Veteran left in ‘dark place’ after Afghanistan death discusses how he took back controlJune 25, 2019
During his time in the army, Craig was posted to various locations around the world.
And even though this meant spending large stretches away from his friends and family in Britain, the soldier didn’t feel too home-sick.
He revealed: “I was lucky to be posted all over the world and it meant I go to explore the Middle East and Africa, socially and professionally.
“Some of the most enjoyable moments in my life in the army were sat by a fire in the middle of a war zone, or white-water rafting through the rough rivers of Kenya right on the Equator.
“These are memories I will carry with me forever.
“The crazy thing about the military was that even though I was very rarely at home due to postings and deployments – and often visits back home to Manchester were only three to five days at a time – I never really felt away from home. The army was home.”
As Craig felt he belonged in the army, he was devastated when he was discharged on medical grounds.
He remembered: “To not be able to serve broke my heart.
“I was almost back to fighting strength and so close to full recovery, I was literally weeks away from going back into the rotation to train for Afghanistan, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“I was medically boarded, and my career fell to the fate of three people who didn’t know me and had never met me.
“When they said they were going to discharge me, I broke, I was hurt.
“I felt like I had failed (I know now that I didn’t), it was a tough pill to swallow.
“I didn’t say a word for weeks after it, didn’t even wash my hair for days, let alone eat. Those were dark times.”
As Craig struggled to re-integrate into society, he experienced flashbacks from his time in combat.
One in three of his comrades perished, making some of the memories difficult to forget.
The veteran also dwelled on a fatality he caused during his posting.
Thinking there was no alternative to serving in the army, the veteran tried to take his own life.
He admitted: “I was suicidal not because I left the military, but because I was confused, I was emotionless, I felt a failure, I felt I had let my brothers down.
“I struggled to come to terms with the fact I had taken another man’s life, and I continued seeing him in my living room four years later.
“It was hard, I had no plan B to the army, and I felt that I only had one way out.
“I didn’t want to speak about my experiences, I didn’t want to remember Afghanistan, but it was etched into my memory.”
Craig struggled to get on with life because of the guilt he felt.
These mental scars also started impacting on his relationships.
The veteran confessed: “Darkness is the only way I can describe it and every time there was a hint of light in my life, I felt guilty for being happy…
“It was dark times, it was affecting everything and encompassed my whole life.
“I struggled with the ability to love my wife – that isn’t saying I didn’t love her, because I did, but I just kept doing stupid things to get her to hate me, because I didn’t feel worthy of her or happiness.
“I struggled to love my child because I felt guilty that I had a family after I should have died, and many friends did.”
When Craig hit rock bottom, he was spurred to take control of his life.
He threw himself into charity work and channels his injury into helping veterans in similar situations.
But even though the former soldier is in a better place nowadays, his mental health is still something he has to work hard at.
He said: “When everything came crashing down, I really didn’t have a choice… there was a moment of, ‘I can let this kill me or I can do something with this’ and that kick-started me to where I am.
“After my third suicide attempt, and my life completely breaking down, it was a now or never to recover.
“That process was hard and something I still have to work at.”
Craig now runs The Sharks Forces programme along with the Sale Sharks Community.
The group works to tackle social isolation and improve mental and physical wellbeing for ex-armed forces personnel.
It aids veterans who are on the hunt for employment opportunities after they are discharged.
The organisation also helps to find accommodation for former troops who may have found themselves homeless.
Charity work is clearly cathartic for Craig, who has dedicated a lot of his time and energy to the cause.
The veteran said: “Guilt played a big part; I had to do something to give back.
“I made a promise in Afghanistan, that if I somehow scraped through, I would do something to make sure the legacy of others involved in the conflict never ends and that’s why and what I did.
“The programme is continuing to grow, and we recently got some support from ABF The Soldier’s Charity which has been great, but we still need more backing.
“It could be a really big initiative if that backing comes.”
If you are affected by any of the issues in this story, help is available.
For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK free on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritans branch
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