Lachlan Manning enlisted in the Australian Army in 2002. He was diagnosed with PTSD and depression in 2010, six months after returning from a tour of Afghanistan. He was medically discharged in 2012.
“I really encourage people to put their hand up and have a talk about it, because it’s pretty hard to help your mate if you don’t know that they need help.”
The first time Lachlan realised something wasn’t right was in a very unexpected moment — driving on his way to work.
“The first time I really noticed something was an issue was when I was driving into work one morning,” he says. “A Bushmaster drove past, and I just froze. I couldn’t move and I started hyperventilating. I didn’t pass out, but I felt I was going to. I got really narrow vision and I couldn’t move for over an hour. I knew something was wrong straight away then.”
Diagnosis and coming to terms
Lachlan’s diagnosis came about after a phone call from a mate who had been previously diagnosed with PTSD. “He said to me, I’m really worried about you, I want you to go and talk to your GP,” says Lachlan.
Like most people suddenly facing the possibility of maybe having to leave, Lachlan was initially reluctant. He kept his concerns to himself, only speaking about it with his mate, but he ended up seeing his GP nonetheless.
“I wasn’t going to do it but he’d rung up and made the appointment for me. So, I was sort of forced into it,” he says. “The GP took one look at me and said, look, I do have to get a second opinion, but I believe you have PTSD and depression.”
They’re words no ADF member wants to hear. After a decade of service, he knew the diagnosis would most likely cut short his career.
“I can remember leaving the appointment with medical restrictions that the doctor had written out. The top line said, “not fit to handle firearms”. I’d recently returned from Afghanistan with Special Operations Task Group. It broke my heart, reading that, knowing that I wasn’t to be trusted with doing something I’d spent the last 10 years of my life training on.”
The diagnosis affected him deeply. For one thing, he essentially kept it to himself until he received his discharge notice. What followed was a period where he went “downhill” as he puts it, struggling with anger, depression, trouble sleeping and other mental health issues.
“I didn’t tell very many people at all early on,” he says. “I was really fearing that I’d be called weak or judged or not accepted.”
After being in a pretty dark place for some time, a few things started to change. In addition to clinical treatment for acute PTSD, he opened up and talked about it. The response was nothing like what he’d expected.
“I really found the opposite,” he says. “They’d wished I’d told them earlier, just so they could have supported me better.”
It made him realise that “you’re not the only one going through things like that” (although he also feels that there are others with “far greater problems”) and that opening up really helps with acknowledging if there was a problem.
“You can work through what it is that’s actually bothering you. Without opening those doors, it’s pretty bloody hard to treat PTSD.”
“I found the more I opened up and talked about it, the better it’s been for me,” he says. “I didn’t think I’d feel like this again, post-Army. I didn’t think I’d ever genuinely be happy again and have mates like I had in the Army.”
He attributes his recovery to a combination of clinical treatment, being able to open up, and receiving genuine support and respect from family, friends and other personnel. He has a daughter (and another on the way) with his loving partner — and he’s also a mad keen flyfisher.
“I couldn’t be happier that things have turned out this way,” he says. “If you are going through problems, pick up the phone. If people don’t know that you’re struggling, they can’t help you.”
“I really encourage people to put their hand up and have a talk about it,” he adds. “Because it’s pretty hard to help your mate if you don’t know that they need help.”
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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