War was my catalyst for change…
I had to evolve as a human being and the hardest part of war was letting it go. The last time I wrote about my story was just before the film release of Diary of a Disgraced Soldier in 2009 and I was very much focused on what had happened to me after being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2007 when I left the army.
Previous to military service I was a student at Falmouth Art School and achieved a diploma in the arts.
I was a frontline infantry soldier for 12 years serving around the world in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and Iraq.
In February 2006 I was thrust into the media spotlight when the News of the World released footage I had filmed of the arrest and beating of rioting Iraqi youths. This was a very dark time for me and the other soldiers involved, and our lives were ruined as we were depicted as bad apples and bullies and held up as examples of all that was wrong with the Army, and yet no charges had been brought against me by the Army. I left the forces soon afterwards.
After service I suffered from Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and ended up homeless and broken.
Coming out the military in 2007 was the most painful experience of my life not only was the NHS ill-equipped to deal with Veterans suffering with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) but the waiting list for treatment for Combat Stress was a year.
The NHS Veterans Support Group ran from a Heroin Withdrawal Centre and reminded me of the film ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and the Nurse in charge had the same values as Nurse Ratchet.
The system in place was clogged up by Veterans that had been driven into the ground trained to be ‘Professional Patients’ happy to take their prescription drugs and paid pensions so they never complained. These Veterans had been shown no light at the end of the tunnel and became dependent on society. The nurses had no empathy for how Soldiers minds think and feel.
After I asked the CPN of the group if we could introduce Reiki or Yoga to the group I was told to shut up and what worked for me would not be good for the group and I was never invited back. I was horrified at the treatment for our so called Heroes.
My resettlement to civilian life was a total logistical mess.
I craved assistance to help me overcome PTSD something that was empowering and could make me believe I had a chance of getting well and I knew I had to create it for myself.
In 2008 I set up Voices of War with another homeless veteran called Lee Kamara. Together we wrote and performed music, art and poetry to raise money for homeless veterans in the South west. Voices of War portrayed a frontline infantry soldier’s perspective, using art, poetry and music. The purpose was to deliver an understanding of the real, raw emotions and feelings that soldiers go through during these horrific experiences.
As an artist, I found I could remove vivid scenes of violence that cause the intrusive disturbing thoughts that lead to Combat PTSD through art.
For me, at that time, art was a form of release that combined with meditation and NLP started to get my life back on track. I was trying hard to get better and I wanted people to understand what goes on in a veteran’s head when returning from war; how it affects the individual and how their family suffers too”.
War is the most harsh environment known to man, yet our Government has learned nothing in hundreds of years of how to help combat veterans returning from war on an emotional level.
Diary of a Disgraced Soldier
Upon leaving the Army I approached three independent filmmakers to help me tell my side of the story. It was my commentary that people had heard when the film was leaked to the British newspaper, News of the World, and subsequently shown across the globe and I needed the chance to put the record straight.
The film, Diary of a Disgraced Soldier, follows my life from the day I left the Army, on an intense journey that sees me struggle to come to terms with a post-military life haunted by that video.
I embarked upon a deeply personal investigation into the events of Al Amarah, using a prolific creative energy to produce paintings, poetry and music – and visited my old army mates to get their take on what happened in Iraq.
Along the way my video diary charted my anger, shame, and depression as I came to terms with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and voiced my new-found political awareness. Diary of a Disgraced Soldier began as an investigation into one shameful moment, but as my story unravels, it turns into a quest to see if I can ever leave Al Amarah behind.
During the period of my PTSD I wrote Soldier of Consequence It was a helpful outlet but the work was very dark & disturbing.
PTSD was a creative and very destructive period in my life, I pushed away anything positive. The horror of bringing my family along for the ride was impossible to avoid, and PTSD by proxy is a result of so many family break ups, collateral damage from war. Without a doubt the hardest part of my journey was losing my family. It wasn’t until I lost them that I realised I had a serious problem and had to ask for help. I can’t begin to tell you how many soldiers I’ve worked with, that have lost everything, their wives, partners and even the rights to see their children.
In 2009, under the Labour Government, the mental health system was under-funded, out of date and seriously overloaded with under-trained and unprepared staff. I saw veterans squabbling over whose PTSD was worse and how much benefit they were entitled to. The British Legion in my opinion was overloaded and had a real task to sift through so many PTSD cases.
In 2009 after my film release my marriage was over, I was buried in financial ruin and the recession made it impossible to get building work, I was invited by another Ex-soldier who suffered with PTSD to a course in Wales UK. He had told me how he turned his life around after treatment from a former Army Physical Training Corps Captain called Mick Stott.
Mick was an analyst in the British Army and had been out for several years, he had developed a therapy that had a different approach for tackling mental health, targeting the root cause of problems and resolving the negative emotions connected to them whilst staying out of traumatic content.
Mick had created a Programme called Synergy, which was results focused and statistically measured using academic research methods. Synergy was based on the premise that soldiers weren’t broken, they didn’t need to be fixed they required specifically designed emotional education and coaching tools to resolve their issues and to get a more desired outcome.
