Warning! Rant ahead; but this is worth the read.
So it’s 2300hrs on a Friday night and I am getting ready for bed, when all of a sudden my head starts ticking over with all these ideas and scenarios of the day that has just been and with what is going to come.
Now those who know me will know how passionate I am when it comes to veterans and their families, not only their mental health but also their physical health. I will also go above and beyond for them and their families and help however I can. So this is bringing me to a bit of, well let’s say “issues” I have.
During the meeting I had today (being Friday as I write this) one of the issues discussed was about being more involved with current serving members and being able to assist in their transitions. I even offered to come in and volunteer time to sit with the personnel that are currently seeking separation and try to help them and just be there to have a chat with them. This didn’t really seem like it was going to be taken into consideration and that’s fine as I have other ways to help and get my stories and messages out there.
Anyway let’s go back to the end of last year and go on a bit of a journey. I want to share this again with everyone and discuss a few things at the end of it.
Here we go… There I was at the gym working myself up in my head and getting angrier and angrier until I ultimately snapped and just broke down. I couldn’t control myself and had to leave and go home. When I arrived home my partner just looked at me and asked “what’s wrong?” My response was to just break down in tears and cuddle into her… I couldn’t get any words out for a while and I was just hurting.
Later that day I reached out to two people, one being my mate Scott and the other being Luke from HOTH (Heroes on the Homefront) and I said I need help, I need to talk to someone now. Both of these men knew that if I was asking then I really need the help. So later that afternoon I went to see Scott and sat with him and we just spoke, and I let it all out. His advice to me was to go to the Jamie Larcombe Centre and present myself and ask to see someone.
So this is exactly what I did. When I arrived I asked if I could speak with someone and I was then escorted into a room with the team-leader. Again, I just broke down and couldn’t control myself, I was apologising for it and I was getting so angry at myself for not being able to control it. When I finally got myself under control I was told that I could be seen and it would be a 2 week wait, however I would need GP referral. I thought “Ok no worries, I have come this far, I will go to a walk in clinic and get this done today”.
We are now heading towards the end of the day -roughly 1700ish I reckon – and I was at the walk in GP clinic in Elizabeth as I couldn’t get into my regular Doctor and there wasn’t really anywhere else. I would like to also note that my family is heavily involved in the medical scene in and around Adelaide and I even reached out to my sister who is in a very senior role, seeing if she could get me in to see someone now, however given the time she was not able to do so. Anyway back to the Doctor, I was there for about 2 hours staring at the ground… I was actually going to walk out so many times as I was so angry about waiting but my partner kept me there and really encouraged me to get it done.
Eventually I got in with the Doctor and explained everything to him, he was really amazing and understanding so he really helped me get everything sorted to try and seek the appropriate help.
Finally I was at home that night and even though I felt horrible, I knew I was going to get the help, or so I thought. The 2 week wait turned into at least a 6 to 7 week wait as an outpatient to see a psych… This actually set me off even more and made me so much more angrier at the fact I had done my best to seek help and had been trying only to be told that I had to wait. So I thought, you know what, I will just pay the money and go and see a private psych. I called 15 or so private psychs only to be told it would be at least a minimum of a 3 month wait.
Now you are probably wondering why don’t I call Open Arms right?
Well here is where my story takes a bit of a personal turn.
When I was working away I was contacted about a job working with Veterans and helping their families out. I jumped at the chance as this was my real passion and I wanted this more than anything. Long story short I was promised the world and it all fell apart. I blamed Open Arms for a lot of what I was going through as I felt extremely let down. So this is one of the reasons as to why I didn’t want to reach out to them. Might sound silly but when you feel like the whole world is against you it’s just what you do I suppose.
As a result of the way I was feeling I ended up emailing a contact I had at open arms and I let loose, I wasn’t rude or aggressive in my email I just stated the facts. To this persons credit they recognised I was not right and called me. I honestly didn’t want to answer but a part of me knew I needed this. They ended up putting me in contact with a case manager and I met with them the following day, and the day after that I was admitted to the Jamie Larcombe Centre where I would spend just over a month trying to sort myself out – well at least start this process. I still have a long road ahead of me.
I am still trying to learn why I am the way I am and I have put it down to a few things. Physical pain is one of the main ones as this has taken its toll on me and there are only so many fake smiles you can put on to show the world. My previous job had me conducting fitness tests every rotation and they are not hard by any means but there came a point where I was struggling to do a couple of the components of the test due to some injuries. This made me so mad and embarrassed at the same time and I have never really told anyone about this so here you go.
Now this all brings me back to the start of this post and what was going through my head.
One of the biggest things I thought about was: wouldn’t you rather early intervention in all this? With that I mean, wouldn’t you want someone to come in and speak to people before they discharge and go into the big bad world and pass on some of that lived experience?
I mean if someone told me as I was discharging about some of the issues they had faced over the years and ways to avoid it I would listen to it all and act accordingly.
Something I have come to realise though is this.
I don’t have a piece of paper that tells me I am a qualified psychologist, counsellor or even a transition coordinator.
I did not leave the Army as an officer or a senior NCO.
I am not apart of these big Ex Service Organisations like the RSL or Open Arms or part of the “Boys Club”.
So why would someone in a senior position listen when I come in and offer some advice?
The other thing is I was told today is that people have the help and can get the help! Well, I tend to disagree with that and this is simply because I have been through it and experienced how the system fails people, I have witnessed mates go through the same situations where the system lets them down and I have also seen people reach breaking point where they have ultimately taken their life or attempted to do so.
But please, tell me how easy it is to get help.
With all this being said, having some early intervention will help. I mean why not get someone in who has and is currently going through all this to show people that not only is your mental illness nothing to be ashamed of, nor your physical injuries, you aren’t weak if you speak up and no one should belittle you if you report your injuries.
IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK and we really need to get this message across to everyone, especially males and males in the ADF. I am sick and tired of seeing my mates hurt and when you actively try to help you get shut down because you don’t have a piece of paper or you weren’t an officer or you aren’t apart of the “Boys Clubs” that are the Ex Service Organisations.
I will keep sharing my stuff here and telling my story and the stories of others to show that there are others going through it and you aren’t alone.
I will do my best to help you and I will continue to do what I can for veterans and their families.
I will keep working with HOTH and engaging with our community to get more psychosocial activities underway that are free to Veterans and their families because ultimately – that’s what its all about.
This has been a good typing session and it is now midnight so I will leave it there and pick it up again later.