Imagine discovering a loved one had suffered with nightmares for 18 years. Then imagine witnessing them debilitated by pain, with doctors unable to diagnose their symptoms. It’s something Sandra understands only too well. Unaware her daughter, Clare, was suffering nightmares and flashbacks. Sandra only learnt the truth when Clare was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Alongside this, Clare was also diagnosed with Behçet's Disease - a rare condition which affects the blood vessels, causing constant pain and other symptoms such as mouth ulcers, bowel problems, migraines, joint pain, eye inflammation and chronic fatigue. Find out how Clare’s determination has inspired the whole family to become stronger, together.
“When Clare joined the Army, I was proud and worried at the same time, but she thrived in her role and enjoyed her three years serving for the Royal Army Medical Corps.
“When she came home from Kosovo, Clare explained that she couldn’t talk about it much. But after a little while, she did mention there were certain events she’d found upsetting. Only once did she mention a nightmare, but never said anything else after that.
“Then, in 2017, Clare told me she’d been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and had been having nightmares and flashbacks - it was upsetting to know she’d suffered in silence for 18 years.
“A few years before being diagnosed with PTSD, Clare also started complaining about stomach problems. Then she started to experience pain in her joints, ulcers, sickness, and fatigue – some days she couldn’t even get out of bed.
“When she was finally diagnosed with Behçet's Disease, it was such a relief to know there were professionals who understood her condition and could treat her properly.
“Even with the correct treatment Clare still has relapses, and I wish she could be pain free. She’s slowly learning ways to pace herself and manage the bad days, which is tough as she likes sticking to a routine… there’ll be times I’m talking to her, and she’s suddenly asleep.
“Since reaching out to Help for Heroes, Clare’s become the person we all used to know. Their Hidden Wounds Team have helped her to develop coping mechanisms to manage her PTSD and having professionals and fellow veterans to speak to also makes her feel less alone; as although she can talk to me, it’s not the same as speaking to someone who fully understands the reality of it all.
“Then there’s Sports Recovery; Clare has always been sporty but feared Behçet's would prevent her from being active. The Sports Recovery Team showed her everything she could achieve, and she has since tried all kinds of adaptive sport, from kayaking to archery and handcycling. It’s given both her physical and mental wellbeing such a boost.
“Even through lockdown Clare was determined to continue exercise – setting up her handcycle in the back garden, she cycled 1,000 miles in 14 weeks. I was so proud of her. The past few decades have been tough, but they’ve made our family closer, and Clare’s strength continues to be an inspiration to us all.”