The struggles of leaving the forces
I’ve deliberated about writing this post for a while. Not knowing what good it would do. If it would reach the right people or if it would be heard as a cry for help. Which it isn’t my intention. I’ve decided to do it to try and change the process of resettlement and help people in the future leaving the services and overcome the undisclosed issues we may face and become stronger people.
I’ve recently spoken with a career soldier who operated in UKSF and suffered with PTSD. He then later watched it consume his son who had served in Afghanistan and had been injured in an IED blast. What I’m about to say he believes is a massive issue for many soldier, regardless of their military background and what they’ve done. I’ve only just really begun to understand PTSD. How it manifests itself in different forms. I think before we leave we should have some formal psychological assessment that may be able to identify any problems we may be hiding within ourselves. If we don’t know its there how can we begin to understand it and beat it?
Some of us only decide to serve for minimum terms, some for the full 22 and longer. Some at a midway point like myself who left after 12 years. Whether we go on operations or spend our careers on training exercises, we are all subject to the brotherhood of the forces and become a part of a very exclusive club that “civvies” just can not relate to. We’re subjected to living in harsh conditions, spending long periods of time isolated from the “normal” world, operating in small teams and trusting them men and women buy our side with our lives.
When we decide to call time on our career we enter into resettlement and we begin our “transition”. The programmes in place are great, CV writing, workshops, interview techniques, career fairs. The list goes on and fundamentally these prepare us for working life on the outside. But what they don’t prepare us for is how to fit back into society personally.
For me that everyday life had it all, a home I owned, a wife and two children and a new career. At first being at home was the best feeling I could of wished for, seeing them every day and being your stereotypical family man. But soon after the cracks started to form. I struggled to fit in with the regular day of life. I got suddenly frustrated when the smallest of things weren’t done straight away, not doing the washing up, not putting away milk after making a brew, leaving a coat off the hook. Minimal, irrelevant situations. I felt myself getting wound up and losing my temper, being snappy with my family who didn’t deserve it. In the midst of all this my wife at the time was suffering with severe Post Natal Depression. I never really took the time to understand her problems enough, my military mindset set in and it was the attitude of “just get yourself together and get on with it” which I know now was wrong. She took medication and I thought it was as simple as that for her to be better. Knowing what I know now, I realise the support network around you is what gets you through not just the simple task of taking a tablet.
I now find myself in a period of separation.
I’ve had to give up my marriage, my children, my home and my job.
I’ve been attending counselling sessions, spoken with veteran support and trying to rebuild what’s become broken in me. It’s not simple to just fit back in. I personally struggled to be open with my wife and family, they could see the change in me and always asked if I was ok? To which I’d just say “Yeah I’m fine, I’m just a bit stressed or the old favourite of I’m tired” I liked to hide when things were on my mind instead of addressing the issues early. The military trains us to just accept when things go wrong and carry on regardless. We’re quick to react and make split second decisions. That doesn’t work on the outside.
I don’t know what the future holds for me and my marriage. Right now my wife doesn’t want me anymore, we’re broken and all I want to do is rebuild it. They say times a healer and in time maybe that will heal me as an individual or our marriage. In the here and now I have to move on and rebuild myself for my own sanity and for the sake of my children. They deserve that from me. I hope I can become then man I was, the man my family needs.
If this reaches one person who can relate or someone who is going through it but unsure of what it is, then I’ve achieved my goal. All I want to do moving forward is help others and let others help me. It’s not a quick simple black and white solution to our problems. I’ll be forever grateful to the military and what it gave to to me but I think we deserve a little more back before we leave. Help us prepare mentally. I know there is many of service personnel who would have left and been absolutely fine but for those that haven’t we need all the help we can get. We need to become the best versions of ourselves. Help each other through the dark times and come out stronger.