For seven years I thrived in the Territorial Army serving in Kosovo and Iraq. It was during a tour of duty in Iraq that I suffered a serious injury which has left me with a disability and unable to walk without the aid of crutches. I also have severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
When I was discharged from the Forces, life just got more and more difficult. Trying to get any kind of support was literally impossible. I tried hard to get housed but no-one took my PTSD seriously. It was like no-one was listening and before long I was homeless. Eventually I was housed in a hostel but that environment was so hostile I ended up living in a tent in a field with my dog, Bonnie. Thanks to my time in the Forces, I was resourceful washing in a stream and - despite my disability - making a sleeping area, even digging out a toilet. But It was tough, so tough and after a time I wound up in a dark mental place. All I could think of is ‘how do I move forward when a massive system is against me?’ After years of putting my life on the line to serve my country surely I had the right to social housing? Instead I ended up destitute and suicidal.
By January 2015 living outside in freezing conditions was beginning to severely impact on my physical and mental health. I did not think that I could go on. At this point SSAFA put me in touch with an advocacy charity called seAp. They have a military advocacy service that helps people who are discharged from the armed forces to access the services and support we need to get a new life in the ‘civilian community’. It was when I met my advocate, that my life started to turn a corner. My advocate turned out to be a massive rock in my life - always there for me - listening to me and steering me through the system, clearly explaining my options. He literally took all the stress away from me when I was feeling suicidal.
With this type of support, I was able to focus and got a letter from my GP confirming that I was suffering from PTSD - stating that it’s a current condition not something that had passed. My advocate also re-established links with me to work with Combat Stress during December and get a mental health assessment at The Royal British Legion with Combat Stress, confirming that I’m entitled to housing and rehabilitation. I had someone on my side which gave me my confidence back.
Seventeen months later, my life has taken a much more positive turn. I’m no longer living in a tent in a field. I’ve been housed in Mike Jackson House (MJH) for 18 months. MJH is a supported housing project for homeless veterans and their main aim is to support and assist veterans back into an independent way of living. I’m also lending support to other vets at MJH so that they are calmer and more focussed.
My journey doesn’t end here. I’m five months into Mike Jackson House and still have to get housed as I don’t want to go back to that tent in the field and I shouldn’t have to. Thanks to my advocate, I’ve come a long way and feel empowered to keep moving forward.