Karl’s Story

Karl was a former army helicopter pilot. He had a busy successful flying career with the Army Air Corps including tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He even spent time as an instructor, teaching people, including Prince Harry, to fly.

However, he had a tough start in life. After his parents divorced, he was passed from ‘pillar to post,’ and ended up sleeping on the streets for six months. Without having a stable base, he initially didn’t get the grades he needed to enter the army’s flying programme.

Through sheer determination, he signed up to a training course through the Youth Training Scheme, gained accommodation and eventually managed to join the army. After eight years, he joined the Army Air Corps (AAC). “I loved it:” he said, and after much perseverance he managed to finally pass the helicopter pilot’s course and fulfil his dream.

As a pilot in the army, he was involved in many challenging situations. However, Karl acknowledges the training and close bond with his service colleagues pulled him through.

However, it wasn’t until he returned to England that his mental health issues started to surface. He says: “For no apparent reason I would wake up crying during the night. I didn’t understand why.”

Eventually, it got too much and he was taken to the mental health team where they sectioned him with a diagnosis of Complex PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Karl would never fly again. He was discharged from the army in 2016.

“Life has been tough since I left.” He acknowledges that accessing meaningful support for his illness has been very challenging.

However, this changed when he was referred to Julian House. He was referred to our Build a Bike course in our bike workshops and he also began writing poetry.

“It’s helped give some added purpose again to my life. I can go at my own pace. It takes away the fight or flight feelings that have dogged me since my PTSD diagnosis.”

“The team have been really supportive. I remember one of the staff needed to switch on the compressor to do some work. Knowing my background, he asked me first if that was OK, that the noise wasn’t going to upset me. What a thoughtful thing to do.”

“I did cry on Remembrance Sunday but that’s OK. Lots of people find it a very emotional day. I love my poetry and others think it’s pretty good too. I hope to carry on volunteering with Julian House after my Build-a-Bike course is over. Life is definitely looking better for me.”

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