• Michelle Partington

It’s oh so quiet….

So I thought I would continue to talk about symptoms and this evening I will be talking about feeling isolated.

During all my time in the RAF I have met some truly unique and inspiration people. I’ve also met some knob heads as well but we won’t go there 😜 (Sorry Grandad). I have met some great colleagues and made some lifelong friends. I was never alone unless I wanted to be. I always had someone to turn to on or off operational duty and I would always be there for other people in a flash. I then returned from Afghanistan for the last time and things suddenly changed. I didn’t want to go out and I felt no urge to even strike up a conversation with anyone. It got to the point where I just shut myself away.

So why would I do this? When I was out I would be asked how I was quite a lot and sometimes I would be ok, other times not so much. How can you explain to those close to you that sometimes I feel that angry I could have pushed my bosses face through a window? Or I was that low I was thinking of ways I could end my life and make it look like an accident? Or I felt like talking about how the I kept seeing a little kids face which was completely mashed and their brains were spilling out??? None of these options I would wish to share with my nearest and dearest. However these are the very things I need to be speaking about but right now there is no one…. no one close who could listen to this stuff and not want to get up and hold me, or have it start to haunt them also. I couldn’t be completely honest and open through fear of tormenting them also. Granted they wouldn’t see the images but emotion for a loved one and imagination are powerful things.

Now don’t judge me on this but I have been watching the soap ‘Neighbours’ and it is the only programme I have seen so far which covers PTSD in detail. There is a lad who has returned from Afghan really angry etc. It has been identified that he has PTSD. However he has been unable to settle with a counsellor but is comfortable talking to a family friend. The problem is that this friend is now experiencing flashbacks and having nightmares from listening to what he’s gone through. I know it’s a soap but it has a lot of truth to it. I would not wish that on any of my friends or family.

These tragic experiences are harder to cope because unless your in my head no one, not even family or friends, can understand what I went through on tour and what I know try to live with. The guys on tour with me can empathise to some degree but everyone is different. Values, beliefs, sensitivity, comfort zone etc….everyone deals with things in different ways. The whole team could be working on one extremely severe trauma case yet take different memories and thoughts away. I can still see images of most of our severe trauma cases and I’m sure they will haunt me for years to come. So how can I go out and about, not knowing what kind of trigger or flashback will come my way?

Apart from going to bingo with my mum, or the local club with my mum, or round to my mums house, or to my gorgeous Nan’s I don’t go to many other places. I forced myself to do the comedy event but it was all about the training so didn’t have to talk about me too much. I spend more and more time alone because how can anyone else begin to understand what I’ve experienced or what I’m going through. I’m avoiding social situations because I’m conscious of being reminded of things I don’t want to remember. Apart from my mum and my grandparents I’ve avoided people and activities I would usually get involved with. Its tiring when your trying to keep yourself together all the time.

Don’t get me wrong I get up some days and I’m ok and only have little, manageable ‘blips’ but other days it’s hard to put on a brave face. My mum says she can now tell when it’s a bad day which helps because I don’t have to speak. I have a lovely friend called Lee up here and I started to spend a bit of time with her but even then somedays I don’t want any visitors. Its a vicious cycle though because some days I don’t want to be alone. I just think it’s easier because I don’t drag anyone else down with me.

Hopefully SSAFA will come good with some counselling sessions soon so I have an outlet. In the meantime I’m safer tucking myself away in my shining white treasure chest….


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