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Norwich woman is literally fighting her Afghanistan demons

PUBLISHED: 14:20 15 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:20 15 June 2019

Liz Sharpe, who suffers with PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, is raising money for charity Outside the Wire with a boxing event. Photo: Outside the Wire

Liz Sharpe, who suffers with PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, is raising money for charity Outside the Wire with a boxing event. Photo: Outside the Wire

Outside the Wire

A Norwich woman who suffers PTSD after a taxing tour of Afghanistan is pulling on the boxing gloves to give back to the veterans service who helped her.

Liz Sharpe, who suffers with PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, is raising money for charity Outside the Wire with a boxing event. Photo: Outside the WireLiz Sharpe, who suffers with PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, is raising money for charity Outside the Wire with a boxing event. Photo: Outside the Wire

Liz Sharpe, 32 and from Spixworth, served in the Royal Engineers from 2003 to 2009, and was one of the first women to be in the regiment.

But after leaving the Army, having been part of Operation Herrick V in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2007, she began to struggle with her mental health, turning to alcohol to numb the pain.

Miss Sharpe, who now works for Perenco, said although she was officially diagnosed with PTSD six years ago, she felt she was feeling the effects far before.

She said: "You feel like you are going crazy, and you don't know why, you have a lot of social anxiety, you can't cope with things.

Elizabeth Sharpe, will be holding a white collar boxing event to raise money for the Matthew Project, the charity which has helped her with her PTSD and alchol issues following her service. Here she is pictured with her councillor Justin Smith. picture: Ella WilkinsonElizabeth Sharpe, will be holding a white collar boxing event to raise money for the Matthew Project, the charity which has helped her with her PTSD and alchol issues following her service. Here she is pictured with her councillor Justin Smith. picture: Ella Wilkinson

"There are vivid instances that stand out and also the training I went through was quite tough because I was one of the first female Royal Engineers."

At first, Miss Sharpe went to see her GP and was given medication and referred to NHS services, but it was only when she found Outside the Wire - a bespoke drug and alcohol service for the armed forces in Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex - that she really started to make progress.

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Her support includes weekly meetings, counselling, and other activities to help her cope with the PTSD, which recovery practitioner Justin Smith said never really goes away.

Liz Sharpe, who suffers with PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, is raising money for charity Outside the Wire with a boxing event. Photo: Outside the WireLiz Sharpe, who suffers with PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, is raising money for charity Outside the Wire with a boxing event. Photo: Outside the Wire

And crucially Outwside the Wire does not put a time limit on how long support is provided for, as Miss Sharpe has been seeing them for five years.

"It's whenever I think life is getting out of hand," she said.

Mr Smith, who is ex-RAF, said: "PTSD manifests itself in so many ways, it can stem right back to childhood. Over the years it's been a bit misunderstood, the easy way out has been to prescribe medication, that's why people were given the antidepressants.

"But they build up a tolerance because the nightmares are still there and they are vivid. So the next step is quite a drastic one, often drink or drugs."

Liz Sharpe, who suffers with PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, is raising money for charity Outside the Wire with a boxing event. Photo: Outside the WireLiz Sharpe, who suffers with PTSD after serving with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, is raising money for charity Outside the Wire with a boxing event. Photo: Outside the Wire

Miss Sharpe said it was alcohol which had impacted her. She said: "When I feel the psychological strains I would [drink] to numb the pain, but it doesn't work."

Now Miss Sharpe is hoping to give back to Outside the Wire by organising, and fighting in, a corporate boxing event at Open in Norwich on June 29. The money raised will go towards the refurbishment of a new recovery centre in Oak Street.

To buy tickets, contact The Matthew Project on enquiries@matthewproject.org or to donate, click here.

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