The below is my partner’s story.
This is in her words and what she has seen over the years.
I first met Wally in high school. I always remembered him as the skinny ranga who was always really nice to everyone, no matter who they were. We didn’t talk that much in high school but after high school we kept crossing paths. We went to a mutual friend’s birthday party after not seeing each other for a few years. Wally was not that skinny ranga anymore but 30kg heavier and I think for a short time he was known as no neck Wally. Any way, when I seen him at the party, he was as pissed as a maggot and rambling on about how he was in the infantry now and basically big noting himself, but it really wasn’t working for me. Years later again we crossed paths and it’s like I couldn’t get away from the guy haha but he won me over with his kindness and his super big heart.
We started seeing each other after his deployment to Afghanistan in 2013. He was discharging from the army in 2014 and having a really hard time leaving. With me, Wally was always super happy, playful, loving and so much fun and still is all those things but when he wasn’t with me or when he was coming home from base in Edinburgh with so much anger and over training at the gym was not enough of a release for him.
So Wally had left the army, I didn’t see any kind of transition program that I thought would be in place after someone that serves our country, risks his life, misses out on birthdays, Christmas’s, new years eve and other family or personal commitments one can’t do because of signing up to the Defence Force.
He has gone from job to job ever since then and still trying to find his feet, his purpose and to be of an importance in this world again. There were a few times that stood out to me when he broke down on Anzac Day. He was so drunk and very emotional, and he punched a wall in the men’s toilet and broke some parts of his hand. He was a mess. Wally had a handful of counselling sessions after that, but it wasn’t enough, it wasn’t consistent, and it didn’t get to the root of his issues. I would say my fiancé has or had quite a lot of issues after leaving the army.
His whole-body cracks multiple times per day and daily he complains about the pain he is in. He grinds his teeth at night in his sleep, he twitches a lot and was often having negative thoughts and anxiety attacks where he thinks he’s having a heart attack. He would quite often go into a massive rage and sees red, not at me though, but with everything else.
One day in December in 2019 Wally came home from the gym. I asked him how he went at the gym and he just started bawling his eyes out. This was only the second time in my life that I have ever seen him cry.
Wally is not a cryer, he is the strongest person I know physically, mentally and emotionally despite the pain he was hiding for so long. So, seeing him cry the way he did, I knew he needed immediate help.
Wally didn’t even have a choice is this, I said this isn’t right, you need immediate help, like right now. He then reached out to two people that he trusted and could point him in the right direction.
He also reached out to nearly 20 counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists all to be told by all that there was a 4 month wait. Neil’s response…”no wonder veterans top themselves, what a f!*&$% joke!!!” He kept saying I need help now, I am now willing to get help and I have to wait 4 months. “The system is f!@*ed!” he said. He continued to pace back and forth. He then took a drive to the Jamie Larcombe centre. As soon as he walked in he started crying again. His emotions were uncontrollable, and it was like a tap that you couldn’t turn off. They told him there is a 3 week wait, and then told a 6 week wait. Wally was so disheartened returning home. I could see he felt hopeless and lost. Then days later, what I call a miracle happened and there was a spot available and he was able to go in.
Wally was in the Jamie Larcombe centre for 1 month.
Dropping him off there and helping him get settled in his room and then leaving him there was so hard for me but it was much harder for him. He looked so fragile and sad as I shut the door to his room. I think for two weeks he did not leave his room and hardly opened his window. He was in a really dark place but he was also in the right place being in the centre. I had to drag him out of his room daily. I would visit daily and bring delicious home cooked meals and snacks. I didn’t really notice a difference in him till maybe 3 weeks in. Even when he was there, he was trying to get out and would ask if I can bring him home now.
Some how though, he always listens to me, I don’t know why but he always accepts my suggestions and recommendations. Wally was in there over Xmas and New Years and he was allowed out for 24hrs on those times.
Now that he is out, he is so much more happier and more positive. He is still having weekly appointments with the appropriate people and has a much clearer mind and view with what direction he is taking with his life and his purpose in the world.
I don’t know what might have been if Wally didn’t seek help and I don’t even want to think about that. There are other stories and scenarios I could have shared but I think you get the idea.
My advice is don’t wait till you have a breakdown to seek help! Don’t be a stubborn man or women and think that just because you were in the defence and because your job had such purpose, power and meaning that you can’t reach out for help when its needed. I believe that the most important thing in life is your health and your happiness. Your mental, emotional and physical health should be of importance to you so if something is out of balance then they are signs.
If it’s your partner that you see going into a downward spiral, do everything in your power to make them seek help. Don’t be fooled by there outer behaviour either. People with depression, anxiety or PTSD can be f!@&^% fabulous actors. If there are any inklings at all, don’t allow any signs to go unnoticed. Both the veteran male or female and the partner must not give up even when it’s hard, ugly, uncomfortable and help feels unreachable, it is worth the fight! I’ll also just point out that the longer you ignore it, what ever is going on, the harder and longer it is to turn it around. It is never to late to seek help, you are never to old, no one will think differently of you if you do seek help and if they do, then F!@# them! You don’t need haters in your life. You need helpers and supporters and there are plenty of people who want to see you here happy and healthy.
From the partner, Jas