War veteran speaks out to help others understand ‘Where’s your head at?’
Richard Marsden, a Falklands veteran who suffers from PTSD, has joined forces with the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) to help people learn about the connection between mental and physical health.
The 59-year-old, who also saw active service in Northern Ireland and was on duty at both the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and the funeral of Earl Mountbatten, didn’t realise he’d been suffering with PTSD until years after his military career finished.
To mark Alexander Technique Week (14-20 October) Richard, with the help of STAT, wants to share his story in the hope that others who might be struggling with emotional and physical pain are encouraged to talk about their feelings and seek help.
He says: “I reached the rank of Sergeant and packed a lot into military life. I loved the camaraderie and variety of work but left because symptoms were starting to manifest which weren’t properly diagnosed until 26 years later.
“After 12 years in the forces I really struggled with life on ‘civvy street’. Despite doing well in my job, daily life was becoming too difficult and eventually I had to give up work. What I also didn’t realise at the time, was my mind was still in military mode – I was metaphorically marching around approaching everything as if I was still in the army. The resulting mix gave me both physical and mental health issues; I had spinal problems, was unable to work and my marriage broke down. I was actually only diagnosed with PTSD five years ago.”
Richard tried various therapies to help with both his back and mental health to no avail when someone recommended the Alexander Technique. He quickly learned that being conscious of how his head balanced on his spine, his neck muscles relaxed and he became less stiff. He learnt to move more efficiently. He became aware of his breathing and learned to recognise and let go of emotions associated with stress such as anger, fear and despair.
He continues: “By practising the Alexander Technique, I have learned to let both the functional movements and mental mindset of the military go and now have a much better quality of life. I fully support STAT’s ‘Where’s your head at?’ campaign as it perfectly illustrates that how your head is on the inside is intrinsically linked to how your head is poised on the outside.”
STAT says: “we think Richard’s story is an inspiration to anyone who feels that they too would like to learn how to change their physical and thinking habits. In six Alexander lessons you can kick start a series of changes that will stay with you for life.
“One of the first things we teach is how to lie in the semi-supine position. It allows your head to rest at an optimum position, relaxes the muscles in your back and gives you mindful ‘time out’.
“During Alexander Technique Week, practise this position for ten minutes every day and feel the difference. Lying in the semi-supine should be as much a daily habit as cleaning your teeth is and it’s every bit as preventative in terms of your health.”
From 14-20 October participating STAT teachers are offering discounted lessons. To find out more call 020 8885 6524 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.