Has anybody else ever experienced a time in your life where you genuinely have no idea who you are? Well, I’m kind of in that place right now a little bit.
I joined the RAF as an insecure, underconfident, reserved individual who had trust in no one. Throughout my military career I slowly started to find myself and I developed in many ways. My career grew and grew, I met some amazing people but also met some really irritating oxygen thieves but I made some great friends. I spent 23 years progressing and always reaching my goals. I would continue to strive and push myself to better things and for the most parts I got there. However, there was always something missing….
I sadly left the RAF trapped in the PTSD bubble, caught up in a recurring nightmare of triggers and emotions. Staring through black eyes not able to see the beauty that was surrounding me. Dragging myself through days and days of shear anxiety, terror and utter tiredness. The bubble popped and I finally got to see the world in front of me but I didn’t recognise it. Before the RAF I didn’t really know the world. Now I’m no longer in I still dont know what to make of it…..
Almost everyday since leaving I would visit my grandad. Day after day I would put my key in the lock, walk in to my grandads bungalow shouting “hello grandad” and hear his wonderful voice reply, “hello sweetheart”. I make us a cuppa and we have a chat; I talk to him about everything and he talks to me. I wash the cups, help him on with his coat, walk him to the car, open the door and as he climbs in I put my hand above his head to make sure he doesn’t bump it on the car as he gets in. I wrap the seat belt across and he fastens it. We drive to nans and drop him in to spend the day with her, or pick him up afterwards. Chippy teas and endless chats until the 3rd of Jun when I let go of his hand for the final time as he slips away……
I check the clock, kiss Mitsy and open the garage, climb into the car and drive to nans. We sit and chat, buzzers going off, boxes banging as they are dropped onto the floor, patients making noises as they talk to themselves or shouting for someone to help them, the clatter as the tea trolly makes its way down the corridor, the strongest cup of coffee passed over to me. Then the clock ticks and it’s time to get back to it; whatever ‘it’ is…..
I launch a foundation because I want to provide others with the support that could have helped me break out of my bubble much sooner. I see it grow due to the sheer hard work from me and our fabulous volunteers. At times the pressure almost proves too much but the team pull it out of the bag. Volunteers come and go in the foundation; some through choice and some advised. Those with passion stay to stand and fight for it, save the day and succeed in delivering; truly with the fight in our bellies and we move forward making plans for 2017….
I have friends who I only speak to on Facebook or Twitte; people I’ve never met but who pop up to let me know they are thinking of me. Military colleagues who became friends; most I don’t see but always find the time to talk to. Friends I’ve made along the way but I only see if I make the effort. Those who will always remain a constant; who accept me warts and all and those few who take the time to come and knock on my door…..
Throughout all of this I just don’t really know who I am. I don’t know my identity and that scares me. I was still a child when I joined the RAF. I matured during the 23 years but never gave ‘me’ some time. I left trapped in a bubble having left the person I’d ‘grown up to be’, in the barron fields of Afghanistan. I came out of the bubble but have yet to find ‘Michelle’. I always strive to do the right thing at the right time, for the right people, but I’m not sure how much of that is directed at myself. I have always done what is expected of me but one day surely I should find my own voice; my own choice, my own….