Ex-Met Officer: My Journey From PTSD To Crime Thriller Writer

Among the standard therapies for dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are watchful waiting, talking to a shrink, joining a group of co-sufferers and taking anti-depressants.

Writing violent crime thrillers is not normally on the menu. But Matt Johnson, 58, who retired in 1999 from the Metropolitan Police with PTSD, says he found writing his first two books, Wicked Game and Deadly Game – the plots of which mirror dramas he lived through – enjoyable and cathartic.

“I found that writing had a profound affect on me,” he says. “In a most unexpected way it helped my recovery. The first attempts to commit thoughts and experience to paper were emotional and challenging but, as I persisted, I found that my thought processes became clearer and more organised, and many unpleasant memories became just that, memories. I stopped re-living them.”

During a 21-year career in which he reached the rank of inspector, Johnson was exposed to varying kinds and degrees of trauma. He attended the Regent’s Park bombing in 1982. He was a friend of Pc Yvonne Fletcher, fatally shot outside the Libyan Embassy in 1984, and drove the police car that escorted her to hospital. He was one of the first to arrive at the aftermath of the 1992 Baltic Exchange bombing.

But his PTSD was probably triggered in 1993 when he attended the sudden death of a young woman who had fallen from a high building during a roof party.

“I looked over the roof parapet to where she was being attended to by paramedics, I had a flashback to the scene of Yvonne Fletcher’s death. I had previously experienced some feelings of guilt at not getting her to hospital more speedily but had been able to bury these feelings and get on with my job.

“After this initial flashback, I experienced repeating and unpleasant dreams that caused me loss of sleep and to become irritable and to start to display other symptoms that I learned much later were a form of PTSD.”

Read full story in The Telegraph.

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