I joined the army in 2006 and was part of an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Regiment. In my last year in the Army I ruptured my ACL playing rugby for the regimental team and this eventually led to me being medically discharged in 2012. The sudden exit from everything I had known since I was 17 affected me more than I ever think I realised until I went on the Deptherapy trip in May 2017.
Prior to the knee injuries I was a very happy young man and I had everything I ever wanted in the world, living life to the full. I would rarely be sat still and always on adventures!
Introduction to Deptherapy
My introduction to Deptherapy came through my old team commander in the Army, Luke Simpson. Luke put me in touch with a man called Richard Cullen, who apparently ran a charity that helped rehabilitate injured ex-forces with both mental and physical injuries. As I spoke to Richard my feelings of a lack of self-worth really came to the forefront. I didn’t believe I deserved to be taken on by the charity and I used excuses like “there are people with a lot worse injuries than me.” Luckily for me, Richard read me like a book and saw straight through my excuses and spent the next year convincing me I was worth the time.
So, Richard had convinced me to go on a Deptherapy trip, I had done my Open Water theory and was starting to get really excited (which is a feeling that I hadn’t had in a long time). Two weeks prior to my flight I was riding my motorcycle down a road on a leisurely ride with my girlfriend and we were involved in a pretty bad crash.
This put me into a very dark place in regards to mental illness (PTSD, guilt about my girlfriend’s illnesses, feelings of low self-worth/brain injury) and also pain from physical injuries that restricted me from being my normal self.
Through this whole chapter of my life, the Deptherapy charity, in particular Richard Cullen, supported me and pulled me out of any dark places.
Egypt trip with Deptherapy
As time led up to my second attempt of going onto a Deptherapy trip, I was really struggling to remember the theory that I was reading due to my brain injury.
Eventually the time came, I travelled to Gatwick airport and started meeting the guys who would turn my life in a better direction. We made our introductions and headed off on the plane. I was anxious about whether people would like me. Would I pass any of the tests? Would my physical injuries limit or stop my ability to dive? I had a lot of overwhelming worries.
In terms of the diving, I found that from day one in the pool as soon as my head went underwater nothing above sea level mattered any more. I still had a lot of mental issues but I didn’t think or worry about them. I was free from anxiety, in a state of peace and tranquillity that I have never found anywhere else in the world.
The pool training for my PADI Open Water brought the group closer together and started conversations flowing. The one thing that the Armed Forces are brilliant at is speaking openly, with no boundaries on topic, even if the topic has a stigma attached to it within civilian life, such as PTSD. As the week progressed, we had presentations and open talks about overcoming adversity that really helped my mental state and my drive to get back to the old, fun me. I would like to mention Steve Atkin here, who even with his own issues, had an open and frank conversation with me which essentially turned my mental health around.
Everyone is encouraged to take part in the ‘Deptherapy Buddy Peer Support Scheme.’ You can choose your Buddy from either one of the troops who have been part of the Deptherapy programme for some time or one of the Instructors and Support Team. They have all been trained in Mental Health First Aid. Richard said it made sense for him to be my Buddy as we have known each other for two years. The idea is that you have someone to turn to, to talk to and who will support you both on the programme and when you return home.
Here and now…
If someone wanted to know what Deptherapy did for me I would say…
Deptherapy provides an enriched environment where mental and physical injuries do not restrict. The charity teaches you that you can do, that you can speak your problems through which helps your wellbeing and self-worth. Scuba diving and the Deptherapy programme have shown me that I can do whatever I put my mind to!
I have turned a corner and hope to continue doing this, and diving.
Jon Beever blogs at: https://jonbeever.wordpress.com
Find out more about the work of Deptherapy at: http://www.deptherapy.co.uk