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Thursday, November 28, 2013

So I've been MIA! Here's why.


ABOVE: The 'King's Palace' at Kabul, Afghanistan. It'll be nice once it's finished I suspect
Hi Guys
Some of you may have noticed I'd not posted to my blog between June and November. It would have been only fair if someone had assumed I've been Missing In Action!
Well the reason is pretty simple.
I as diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder earlier this year. One of the symptoms is a lack of interest in things that use to give you pleasure, (my hobby being a casualty).
ABOVE: Me as a recruit, October 1982.

I enlisted in 1982 as a 17yr old and was allocated to the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery. Moved through the enlisted ranks rather quickly being a Sergeant within six years and being posted to what was at the time the Army's only Medium Artillery Battery (103rd MDM BTY) equipped with 5.5inch Guns and then M198 155mm Gun Howitzers. Soon after I was posted to our only Airborne Battery, 'A' FD Battery (PARA).

BELOW: Exercise Far Canopy or Diamond Dollar in the late 80s. I can't remember which.
 
ABOVE: As a young Sergeant awaiting a jump with my mates.
 

I served with the British Army on The Rhine in 1990 on exchange. Deployed to the Sinai in 1999 attached to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO). I deployed on Operation Relex II in 2004 doing border security work and took up a position later that year assisting in the training of US Marines who were deploying to Iraq. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 as a training mentor for 6 months working closely with the Afghan National Army (ANA). I was diagnosed with PTSD in early 2013. For me it wasn't one single incident but rather just the culmination of 31 years of soldiering. It wasn't just what I experienced in the Middle East and Afghanistan but in training. Unfortunately I had mates injured and killed in training accidents. It all came to a head after Afghanistan. My tolerance levels were shot to shreds. I was snapping peoples heads off at work on occasions and wasn't the happy go lucky easy going young lad that had joined up as a keen as mustard 17 year old who had wanted to be a soldier since he was five. My sister died in July 2008, and then my brother died 3 months later. Six months after that, my mother died and yet I was emotionally numb to it all. The combination of my experiences on deployment and in training together with the ridiculous personal standards that I had maintained as a professional soldier had taken their toll. Never being late. Never having as much as a bit of lint on my uniform. Everything having its place and making sure everything was in it place. Always placing the needs of my soldiers and superiors ahead of my own (or my family) for so long became unbearable. Oddly enough however I didn't notice the deterioration in myself. I was a Warrant Officer Class One by 2008. I was posted as Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of an artillery regiment and then RSM of my Regimental School in 2010.
ABOVE: Laying a M777 as RSM School of Artillery. CO firing, (as is his prerogative)For any Artilleryman this would be considered the principal of their career, and certainly not one that would be attained by a 'weak' individual. My wife noticed a change in my demeanour when I returned from Afghanistan. I'd always been a difficult man to live with, demanding high standards from all around me including my family but upon my return I now took those standards to ridiculous heights. My wife and children were reduced to walking on eggshells. My four year old daughter Mathilda in particular was weary of me. My two year old son, (who was only 10 days old when I deployed to Afghanistan) stayed close to his mum. What I considered important, even life saving, was considered by my family as simply irrational. I was reduced to only 3 hours sleep a night from the time I returned from Afghanistan, which after 18months had done nothing to help with my attitude.
My 'tolerance' levels had been shot to pieces and I wasn't suffering fools in the slightest.
Ultimately my unit doctor intervened and I was admitted to the repat hospital at Epping for 6 weeks and then placed on a 12 week outpatient PTSD program. In itself this was not an easy feat for me and was initially impossible to accept. I was a man who had only ever had approx three or four months off for sick leave over a 31 year career, and most of that was convalescing after knee surgeries. Being away from my place of work and those who depended upon me for such an extensive time was one of the hardest parts. I felt 'jack' at times and I refused to accept there was anything wrong with me and that it was all in my head. I was having my own personal struggle about it. Yet as much as I felt bad about not being at work, the thought of returning made me sick to the pit of my stomach. Luckily, I've had excellent support from my Commanding Officer and unit in general. Most critically I've had fantastic loving support from my wife and children. I'm a long way from better, but I'm getting there.


 ABOVE: In Afghanistan with my mates
BELOW: Coming home from Afghanistan late 2011.
ABOVE: Why we fight. So little girls in Afghanistan can go to school. Its a good enough reason for me.

22 comments:

Andrew Saunders said...

I wish you well for the journey ahead, without guys like you the world would be chaos!!

david bromley said...

