Meet Rossis Member Andrew Taylor, better known as Pav. He spent 24 years in the Army, taking part in 18 operational tours. In 2008 Royal Army Medical Corps Officer Andrew was hit by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan and sent home to the UK, eventually being discharged from the Army in 2013. He is now an Ambassador for Help for Heroes and took part in the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia in 2018. We’re very proud to say that we have sponsored his Membership at Rossis as he looks forward with a new-found confidence; setting himself new challenges, whether in sport, his career or hobbies and in trying to help others too.
Here’s his story …
In 2008, Royal Army Medical Corps officer Andrew suffered serious back wounds when a suicide bomber detonated a device next to the vehicle he was travelling in. Following extensive treatment and rehabilitation back in the UK, Andrew was eventually discharged from the Army in 2013, but struggled to adapt to civilian life. He kept his feelings hidden for four years until they almost boiled over; he would look in the mirror and see a broken man staring back at him. He hated what he saw and the way he felt - frustrated, angry, isolated and alone - but he didn’t know how to change any of it.
Things came to a head when Andrew realised that his reaction to an everyday situation was out of proportion. “One day I was filling my car with petrol and I overheard a conversation between two strangers. I felt an intense anger building inside me about the way they were talking because, to me, it felt like they didn’t have a clue about what was going on in the world. As I got back into my car, I thought about how close I’d come to confronting them, and I knew then that I needed help.” Andrew adds “You feel a loss of self-worth, your pride suffers. You feel a loss of identity – the people you worked with are still doing the job you loved while you’re sat around waiting for surgery. You’re not in charge of your own destiny – it’s in the hands of other people, the doctors, the medics. You feel you should be in charge of it, you feel frustrated – which leads to darker thoughts and darker days.”
Finally realising he needed support, Andrew made the first, courageous step and picked up the telephone to Help For Heroes, accepting that everybody has bad days and learning to look at things as more of a speed bump than getting over a 12-foot wall. But that’s what it felt like at first – a block. The Help for Heroes team have helped him adjust and look at things differently and accept his injury.
Now, he knows that he has a support network he can trust, should he need it and we’re delighted to also be a part of his support network too, here at Rossis.
According to a recent survey commissioned by Help for Heroes, 30% of Veterans with psychological wounds say they have never reached out for support. For those that have, it takes an average of four years before they ask for help. Help them to come forward sooner and help us to call time on mental health stigma at CutTheClock.com.
Read on to find out more about Andrew (Pav)…
Andrew tells us how he felt he’d lost his sense of identity, his career, friendships he’d made and the excitement that his job had given him. He felt that he’d gone from hero to zero. Family and friends were worried about him – he was withdrawn and at times argumentative. Unable to stand for long periods of time because of the injury to his back, his social life had become virtually non-existent. But, despite feeling this way, he didn’t initially reach out for mental health support.
He says “I was cocooned in my own little bubble. I knew I was heading down a slippery slope, I felt depressed and frustrated. I’d gone from being a serving soldier, on top of my game and doing a job I loved to being someone who was effectively broken with no feelings of worth or self-purpose. But for a long time, I thought I could fix myself. When those around me told me I’d become withdrawn I didn’t listen. I just thought I was dealing with things my way.”
Andrew admits that it took courage to ask for support, worried that it might be seen as a sign of weakness. Nonetheless, he made a phone call to Help for Heroes and was put in touch with the Psychological Wellbeing team. Counselling sessions established that he was suffering from an adjustment disorder. His diagnosis meant that he could finally start to make sense of the way he’d been feeling. He’d served for 24 years and the military way of life – its values and codes of conduct – were ingrained in him. Struggling to make the transition to back into civilian life had left him feeling alienated and frustrated. With the support of a counsellor, Andrew was able to start making sense of his issues. “It was time for a change. I’d sat there deteriorating for four years thinking I could cope by myself and that I was the answer to this problem and I just had to figure it out. But it didn’t happen for me until I sought help and assistance.”
With the right psychological support to come to terms with the effect of his injury, Andrew has been able to take up sport as part of his recovery journey. In 2018, he represented Team UK in adaptive sailing and powerlifting at the Invictus Games in Sydney. Andrew has learnt too that the anger and frustration he felt at the loss of his military career was normal. “Counselling has helped me to understand that I was going through a bereavement. I struggled at the start and was very defensive. At first the counsellor had to drag things out of me – I had to build a sense of loyalty and trust and ease to talk about the things bothering me. Now, I’m in a much better place. Reaching out for help has changed me as a person. I’ve had to adjust some of my aspirations, but I’m getting there. “I’m now looking forwards rather than backwards and that’s very important in a recovery journey. I’m looking to what the future holds. And I know that there’s a support network, a community that I trust to help me should I have a hiccup or hit a speed bump along the way.” His message to anyone who is struggling is clear: “Make that decision to step forward and ask for help, because it is there.”