Monday 17th February
Yesterday I began the long trip to Ayr to attend HollyBush House – a centre that treats ex forces people who are suffering from PTSD. I was diagnosed with PTSD a couple of years ago and, finally, things were right for me to attend the centre for an initial assessment and treatment. I made plans to travel down in the hope of finding some relief for my anxiety and sleep problems – this is my account of that trip. Perhaps it will help others who are suffering.
The journey took more than two days, including a stay at the Weigh Inn at Scrabster, bus from Scrabster to Inverness, bus from Inverness to Glasgow (a mercifully short stop), bus from Glasgow to Ayr, and one more to Hollybush House – I asked the driver of the last bus to drop me off at Hollybush House and to tell me when we were there: he dropped me off about a hundred yards from the driveway, I thought he was being awkward but realised in retrospect that he was probably being discrete. I remember he talked quietly when he announced that this was my stop, I was sitting close, and went on to point out the entrance to the drive ahead. I suppose it could be embarrassing to be seen to walk down the drive which is well sign-posted and no doubt known locally for harbouring ‘crazy’ veterans.
It was a long walk down the drive to the house, which was good as it gave me time to assess the place and to get used to the fact that I was, actually, going to do this. I plucked up courage to introduce myself at reception after a preparatory fag outside. The introductions went smoothly and I was first shown my room so I could drop my kit, then a quick tour and then given some food that had been saved for me. Hollybush House is a huge listed building that sits in the middle of a wooded garden area: lots of trees, birds, and squirrels. There used to be lots of rabbits wandering around the neat lawns but myxomatosis has killed them off. Unfortunately the weather never dried up enough for me to explore further. The house itself has lots of alternatives for activities; or simply solitude if you want it. Three TVs, a library, games room, activity room, gym, common room, dining room, and more. The bedroom is comfortable but simple with a big bed and a radio but no TV. The bathroom is well equipped and my room was very warm.
I was told that I had an appointment with the psychiatrist tomorrow at 10.30 and that the duty nurse would have a talk with me later tonight.
After my meal I spent a little time on my own in the room, then went down to watch a film in the activity room on the Xbox. I paused the film to have a chat, a risk assessment, with the duty nurse. He went through a series of questions in order to assess whether I was at risk of coming to harm, either by my own hand or due to my health – but the questions soon turned into a relaxed session and the formality fell away as I began to talk a little about how I felt. It was a little emotional to find a professional who actually seemed to care and who seemed not to treat me as having a disease.
Went back to my film after supper: toast, cakes, and hot drinks; chats with people if you fancied. No one pushed themselves in my face and they were sensitively friendly. After the film I went to my room and connected my laptop to the wireless internet. I sent a message to my partner to let her know what was happening and then went to bed – how will I sleep after such a day?