I have been a photographer and filmmaker in a professional capacity for over 20 years. I started as a photographer in the Army re-trading from the Royal Green Jackets.
After serving nine years in the Army, I left without realising that I was struggling with mental health issues. It would be another nine years before the consequences of it hit me. I coped after leaving the Army by filling every gap in my life with excessive work and exercise, but in 2011 after some family problems, I had a complete breakdown and was diagnosed with PTSD. Every organisation I turned to failed me in some way, but after another five years of struggling and a great deal of determination, I finally managed to get back on top of everything and start rebuilding my life.
In December 2018 I lost my wife very quickly to cancer and I hit rock bottom once again. Life for me became incredibly lonely and isolating.
A few months later, after applying to participate in an expedition with Vetrun180 I received a phone call from Matt Abbott. He invited me on the Coast to Coast expedition. I remember being petrified driving down to Yorkshire for the first day of the trip. My mind was running through all the things that could go wrong, that I would do wrong, or wouldn’t be able to cope with. I need not have worried. The expedition changed my life.
I met a group of like minded people, who were going through or had been through similar experiences to what I had. There was no judgement and for the first time in years I felt I was in the right place.
As much as I loved the driving, that wasn’t what I got out of the trip, instead for me it reignited my passion for photography. To be able to capture the rest of the team enjoying themselves, to photograph their experiences in the stunning landscapes of The Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire Moors and the Lake District, helped to fill me with life again. For that photography to also be used by Vetrun180 on their website and social media, gave me a real sense of purpose and helped to rebuild my confidence.
As I drove away at the end of the trip I had to pull over because I was in floods of tears. I had to leave all of those good experiences behind and go back to what had become an empty life. In the following days and weeks though, what I found was the group of people who I had met on the trip were still there, sharing the positive experiences and the laughs. A couple of them have been really supportive when I’ve needed it and I have been able to do the same in return.
Since that first trip I have been helping Vetrun180 with photography and films for promotional use and social media. A second trip, this time to Sweden allowed me to cement that relationship with Vetrun180 . The stunning landscapes and the brilliant experiences allowed me to get footage and photographs that reflected what the organisation are all about. The best moments of Sweden for me were filming and photographing from the back of a Skidoo, the rest of the team enjoying themselves, it is an experience that will stay with me. Returning home at the end of this trip wasn’t that daunting journey that I had at the end of the first trip.
At a fundraising event in February 2020 that loneliness that I had been feeling a year earlier really shifted. I was surrounded by so many people that I could call friends, people that I had spent time with and shared experiences with.
Being asked to be part of the Vetrun team as the official photographer was an incredible moment for me. When I look back at where I was before that first trip, to where I am now, it is unbelievable. Vetrun180 has given me confidence and enthusiasm, a support network and a sense of purpose and I hope that my involvement in the charity can give some of that to other veterans.