First step is admitting a problem, second is talking about it.
Thankfully I have the American Legion and the VFW in the states. Like my family they are a huge help. I am still afflicted with "irrational" rage- feels rational to me. Loving family and Vet groups are a huge help. One year down and I haven't thumped anyone's eyeball so far.

Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

Good luck.

I went through my illness - for that is what it is - thirty years ago. It took me a long time to get better, but thanks to my doctors, my friend, and - above all else - my loving family, I got there in the end.

All the best,

Bob Cordery

Jim Duncan said...

I recently lost my best friend, a fellow wargamer. I am currently selling off his 40 year collection and donating the sum to a war charity.

I am choosing Combat Stress which here in the UK helps look after our own veterans who need that helping hand.

Good Luck to your good self and I hope that you can, yet again, rise to the challenge.

DeanM said...

The good thing is you know what you have and are dealing with it - hopefully you have a good support network. Sorry to hear of your family loses too. Best, Dean

scotty said...

I wish you well in your recovery, seems you have a good support network around you. All the best

Michael Mills said...

We're tremendously lucky to have people like yourself willing to sacrifice so much. Keep working at it mate. I hope it all works out OK for you.

Jacksarge said...

Thanks for sharing your story.

Sun of York said...

All the best.

Jacko said...

I hope 2014 is a much better year for you. Good luck.

Sparker said...

Hi Mate. Thanks for sharing. It takes a pair of rocks to do that publicly, but will help the next soldier along when an examplar like you faces up to it. Best of luck in facing this challenge and being able to return to giving your family and career 100%. FWIW, looking back, my father, a REME WO1, made us 'tread on eggshells' as kids after he had spent a bit too much time hosing the remains of SAS and their Levies out of Landrovers in the Dhofar. Don't think it did us much harm, so know that your kids still love and need their Dad!

Good luck Scott!

rct75001 said...

You have my thanks and very best wishes for the days, weeks and years ahead.

I am lucky and have no idea of what you are going through - but I have just finished reading John Cantwell's Exist Wounds and it reduced this grown man to tears.

Take care

Richard

Trailape said...

Hi guys
Thanks for the kind words of support.
I do want to point out that PTSD is an illness, and as such the idea of 'admitting' there is a problem simply isn't correct. Many people suffering from PTSD don't even realise they have it. Do people admit they have cancer, or a broken leg? I prefer to think it as a 'post traumatic stress injury' rather than 'disorder'.
I has no idea there was an issue until I was in hospital.
I'm grateful for all the support, particularly from my wife. I'm truly blessed.

Barks said...

Thanks for sharing, Trailape. Wishing you all the best for the future.

RazorOne223 said...

In the states there idea of PTSD treatment is pills 3 out of 4 the major side effect is suicide so I just bit the bullet and whenever they ask me I am peachie... and I moved on. In the US they say the give a crap but all they do is label you in my opinion. The VA is a joke here in the states but its better than nothing for somethings... I hope everything gets better, it will!!! I live my the motto "Free you mind, and your ass will follow". Learn it, Love it, Live it!

johnpreece said...

I do not pretend to know what you have been through or what you are suffering now. I just want you to know that I believe what you did was of huge value and that your sacrifice and achievement is admired by us all.

best wishes.

fireymonkeyboy said...

I have to admit, that's the best reason to be in Afghanistan I've heard so far. Hang tight.

FMb

John Shoemark said...

Hey mate, I'm not surewhat to say other than I wish you well with treatment for this sneaky bloody injury. Look forward to seeing you across a table when the time is right.

Anonymous said...

PTSD has had a tremendous effect on American combat vets and their families. It can hinder holding a job or getting a job or people's attitude towards the vet. I can't imagine living in and protecting a place where there is a target on your back 24/7. All of you men and women who serve to protect and defend us whether Australian, UK, European or American have my eternal gratitude and from me and my tiny, poor bit of service a big "Semper Fi".

LittleArmies said...

Hello again, Trailape. Thanks for being so honest and upfront about your illness. As has already been said, the first step is admitting you have a problem - and it takes a big guy to admit it publicly. Having come across your comments in various forums, I'd have expected nothing less from you.

I wish you well, and hope to see more beautiful ABs in your posts as you start to get back to your old self (or perhaps a new and improved version!). I'm sure it will be slow - and there will be ups and downs - but I'm equally sure you will get back to good health in the end.

Malcolm

WQRobb said...

Best of luck, and I hope that you can get the help and recovery you need.

Vinnie said...

Sorry to hear your story mate I have just also recently left the Army after 24 years and three deployments, my last to Afghanistan was the hardest on myself and the family. As long as you keep gaming with Stan Crabbie you should be OK.

All the best in the future

Regards

Vinnie