Dave's Story - Post-deployment stress
I am in no way a hard man but I do prefer to internalise issues and deal with them and try not to bother anyone or look foolish if it becomes a non-issue.
When I once had a serious medical issue involving my sight I thought, "nah, I’ll be right” until my wife told me what the symptoms were and unless I wanted to go blind to get to the MO right there and then!
So it was no surprise when I came back from an intense deployment with some kinetic pressures, that I did the same.
I took to the hills three days after returning home, hunting and walking, leaving my confused wife at home. I scared her with verbal outbursts about the small things. I made unachievable lists of things to complete around the house in a weekend. I pushed away my civvi mates because they didn’t get it and escaped the day-to-day with random trips around the country. I watched hours of combat footage on YouTube.
Looking back now, I can see that my outbursts and erratic behaviour weren't normal, and these caused heartache and depression for my wife as I worked through dealing with it by myself. It was only when coming to a pinnacle of emotion did it dawn on me that there was an issue. Unfortunately this came too late and took four-five years, by which time my relationship had suffered significantly. It was only made easier by seeing a NZDF Padre that we (my wife and I) could both register each other's emotions and for me to see that I was just being a dick.
Part of the reason I took so long to get help was that I didn’t want to be branded or ‘Labelled’ or waste people's time on what I thought was a private matter. Knowing what I know now I would realise earlier that my experiences on deployment had had an impact and my reactions were not uncommon given these experiences. I learned that sometimes I can’t go it alone, that trying to do so has an impact on me and those around me, and that getting help (in my case from the padre)can help me find a way through.
Personally I wish I’d learned this earlier. I thought I was tough enough to nut it out; it took me a while to realise I wasn’t, and then to get myself sorted again. I know there are others out there who are not going ok, not knowing what’s happening or believing that there’s nothing they can do to sort it. It’s hard to ask for help, we want to try and go it alone, but sometimes we need to get help. It's not a ‘poor me’ approach. We owe it to ourselves and those around us.