North Colchester Healthcare Centre
North Colchester Healthcare Centre

Armed Forces Day - Chris's story

June 27 2018

Yesterday we introduced our Armed Forces Day segment in the run up to the big day. If you didn’t read it and would like to, you can find the link here.

This is Chris’s story.

Chris had always wanted to be in the military. It was a career that ran in his family; from his great granddad, to his granddad, to his dad. “Signing on the dotted line and reciting the Oath of Allegiance was one of the happiest days of my life,” said Chris.

Serving from April 2002 to December 2013 in the Royal Corps of Signals, Chris worked as a Communication Systems Operator, “Simply put, I provided communications via high frequency radio, very high frequency radio, satellite systems and computer systems. During this time, I was attached to various infantry units providing specialist communications for them.

“I left the army because I was selected for redundancy during the Armed Forces Redundancy Scheme back in 2013, but struggled to adapt to a civilian life.”

Chris quickly became a passenger in his own life with his situation becoming more and more out of control, “I managed to get the full-time job I currently have with Care UK after I left the army, but eventually due to my mental struggles my marriage broke down and I ended up homeless for 18 months.

“I applied to the local council for accommodation but because I was working, I wasn’t entitled to any assistance.”

Contacting various charities for help, Chris found that as he was already employed full-time and wasn’t claiming any form of benefits, they weren’t able to do anything for him. “This was completely surreal for me,” he said. “I had served my country for 11 years but when I needed help, no one could or would help me.

“I was no longer the man my kids could look up to. I couldn’t look after myself let alone look after them when I saw them. This led to me attempting suicide.”

A referral from Chris’s GP, also a veteran, saw Chris admitted into the six-week residential Intensive Treatment Programme with Combat Stress, “It was only after I had spoken to the Combat Stress Psychiatrist and was diagnosed with PTSD from my time in Iraq in 2007, that I had to speak to my line manager and explain everything that had happened.

“Since then, I have been supported by Care UK, not only by being given the time off to attend the six-week course, but ongoing support from David and Occupational Health. I now have a work plan in place that allows me to work in a way that suits me.”

Matter-of-factly, Chris added, “The six-week course saved my life. It taught me how my brain functions now, and for the rest of my life, and how to manage my symptoms, emotions and feelings.

“The staff there also helped me to get accommodation through Haig Housing. On the final day of the course, I left Combat Stress and was able to sign for, and pick up the keys to, my new flat on the same day. Which wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the staff there.”

Thanks to the encouragement from Combat Stress for Chris to be open and honest with his manager, he now has the support and flexibility he needs from his working role and colleagues, “After the course, I had a work action plan put in place with my line manager. This is an agreement between Care UK and me in regards to managing my PTSD within my various working environments.

“Any time I need for follow-up appointments, such as occupational therapy, Care UK have not hesitated in giving me that time.

“Now with my role as a Remote Support Engineer, I am able to manage my working week with David. Going to different sites and meeting different people is great, and one of the perks of my job is that I am only at the sites to help people and their IT systems. To leave knowing they are happy with what I have done and that they are able to work again, is an amazing feeling.”

Chris is positive for his future but knows that he must take each day as it comes, “Chronic PTSD is for life, but now I have the tools I need to live the life I want to, albeit on a day to day basis.

“But to be able to look back at how I was and compare it to how life is now, makes me look forward to my future.  I plan to get married to my current girlfriend – hopefully she plans to as well – but I want to be the man my kids can be proud of again.

“I have been to the bottom of the hole and have managed to climb back out. It is possible, and I would love to help others who are in that hole, to get out of it too.”

Tomorrow, in our next instalment, we will be finding out Andy’s story.