My Story

My beautiful picture

Afghanistan 2012 – Op Herrick 16

My story begins in 2010. Leaving secondary school with a few basic grades and a very confused head about what I thought life was about. I had no idea of what direction to go in at all. I didn’t know what path my career was going down. I was lost.

I joined the British Army September of 2011 because… well I had nothing else to do and I was physically fit. I completed my 6 months of basic training at ITC Catterick with ease and joined the 1st battalion, Royal Anglian regiment (The Vikings).
A few months later I deployed to Afghanistan as a BCR (Battle Casualty Replacement)
It wasn’t hard for me to say my goodbyes to my family and friends because I was excited for this new chapter of my life. I couldn’t wait to just get on that plane and go.

Op Herrick 16 changed my life forever; I saw life through a completely different lens after being in such a depressing environment. At age 18 I realized a lot about myself and the cruel world we live in. Even though I witnessed some horrible ordeals, everything just felt normal to me. I never took the time to actually sit there and think about what I was actually doing.

I finished tour and a few months later and hit my first brick wall, at speed. I didn’t know what was going on with me, I just remember feeling lethargic and emotional. I started to become very antisocial, never leaving my room and not really wanting to talk to anybody about what I was feeling. I started to think about suicide, every day. I started to cut myself all over my legs. I didn’t want to be on this horrible, repulsive planet any more. I just wanted to die so I wouldn’t have to feel all this pain and emotion.
It took me a while but eventually I left the British Army through medical discharge; a decision that was good for me and my health.

My head couldn’t stop thinking about death- it was in my nightmares and in my everyday thoughts. Extremely anxious to do anything, the only way at that point in time that I could escape was through the consumption of lots of alcohol. I was literally drowning my sorrows… getting so drunk I wouldn’t think about killing myself but because of this my anger became uncontrollable. I became extremely racist and felt like everybody in the world was out to get me. I had to become my own Army.

After a heavy night of drinking one night and almost punching my girlfriend I realized that my life was a misery and a wreck. At that point I knew I really needed to stop drinking. I did quit and I also tried to do everything differently because I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Even though I had stopped all of these bad things I still thought about killing myself every hour of every day. I still cut myself to try and escape from horrific day dreams. I remember one occasion where I was feeling like I was in a bubble and everything was distorted. The only way I escaped from that hazed day dream was by carving “KILL YOURSELF” into my right thigh. I ended up waking up from the pain and the blood dripping down my thigh.

One day in April 2014 I decided that I needed to go. It didn’t matter where, I just wanted to run away to a new place. I ended up booking a program in Peru to volunteer in the Amazon rainforest. I told a few people where I was going but I didn’t tell them why. I planned on killing myself in the jungle because I wanted to make it look like an accident. I wanted to do it where nobody could find me and I just wanted to die in a better place than my own bedroom.

On arrival to Peru I had mixed emotions about everything. I met my coordinator, a very knowledgeable man with lots of experience in the jungle. He is the best herpetologist in the region and a truly inspirational person. I met a few other volunteers and they where all very unique and amazing individuals. We headed out to the jungle a few days after I landed in Puerto Maldonado and I felt free. Something about the jungle made me feel reborn and fresh. I didn’t understand it, going from depressed to delighted confused me a lot. I assisted my coordinator with all of his work, as well as a guy from New Zealand who was also volunteering on the herpetology team. His energy gave me hope for the future. He always gave off a positive vibe and it really made me re-evaluate my life.

The experience of being in the jungle and being around such amazing people made me want to change. After my month was up I went back to the UK, got myself a job and everybody saw a difference. I was happy and doing things with my life. I felt unstoppable at first, but a few months went by and I slowly started to slip down that slippery slope.

Unfortunately, I hit that second brick wall. I fell back into a dark place but this was darker than ever before. I started to cut myself even more. I thought about killing myself all of the time and I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I thought that was it. I attempted to kill myself in my bedroom by hanging myself; I don’t remember what happened but I just remember feeling empty. The next thing I know, I wake up on the floor with a broken belt around my neck. I failed. I punished myself once again by cutting my legs until I was satisfied with the damage that the knife had done to my tender skin.

I couldn’t hold down a job, I couldn’t smile, I couldn’t even kill myself. What was I good for? How could this possibly get better? Why me?

After all of this hate and torture in my own head I realized that if I wasn’t going to kill myself then I needed to get back to the jungle.
After speaking to someone who I met in the jungle, they told me about me possibly heading out there to help a new project get off the ground. I put my all into trying to make this happen. As well as working on this I also had a job working in a kitchen, saving every penny I could to get me enough for that flight. I sold my car, left my girlfriend at the time and sold all my reptiles just so I could save as much money as I possibly could. This was a huge risk some people may think but it just felt natural to me.

Eventually I had enough money saved up to book a flight and went for it. Once again I was excited for something and my suicidal thoughts were few and far between. After leaving my job and saying my farewells to my friends and family I soon left for the jungle. I got out there and literally couldn’t stop smiling. I was back where I felt most comfortable, my home.

A few months passed by, I had witnessed some incredible animals, seen some amazing views and met some amazing people. I basically had the best life imaginable. I was living in the rainforest and learning something new every single day, constantly adding new species to add to my lists. How could this get any better?

Well… I met my best friend, Sam. I found someone who made me feel alive and powerful. She made my almost perfect life, perfect, and gave me something that I had never felt before in my life. My inspiration and motivation, she pushes me to better myself in everything.

I have always loved photography but never felt confident enough to actually go ahead with making this my future. Luckily I have so much support behind me from my girlfriend and her family, my family and all of my friends.

Depression for me was one of the most horrible experiences I have ever gone through and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody. Its not something to joke about, it is a matter that every body should take seriously. Its so hard to see clearly when you are looking at life through a black filter.
Even though I went through and am still going through depression, I have flipped the way I look at it. Now I see it in a positive way… If I had never attempted to kill myself, if I had never cut myself then I would never have come to the rainforest. If I hadn’t come to the rainforest then I would never have found my girlfriend and I would not be in the position that I am in today.

Depression made me who I am today and I although I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, it led me to where I am today and I’m proud to be that person. Currently, I’ve taken a year in the Piedras rainforest to reintroduce a young male ocelot to the wild. His name is Khan. This would be the first successful ocelot reintroduction to date, with high implications for their behaviour and conservation, as well as creating a different option besides zoos for the thousands of cats caught in the wildlife trade. To read Khan’s reintroduction story or donate to the cause, please visit the link below. Thank you for your support!