Ex-serviceman Andrew Stevens explains how the RAF Benevolent Fund's support allowed him to manage his obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and continue his job as a key worker delivering groceries in his community through the coronavirus pandemic.
When I was in the RAF I was serving my country on the frontline, now I'm proud to be on the frontline again, supporting the keyworkers and the rest of the country as we battle this virus. If it wasn't for the Fund, I simply wouldn't be able to that.
The support I've received has taught me how to manage my condition, and I’m pleased to say that I've been able to continue my job as a supermarket delivery driver throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Had I not received this help, I'm sure this would have been an incredibly triggering experience for me. Instead, I now feel confident and secure that I can carry on going to work, looking after my family, and taking care of my own mental health.
It all began in 2007 when my career in the RAF was unexpectedly cut short and I struggled with my transition back into civilian life.
I joined the Royal Air Force when I was 18 years old, serving for seven years as a painter and finisher on Tornados based out of RAF Lossiemouth. I loved my job in the military, you're part of a tight community and a brotherhood.
You're told how to dress, what to eat, what to drink, where to live and everything is decided for you. I was made redundant in 2007 and that's when things changed for me.
Despite being successful in finding a civilian job, I became anxious and depressed and quite quickly things spiralled out of control. I began to worry about everything, my finances, my family, about my new job, my home. Eventually that worry turned into compulsion.
It started with small things like washing my hands. I would wash them twice to make sure they were clean and that I wouldn't get ill. But things escalated and before I knew it I was washing my hands four or five times and was still not happy. I would make the bed and if it didn't look exactly how I wanted it, I would start it all over again.
I began to avoid certain parts of the house and then eventually stopped going out too. I would spend hours at a time in the shower, trying to get clean. I wouldn't touch my food, I would pace around the house checking I had locked everything.
When I got home, I wouldn't go near my children. I know it sounds crazy, but I couldn't risk touching them. This went on for 10 years.
And it was at that point my wife intervened and booked me a doctor's appointment. Quite early on they diagnosed me with severe OCD.
I finally admitted I needed help and got in touch with the RAF Benevolent Fund, not really knowing if they would be able to help. What really sticks with me is the speed in which the Fund stepped in and offered support.
I questioned whether there was any point in me being here, I was ready to end things.
But the Fund's early and reactive support meant I didn't have to ask myself these questions for very long and slowly the darkness lifted. The Listening, Counselling and Wellbeing service they provided saved my life.
As well as the Listening and Counselling service, the RAF Benevolent Fund offers relationship counselling, bereavement support, free access to mindfulness app Headspace, gambling support, and more.
You can learn more by about the support available to RAF personnel and their families by visiting rafbf.org/how-we-help.