Read this heart-warming tale of the bond between a Bravehound golden retriever and his army veteran. During the unfolding of these catastrophic life events, Chris explains his self-help strategies that aided him in leading his new way of life after his bereavement and mental health diagnosis. Packed with straightforward, honest, and practical advice, you can discover easy-to-adopt-coping strategies that are simple to implement if you have PTSD and/or are grieving. He also describes his experiences with the healthcare professionals and charities who helped him get back on his feet.
Here’s the opening chapter:
I’m standing on the edge of a cliff. My son, Angus, has taken his life. He was the victim of a heinous crime one year earlier. The police failed to remove a torn first draft of his suicide letter to his friends from his flat, urging them not to tell us what happened to him. He wanted to spare us from knowing what he’d bravely lived with for one year. I can’t cope with the gut-wrenching, heart-tearing emotional anguish that courses through my body. It is an unwelcome guest. All I want is for my son to be alive once more. My toes are over the damp earth and bracken. I hope that the drop and landing on the jagged rocks far below will be enough to end my suffering.
I’ve developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my time as an army nurse. I no longer want to see the bodies that I’ve cared for in life, and then death. I know they aren’t there. I helped put them in the mortuary fridges or performed last offices and wrapped them in a shroud or sheets. Yet they are as real as if I have been transported back in time. I don’t understand what my mind is putting me through. I need it to end. I feel in my pocket for the codeine and paracetamol combination tablets I’ve stockpiled for my knee and lower legs’ pains. If I don’t have the resolve to step off, I’ll be going to my favourite spot, a place nearby that my previous faithful dog, Bessie, and I would go for peace, especially on mornings when I’d seen the helmeted and visored pilot standing at the foot of my bed. He visits, along with the navigator, on the anniversary of the fatal Tornado jet crash in Cyprus, or whenever the news that day had been about a plane crash somewhere. But now they visit throughout the day and night.
I no longer have my sweet Bess to comfort me. I had the tough decision three years previously to put her to sleep, to end her painful suffering at fourteen years. I long for her companionship, for her to be by my side as I try to balance working on my failing businesses whilst juggling doing the housework and caring for my disabled wife, Karla. Not even the thought of my beautiful daughter, Abigail, can stop me swallowing a fatal overdose or stepping off into the sweet release of oblivion. My jacket is weighed down by stones for the approaching tide to sweep my body from the rocks and down into the depths of the North Sea. I’ve a can of Irn-Bru in my hand. One last favourite drink, along with a hip flask of my favourite malt whisky. All to wash down strip after strip of codeine and paracetamol tablets.
My parents no longer talk to me, all because I did not want the alleged paedophile family member attending my son’s funeral. I have no support. I’m kept too busy supporting my wife and daughter, financially, emotionally, and physically, to care about myself.
Noises from an unknown source are keeping me awake throughout the night, and they happen during the day. The council and police are doing nothing to stop the suspected person from making the deliberate noises. They set off a chain of thought and visions in my head. The noises sound like the explosion the aircraft made when it crashed. I relive hearing it and being scrambled to the helipad and the awful things I saw and had to do. I relive carrying bodies from the helicopter, awash with blood and sea water, and into the ambulance. I’m back in the ambulance, covered in strangers’ blood, shut in with two corpses, blood dripping from the stretchers, from the piercing wounds of parts of the aircraft. I’m finally stepping down the ambulance steps, carrying two heavy bodies into the mortuary and am reliving processing them. I need these visions to stop. I need the other bodies to stop appearing. I’ve seen a lot of death in my nursing career, and now I’m reliving them, when all I want is to see the body of my son, to restart his heart and lungs, like I’ve done many times for other people. Life seems so unfair, and I need mine to end.
I sway over the edge, looking at the drop for one last time. I can’t see the beauty of the Aberdeenshire coast anymore. Life seems so grey. I don’t see the gentle lapping of the water over the rocks, nor the ebb as it washes away. I can’t hear the gentle calls of the gulls and the oystercatchers. Nor do I see the vibrant colours of the hills and heather or the pretty cloud formations forming patterns in the sky above. I don’t even see the majestic reassuring beauty of the nearby lighthouse which dominates the skyline.
But I can hear the distant sound of a barking dog and my mind switches back to the military charity that my kind General Practitioner referred me to. A charity run by a benevolent lady who would turn into my earthbound guardian angel. A charity called Bravehound, who had assessed me as needing a PTSD assistance dog. A dog that I was assured would change my life. I step back from the edge, open my can, swallow two painkillers, and start the long walk home, dropping stones from my pocket as I go. One day I will have a dog bounding over the heather nearby or trotting by my side. A faithful companion once more. A friend to steer me through life.
Hope, there is always hope, dear reader.
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