All At Sea, Even on Land

I joined the Armed Forces at 17 to escape from a troubled upbringing that was put upon me. I instantly enjoyed the mob sense of humour and the high standards that only the military demand. The passion, loyalty and camaraderie is something I will always have because it was drummed into my personality.

My military training made me physically and mentally strong. I’m very proud of what I did for my Queen and country, and nobody will take that away from me and, believe me, some people have tried. I was devastated when I was P7RD Medically Discharged, but I couldn’t hide my mental health problems from the Ministry of Defence anymore. However, even what was more devastating to my wellbeing, was that I never received any aftercare or proper resettlement from the MoD and NHS with my mental health. Like so many of us, I served my country with pride and honour and when I was no longer an asset to them, I was told to leave and fend for myself.

In the military we are all trained to show no fear or emotion, but it’s because of this training we then struggle to talk about our invisible wounds, pride and self-preservation always get in the way.

Since leaving Her Majesty's Armed Forces I struggled to cope in a society that doesn’t understand people with PTSD. 'Civvy' life is hard enough to adjust to after leaving the mob under normal circumstances, let alone the ones who suffer with mental and physical wounds.

Because I slipped through all the warning nets with the MoD and NHS. I suffered a mental breakdown and tried to commit suicide. I have an amazing daughter and a loving wife, but that wasn’t enough as I felt I couldn’t cope anymore. I tried everything to get support for my family by way of benefits, and believe it or not, I’m still being told by the DWP that I’m not entitled to any help.

I turned to friends and family for support and tried to get a job, but nobody wanted to employ me. I felt backed into a corner, and out of sheer desperation I committed fraud to keep my family safe with a roof over their heads and food on the table.

After pleading guilty from the police interview, in October 2014, I was sentenced to 4 years in prison for my first ever offence. I served my entire sentence at HMP Norwich and the Britannia House Resettlement unit.

The morning I woke up in prison I looked at myself in the mirror and said "it doesn’t get any worse than this". So I immediately self-referred for mental health and NHS wellbeing for extra help. I didn’t want my time in prison to be an empty space in my life, so as well as getting mentally better, I also have gained 15 different qualifications in Construction, Health & Safety and BICS while there. HMP Norwich has saved my life. I worked alongside the amazing staff and I finally got the help and support I desperately needed. It’s just a shame that I had to come to prison before I was even noticed, let alone treated.

Prison is what you make of it. As the tools are there for anymore who wants to use them. I was determined to change and nobody was going to stand in my way to achieve my goal, no matter what life throws at me I continue to refuse to give up. I’m glad to say that I’m well on the road to recovery by controlling my PTSD, but it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Now it’s time for us to make a difference to those who serve their country, before they travel down the same path I did. I believe that the public, courts and the Ministry of Justice need to start and realise thatm in most cases of minor crimes, veterans offend because of underlying factors such as PTSD through serving their country.

I have just shown the public that I have completely turned my life around. There is no easy way to do a prison sentence, but I just proved to everyone it can be done. I did it through grit and the determination to be a better happier person. Try a little hope and self-belief and you will be amazed in what you can achieve.

While I was at Britannia House | asked HMP Norwich Governor, Mr Steve Garvie, if there was anywhere that I could go to use a computer for creating my CV and to seek advice from UK Armed Forces charities. That’s where the building itself came in the equation.

So I asked Governor Garvie, if I could decorate and refurb the building to put it to good use using the new skills I learnt while at HMP Norwich. Because there is no money in the budget, there was no way this was ever going to be achieved, unless I took on the challenge for charity. So on my own, after 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, I managed to complete the entire building from start to finish in under 28 days.

Certain things in life can make or break you, and while I was in prison I hit rock bottom, but it became the solid foundation in which I rebuilt my life. I’m a UK Armed Forces Veteran. It’s never been done before, but im in the process of setting up my own clothing company that helps anyone suffering with mental illness by raising mental health awareness by lowering the stigma around it.

My new motto is "My POSITIVE THOUGHTS = STRENGTH & DEDICATION" in other words Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but in my own positive flip. DidgVetWear is a brand like no other, as the personal reasons behind are very emotional to myself as I to suffer from Complex PTSD.

Thanks for taking the time to read my story.

David Vaughan
Royal Navy Veteran

I'm sure you'll agree, David's story is a truly inspiring one and we thank him for sharing it with us. If you're an veteran of the military, did you see anything in this story that rings a bell? What have you done to turn your life around? How do your experiences relate (or differ) from his. We'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

You can keep up-to-date with David on Twitter via his personal account @vaughany88 or his clothing brand, which is @DidgVetWear.