Joe Winch is a Royal Marines Commando who turned to the mountains to reduce the impact of his PTSD, a condition which followed multiple combat tours in Afghanistan. Read Part 1 of his incredible Everest story here, or continue below with Part 2.
PtSD - The road to recovery
Aid and support are available to sufferers. Click below to learn more.
WHAT can be done to help?
Finding support from others can be a major factor in helping people overcome the negative effects of a traumatic event and PTSD. Having someone that you trust and to whom you can talk to can be helpful for working through stressful situations or for emotional validation.
Many PTSD victims find exercise to be therapeutic, particularly because it connects you to the present. The all-body co-ordination and mental focus required by climbing makes it an excellent choice of exercise. Exercise has been proven to help with stress.
Become aware of your triggers
Be on the lookout for potential triggers and learn how to manage them. Increase your awareness to the first signs of anger, flashback or anxiety so that you can re-orient yourself back to the present before your emotions overwhelm you.
Engage in activities
People suffering from PTSD are often full of self-loathing and feel undeserving of positive experiences. Rebuilding a sense of self is an important part of the recovery process. Engaging in meditation, doing volunteer work helps rebuild your self-worth.
Refrain from excess drinking and drugs
People processing trauma have a tendency to self-medicate, but this is often destructive.
Effective in helping people to cope with the disruptive symptoms of PTSD is adopting a pet that is especially trained to recognize and prevent — or interrupt — the onset of such symptoms. Research published last year indicated that spending as little as 1 week with a specially trained dog improved PTSD symptoms by 82 percent.
Find safe ways to blow off steam
Pound on a punching bag, lift some weights, go for a hard run, sing along to loud music, or find a secluded place to scream at the top of your lungs.
Support your body with a healthy diet
Omega-3s play a vital role in emotional health so incorporate foods such as fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts into your diet. Limit processed and fried food, sugars, and refined carbs which can exacerbate mood swings and energy fluctuations.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep deprivation exacerbates anger, irritability, and moodiness. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Develop a relaxing bedtime ritual ( calming music, a hot shower, dark and quiet bedroom).
Where can I go for help?
Local Doctors - www.nhs.uk
Always seek help from your local GP, in the first instance. They can give advise about the best courses of treatment. This may include medication, support groups and a variety of psychological therapies.
65 Degrees North - www.65degreesnorth.co.uk
65 Degrees North seeks to help in the rehabilitation of wounded, injured or sick current or ex-servicemen and women by offering the opportunity to participate in challenging adventure. By changing the perception of physical and mental disability through the ‘Spirit of Adventure’, they aim to inspire and motivate others to overcome, achieve and succeed.
Rock2Recovery - www.rock2recovery.co.uk
Rock2Recovery’s mission is to save and change the lives of those in our Armed Forces, our veteran community and their families who are affected by stress. Their approach is to inspire, coach and motivate towards a more positive future.
The Royal Marines Charity - www.theroyalmarinescharity.org.uk
The Royal Marines Charity exists to help the entire Royal Marines family, and are strong believers in “Once a Marine, always a Marine”. They offer a range of services to both serving and veterans.
Combat Stress - www.combatstress.org.uk
Combat Stress offer a range of treatment services in the community, at their specialist centres, on the phone and online, and develop a personalised programme for each veteran's individual needs. Combat Stress provides a residential treatment for veterans with trauma-related mental health problems.
Mind - www.mind.org.uk
Mind provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. Their motto is to never give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets the support and respect they need.
On the way to the South Summit though I started to have serious problems with my oxygen flow. My feet became painfully cold, and the wind – which had started to relent – increased dramatically driving down the temperature. Then, Scott’s headtorch broke – which was a serious problem as Scott has only one eye and without a headtorch his depth perception and ability to move safely became especially precarious. We had also been climbing for nearly twenty-four hours, we hadn’t slept or eaten properly in three days, and our oxygen flow was now inconsistent.
Joe's story continues in Part 3 - The Summit. Coming soon.
"Hypoxia, exhaustion, and frost bite are amongst the greatest risks at extreme altitude. They can quickly and easily combine to fatally compromise judgement and decision-making abilities. Scott and I slowed our ascent, shared our remaining headtorch, and really focussed on looking out for each other, whilst I also furiously worked on warming my feet and my oxygen flow. At the infamous Hillary Step, we were moving really efficiently as a pair. The months of hard work and training together paid off."
Read part 3 now
65 Degrees North
This article has not been produced in official association with any charity, however 65 Degrees North compliment and enhance clinical treatment and recovery through offering spectacular life-changing adventures for people suffering with PTSD. Without them Joe's recovery wouldn’t be where it is now. If you want to learn more or would like to give support, please click the relevant button below.