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Parachutes

 

After his own experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Cheshire Regiment Veteran, Garreth Murrell, began training as an NLP practitioner in September 2010. That same month, Garreth founded Veterans at Ease.

Eleven years on, we’ve supported hundreds of veterans, service personnel and family members; through our provision of free one-to-one therapy for those dealing with PTSD and other combat stress-related issues.

Veterans At Ease is still growing exponentially; taking on more therapists (all of whom are also veterans), increasing our geographical reach, and expanding into Veterans At Ease Enterprise Ltd, in a bid to fund the ever-growing support that we’re providing.

One thing that hasn’t changed though – and never will – is our ethos, our core value… the very reason that Garreth created the charity in the first place… because Military Minds Matter.

Parachutes
September 2021

 Today was a good day, not only for the therapist – though I’m sure they are satisfied that they’ve “done a good job” – but for one of our beneficiaries, as he realised that he no longer needs our help and support.

After having the honour of being invited on a client’s journey of recovery and growing resilience, some of the best words any therapist can hear are:

“I don’t need you anymore and, in the nicest possible way, I hope I never see you again.”

Of course, should they ever be in a situation that our knowledge and expertise could help in the future, we’ll always be there to help them (if we can) navigate a new set of issues.

As the lead therapist, this led me to think about our own journeys as therapists. Here are my thoughts:

In NLP, one presupposition (a kind of rule) is to accept the beneficiary’s model of the world, and to help change their non-useful behaviour.

To be able to accept someone else’s model of the world can be a difficult process, as one stage of that process is to literally try their model on for size. If some of our beneficiaries’ values and beliefs are misaligned to ours, this can feel and sound very alien and uncomfortable to us.

By dealing with our discomfort and possible difficulties in an objective way, we can potentially begin to glimpse what life is like for that person.

For a brief moment we feel their pain, see their pain… know their pain.

As therapists, this experience can give us a deeper understanding and empathy towards our beneficiary, and to envisage what path/s may be taken along their journey to obtaining a better level of mental fitness.

As the therapist we don’t have to ‘wear’ the beneficiary’s model all of the time, which allows us the privilege of being able to step back, and inviting our beneficiary to do the same. In doing so, in the safe space of the therapy room, the beneficiary is able to literally view their issue from a different perspective, and is able to see for themselves what needs to be done.

Not only is this an honour, it’s also a great responsibility for a successful therapist to develop. It requires skill, commitment, and compassion. A lot of the time during therapy, a therapist is both calibrating their beneficiary’s state and maintaining their own, to keep them in the most useful behavioural state for their beneficiary throughout the 1 hour session. To be able to do this, and of course to really hear their beneficiary, they have to practice what they preach.

To do that, clinical supervision sessions are attended, along with personal therapy sessions. Following this process allows a therapist to explore their own personal blind spots, which can sometimes be activated (either on purpose, or accidentally) by beneficiaries.

Yes, some beneficiaries test their therapist, either to see where the boundary of abandonment lies, to see what buttons the therapist has, or for some other reason.

Needless to say, it would be unhelpful and inappropriate for a therapist to react to a beneficiary pushing their buttons during therapy.

A therapist’s self-exploration and discovery of their own buttons allows them to recognise when a button is being pressed, and affords them the option of not reacting to it. This is the adult response, which can help the beneficiary to grow and mature.

In a situation whereby the button had previously been unknown to the therapist, they can still respond in an adult way; by noting that the beneficiary has identified a button they were previously blind to, thank them (internally) and take it forward to their own therapy to work through.

This is why it takes great skill, experience and inner awareness to operate at a therapeutic level.

It is also the reason why it is an honour to sit with someone and delicately and gently help them explore themselves and their place in the cosmos, and why it is so important to maintain our own journey of Continued Professional Development, and to adhere to the ethical guidelines and practices.

To remain reflective in our therapeutic work – and to also continue that reflectance on ourselves outside of the therapy room – will, and does, pay huge dividends. It paves the way for the results mentioned at the beginning of this article.

To note, this is just one of the many processes us therapists must look at whilst working with a beneficiary.

To end, I would like to repeat one of the sentences I said to the beneficiary mentioned above in his final session, which was apt on account of him having served with the Parachute Regiment:

“Minds are like parachutes – they work best when open”

To remain at our best as therapists, we must remain conscious of that statement ourselves, and not just feed it out as a cliched line.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope it makes a difference.

Garreth

 

Memories of Bosnia

The First Burials in Srebenica-Potocari

by Christina Murrell

11 July 1995: why is this date so significant to me?

Many people know me as the Managing Director of Veterans at Ease Enterprise Ltd, responsible for setting up charity shops on behalf of the North-East charity Veterans at Ease.

