By Lee Tucker, armed response officer and former firefighter
Back in 2018 PTSD hit me really hard. I spent 15 years in the Fire Service and have now served 12 years with the police. It’s not so much the individual scenes you have to witness on duty that get to you, it is the relentlessness nature of the trauma.
As a firefighter you see a level of human devastation that nobody should have to witness. In the police it is worse, not so much for what you see, as what you have to do. Police officers deal with the aftermath, like telling people dreadful news that will change their lives forever. It is hard to get that out of your head.
The low point ended up costing me my marriage, and very nearly cost me my life. I was lucky to meet a former Royal Marine who runs a gym in Plymouth. Ben Wadham spotted the signs and he pointed towards Rock 2 Recovery and REORG. It’s no exaggeration to say that this saved my life.
Rock 2 Recovery treated me with therapy and a technique called EMDR [eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing] a treatment that helps alleviate the distress caused by traumatic memories. For me it was amazing. I didn’t forget the traumas of the past, it just took away the sting.
The day I met Sam from REORG was also the first day I put on a gi and tried jiu-jitsu. I was quite apprehensive. I was in my late forties, had virtually no martial arts experience, and here I was at the barracks thinking these Royal Marines were probably hoping for the chance to legally beat up a copper.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, jiu-jitsu is tough on the body, especially when you’re new and don’t know what you’re doing. But my training partners couldn’t have been nicer. Everyone remembers being the new kid, and people will stop in the middle of sparring to tell you ways to fight them better.
I was really getting into training then Covid hit, so the gyms shutting was a big blow. But it’s made me appreciate it all the more now that it is back on. I used to play a lot of team sports, like rugby and football. Jiu-jitsu is an individual sport, but you are part of a family, with everyone helping each other.
I don’t want people to be afraid of standing up and saying they are struggling. There shouldn’t be a stigma around it. That’s why I am always happy to talk about the problems that I’ve had. I am just happy to still be here, enjoying my life. And I will forever be grateful to Sam and Ben for everything they have done for me.