I have just been updating my calender and yet again I’m fretting because I have something on every day. It is seriously frustrating that I am so anxious at something I would think nothing of previously. Even if there is only one task booked each day I panic that it’s just such a busy week, regardless of what or where that task is. I remember having so much capacity for a full time job as well as taking on extra responsibility. It’s taken me from the date I moved, until today to sort out changing my address and finishing off personal admin I would normerly square away in a day. I’m an expert at moving I’ve done it that many times and I would be unpacked and sorted within a few days. I still have stacks of bags yet to unpack sat on my landing. It angers me that my life has reverted to this.
I’m angered more by the lack of support, awareness or acknowledgement of my situation from the service. I was printing off some paperwork today ready for my SSAFA visit next week and I stumbled upon a letter from my 1 star. I felt compelled to write to him about various issues regarding work and more importantly how I have been treated since my return from Afghanistan. The management of me and my hidden injury has been appalling. I stated also that I felt disregarded by the medical service (except for my lovely GP Dr Seddon and my SSAFA lady Eva). I gave 20 years dedicated service to be treated like this.
So in response to my letter I received a reply stating the 1 star wanted to meet up with me anywhere to discuss the things I mentioned in my letter. I liaised with his staff officer who suggested we meet at RCDM Birmingham. Initially I agreed but the more I thought about it the more I became angered by the choice of venue for the meeting. Firstly the drive from Wigan to Birmingham would have been just short of a couple of hours. This on a morning is bad enough with the stress of busy traffic but even worse if I was to have a bad night (which is happening far too quickly for my liking). There was also the fact I would have to walk through a busy hospital which would cause triggers in itself, but then have to keep trying to forget the fact the hospital was and still is the home to all the wounded troops as the first UK drop off!! It was evident immediately that there was little awareness or consideration for any of this. When I actually raised the point I received a response from the 1 star via letter instead of a personal visit as promised. The letter acknowledged the progress I had achieved with the paramedic cadre and the fact I “should be rightly proud of my record of service”.
I had commented on the management of me post tour and the reply was “difficult for me to come to any judgement specifically about what happened….although I can see from your description what an adverse effect these events had on your well – being”. He also stated that “It is disappointing that members of the medical services, who are acutely aware of these issues, we’re unable to respond to your needs at the time. The management of personnel who may be vulnerable to the development of PTSD is currently an area of focus. Despite our best efforts at understanding the impact of stressful situations, it is clear that people continue to fall through the welfare net when they are most in need”. Hmmmm useful to me considering I have fallen through that particular net!
The more I read the letter the angrier I become. Apart from deciding to send a letter rather than reschedule a face to face meeting, the 1 star not once asked if there was anything the service or he could do to help me. Not once was I asked if I needed any help with anything and that just confirmed to me that it is the system and not the person that matters. What people tend to forget is that the system cannot work without the individuals. Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, something the military leadership courses and all throughout officer training, was instilled in us has clearly not been practiced here.
Everything spiralled out of control when I returned from Afghanistan in 2012 and I was very self-destructive. I cut myself off from people and still do to a degree, I have sleep deprivation, bad dreams and night sweats. I always walk around with the fear of being attacked all the time. In my dreams all I see is horrific trauma and body parts. I am depressed and at the beginning I had terribly angry outbursts which led to the loss of my fiancè, my sanctuary of a home and the person I once was. All this following 100% committed service and self sacrifice to the RAF and no mention of an offer of assistance. It is selfish of me to want this? I don’t think I’m something I’m not I just expect support and the same loyalty I have afforded them.
Sadly I feel this is one reason others who may be sufferring don’t come forward. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of and putting my story out there, although very difficult it is the right thing to do, and I am glad it is out there. My hope is by sharing my journey other people will be able to talk about it, even if its just to me. However, as I am finding out talking is the easy part. It’s attempting to gain the understanding and support of loved ones, friends and especially employers who just don’t get it and persist in making things worse. I will never forget the day I finally plucked up the courage to go to the doctors and accept I wasn’t well. I was signed off sick and referred to a consultant phycologist with a provisional diagnosis of PTSD which was soon to be confirmed. I was so embarrassed and I had to go and tell my boss. However, when I returned to the office to speak to my boss I was told to wait because she wanted to go to lunch. I was made to sit there for the whole of the lunchtime period, full of every emotion following the reality of my situation, in an open plan office until her return.
A diagnoses of anxiety, stress, or depressive illness which affects your day to day life is classed as a disability under the Equality Act and employer’s should make reasonable adjustments for you. Clearly this was not a concern and I was left in this state for almost an hour. My emotions where in turmoil and I felt embarressed and confused about my situation and at the point here my boss told me to wait I also felt angry and completely devalued. It is very sad that this is my lasting thought sat here right now.