• Michelle Partington

Flashback to that place

I drove up to the gate at RAF Cranwell showing my ID to one chap whilst another held his rifle in both hands like it was an accessory. For him his duty is nearly over and he can go home for the evening. For me.....boom!!!!! My heart beats faster, my throat tightens and my mouth waters as if I'm about to throw up. My mind suddenly wandered to the last time I held a weapon; it was in Afghanistan and I was kneeled with my elbow on my knee looking through the sights of my rifle whilst under fire. We had been trying to retrieve a casualty but as we landed on we were under fire and had to quickly get into a fire position ourselves. I couldn't wait to get away from the gate and the sight of the weapon but I wasn't focused on the road and didn't see the speed bump ahead; thankfully pulling me out of the flashback. It never leaves you no matter how hard you try...

I now suffer from severe anxiety and panic attacks as well as other things since returning from my last tour. Anxiety is affecting me every day now and at times it has been so severe that I have found it really difficult to even leave the flat! Some days I feel I'm making progress and then something triggers my mind and I'm straight back there again. For someone who has been used to going out and about its awful being in this place, I just feel like screaming until I have no breath left.

As a lot of you now know I have been trying to build up my confidence again by attending a comedy workshop. I have been using public transport to get used to being out again socially and although I have struggled I felt great being able to do.it. Some of you might well be saying "well that's ok then, your doing ok" and you would be correct at that very moment. Other moments though just aren't that great and I have to get used to managing those moments as they come. I volunteered my services to the Women In Comedy Festival in Manchester but the closer the event gets the more anxious I am becoming. I don't like letting anyone down but as someone has just told me, I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I have to be kinder to myself and accept I need lots time and patience to move forward. I am gutted to be letting the guys down but I can't make myself worse. The problem I have at the moment is that there are far too many triggers and memories associated with various moments and although I can prepare to some extent, others take me completely by surprise and I cannot risk anything happening in the centre of Manchester; especially at night.

I know logically in my mind it's ok and nothings going to happen but my body and brain does something completely different and I just can't control it. My life is being severely impacted by my anxiety and overall deterioration of my mental health and it frustrates me so much. I feel I am missing out on so much and I'm letting people down in the process. I truly hope I restart my therapy sessions soon because this is really getting me down now; just a thick black heavy cloud holding me down all the time. I can't really open up like this outside of my session's, how on earth can I expect anyone else to understand anything I am going through if I can't even understand it myself?

I had my first resettlement interview today and it was a massive reality check and a smack in the face all in one. Viv was brilliant with me and provided lots of very useful information but I was equally gutted that I was sat by her desk talking about my journey into civi street. I wasn't really taking anything in because my mind was consumed by the site of people in uniform, the sight of a standard military office open plan office with brown desks and blue division boards; I really wanted to be sat behind one of those desks right now. It has been driving me crazy not being in work and having something to do but I often wonder how on earth I would get through some days whilst off sick so how on earth can I hold down a job!!

I feel so isolated and lonely even when I'm around people because I can't escape these demons that are living inside my head right now. I may look ok on the outside but on the inside I'm in turmoil, not all the time but the majority of the time for sure. I think those closest to me are beginning to sense when the good and bad moments appear which is a relief because I am exhausted with trying to pretend I am ok when I'm really not.

I made one positive move today though. I have decided to build on my current knowledge and do some home study. It would be great as it will keep me occupied and I can be flexible with my study time. I started writing this blog to help give me an outlet but more importantly, to help others identify with what I'm going through warts and all. Some days will be good, others not so much but I remain focused on the goal of living with this and not merely existing.

A message to everyone in my life would be to please forgive me if I plan to do something or turn up somewhere, yet cannot make it when it comes down to it. Sometimes I will make it, other days unfortunately I won't, but please be patient with me and don't give up inviting me ok. My life is being severely impacted by my anxiety and triggers but I will keep trying I promise. This may be a small thing but I really miss a proper big shopping day! I used to love going in and out of shops and used to spend hours in supermarkets going down every single isle even if I didn't need very much. I still drag myself out but it's a quick trip out and I have to be focused on exactly what I'm going for, and shop when it's quieter rather than during the busy periods. Internet shopping has become my outlet and the postman has actually joked about me running a dodgy mail order business! So if you guys fancy getting together I can definitely cope with nights in with people I know (at yours or mine), bingo (yes bingo), local social clubs and other quiet places. I will try to attend where and when I can, and in fact the next big thing for me will be the comedy stand-up night for charity. Just please be patient and give me time ok, I will get there.


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