Others know me as the wife of the charity’s founder and current CEO, a veteran’s wife of a soldier who had struggled for many years following a tour of Bosnia with the Cheshire Regiment in 1992.

But – like so many of the soldiers we support through the charity – I have experiences that sometimes come back to haunt me. They remind me why I do the job I do, and why I am so passionate about helping our veterans find peace of mind.

I’m not a veteran, I have never served my country.

But in May 1999 I made the decision to leave my lovely easy life in London – working for the European Bank – and move to the former Yugoslavia as a humanitarian. I wanted to help the estimated 880,000 men, women and children who had crossed the border from Kosovo, into neighbouring Albania and Macedonia.

As the Balkans Reports Co-ordinator for Oxfam, I was based in neighbouring country Bosnia, a decision that would change my life forever.

This country, torn apart by a war that had only just come to an end 3 years earlier, was still very scarred, covered in landmines, and full of so much hatred and fear.

Having spent a year with Oxfam and another year with European Commission to Bosnia & Herzegovina, I felt I had a good understanding of the people of this beautiful country.  I had friends from all three religious backgrounds, I spoke the language, I had experienced first-hand their health system having had my first child Cassie there, and I believed it could be easy for the people to rebuild and forget.

Then I took on a job at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). Of all my work experiences in this country, this one tore at my heart the most.

Just weeks into my job, I went on a visit to a mass grave, the huge morgue and the blood and bone collection facility in Tuzla and I cried, and cried at the injustice of this whole bloody war.

Clarifying the fate of our loved ones!  When someone goes missing in the UK we see families torn apart because they cannot get closure, they don’t know if their loved one is going to walk through that door one day. Are they safe?  Did they suffer?  So many questions that they wantanswers to.

Now let’s multiply that by 40,000, and we are somewhere close to the heartache facing so many families in Bosnia.

ICMP’s teams of anthropologists, archaeologists and scientist worked tirelessly to uncover the graves, collect the bodies, identify them, and hand them back to the families, so they could have closure.  ICMP worked with families, Governments, and the international community to locate these sites, and for that short period of time, I played my small part, securing funding so the work could continue.  I remember us identifying our 1,000th person using the cutting-edge DNA technology ICMP had perfected, and on 31st March 2003 I sat with the women and children on the bank overlooking the first 500 graves of the victims of Srebrenica. As speeches came to an end, and breaking with Muslim tradition, the women started running towards the graves, sweeping me up in a rush to start their grieving, to give their loved ones the burial they deserved.  They wanted to be closer to their children, husbands, brothers, fathers – I could not imagine losing one child, yet some of these women had lost three or four.

The pain and the tears of that day will stay with me forever.

Back in 2003, it seemed such a long path for ICMP and the “Mothers of Srebrenica”, we still had over 7,500 people to find and identify, but the work of ICMP continued.

Many people already know of my husband Garreth’s struggle with his mental health.

It took him 14 years after leaving Bosnia to admit he had a problem and seek help.  But was he really over his trauma?  He said he didn’t get any more flashbacks or nightmares, he’d successfully returned to work and seemed happy.  But who really knows?

So many British soldiers served in Bosnia as part of the multi-national protection force. 72 British soldiers died keeping the peace, and many others sustained physical injuries. However, many more returned with mental scars and injuries, unseen by others, but very real to the soldiers living them.

But I know first-hand, that there is light at the end of that dark tunnel.

In 2018, six years after we met, Garreth and I went back to Bosnia with my children.  For me, a chance to show my daughter her birth place, and to see the Stanic family who look after her in her early years, but also a chance for me to visit Srebrenica-Potocari to say goodbye to the brave men and boys who had lost their lives and to see them in their named graves, rather than scattered, unidentified, in mass graves – I was moved to see that there were now over 7,000 people buried there, and to see the remembrance wall with the names on it.

And for Garreth, this trip was a journey of reconciliation and forgiveness and a chance for him to make happy family memories for the future.  So is he really over his trauma?

Yes, 100% – Otherwise, wild horses wouldn’t have got him on that plane.

His success story and that of our other beneficiaries is what drives me to continue doing the job I do.

People say “the war is over but the battle has just begun”.

I have my moments to reflect and feel sad and cry, but those moments are few and far between – our ex-soldiers should not be having bad days every day, if they are, then we are here to help.  We support our serving regular and reservist soldiers, our veterans and their immediate family members.

If you know someone who is showing any of the symptoms of PTSD and would like to speak in confidence to someone, please feel free to contact us.

TOGETHER WE CAN SAVE A VETERAN’S LIFE

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