I was commissioned into the RAF in 1975 at the age of 19. I won the prize at Officer Training for being the best cadet, and then did my professional training to become a personnel manager. I served all over the UK, in Germany, and eventually at MOD in Whitehall. I travelled all over Europe and did many different jobs, from recruiting to being the VIP visits and protocol officer at JHQ Rheindahlen. I was promoted to Squadron Leader at the age of 28, which was very young. I'm not boasting - I'm setting the scene. I loved every minute of it, and thrived on hard work. I also played hard, winning RAF colours for athletics and Combined Services colours for sailing.
When I was at MOD, I was working 12 hour days. Luckily, I had a flat in London, paid for by the RAF, so I could be near the job. The job itself was exciting and challenging, and involved working in a tri service environment, which was great. I was selected to go to the Joint Services Defence College at the age of 34 - 2 years below the age limit - and told I would be promoted to Wing Commander after the course. Everything was rosy in my little garden.
I began to hear voices - someone commenting on what I was doing in the third person. "She's got up from her desk" I had no idea what to do, so I ignored them as much as possible. My work didn't suffer at all, but I was terribly tired and having trouble sleeping. My Boss, an Army General, retired and an RAF officer took his place - I was off to Greenwich, so I was fine. Except I wasn't fine. I was stressed out - my personal life was a mess, but I'll do that story another time. I decided to go to the RAF GP as I thought I'd gone mad.
I managed to get to the surgery in central London, but I knew I couldn't manage anything else. I prayed that no one would recognise me or speak to me as I knew I'd fall apart. I got into the doctor's office and fell apart. He was very nice and asked all the right questions. We decided that I was actually depressed, and he gave me some tablets and a week off sick. I cried at night and lost my temper at the slightest thing. I couldn't function and I wasn't looking after myself - nothing happened with the pills. I went back to the GP, and he told me he thought I should see a specialist - I realised he meant psychiatrist and my world blew gently apart.
I spent 16 years in the RAF defending the Free World , then got bunged out unceremoniously for being bipolar. I and was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD. Funny old world, isn't it?