Caroline served in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, but her career was cut short due to injury, and she was medically discharged.
Caroline experienced a sense of rejection and failure on leaving the Army and started to struggle with her mental health.
She began to receive counselling for her physical and mental exhaustion, and unexpressed trauma before being diagnosed with complex PTSD.
“My counsellor recommended Help for Heroes to me, but I felt it wasn't for me, and I rejected the suggestion at first as I felt I wouldn’t have any right to be there.
“I then heard about the Help for Heroes Choir and I became tempted, as I love to sing. My counsellor wrote to the charity and the next thing I knew I was invited to a choir weekend.
“I was absolutely terrified and I nearly turned back home, but the minute I walked into the centre I felt a sense of calm, of being accepted, not judged, and had lots of smiles and even hugs.
“The choir were incredibly welcoming and the singing, fun and the banter was fantastic for my soul, I felt so uplifted and so welcomed and looked after.”
LEARNING SKILLS AND MAKING FRIENDS
From there, Caroline was gently encouraged to try various courses. She joined the Pathfinder Course where she made friends for life.
“I made friends on that course who I remain in contact with daily and one of them has been adopted into my family, both as my lifelong friend to me but also as an adopted Grandad to my daughter. I am truly blessed in that my daughter now has him as she doesn't have Grandparents on my side.”
Caroline then went on to do a coaching course and a Mental Health First Aid course, which allowed her to build on her skills from her time in the Nursing Corps and her desire to help others.
CONNECTING WITH OTHERS
Caroline continues to sing in the Choir and joined them last year as they performed in the Downing Street gardens for a National Armed Forces Day Reception hosted by the Prime Minister.
“Like others in the choir, my medical problems prevent me from being able to work, and the frustration and isolation that creates is very real. The choir enables me to connect with others, who understand, who have had similar experiences to me within their military careers and are on their own recovery paths.
“We come together like individual bits of a jigsaw, all with our own individual singing voices but when we get into that room and harmonise our voices, we create something beautiful. It truly uplifts the soul and is so good for both mind and body and it feels like we are one, connected together.
“They also embrace my family; they are interested in my husband and my two children, and the choir often ask after them and give them support.
“I know without doubt that my confidence has grown through my connection with Help for Heroes. I have really begun to get my strength back through the experiences I've had with them, encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone.”