Former bomb disposal operator writes about posttraumatic stress

I just read the book “Extreme risk – A life fighting the bombmakers”. Chris Hunter describes his (training towards the) life as a British bomb disposal operator in it. He served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan, amongst others. The book is a good read, and clearly shows the psychological effects of the war tragedies Hunter has witnessed. Although apparently he continued to function well enough to work, he did suffer from quite severe symptoms of posttraumatic stress for some time. One of his biggest losses concerned his wife and two daughters; he divorced, at least partly due to his symptoms and subsequent alienation. Three quotes I think were interesting:

About events in 1996: “The eight months we spent in Bosnia have affected me far more than I could ever have imagined. He [a colleague] knows I feel angry all the time, that I can’t sleep, that I can”t seem to hold down any sort of relationship for more than five minutes. He know it’s dominating every single aspect of my life. I’ve even thought about topping myself. The trouble is, while I can precisely identify the problem, I don’t have the first fucking clue how I’m supposed to deal with it. There’s massive stigma associated with posttraumatic stress, and because it’s such a taboo subject in the Army my only option seems to be to try to hide it.”

About 1996 as well: “Wilkinson is a very easy person to talk to. He’s made me feel so completely at ease that I feel a bit of a fraud for not telling him about my posttraumatic stress disorder. I decide to come clean and, to my amazement, he tells me it’s incredibly common in his neck of the woods. He touches me gently on the arm and tells me I should just deal with each day as it comes. ‘You’ve got to stick it out. It will get easier, and you will get over it. But don’t tell another living soul about it. If the shrinks find out, you won’t make it past day one of the course [to become a counter-terrorist bomb disposal operator]’.”

In the epilogue (2010): “Posttraumatic stress disorder is a ticking bomb that requires more than a remote-controlled Wheelbarrow to neutralize it.”

One thought on “Former bomb disposal operator writes about posttraumatic stress

  1. Stress symptoms aren’t the same for every person. Once stress invades our lives and we allow it to consume us it can cause significant issues even though some stress is good for us. For that reason alone you need to identify the symptoms and treat them accordingly.

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