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Stuart's Story

Army Veteran Stuart

In his own words.

“Combat Stress helped me. Now I can enjoy my life again.”

“I was a bit of a rogue when I was a teenager. Then when I was 19 some of my friends went to prison, so I joined the Army to get out of that environment and escape that life.

“After joining the 23 Pioneer Regiment in 1992, I served all over the world including in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany. After 24 years I left the Army and entered civilian life in 2017.

“Life was terrible; I was working 70-hour weeks as a truck driver, travelling all over the country and sleeping in the truck. I felt lonely and isolated, then coming home to my wife and boys was hard and I wasn’t easy to live with.

“After about a year I got a new job as a premises manager at a secondary school. I didn’t enjoy the school environment; it was too noisy, there were too many kids and just too much going on for me. I isolated myself further and was drinking heavily – we’re talking 15 ciders a night, or a bottle of gin, then getting up and functioning in the morning. I was emotionally numb, overworking and didn’t want to interact with anyone.

“I got a new job involved with building the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. I had a 5-bedroom house, a good wage, a car and good work benefits – financially and workwise I was succeeding very well. But I was working all hours, there was no off-time and I didn’t enjoy interacting with the family. Eventually it all started imploding.

“My marriage fell apart, I lost my job, my parents died and I was homeless for a while. It felt like after leaving the Army, bad news just kept coming.

“I tried to take my own life in 2019 and after that I sought help. Combat Stress isn’t a crisis service, and as I was classed as high risk I needed other treatment before the charity could help me. I received treatment through the NHS, which wasn’t great but in the long run it did what it needed to do – I could go on to get help from Combat Stress.

“I started treatment with the charity in January 2022 through video calls – psychiatry appointments, substance misuse appointments, occupational therapy and also a course on understanding your triggers through your senses. The support was amazing and the treatment worked perfectly for me. I threw myself 110 per cent at it – I never missed a session and reaped the benefits from that. Through my time with Combat Stress I now understand that my mental health issues probably stemmed from Bosnia and Iraq.

“My life has a purpose now. I constantly try to do things I used to enjoy and I’m far calmer. I help others, like cutting next door’s trees, and take the positives from that. I used to just fill time with mundane things like constant cleaning, but now I do things I enjoy. I am taking better care of myself and have a small group that I socialise with, whereas two years ago I wouldn’t have.

“Before I was in a place of self-destruction, there’s no doubt about that. If it wasn't for the angels at Combat Stress that looked after me, I wouldn't be walking on this planet. They helped me and now I can enjoy my life again - and live.”

February 2023