Alun, from Pontypridd, blogs about how he was impacted with PTSD and how he got help.
Content warning: this blog mentions a suicide attempt.
My story begins in 2017, whilst working as a Security Officer in Cardiff’s biggest shopping centre. I could be called to help with anything from a minor cut, to faints or in some cases a cardiac arrest.
I’ll never forget my first cardiac arrest, a 93-year-old lady who had collapsed on the high street. We carried out CPR before paramedics arrived and took the lady to hospital for further treatment. Sadly, she passed away.
I didn’t know how I felt after that incident, I was left with so many questions and wondering if there was any more I could have done. But the day went on and it was back to work as usual.
I thought that was the worst I would have attended. But I was wrong.
In 2018, we had a call to tell us that a lady had attempted to take her own life in a toilet cubicle. We fought to keep her alive for almost an hour before the ambulance service arrived. Somehow, we managed it and she made it to hospital where she received treatment and stayed intensive care.
It was all too much for me. Straight from the scene to the Police for a statement. Then another statement to my manager and countless incident forms to fill in. I didn’t have any time to process what had just happened. And then after all that and a quick cup of tea it was back to work and straight to clean the scene.
I felt terrible, I couldn’t focus. I felt lost, anxious and still shaking after what I had just been through. I waited until I got home, straight to my parents and I’ve never needed them so much. I walked through the door, greeted with a hug from Mum and, as expected, I broke down.
After spending time with my parents, I went home and broke down once again.
It was at that point I knew I was not ok. I had sleepless nights, nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks.
We were told during our training that we will all have one call that would stick with us, and that was mine.
After a week of not feeling right, I had no choice but to speak up. I told my boss first, as I dreaded going to work and being in the same environment as where it all happened. He put me in touch with the Ambulance Service who then referred me to the Trauma Incident Management team. I felt weak, like I wasn’t cut out for the job. I felt guilty and that I could have done more or been stronger.
After a few days I had my first Trauma session. I left the session feeling a little more positive after speaking to someone who understood and had been to a similar call. However, as the months went on, my mental health deteriorated again. I found myself crying at the thought of the call. I used to hide in the back corridors of work and cry uncontrollably as the thought of coming across that day again.
My family were amazing and so understanding when I spoke up and reached out for help.
They put me in contact with Mind, who then referred me to one of their counsellors who lived not too far from me.
I had around 10 sessions with the counsellor, and she was literally amazing! I felt like I got so much emotion and feelings out in the first session that I could have slept for weeks. As the rest of the sessions went on, I could feel myself getting better.
I told her about the thoughts I had been having that were scaring me, the anxiety and panic attacks, sleepless nights and nightmares, everything.
She taught me how to come to terms with what had happened, taught me how to understand my feelings and emotions and how to cope with them.
We went through some mindfulness which helped me relax at difficult times. Most of all, she helped me accept that I had been suffering with PSTD and how to manage it all.
I went to my GP for a diagnosis, and he had confirmed along with the counsellor that I have PSTD.
This is something that has and will stick with me for a while, and on times I still get anxious or have the odd panic attack from things I see, smell or do. But from what I had learned from my counsellor, I could use to help calm myself down and manage the feelings a lot better.
I don’t know where I would have been today if it wasn’t for Mind and the help I received.
I have since left my role as a security officer after almost nine years, and now work for my local branch of Mind, in hope to help someone else going through a similar issue or at least urging people to speak up and accept help.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Alun is from Pontypridd and lives with his Labrador, Hugo. He likes rugby, photography, and spending quality time with his friends and family.
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