During my service in the Air Force, I witnessed and had to photograph some pretty horrific things, things that even now I simply don’t talk about. I was also involved in a couple of mid-air incidents, one in particular came extremely close to taking not only my life but also the pilots who were flying both planes. The altitude we were at would not have given us enough time to get out of the planes and use our parachutes. All of these thing just seemed to be part of life to me at the time and I simply carried on a little shaken of course but never the less I had a job to do and I would do it.
The years that followed seemed to be all downhill, my marriage failed, I would argue with my bosses, I would go into a rage dealing with unco-operative people and I would make mistakes that were to cost me thousands of dollars, my life seemed to be a mess and I had no idea of what was happening. I have found out since that everything that was happening in my life after the military were symptoms of PTSD, but I didn’t know that at the time. While it seems my doctors had noted that they suspected I might have PTSD, no one had ever suggested this to me, not that I would have believed them at the time anyway.
It wasn’t until some 25 years after my discharge from the Air Force that things took a dramatic turn for the worst. I was on a holiday with Angie’s parents in New Guinea and we had gone of on a sightseeing tour in Rabaul part of which was a tour of the Japanese bunker where Admiral Yamamoto had planned the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The buildings alongside of the bunker have been turned into a museum and it was here that everything changed for me.
Standing in front of a pile of Japanese Zero wreckage I found myself starting to tremble, I came over in a cold sweat and crystal clear visions of that mid-air incident came flooding through my brain, I had to get out of the building and I had to do it fast. I didn’t even try to find Angie and tell her what was going on, I just had to get out of there. Angie found me wondering around outside half in a daze about 20 minutes later. I was unable to tell her what had happened but she knew something had changed in me.
Over the next 2 weeks I would be lucky to get 2 hours sleep each night being woken with visions of that mid-air incident, sweating profusely and I ended up going to the doctors to see if I could get something to help me sleep, instead of a prescription he referred me to a psychiatrist who diagnosed that I had PTSD. He explained to me that the problems I had been having in the past were warnings that I was in fact suffering from PTSD but it didn’t really surface until that day in Rabaul.
The next 2 year were to be my darkest time. I started thinking about how much of a burden I was to Angie and how useless I had become. I could no longer work and even the things I used to be able to do to help Angie in her business were too much for me to be able to do reliably.
I became a bit of a recluse, not wanting to go out much and I only had a small circle of friends who really didn’t know why I didn’t join them when they invited us to functions and parties. My psychiatrist recommended that a service dog might help me to cope better and function more socially. This was an exercise in total frustration, there just aren’t enough organisations and those that are there do not have the resources to cope with demand.
I started to think about ending it all, me the guy who didn’t understand how anyone could take their own life now considering how I could do exactly that.
I came up with a plan to ride my bike over a cliff and started talking to Angie about how I was going to go on a trip around Australia to raise money for a charity to help veterans with PTSD, the idea being that I would never return. This plan was to backfire on me as it started Angie thinking and she decided that she should start a charity herself as our experience had shown there were not enough resources to meet the demand for assistance dogs.
This was to become the turning point for my life and actually saved me from either killing myself or, should I miscalculate the accident, ending up in hospital with some pretty bad injuries – this was a possibility that had crossed my mind but I was pretty sure I could have done the job properly and that would not happen to me.
But now, thanks to Angie and my dog Rosie, my life has a purpose again, to help others who may be going through the same feeling of being overwhelmed and not being worth anything. So many stories have emerged of young kids returning from active service as well as our first responders not receiving the support they need, struggling in silence until they take their own lives out of frustration or because they just can’t cope with the torment of PTSD, this senseless waste just has to stop; and we believe that through PTSD DOGS AUSTRALIA we can do something about it.
Service dogs give their handler a reason to get out of bed every morning, they rely on the bond that develops between them just as the mateship within the military and first responders which says, “it’s okay, I’ve got your back”. We help each other get through each day . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . even those tough days.