria, first met in 1989 on a blind date.
The couple were inseparable from thereon – but not always for positive reasons.
David suffers from mental health problems related to his career in the Royal Navy and, although Diane witnessed his frequent nightmares, he would not tell her the cause, becoming increasingly anti-social and very dependent on his wife.
That made Diane feel trapped, unable to leave him on his own.
She’d known from the start that he had physical injuries due to the scars on his knee and because he walked with a stick. He has since had a partial leg amputation. But she hadn’t been prepared for the mental trauma that David was suffering.
“He used to get really bad nightmares where he would talk, and go through a story; he would be shouting and screaming, jumping in his sleep.
“But when I asked him about them, he would never tell me. He would just go into himself. I didn’t realise at the time that it was PTSD because he never discussed them with me.”
While the nightmares never affected Diane and David’s relationship, the causes of them did affect the way he acted in everyday life.
“He was very secretive. He didn’t open up about his nightmares and he didn’t open up in real life. He would just bury it in the sand. Anything he had a problem with, he would hide it from me until eventually, I would find out and then it was 20 times worse.
“I knew we had to sort it out.”
That’s when they contacted Help for Heroes. Both have benefited ever since. With support from our Psychological Wellbeing team based at Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick, David has finally felt able to reveal to Diane the experiences behind his nightmares; while she has attended a Mental Health Awareness course that has helped her better understand David’s behaviour.
Diane, 52, successfully completed a six-month sports massage course at Phoenix House and is hoping to combine that with her existing Swedish massage qualification to set up a part-time business, fitting it in around caring for David. That’s something that she never thought possible.
“Sometimes I’d feel quite trapped, that I had to be with him 24/7. So, for David to feel so comfortable that he is able to go to the Recovery Centre on his own is really good because I get that little break as well.
“The other good thing for me is being able to talk to other people whose husbands have also got PTSD. Sometimes I feel quite disloyal talking about David to somebody else so it’s nice to be able to listen to other people sharing and telling what their husbands do and to know it’s not just me; that I’m not on my own – I’ve got that support.
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