Being a Band of Sister means I have a support group and can talk to other people who understand what I’m going through. It’s been a rock for me.
Eileen Stockley was working as a civil servant with the RAF in Cyprus when she met Kelly Farrer who was serving in the Army with the Adjutant General’s Corps. They became close friends and, after returning to the UK and Germany respectively, stayed in touch and later become a couple.
Unfortunately, Kelly’s deployments to Iraq and the affects they had on her meant both of their lives would never be the same. Eileen explains: “Kelly had moved in with me within a few weeks of us getting together because she couldn’t survive on her own. She came back from Iraq a different person. At night she was lashing out and kicking and screaming in her sleep. She then had a major breakdown and threatened to kill herself and other people.”
Kelly was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder but, as hard as it was for the two of them, Eileen never doubted being there for her: “I was already in love with Kelly. The fact that I came home and she was there was a bonus for me.”
Despite their enduring love for each other, Kelly’s condition showed no signs of improvement and Eileen saw the relationship start to suffer: “Things were getting worse and worse. It’s hard work constantly caring for somebody, it takes a toll on the relationship.”
It was after being sent to one of the Departments of Community Mental Health that Eileen was told about Help for Heroes and its Band of Brothers and Band of Sisters fellowships: “Kelly was in a really bad way so it was nice to know there was somebody who could help – the Band of Brothers for Service Personnel like Kelly and the Band of Sisters for their loved ones.”
As soon as they started getting support at one of the Charity’s Recovery Centres, Tedworth House, Eileen noticed a change in Kelly: “She’s become much more engaged. Tedworth House is such a wonderful environment. We feel safe there, it’s the only time Kelly doesn’t feel panicked. She’s come home saying ‘I feel really good.’
“Being a Band of Sister means I have a support group and can talk to other people who understand what I’m going through. It’s been a rock for me. The respite weekends are brilliant and I’ve used their Psychological Wellbeing service Hidden Wounds.”
For the first time in years, Kelly has made real progress in her recovery – even competing at the 2016 Invictus Games. Eileen, meanwhile, is training to trek across the Great Wall of China to raise money in aid of Help for Heroes: “I’m really proud of how hard Kelly worked just to get to the Invictus try-outs.”
Looking ahead to the future, Eileen just wants Kelly to get better – no matter how long that takes: “That’s the aim – for Kelly to live her life normally. Help for Heroes has made our lives considerably easier and I think it’s important the Charity supports people like me. We may not have served but we’ve spent however many years caring for somebody who was willing to give up their life for their country and that has a huge impact.”