Following in the footsteps of three generations, Bob McNab joined the Army in 1968. Serving with the Royal Engineers, he enjoyed the camaraderie, loyalty and brotherhood so often associated with the Armed Forces: “No matter what badge you wear, the guys have got your back and protect you. They’ll be your friends for life.”
Despite the exciting challenges military life offered, a deployment to Northern Ireland in the 1970s became a trigger that sent Bob’s life out of control: “Things went on there that ended up causing issues with my attitude, demeanour, mind and wellbeing.”
Bob began to suffer massive mood swings, with his family bearing the brunt: “One moment I could be the nicest person, the next I’d bite your head off. They didn’t know what was going to be next.
“I think it affects the family more. I was never physically violent, but you don’t have to use your fists to hurt. Your partner, your children, the rest of your family are all walking on eggshells. They don’t know who you are because you’re so volatile and are taking it out on them. If something’s not going right it’s their fault, if you’ve done something wrong it’s still their fault.”
Discharged from the Army in 1982, Bob knew he had to get help but didn’t want to accept how he was feeling or reach out for support. Instead, he turned to alcohol: “I was masking my problems and tried to accept I was just becoming a miserable old man. I had a problem and denying it didn’t help me. I had to come forward and get the help to bring me back.”
Then, one Remembrance Sunday Bob was at home watching television coverage with his wife, Lesley, when a Veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was interviewed. Only then did Bob realise he had to pick up the phone and start his recovery journey: “I looked at him and said, ‘that’s me’, and that’s when I got help. Admitting there’s a problem is the toughest thing. That phone call was the most important one a guy like me could make. It’s the first step on the way back.
“I joined the Help for Heroes Band of Brothers fellowship for the wounded. I first thought it was for those who’d been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I was wrong. Now I’m getting offered all these things to help me march along on my recovery road.”
Bob’s wife Lesley has since become a Band of Sister – Help for Heroes’ fellowship for the loved ones of wounded Service Personnel and Veterans. Bob credits both fellowships for helping them meet new friends and getting back in the military community: “The people there are in the same boat as you and it’s like meeting old friends.
“It makes you smile, something we weren’t doing a lot of. You’re helping each other too and that’s part of the healing process. It brings you back to a normal way of life. Help for Heroes means you can get that back.”
Part of Bob’s ongoing support from Help for Heroes includes sessions with the psychological wellbeing team, something he credits with giving him the tools he needs to move forward with his life: “The team are always there to help, they’re a lifeline. They let you move on from, in my case, what happened years ago.”
Thanks to the ongoing support from the Charity Bob is finally able to move on with his life and hopes to have a long and active old age; something that once seemed impossible: “I lost a lot of time because of the way I am and I’m trying hard to make up for it. Without Help for Heroes, I wouldn’t be here. I’d have been in the gutter for a while and then probably in a grave. I wouldn’t be with my wife, that’s for sure.
“The Charity and the supporters have given me my life back. I can’t thank them enough for that.
“My PTSD was triggered well over 20 years ago and there will be lads in 20 years’ time who’ll need help. We’re not fighting in wars at the moment, but they still need support and they’ll need that for years to come. But Help for Heroes are here, they’re only a phone call away.”
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