I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in November 2015 by Combat Stress. Prior to this, I had turned to alcohol and found home life difficult. I was aggressive and had night terrors. I became homeless as a result of his mental health problems. For me, pottery making has helped turn my life around.
When I left the Army in 2013, I was drinking heavily but I still managed to get, and hold down, a good job. I thought I was fine but really I was using drink to self-medicate and to cover up my mental health issues.
Alcohol really got a hold of me – I’d go to work, do my job and then come home and drink on my own. It was my partner at the time who said I needed to get help after there were a couple of occasions when I lost it with her.
I called the Combat Stress Helpline who helped me find a local alcohol support group to get my drinking under control. Once I’d resolved this, the Helpline then put me in contact with my local Combat Stress community team.
I was then diagnosed with PTSD but just after this I became homeless as, due to my behaviour at home, my partner had kicked me out.
Luckily my friends and employer were both very supportive and The Royal British Legion helped me to find a flat.
I came to Combat Stress for a two week residential course in April 2016 and that was when I first tried out working with clay as part of my occupational therapy. I’d seen The Great Pottery Throw Down so was intrigued. One of the occupational therapy technicians helped me get started and that was it, I was hooked.
When I returned for the six week PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme, I continued to improve, spending many hours on the wheel with the support of the technician. I also had the opportunity of teaching other veterans how to throw pots, which helped me improve my confidence.
For me, working with clay and ceramics is the ideal distraction to keep me off the drink. It’s hard to throw a pot with a can of Fosters in my hand! I find it relaxing and it helps to reduce my anxiety – all food for helping with the symptoms of PTSD.
SSAFA helped in obtaining funding in having my own wheel and kiln at home, with donation coming from Help for Heroes and Royal Engineer association , I can’t thank them enough. It has changed my life can’t beat throwing a pot after a stressful day at work”
I’ve made all kinds of items – mugs, soup bowls, teapots, even a honey pot. Making a jug is my next target. Pottery has started to fill my flat and I now even have a wheel and kiln at home. I have started to go out more, meeting people who have the same interest in pottery – this prevents me from isolating myself. In fact, I’m about to start a City and Guilds course in ceramics. And I often find myself in weird and wonderful craft shops, hunting down for pottery supplies.
I’ve lost everything but I’m happy with what I have now. I still have up and down days but I now have plenty of tools to help me. I’d never have thought working with clay could help me so much but thanks to Combat Stress, I’ve discovered it and it’s changed my life.