Sat in the Wraysbury Dive Centre with the Deptherapy Dive Team, Sandra tells a story to the group about when she was at a night club at University. She tells how she met Tom Jones and asked for his autograph, then later that night sold the autograph. We laughed and I told a similar story afterwards comparing our situations: “I once stole a girl’s ice watch at a house party and swapped it for a gram of cocaine”.
It’s a true story and I only said it for its humour value in comparison to what Sandra said. I don’t mind telling these stories now because of the transformation that followed, otherwise I would have probably kept my mouth shut; in fact if there had been no transformation I suppose I would not have been there in the first place. Everyday I am somewhat reminded of the past I am trying to leave behind, whether it’s an impromptu joke that spouts from my gums, or a memory on my Facebook where my wide eyes and swinging jaw have been captured by photograph in my ‘on this day’ section of my smartphone. It’s a good bar to measure myself by though, because each day those memories get further and further away.
Today I woke up next to my girlfriend. I got out of bed, washed, slipped into my work uniform and headed to work to manage a warehouse. Four years ago it was a totally different story. I accepted no responsibility for my actions. It was ok to be on drugs and drinking because I had PTSD. I couldn’t work because I had PTSD and I had ‘earned’ my right to this because I had been to war. This was because I acknowledged PTSD but I had not accepted it.
Thankfully my life has now taken a serious diversion from the road I just mentioned. This weekend, in fact the two days before Sandra had told her story about Tom Jones, I had been completing my PADI Rescue Diver course. It was a moment of pride telling that story about the watch, not because of my actions but because of how proud I am of the journey I have taken.
The course started with a recap of my knowledge reviews, well in fact it began with me completing my knowledge reviews, as in true Gary Green fashion I had not completed them. I like to think I’m quite switched on so I picked up the theory quickly and was able to apply myself, even with Richard Cullen giving me the stern eye.
It’s important to take in the theory side I believe, obviously because you need to pass the test but also because it makes sense of the physical actions and vice versa. After the theory side it was time to start kitting up; the sun was blazing so the thought of jumping into the cold water was highly appetising. I donned my Otter drysuit given to me by John Womack. I always feel like a proper diver in my drysuit, plus I like the fact it keeps me dry and warm in the British waters. After a squat to let out the excess air and my buddy checks, I’m ready to jump in (by that I mean carefully enter the water of course).
I think my military training and mentality aided my skills and drills, I was able to assess each scenario as they were thrown at me again, again and again. A tired diver 10 meters from the shore calls me for help after I had already completed five or six tired diver tows. My fatigued body and mind reacts. I grab a safety line from next to my kit; I pull the cord latching onto the handle; I take the kneeling position, find my aim and throw. I may have been too drawn into the situation as the heavy end of the line flies toward the tired diver then hits her in the face. Luckily Sandra was OK and I apologised… “Sorry I’m used to throwing grenades,” I laughed in my response.
After the first day my body was very tired. I cannot remember the amount of times I navigated through green cold water and lifted unconscious divers from the bottom of Wraysbury reservoir. I’m pretty sure in my sleep that night I was whispering “one, one thousand. Two, one thousand, flick, prepare”. My trainers Stuart and Richard laugh at me as I say “God it kills me trying to give rescue breaths and get their kit off.” I think Richard’s words were, “I’ve never heard a squaddie say they don’t like taking someone’s kit off before.”
The next day I woke up with a stiff back and sore legs. There was that anxiety butterfly in my tummy, the kind you get when you’re heading into the office to get told off. My thought was though “if I’ve already done everything I have done in my life, then why not it do, why not take the challenge?” So committedly I embarked on my journey to Wraysbury It started with the test, the theory peak of the mountain that I had not started to climb, yet somehow with experience and common sense I managed to pass with a combined score of ninety percent. “There must be a God,” I thought to myself.
After donning my kit I had to practice a few more drills to make sure I was competent enough to take the assessment scenarios. I applied myself fully as in everything I do. Whether a rescue diver course, a risk assessment at work or even four years ago when I was borderline alcoholic/drug user, I always gave one hundred percent, I was fully committed to drugs! I try and stay away from the term addict or alcoholic because that insinuates that I needed them. I didn’t need them; I was addicted to the buzz and the escape from my PTSD. At this moment though, I was committed to passing this course.
Ironic that the man drowning inside, struggling to breathe in a mind consumed with fear and anxiety, is now rescuing someone from underwater.
I passed more of the course, according to my trainers ‘with flying colours’. The man that stands watching me, Richard Cullen, the self-proclaimed Scuba God, assesses my skills and reactions. Anyone that knows him, knows that he insists on demanding courses and is not an easy man to impress in the water. A comment from him on my assessment was: “You are by far in the top echelon of Rescue Divers that we have ever trained, this is concurred by the whole team.”
A very proud moment… to not only have the honour of reflecting on my transformation but to have completed it under such pressure. Under the water there is no PTSD for me; in the water I’m a guest for my own freedom.
I am now a Rescue Diver. I look back on my past and smile; it’s a fortune with no value to anyone but myself. Self-belief and determination got me to this point. Sitting and telling that story around the table in Wraysbury dive centre was just a step on a long journey to recovery, one that is supported by my family, the love of my life Emily and by Deptherapy.
Find out more about the work of Deptherapy at: www.deptherapy.co.uk