Life after Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In 2018 I intend to take this blog in a different direction with additions to the wedding and portrait posts. After the feedback I received when I posted the little documentary story about my eldest daughters first day I’ve decided that a bit of variety here would not hurt, I have various skills behind the camera and I have spent over 18 years documenting a bride and grooms wedding day. Using those skills I am building a new area of commercial photography where I document ‘a day in the life’ of a business or owner. Starting my journey I spent time with my good friend John on Remembrance Day 2017. Here is his story, I hope you like it, leave your thoughts below
Founder of Wildway Bushcraft, John is ex-forces and as a result of his time in the field, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, with the help of his service dog Hazel, who has been specially trained to make life with PTSD easier, John has been able to move on with his life and has started his very own company.
For many ex-forces men and women, like John, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a big part of their everyday lives. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is brought on by stressful, frightening or distressing events, including being involved in military conflict.
People living with PTSD, often relive the traumatic event through a series of very realistic nightmares and flashbacks. While for most people, traumatic events cause symptoms at the time, such as shaking, sweating, and feeling angry or anxious, known as an Acute Stress Reaction, for others these symptoms can linger and develop into PTSD.
Around one in three people who have experienced a traumatic event, will go on to develop symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms usually occur a few months after the event, although they can start earlier or much later, it differs depending on the person.
What is it like living with PTSD?
People living with PTSD often feel extremely isolated and depressed, and can often struggle to forge relationships. It can feel like the world is moving without them and they are unable to do
anything about it.
Living with PTSD is different for everyone, but the good news is that it can be treated. There are various treatment options available – it’s just a case of choosing an option that meets your needs. These treatments include watchful waiting – monitoring symptoms and keeping track of what symptoms occur and when, including what may trigger them – psychotherapy – a form of trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy, antidepressants, or pet therapy.
How can PTSD service dogs help?
Dogs have a habit of being able to bring out even the most isolated people, and because of this, by engaging with a dog, ex-forces personnel like John, are able to overcome the emotional numbness that comes with PTSD. Through working with a dog like Hazel, people living with PTSD are also able to develop new ways to express their feelings without getting angry or becoming paranoid.
For people with PTSD, having a dog like Hazel can help them to get into a routine, which can be hugely beneficial. One of the most effective methods of alleviating PTSD symptoms is getting out and about and exercising, which is something that a dog can help to motivate you to do, as dogs need plenty of exercise to remain healthy.
For John, working with his service dog Hazel has been the most effective treatment method. In terms of his rehabilitation and management of PTSD, Hazel has changed everything for John; she has given him a reason to ‘live’ again and start taking steps to improve his happiness and wellness. My personal experience of Hazel is that she is acutely aware of her surroundings, whenever I picked up my camera to photograph John she immediately put herself between John and myself until she was satisfied that John was happy.
PTSD dogs can be highly beneficial for people living with PTSD, as they can help to make life worth living again. Dogs offer companionship and support, which is what makes them such a fantastic form of therapy for people living with all kinds of physical and mental health problems, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Pet therapy has been proven to be a highly effective method of managing and treating all kinds of mental health problems, as pets, particularly dogs, offer a type of therapy that cannot be offered by anyone else. Animals are known for their ability to trigger an emotional response, which in cases of PTSD can help to ground sufferers and make getting on with daily life while living with PTSD, that little bit easier.
How has John changed his life?
Since John was joined by Hazel, his whole life has changed. He may still battle the demons that come with PTSD on a daily basis, but thanks to having Hazel by his side, he has found the courage to move on and build a new life for himself by launching a bushcraft company, Wildway Bushcraft, that relies on the skills that he learnt in the forces. John has also developed a great team who look after every student on his courses. You can see two of these guys in these images tirelesly working to help the course run smoothly.
Bushcraft is a form of outdoor life experiences where attendees spend the day or a few days out in the wilderness exploring, cooking over an open fire, sleeping under the stars, and taking part in a range of wilderness activities. The aim of bushcraft is to enhance social and personal development while having fun outdoors and learning more about the environment. From shelter building and orienteering to fire lighting and wilderness cookery, these outdoor retreats offer some incredible experiences.
John and his team offer a wide range of bushcraft experiences, from basic bushcraft to survival courses. With the aim being to provide fun, educational and unique bushcraft and outdoor survival classes. Each of the classes that John and his team runs can be tailored to meet the needs of the individual or group taking part, that’s part of the beauty of bushcraft.
As well as providing a range of day and overnight bushcraft experiences, Wildway Bushcraft, also offer a range of stand-alone activities. These include spoon carving, canoe expeditions, axe skills and charcoal making, family bushcraft, and friction fire lighting. Another part of what John and his team offer is an introduction to nature that can help aid and support mental health. Having suffered from PTSD himself, John knows all too well what it’s like to live with a mental health problem and how certain activities, such as being outside and at one with nature can help.
For John, his service dog Hazel has changed his entire post-forces life. Although PTSD is a long-term health condition, he has been able to work with his dog to alleviate his symptoms and learn to adjust back to civilian life. Just like Wildway Bushcraft teaches, John is not only surviving, he is also thriving, and that is mainly down to his service dog, Hazel who has given him the lifeline that he needs to make more of his life and beat his PTSD.
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