Merchant Navy veteran and Army wife Ulrike joined the Help for Heroes Band of Sisters fellowship in 2016 after her husband was diagnosed with PTSD, and has improved her own mental health and wellbeing through the charity’s Hidden Wounds service.
German-born Ulrike met her husband in 2013, two years after they became close online, and just a few short months later he moved down from Darlington to Ulrike’s home in Southampton.
Ulrike said: “At that point I don’t think I picked up that he was struggling. I know he wasn’t too happy when he was working in Germany. I think he felt a bit lonely to be honest, but he was trying to make the best of it. At that point, I never realised that there was something wrong; I didn’t know any different.”
Then, Ulrike started to notice a change: “He started getting quieter on me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. He opened up to me after I saw that he shared a post about Hidden Wounds on Facebook, and I did tell him that if he’s not contacting them I will on his behalf, because I was just so worried once he said he was depressed.”
Ulrike’s husband went to Hidden Wounds after they took part in the 2016 Big Battlefield Bike Ride as supporters and was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, sleep and anger issues, as well as PTSD.
“I thought I’d done something wrong, seriously done something wrong. Why did I not see this, why did I not realise, what had I done not to prevent this from happening?
“From being very self-sufficient, he went to someone who was heavily relying on me to be a care-giver as well as working full-time. I started to take all the housework away from him, preparing all the meals and cooking for the week. I would do absolutely everything for him, because I wasn’t sure if he could manage it. Every single second of the day I was worrying about him - it was on my mind all the time. It brought me to breaking point, and I realised I needed help as well.
“I wanted to go to somebody to help me who understands my background, where I’m coming from being an Army wife, so I contacted Hidden Wounds. I was set up via the phone so I didn’t have to take time off work, and after an initial assessment with my counsellor to establish what help did I need, what was bothering me, we then decided to concentrate on the worrying, which was the biggest thing for me.
Ulrike has now joined the Help for Heroes Band of Sisters fellowship, to get support from other loved ones, and now understands that she doesn’t need to try and cope with everything on her own.
“Even though the injured person needs help, the family does as well. It will always affect the family, it’s very, very difficult. We all try to put a great front on, you know ‘everything’s fine, everything’s great,’ but we need something – we certainly need Help for Heroes.
“Hidden Wounds is one of the best things we’ve got, and they’re here for the partners too. Being in the fellowship is absolutely amazing too. You can just let things out, and nobody will judge you. It’s like family.”