So, what’s this all about, I’ll try to keep it half normal. My name is Jay and I’m going tell you a story about a guy, no one special, just a normal northern kid from Lancashire who always wanted to join the Army and be a soldier, nothing wrong with that right?
He grows up in a northern town wants nothing more to join the Army so at 15 and a half he does. And he never looks back. He has an amazing career full of ups and downs. He Joins his local Regiment but soon sees other things and transfers to the Air Corps to be a crewman, he goes on to serve in every operation in various roles from mechanized infantry to Interrogation and SERE, Intelligence to PSYOPs with the Special Forces and mentoring. An amazing array of roles always striving for the opportunity to do something different and move on. He attains the highest non-commissioned rank and appointment he can he achieves the best he could. And is thankful. Fast forward to Jan 2013 he leaves the Army and 4 months before that was still out in Afghanistan mentoring, he leaves his Army family and he comes home.
Now he’s 42 by now and he’s got to be the best he can be and he’s set himself up well to start his own business and totally dislocate himself from his past. He does this because he believes to get on in life he must focus on looking forward not backwards from where he came, I mean, who gives a shit what units he had served with or where he had been or what he had done. He actually used to tell everyone he was a plumber because he had settled nowhere near the town he grew up, he didn’t want anyone to know he had been a soldier just wanted to start a new life.
Now a few years into his new life he thought he was awesome and was doing well, he had the perfect life was working when he wanted and was reaping the rewards, pay was good life was better, wasn’t it? he was his own boss, he answered to no one. inside his head, it was all going to plan and he used to say he couldn’t believe how well he had adjusted to civi life. I mean 25 years in the mob and it was such an easy transition.
In reality he was living a lie, every day he was waking up after about 3 to 6 hours sleep he’d startle awake because something jumped into his head, a worry a panic, he’d get up to go into the shower not feeling too bad and get out of the shower 5 mins later wanting nothing more than to curl up in bed and make the world go away. He couldn’t comprehend that within 5 mins of waking up he just didn’t want face the world he just didn’t want to be on the planet. How could this guy who had a great family and life just not want to live anymore? He couldn’t understand it, it absolutely broke him. The confusion, anxiety, depression and the pain caused, he just couldn’t believe what he had become and how he got there.
Turns out this guy had seen a bit when he was serving, witnessed his first trauma at 18 on tour. This guy was suffering from PTSD first diagnosed in 1993, now after leaving he had grown a conscience and was judging himself with self-destructive thoughts making him have so much hatred for himself it consumed him, he thought he hid it well but it was clear for all to see, he withdrew from family and friends became solitary person because he thought he would fix himself, after all he knew a bit about the human mind from his past career. Came to a sad point where this bloke had realised there was no other option left to him but to make this right.
He planned to step off the planet the next day after a lot of planning and thinking, with nothing to do that night he went to a business network meeting because hey why not. There he listened to a guest speaker who he had heard of because it was a professional rugby league guy, someone he had grown up watching and respected, he was talking about mental health. well he listens to the talk and ran to the toilets and for the first time in a long time he cried, in the toilets right there uncontrollably. He realised he was ill, he got it, he finally got it, something had flicked a switch inside him, could it possibly be true that by listening to that guy that night it had just saved his life. It did and I will always credit Danny Sculthorpe of State of Mind charity with that as much as it embarrasses him.
He had previously unsuccessfully tried to get help from a charity, so went to his NHS doctors, they helped him, got him into therapy and so started the long process of healing, he knows he’s not fixed but he’s getting there, he stood on the edge of that dark place everyone talks about he even dipped a toe in the shallows but he didn’t let it consume him. Now he is consumed in another way, he’s consumed by helping people and yes, it’s too his own detriment and his family’s but he feels that’s a cross he has to bear. he wants and needs too.
My point is this, life is hard, in general its shit a lot of the time but firstly be thankful you have a life, if you can whine about it trust me it’s not a bad day, we have all had some shit in our lives and you can sit and drip about them till the cows come home, that might make you feel better but it won’t affect change, he’s lived a great life and for years, years he hated it and himself, but coming out of the other side, because trust me no one waves a magic wand, you learn to live and cope better with it, but it will always be with you.
If life was perfect then where is the challenge, the challenge that makes you get out of bed when you don’t want too, the challenge that motivates you to go for that job or change your career, could you imagine waking up in a perfect world, yes you know the one we all dream of, fuck me it would be so boring, I’m not saying you have to suffer from a chronic illness to make you realise life can be better, but I am saying only you can change what you have or don’t have. The more you whinge or whine it brings others down around you, don’t be that person we all know, the Army never taught him to be a victim, ever, it taught him to fight, focus and find a solution to his problems. So, he accepted this challenge and fights it every day, he wants to show others it can be done and will always put them before himself because he’s been given that chance so uses it wisely.
A lot of people tell him constantly, life’s too short to be unhappy, well we all need to practice what we preach more, surround yourself with people and things you are akin too and love doing, this guy has had to reinvent himself, the point he realised in therapy that he wasn’t the person who went away on that last tour was an epiphany, even his therapist cried and hugged him, yes he finally got it, he stopped saying he just wanted to be the happy guy he once was, for him it all comes back to him starting again and learning to live with this person. He’s got a long journey ahead of him and it’s a rough road, a lot of people stand by him and a lot of people have been hurt by him or fallen by the wayside for that he can only say thank you and apologise, it’s a selfish journey to be taken and no hurt is caused by malice but by the journey. But luckily, he has a decent full suspension mountain bike.
Remember one thing people, to quote a good pal of mine….”YOU ARE YOUR ACTIONS” so heads up, move forward with life because you only have one , it’s that simple and hopefully one day like him you can, once again…….Meet Yourself
Jason is a former soldier and Channel 4 SAS Who Dares Wins Interrogator. He is a Mental Toughness Coach and an ambassador for the Veterans Garage Charity. Please check out his Open Shutters Project video.