I joined the RAF Regiment in 1984, at the age of 18 years old, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of my 23-year career. Even though it has been over 15 years since I left, I still miss it with a passion. The regiment was and always will be a major part of my life, the friendships I made are friendships that will last a life time, as the saying goes, we are a “band of brothers”.
During my varied career as a Gunner, or Rockape which is the nickname for the regiment gunners, I was employed on Surface to Air missiles, Special Weapon security at Greenham Common, a section commander in Northern Ireland and then in the later years of my career, a recruit instructor and a Ground Defence Trainer. I was deployed on several operational duties, such as two years in Northern Ireland, the first Gulf War, the Falkland Islands and Kosovo. I was fortunate to have been posted to Germany for 4 years, and visit many other countries around the world.
I left the regiment in 2006, so I could spend more time with my daughter, Abigail, who was 6 years old, and although the reasons for leaving was right, it was a hard decision to make. When the day came to hand in my ID card, I must admit I had tears in my eyes! Walking out of the camp gates for the last time was a very daunting and emotional experience.
As with many service veterans, I thought I had not been affected by my career, and PTSD was a “thing” others suffered from, not me, but this is not the case. I first realised something was not quite right in 2010, shortly after the death of my father, but being a typical man, I didn’t think I needed clinical help. I lived and adapted to the sleepless nights, being hypervigilant (such as always sitting with my back to a wall and position myself so I could see doors when I went out) allowing insignificant things wind me up, and the very vivid dreams, such as the time I entered an orphanage in Kosovo and reliving the sounds of children crying, the sights and smells, and the anxiety of patrolling the streets of Belfast.
Things really took a turn for the worse in December 2019 when I was in a real dark place facing pressures regarding project funding and a seriously ill mother. I am embarrassed to admit I even planned to take the easy way out. It was then I realised I needed help, and this came in many forms including brilliant support from my Outside the Wire team and Matthew Project colleagues. I sought clinical help, which is ongoing even now, and I am soon to start intensive counselling sessions, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).
If there is a moral to this story, it would be, take notice of other people’s advice and observations, listen to what the sensible part of your brain is telling you, don’t be a hero and think it will get better, it won’t without help, and get professional, clinical help as soon as you notice that things are not "quite right".
Thankfully, through the love and support I have been given, I am now getting help with my "issues", and I have learnt to turn a negative experience, into a positive. This positivity helps me to understand what some of our Outside the Wire clients are going through, and this has enabled me understand their needs, and help them on their recovery journey.
If you or someone you know is in need of support from Outside The Wire, Wayne and his team can be called on 01603 626123 or emailed at [email protected]
Outside The Wire have seen an increase in referrals but funding has been reduced as a result of Covid 19. An urgent appeal is in place so they can continue their life saving work. Please click here to find out more and/or donate. Thankyou