The devastating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) were highlighted by veterans who shared their stories as part of a convoy which stopped in Dubbo.
The not-for-profit Stand Tall for PTS stopped their Lightning Bolt convoy at Taronga Western Plains Zoo to highlight PTS on Friday.
British Army veteran Gemma Morgan said she spoke about her PTS in order to help others do the same. She said she started struggling after returning from her 1996 deployment to the Balkans.
Behind closed doors the wheels were really starting to come off.British Army veteran Gemma Morgan
“I was struggling to sleep, flashbacks started, I didn’t really know where to go for help, I didn’t want to tell anyone because there was such a stigma,” Ms Morgan said.
“On the face of it I was doing great, I got an award for best young officer, I captained my country on the sports field, everything was hunky dory, but behind closed doors the wheels were really starting to come off.
“I was starting to self-medicate with alcohol, I was fueling myself on Valium, anti-depressants, whatever really, to kind of get away.”
Ms Morgan was diagnosed with PTS nearly 10 years after joining the army when she was hospitalised after “a breakdown”.
It was then Ms Morgan said she started the “very long process of therapy.”
“I tried to keep up the Wonder Woman brand, and it cracked, and it cracked with devastating effectBritish Army Veteran Gemma Morgan
“My behaviours became increasingly dysfunctional to the point where I couldn't really hide it anymore ... there was a fairy devastating trail of chaos and destruction around me,” Ms Morgan said.
Eleven years later, Ms Morgan said she shared her story to create change.
She said her experience with stigma was “humiliating and suffocating”.
“You had to be silent, you had to hide it, which conjured up a whole world of pain and chaos later down the road,” she said.
“I tried to keep up the Wonder Woman brand, and it cracked, and it cracked with devastating effect … we’ve got to remember Wonder Woman doesn’t exist.
“If I can show a little bit of honesty and vulnerability, then it starts other people talking.”
Cr Jane Diffey said she was honoured to welcome the convoy on behalf of Dubbo Regional Council and their message was ever-relevant in regional NSW.
“In regional NSW and especially in Dubbo we’re faced with our own tragedies everyday, whether it be fatal crashes or drought,” Cr Diffey said.
Ms Morgan related stoicism in the military to the farming community and said PTS could affect anyone.
“Keeping up that stoical ‘I am invincible brand’ serves you very well in terms of performing and getting the job done, it doesn’t serve you well when it comes to wellness.
“I suppose what I've learnt is that we’re all human ... we're all vulnerable and imperfect, you know it is okay to chat with your mate and be a little more honest about the things that are effecting you, we don’t all have to be this superhero human figure.”
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