It’s been 18 months since I Left my job as a police officer for the Ministry Of Defence and re located 200 mile back to Merseyside. Eleven years of my life (age 23-34) spent down in reading, Berkshire. To say that transition was hard is an understatement.
It wasn't long after making the decision that the enormity and complexity dawned on me. I needed to get rid of the flat we were renting, find a new job, my partner needed to find a new job too and we obviously need somewhere to live. We need a deposit, travel to job interviews and transport our belongings to where we were going to live. So many moving parts and it wasn't like we were moving down the road, and to top it all off, my car was playing up too!!
Now, I don't say this to get a pat on the back or a sympathy vote, I am just stating in an objective way some of the obstacles we needed to overcome, hindsight is a wonderful thing. I just wish I was objective at the time but my mind was chocker with different scenarios trying to predict what would happen down the road, a lot of the time I was coming up with the worst case scenario. What if I can’t get a job? We might end up homeless, we need money, food, and how do we sort this? What about that? We were lucky that we have a good support network around us, some people aren't that lucky. I found it really hard at the time to just shut off my constant thoughts and internal commentary which was predominantly negative. I was constantly stressed, as you can imagine this caused relationship problems, affected my sleep, eating habits, motivation and basically my overall health.
What made matters worse was that even after serving 11 years in the MOD Police, on paper I didn't have any qualifications that were recognised by any other industry. My first instinct was look to security, however, all my experience meant nothing without the government recognised badge. I started to question my whole career path and how little support (read- NONE) there was.
Don't get me wrong, this isn’t easy for me to write, to admit some of the emotions I felt. I really did feel that I was taking two steps back. I was the guy who had moved out of that nowhere town, my family were proud of what I had made of myself. I started to feel I had let people down because here I was planning to move back. Although I was never diagnosed as depressed I certainly ticked all but one box on the NHS website of signs to look for in a person suffering from depression. I think it's important to highlight the emotions and thoughts that anyone dealing with massive change in their life may deal with.
What people don't realise is how institutionalised you become, daily routines, set times for tasks, weapon prep and daily checks. Procedures become your life and it’s very hard to change the habits formed over years and years, then to start all over. Although I had family and friends around me, people assume you’re the person you were beforehand. I was a young lad when I made the move and I changed in so many ways throughout the years but I was expected to slot back in as if nothing had changed. I had no coping mechanism, to deal with stress management, controlling self-talk and dealing with the anxiety. There was no heads up as to how to adapt to change, no one teaches you this stuff.
I took a few one to one coaching sessions with Dave from executive solutions, in which we went through some ways to cope and deal with all these issues logically and objectively. He helped me to challenge my beliefs, and after a few follow up sessions I contacted Grant at Former Forces Support for help with possible funding for qualifications that would help find employment or maybe give me advice with interview techniques and CV writing.
So here we are 18 months down the line and I've come out the other side. I asked Grant about writing a piece about my experience in the hope that if you are going through the same thing yourself, something pops out at you that can offer some help or if you are on the other side then it may give you an awareness of what is going on with our former forces personnel on leaving service. I'm hoping to write regular posts to put my experiences and the things I've learned out there, I hope they help.