The key and important message from this interesting and moving book is neatly captured in its sub title:
“There is help for Veterans and their families. You just have to be ready to take it. PTSD is not the end.
Russell’s story reads in places like a Victorian melodrama as he describes his fall from positions of trust and importance to near destitution; a victim of the demon drink.
This is a very personal narrative in which the author is totally open, frank and honest about his own weaknesses. He describes his reliance on alcohol which led to him losing his army job as an intelligence analyst, the tragic loss of a baby son, the breakdown of his first marriage and then a resurgence of enthusiasm for military life and activity after retraining as a military photographer at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Whilst he describes himself as not a ‘roughie, toughie’ soldier, he certainly witnessed and was caught up in more than his fair share of high stress incidents.
Russell’s drinking led, eventually to his leaving the army and he relates a series of hardships and problems associated with the difficult transition to civilian life including housing and employment. He is scathing of the lack of help and support afforded him by the military but with the help of a new relationship leading to both a second marriage and reconciliation with this father, his life began to turn around for the better. Russell took many years to find out and then accept that he was suffering from PTSD. This acceptance led to his making contact with Combat Stress where with their help and his own determination to ‘get better’ he began the long journey to recovery.
The struggles and issued experienced by the author cover a lot of the armed forces veterans’ issues which are the topic of many research papers, including the fact that it is not just combat troops who can suffer from PTSD; that military to civilian transition is difficult for some, in particular, the reported absence of help on discharge; not being understood by civilians and the awareness that one’s own family see you as a different person, changed by bad experiences.
Russel is now on the ‘other side of the counter’ working in the NHS helping veterans with mental health issues to make their own recoveries. The book is written in an easy flowing narrative style and reads almost like one side of a long interview. Writing the book was clearly cathartic for Russell, for others it will be an interesting and informative read with very personal insights into the complex world and life journey of a once soldier now civilian.