William is in his forties, living happily in Fife with his wife and three children. He works for the Individual Placement Support (IPS) service, in conjunction with Fife Employment Access Trust (FEAT), and very much enjoys his job. Life, at the moment, is good for William but things have not always been that way.
William describes his early childhood as difficult. He regularly witnessed his mother suffering physical and verbal abuse at the hands of his father. The break-up of his parents led to him living with his mother for the remainder of his childhood. Although this was a more stable home life it was not a loving one – he was very much made to feel like a stepchild by his stepfather as opposed to a loved member of the family.
William did not only witness abuse as a child. He suffered from it too. Through his childhood he was subjected to serious and sustained abuse by his brother. His abuser died before any action could be taken against him for the crimes he committed, which provided no solace to him. Whilst he was relieved that the abuse had stopped he was unable to get the closure he needed.
Despite this, William achieved well at school and college and ended up working as a manager at a leading insurance company. It was at work however, that life changed for him, an innocent conversation with a colleague triggered off all that had happened to him as a child leading to a serious breakdown. Despite having the right policies and procedures in place his employer let him down: in place of support came a lack of under-standing and pressure – resulting in the company terminating his employment through ill-health retirement.
Left unable to work, and eventually diagnosed with complex PTSD William speaks of the void of not having work in his life. During his hardest times he was hospitalised for three months and had to wait over a year for a referral for psychological support. Medication that he was prescribed helped to numb the pain he was feeling but left him dis-engaged and distant, unable to support his family in any way. He speaks of the impact his poor mental health had on his ability to function well – significant short-term memory loss and an inability to perform even the most basic tasks and a pronounced loss of confidence and self-esteem.
During these darkest of days William speaks of the immense love and support of his wife and children throughout this period. He fondly recalls how his wife in particular took on everything to ensure the family was able to keep things together.
With support, William turned his life around. Occupational therapists helped William regain his ability to do, as he puts it ‘basic things around the home’ such as cooking, and regain his confidence to re-engage with his community – helping him to do things like visit the shops for the first time in a long time. Accessing other services was not always as easy. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) which is recognised as particularly useful to people with PTSD was only available privately and art therapy, which proved incred-ibly useful to him, was taken away when the only practitioner in Fife relocated to Glasgow. He also felt that the emphasis of the services he was accessing was too focused on looking at the past and going over old ground. It helped to talk about it, but he wanted to move on with his life.
An occupational therapist’s referral to FEAT helped significantly accelerate William’s recovery. Initially apprehensive about attending, the organisation’s ‘Employ your mind’ course helped him think about the future for the first time in years. His outlook changed and he was able to be more optimistic about what the future could hold. Having been out of work for five years, after just six months with FEAT, and following a further referral to IPS William was able to re-enter into employment.
William’s journey, particularly over the five years from breakdown to recovery, has highlighted many things that he believes need to change. Crucially, he feels that there needs to be better and faster access to services, and that funding promised by government needs to reach the frontline, often charitable services, that take a personalised approach to the people they support to make a real difference to their lives.
William remains positive about the future, and although he fears darker days may lie ahead, he has now built up the resilience and the tools to deal with them.