Read about the latest updates from Walking Home For Christmas
By Walking With The Wounded on
‘I wish more people would reach out. It’s hard to ask for help but if you do then the help is there. My WWTW Employment Advisor, Chris, did so much more than just support me into work. His own experiences with mental health helped me to get a grip on my issues and guide me to where I am now.’
Mark joined the Army when he needed a job and the opportunities where he lived were in short supply. He knew that he wanted a decent career, and the military seemed a good choice. Initially, Mark joined the Parachute Regiment and completed 12 months of hard training. Disaster struck when he seriously injured his ankle, and he was unable to complete his essential parachute jumps.
As a keen soldier, Mark was determined to continue his military career. He successfully transferred to the Coldstream Guards and immediately started reconnaissance work. He was deployed to Northern Ireland and was involved in several incidents that caused him accumulative trauma.
Mark handed in his papers to leave the military when his mother had become seriously ill, and his father was struggling to look after the family alone. Sadly, in 1994, Mark’s mother passed away and this caused his mental health to spiral downwards. For 23 years, Mark struggled with his symptoms. He left his marriage and his home and went to live in a squat. He sought help from his GP but declined the anti-depressants that he had been prescribed. Mark even went to live in a remote part of Greece for 8 years – something he can now recognise as his way to avoid people and life. He had various jobs, but he never settled or committed to anything for long.
‘I took all the trauma on board and held it inside. Layer upon layer until my symptoms escalated. I was very angry and prone to outbursts.’
In 2012, Mark applied to take a Close Protection Security Course (CPS) with the intention of going to Iraq. However, the reintroduction to a military-style environment, made him aggressive and disassociated. In 2018, he contacted WWTW to help him find a new, stable career path and was introduced to Chris his Employment Advisor. Chris immediately referred Mark to NHS TILS (Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention, Liaison Service) for assessment and treatment. He was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and treated through talking therapies and grounding techniques.
‘When I first met my WWTW EA, Chris, I was in a highly charged state, and he could see that I wasn’t ready to look for work. He took his time to talk to me and calm me down - his support was immense. He helped to guide me along the path, through therapy and back into work, and now everything has come to fruition.’
Chris looked at Mark’s finances and found a way for him to achieve financial stability. He completed his applications forms for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) support and Universal Credit – a daunting task that Mark had been unwilling to undertake. One day in late 2019, Chris rang and invited him to go to Lesotho, Africa with a team from WWTW. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Mark, who had responded well to therapy, accepted. He flew to Lesotho and worked to rebuild an orphanage. He also helped to teach the children Maths, English, and woodworking skills. The trip helped him relate to others and to understand and appreciate their battles.
‘Some days recovery is about taking small steps and putting one foot in front of the other. When I was in Lesotho with WWTW, I undertook a 2 day climb of Mount Ntlenyana that stands at over 10,000ft. At the summit, I took the time to sit quietly and reflect on the journey. For me, it had represented new challenges and achievement – it was an amazing feeling.’
When Mark was ready to look for employment again, he had decided he wanted to become an HGV driver. Chris got in touch with the Royal British Legion to fund his HGV Class C Licence training. He also introduced him to courses in Mental Health and Counselling, so that he could better understand his own issues. Mark has now finished his therapy and is no longer on medication. He has received his HGV Class C licence and WWTW has just secured funding from the Royal British Legion for his HGV C+E training (driving with a drawbar). He is feeling confident and is in a very strong position to get work.
‘You have to be honest about needing help before growth can begin. You start off in a bad place but gradually a glimmer appears, a manageable hour… day… week. It takes a lot of time and hard graft but if you apply yourself and have determination, you will come on leaps and bounds.’
‘Last year, Christmas was not great. I was still in therapy; I had no work and I’d just got back to an empty home after being in Africa with the team from WWTW. This year, everything has changed. I have a new partner; I am independent and very soon, I expect to be in a new job. Thanks to Chris and WWTW my life is coming together. The past is gone, and this Christmas is all about making some new, happy memories.’