'I want to live my life' - Navy veteran on how she copes with PTSD after Bosnian War experience
PUBLISHED: 14:54 13 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:56 14 October 2019
A Royal Navy veteran has opened up about her struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, following a frontline tour of Bosnia during the Balkan War.
Sue Stephenson-Martin, 48, has lived in Norwich with her wife and a menagerie of pets for the past 10 years.
But her peaceful lifestyle, which centres on spending time hunting down rare fungi in the countryside and working as a peer support worker for Mind charity, belies an agonising battle with past traumas, and an ongoing mission to let go of memories from active service.
The veteran spent five years in electronic warfare for the Royal Navy, and spent time ashore on an exchange tour of Bosnia during the Balkan War.
She said despite experiencing horrific events during service, she buried the trauma when she returned home, and tried to continue a normal life.
She said: "It only started seriously affecting me 20 years later, when things happened to bring those memories out of the filing cabinet.
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"I started getting flashbacks and being taken back to places. I get anxious, shaky, agitated and hyper-vigilant when I am out."
The 48-year-old was diagnosed with PTSD, and started receiving eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, a form of therapy which involves making side-to-side eye movements, usually by following the movement of a therapist's finger, while recalling the traumatic incident.
Mrs Stephenson-Martin said although therapy helped, the real difference came when she signed up to the gym.
National gym chain Bannatyne offers free membership to veterans with PTSD, and after seeing an advert in the newspaper, the 48-year-old signed up.
She said: "At first I was apprehensive about going and felt self-conscious. But me and my wife started classes together, and both really enjoyed zumba.
"I find that it makes me look at things more positively and have gained a better understanding of my body too."
Alongside exercise, the veteran said spending time in nature helps keep her mind on track.
She added: "Volunteering for the RSPB saved my life. It's good for people to get outdoors. I'm still in recovery, but I want to live my life, not with no worries because that is impossible, but without being bothered by the past."