I lived in Hertfordshire for the first sixteen years of my life. From a young age I was excited about the outdoors and joining the Scouts gave me lots of opportunities to climb, hike and explore. At about fourteen years old I left the scouts and joined the army Cadets, which at the time, I felt I was stepping up my game. Two years later I felt a little lost when most of my friends were going to university, so I went to my mum and dad and asked them “Can you take me to the Army Careers Office”?
I finished school in June, and by September I had joined the Army. I thought I was becoming a Man. I remember putting on an identical tracksuit to the other 1000 recruits that had turned up that day, standing in 3 ranks and watching as my parents left.
Three years later I was deployed to Afghanistan as part of The Queens Company for a seven-month tour of duty. Our main role was to hold ground. I was a machine gunner on foot patrol where we maintained the Forward line of enemy troops. It didn’t feel like our post-tour leave had ended before we were already training to go back to Afghanistan. Our role this time was more kinetic. We were being flown in by helicopter to known enemy locations, and there were long periods of time where I felt we could be attacked and I could die any minute. I would describe most of those seven months as type two fun: scared in the moment but described as exciting afterward.
After my first tour of Afghanistan, I started to get nightmares. After the second tour they were constant. I felt exhausted all the time, I started hiding myself away at every opportunity and I became suicidal. I carried on working for some time, I went on overseas training and promotional courses. I almost got into a routine of waking up crying, have a panic attack, and then teach weapon systems all day.
Eventually, I sought help. I saw mental health professionals in the army for some time, I moved to a different unit, saw new psychiatrists, and eventually went on long term sick leave. A number of months into sick leave, feeling like I had been left on the rubbish pile and feeling the worse I had ever felt, I thought I would try yoga. After looking through a number of videos on YouTube I found some videos that worked for me and started doing them every morning (some mornings were more like the afternoon). What I found was that although my nightmares hadn’t stopped, connecting my breath with my movement brought me into the present moment and helped me approach the day more positively.
I continued to use YouTube and also began my own practice. In October 2018 I went to Nepal and India where I trekked, followed my interest in Buddhism, and completed my Yoga Teacher Training. I decided to do my YTT to improve my personal practice and understanding. Traveling on a one-way ticket to Nepal and doing my YTT was one of the best decisions of my life. I look to continue my journey of discovery and to share yoga with others.