As a veteran who has spent 22 years serving with an Infantry Regiment, I was excited and apprehensive about watching A Brave Face. Before I had even got near to the theatre, I was being warned of triggers that may possibly bring back ‘flashbacks’ or may restart the nightmares again from which I once suffered. Yet, as the writer of a veteran’s magazine and the founder of a veteran’s help centre, I felt it my duty to support the show and the cast of Vamos Theatre for so bravely tackling such an emotional and controversial issue as PTSD within veterans. I would also like to say at this point that A Brave Face is fantastically accurate thanks to the research and military guidance. It is an incredible piece of work, one which I recommend you all see.
My own personal story tells how I suffered from PTSD for many years without the help I needed following my service. But despite all of the attempts to try to explain how this awful illness, and it IS an illness, manifests itself within the mind, has pretty much fallen on deaf ears.
So, to watch Ryan’s story unfold in front of my eyes was very much like looking into a psychological mirror. Of course, his experiences in the show were a million miles from my own, but the resulting mental effects were very close indeed. However, they are done in a way that is only personal to Ryan, the main character. There was no chance of this show re-igniting any symptoms of the illness I had once suffered from. That’s not to say that will be the same for everyone but I believe the risks are very minimal.
But the big message only hit me at the end of the show. Without ruining the end for you, the show asks many questions in its conclusion, and quite rightly so. The big one for me was ‘What happens now?’ In the words of the song ‘Where do they go when the killing ends’. I felt that this needed to be answered by a veteran who has gone through it and has come out the other side. I have heard many say PTSD can never be cured, it is just a case of managing it. I disagree. The reason for this is my own story. I look at Ryan as myself just a few short years ago and then I look at myself now. I have a wonderful family, a very settled life and a great looking future, but most importantly of all, no more PTSD symptoms. Yes, it has been a very hard and long road but with courage and with the help that is needed, we can all reach this point. I no longer have flashbacks or nightmares. In fact, my memories of my military service are now that of pride, fun and a great sense of achievement. Something every veteran should share. I know from experience that the help is not easy to come by but by watching A Brave Face, hopefully many more people will start to make enough noise to influence those who are meant to be looking after our brave men and women. Perhaps, if the right people watch this show then it just might finally hit home.
So in conclusion, at the end of the show, when you ask yourself can Ryan be helped? The answer is ‘Yes’. I am living proof of it. There is hope…
Our next Veterans' Event performance of A Brave Face is on Friday 2nd March (8pm) at Salisbury Arts Centre: find out more here