Synergy was a fascinating concept that changed my life. The process was simple and in my opinion the work of a genius and I was lucky enough to be invited onto a practitioner training course. This was the break I was waiting for I had a real passion for helping soldiers, I had raised lots of money for the Royal British Legion helping fund food vouchers for the homeless veteran’s. But I wanted to make real permanent change to veteran’s welfare now I could help Soldiers recover from PTSD.
I started to wonder if I learned this therapy perhaps I could change the system, Imagine being able to offer Veteran’s a choice of therapy. The treatments that I received from the NHS was a “like it or lump it” approach as choices weren’t available. For me being put with a marriage counsellor and given prescription drugs just made me feel worthless and suicidal, the pills just masked the problems.
The delegates on the practitioner course comprised a mix of civilians, ex-soldiers and people from Special Forces plus a local NHS General Practitioner, I quickly realised how simple it was to apply the therapy, which is based on Neuro Linguistic Programming & Relaxation, embracing the work of Dr Milton Erickson MD, targeting parts of the unconscious mind that has the answers. The GP said he had diagnosed patients for 20 years but acknowledged that using this approach would have helped his patients resolve their own problems.
I had never relaxed so much in my whole life, it was as if something in my mind had been allowed to switch off. Synergy was something really special within 3 days of the course the nightmares, flash backs, & Intrusive thoughts, that had haunted me for years, had completely vanished. I was in control and I had made a real change at a deep unconscious level. I could not talk about Iraq or Northern Ireland before the course without getting upset, I realised that the memories were there but the fear and guilt had gone, I could now see it objectively having learned from the experience.
The others that were on the course also had the same remarkable experiences.
The course was very hard, I learned so much about myself and I had to contemplate my situation from the perspective of my partner and family, which was a real eye-opener. I learned that only I had the answers to my problems. I let go of blaming others.
I started to work alongside Mick Stott on his 4 day Change Programme that involved Emotional Coaching and personal Development working with people with PTSD, BIPOLAR, Depression, OCD, and suicidal thoughts.
I became a Master Practitioner and am now a Trainers of Spectrum Therapy running my own programmes and helping others.
Mick had created the concept of a Change Course Programme and from working with PTSD he developed Spectrum Therapy™.
Spectrum Therapy is a way of delivering rapid change working with the root cause of a problem rather than the symptoms. This work is truly pioneering in the area of health and wellbeing and it has also been ground breaking for improving mental health. Academic research supports the effectiveness of the therapy.
I worked for over two years under several charities trialling Spectrum Therapy™, I’ve put a lot of my own money and time into the research and development and I know that Mick has done the same. We learned many hard lessons along the way but for me as a volunteer the work we carried out was first class we never lost sight of the people we helped getting back on their feet.
Even though these have been tough times I have always been inspired by Mick Stott and Spectrum Therapy™. His ability to bring the best out in others has inspired me to do this work. The Synergy ethos is very much reminiscent of my army days it’s an honour and a privilege to do this work I’m truly grateful to be alive and have such wonderful friends and family that have supported me no end.
I have set up a programme that uses Spectrum Therapy™ to treat those that are from all walks of life from the fortunate to the unfortunate.
I want Spectrum Therapy™ to be implemented by the NHS in the UK and hopefully the USA. I’m currently training Practitioners according to the same Synergy Ethos and values that have been taught to me. Ethical Practitioners are the key to the success of Spectrum Therapy™.
I am developing a retreat in Cornwall called New Leaf Personal Development Centre to house Veterans and run change courses.
I am working with the International Conference of War Veteran Ministers It’s been a Honour to observe the dedication of Vietnam Veteran Father Philip Salois, his valuable work in the USA with Veterans is priceless he is a credit to America & the Catholic Church.
Love and best wishes to Betsy who not very well at the moment in the USA.
So, at the time of writing I have come so far and am fully committed to helping people suffering from PTSD receive effective treatment. I would not want anybody to go through the hell I experienced and through training other people to be Spectrum therapists this incredible therapy will literally save lives.
The war in Afghanistan is one of the longest in history; with more soldiers surviving battle field injuries due to improved conditions and equipment than ever before PTSD is a serious problem. We have fought together now we must heal together share knowledge and focus on the future.
New Leaf Programme
I believe the pioneering work we have achieved in mental health, will speak volumes in the future and the people we helped to find their own inner peace will be our lasting legacy.
If a treatment centre that offered a positive direction and emotional support had existed at the time of my release from the military that catered for my mental, physical and dietary needs I might have not lost my marriage or gone bankrupt. The proposed Centre of Challenge and Inspiration would have helped me recover and I look forward to seeing it built and running our Spectrum Therapy courses from this amazing and uplifting place.
In Hindsight I feel privileged to have set up the New Leaf Programme and been introduced to Spectrum Therapy now that my life had direction and focus.
I would like to personally thank the NHS for making it so bad for me when I got out that I had to create an organisation that will improve and save the lives of my friends who served for this truly brilliant country.
My legacy will be to get Spectrum Therapy into the NHS and change the Mental Health System in this country for ever.
Trainer of NLP, & Spectrum Therapy TM.
Master Practitioner of NLP & Spectrum Therapy TM.
Call : 07450 895 611