My name is Jye, I am 30 years old. I was married for nearly 9 years and I have two girls, Lylah 7 and Evelyn 4.
I served 11.5yrs in the Royal Australian Air Force as a Armament Technician and spent 4 of those years in Bomb Disposal.
I have struggled with mental health for as long as I can remember and battled with addiction really since I joined the RAAF at 18.
I'm proud to tell you, I have just reached 12 months sober and going strong.
I was medically discharged from the RAAF in December 2019 and have recently started a Psychology degree at University of Newcastle. The goal is to use my military experience with a psych degree to work with Veterans.
So I guess I'll go back a little.
I joined the RAAF at 18. The drinking culture in the RAAF hit me hard. I got caught up in it and didn’t know how to get out of it. If you didn’t drink you were looked at funny, you were on the outside.
I started to value drinks with the boys, value not missing out on a good time. This didn’t go down well with my partner at the time and put strain on our relationship. Even when I had kids I didn’t stop and change my behaviour. This eventually led to our separation on Easter Sunday in 2019.
The day she left is the day I stopped drinking and haven’t touched it since. The day she left is also the day I came very close to ending it. I was walking down a busy road very drunk and ready to step out in front of a car doing 80km/h. My dad pulled up behind me, put me in the car and 2 days later I was in Lakeside Psychiatric Hospital here in Newcastle. It was during that stay I decided to give up drinking and change my life around.
One huge event I haven't mentioned yet is my deployment to the Middle East in 2017/2018. During my deployment I was in Dubai and my role was Assistant Base Armament Manager. One of my duties was IED response.
Towards the end of my deployment I sustained a back injury from squatting in the gym. I was sent home 2 weeks later. 12 months later I underwent Spinal Fusion Surgery on my L5/S1. I still live with chronic back pain and this is why I was medically discharged in 2019.
Since my back injury I started seeing a psychologist to assist with adapting to my new life. I could no longer run around with my kids, no longer play sports or lift weights let alone do the job that I loved. A mixture of painkillers, antidepressants and alcohol lead me down a dark path. This is what led me almost ending it.
I was in chronic pain even though I had the surgery, my wife left and I had no idea what was going to happen to my career.
But.... This is the good part. Since getting sober my life has changed in so many different ways.
I completed a bridging course at Uni to get accepted into the psychology degree, I joined Young Veterans Australia and started a group in Newcastle called Young Veterans Newcastle. The group provides a safe place for Veterans to meet and build relationships with like minded people. I bought my first house and am currently in semester 1 of my degree.
My whole outlook on life since getting sober has changed. I see things so clearer now.
When I decided to go 12 months sober I didn't believe I could do it. My psychiatrist didn’t believe I could do it. I decided to make myself accountable and I announced it on Facebook. I thought if i share my story and my battle it might encourage just one person to do the same. I also started a donations page and raised over $600 for Beyond Blue. It was being public about it and raising the money that got me through it. I didn’t go to any groups, no AA. I like challenges, so I set myself a challenge of 12 months. Now that I’m at 12 months i have no desire to introduce it back into my life.
This massive change has resulted in my values changing. I now value my time with the kids more than anything. I have become a much better father. I have my kids 5 nights soon to be 6 a fortnight. It's difficult having them on my own especially with the back pain but I wouldn't change it for the world.
I have loved seeing the posts on Facebook from LIVIN, it has really encouraged me to continue to speak about my struggles.
I guess I am sharing this with you because I am an open book when it comes to my mental health. I believe by talking about it, your depression/anxiety loses a little of its power on you. It wants you to believe you're alone, that nobody cares but this is so far from the truth.In the meantime I will continue to grow my collection of LIVIN gear and spread the message.
Thankyou for the work you are doing. I feel the stigma is slowly disappearing but we still have a lot of work to do, especially in the current climate we find ourselves in.
It's more important than ever for people struggling to reach out.