Alexandra Redlich was a Corporal in the Royal Australian Air Force. She completed her training in September 2009 and was first deployed in 2010 on Operation Pakistan Assist II. She was discharged and became a reservist in 2016. Alex has been diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety.
“It is so much easier to get help when you’ve only fallen down one step, than when you’ve fallen down the whole flight.”
For Alex, the first sign that something wasn’t quite right came when she returned. Coming back to Australia, she realised that she was experiencing feelings of intense anger.
“When I came back to Australia, I found that I was very angry,” she says. She found some aspects of ‘everyday’ life back home triggered intense emotions. For example, she recalls that going to Woolworths and being in a crowd would suddenly bring up intensely negative feelings.
“I was very young at that stage,” she says. “I guess we received this beautiful stigma that if we did get help, we wouldn’t go on exercises. We wouldn’t deploy again. So, you just sort of kept your mouth shut. And drank. And talked a lot with your friends,” she says.
“The lid started to come off the box after I got back from Operation Slipper in 2013,” she says. Doing clinics that hopped into Afghanistan brought back intense memories from Pakistan, which then triggered many social anxieties.
“Still at that point I was stubborn and didn’t get help,” she says. “It was October 2016 when I got to the point that I couldn’t hold a conversation. I couldn’t think. Walking through a room was like radio static.”
She experienced further feelings of anger and anxiety. Eventually, she attempted suicide.
“I did then have a rather profuse relapse in December 2016 when I tried to take my life,” she says. “Luckily, I was found by a Defence member, an ambulance was called and they managed to resuscitate me in Emergency.”
Alex had initially been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Recently, she was also diagnosed with PTSD. Things improved when she sought clinical treatment and after opening up and talking about it, she was genuinely surprised by the level of support and understanding.
“I started asking for help and people started helping me. That blew my mind,” she says. “I felt like I actually mattered.”
Drawing on her experience, her message to anyone in a similar situation is straightforward: “When you start feeling low, get help. It is so much easier to get help when you’ve only fallen down one step, than when you’ve fallen down the whole flight.”
Alex continues to undergo treatment. She is in a better place now and attributes much of it to the fact that she was able to open up, talk about it, and get help.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. There are people out there that want to support you and want to help you,” she says. “There is so much information out there, and so much research. Go ask, and people will help you and they’ll lead you, and start to guide you back to the light.
NQ Connect provides a free counselling and support service for current serving and ex-ADF members and their families living and working in northern Queensland. The service is presented by Operation Compass.
Call 1300 059 625 for a private and entirely non-judgemental talk with a professional counsellor. Alternatively, you can opt for web chat. Scroll down to access more mental health resources and self-help tools.
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