My Two Girls Know More About Veteran Health Than Anyone Their Age Should
Brad Copelin is an ambassador for RSL DefenceCare and served in the Australian Army for 24 years. Brad acknowledges that he suffers from PTSD but through the support of his daughters – his rocks – he is able to cope when times get tough. Brad says how important it is for veterans to put up their hand and ask for help.
I served in the army for 24 years. Started in infantry, finished off in military police. I served in Afghanistan and peacekeeping mission in the Solomon Islands. I wanted to serve. I joined straight from high school. I finished year 12 and that next year I joined the army. Fell in love with it and stayed. 24 years all up and I was discharged medically and unfortunately the year before I was medically discharged, I had a meltdown, that’s the only way I could explain it. Which effectively did end my career.
It still causes me grief because I’d wanted to serve in a certain way and I feel that I let a lot of people down especially those that I either worked for or, worse, the ones that used to work for me and I don’t think I’m ever gonna get over that because the meltdown and the person I was during that meltdown wasn’t me.
It just, I just exploded. I just, the cup got full and overflowed and I just couldn’t hold it anymore which is always gonna be disappointing and that’s why I say now that at the time when I was medically discharged and it ended my career, that I didn’t feel I was ready to leave.
Now with that hindsight, I was ready. I wouldn’t have lasted too much longer without another meltdown and that would, I wasn’t gonna let that happen. Even to this day, the day I will put up my hand and said I need help is probably the hardest decision I ever had to do ’cause it was just against everything else ’cause soldiers don’t think that way.
Transition is huge. You go from one day being a soldier and next day not and when you serve you identify as a soldier or a sailor or an airman ’cause that’s just the way you are and you take a lotta pride in that so it was quite daunting. Especially after spending so long in the army. All of a sudden, I’m not in the army anymore and I end up being Mr. Mum for the first 12 months of so, fairly much didn’t I? And that was a big change. I was in denial for a bit. Especially because I wanted to work.
When I was discharged, I was 41 so I was too young to stop and do nothing. And going through the process to go through the compensation and get the support and all that required was quite adversarial which actually added to it because I was adamant I was gonna work again. I now know that that’s not gonna happen. I’ll never ever return to full time work. I just can’t do it. So there is that period of denial.
There’s also a period of anger as well. Especially if you leave medically if you’re not ready to go. The hardest thing is putting up your hand to ask for help. We’re not designed and we’re not trained that way so you think no I can soldier on through this, no, this is fine, it’s a phase, whatnot.
But really you need to put up the hand at the first instant. Don’t suffer alone. Put up your hand. The longer you suffer, the longer the family’s affected. And a lot don’t realize how much the family unit gets affected by it. Nadia had to adapt. Especially when I could be sitting on the floor with her playing and then I could be in tears or all of a sudden I’m angry. And that was hard enough for me to go through let alone try to explain to her what was going through my head.
Don’t suffer alone. Put up your hand. The longer you suffer, the longer the family’s affected.
As they both get older, I explain more and more to them. About things. And how it affects me and stuff like that. And they know.
These two know more about veterans health than any 13 and nine year old should. That does help. Don’t have to hide. I can say hey, not going into this shop. And there’s some shops that I can go into that I know the minute I walk in there, the hyper-vigilance is gonna kick in and then he’s gonna kick in so they know which stores they are and I remind ’em, let’s go in, get the stuff, get out. Before my head implodes. And they hold my hand. If I say it’s time to go, we’re out. Aren’t we? So, and, realistically I don’t think they should have to put up with it but that’s just the life we have now so. And I’ve heard it called the new normal. I don’t like the term but in some ways it is. I’d rather use the term work in progress.
These two know more about veterans health than any 13 and nine year old should.
He’s amazing. He goes through the times where he can’t function as well as he wants to and then I gotta kind of like help him out and then, yeah, so, he’s just amazing. He copes when he can and yeah.
You’re my rock. They know so much and they’re very intuitive and I wouldn’t be the person I am without their support. Especially now. And I’ve used this one as a rock for many years. This one’s my little rock at the moment. But without their understanding, they, I wouldn’t still be in one piece I don’t think, or I’ll still be on the couch with ’em because it is very important. And it’s hard. Especially this one, ’cause for the first part of her life, I was angry dad all the time. Even got that book. What’s the book called?
“Why Is Dad So Angry?”.
Yeah, “Why Is Dad So Mad?”, yeah. It sort of helped a little bit. But I wouldn’t have gone through a stage of being angry dad to get back to happy 90% of the time without their support and I’d be lost without their support, wouldn’t I?
When someone gets killed there on television, when someone’s wounded, they’re not, they get put on a plane, come home, and supposed to get on with life and it’s that part that we need to get really good at supporting and educating people on. It’s one of the things that I do when I speak to adult groups and stuff like that is highlight some of the casualties we’ve had. That they don’t know about. And they need help. They really, really do need the help. And they’re the ones where the family unit needs the help as well. Because mum and dad are not the same. They can’t work so the adults can’t work and the kids have to stop going to a private school and go to a public school and they struggle.
So with the Poppy Appeal for Remembrance Day, it’s very pertinent ’cause that money raised could go and help those that are struggling. It’s very important and if it saves one person’s life or one mother’s life, it’s done the right thing.
So with the Poppy Appeal for Remembrance Day, it’s very pertinent ’cause that money raised could go and help those that are struggling. Hopefully help people who are contemplating suicide. Who are really, really struggling. The families that are struggling because their life’s been turned upside down ’cause mum or dad’s come home from the war and they’re not the same person. It’s very important and if it saves one person’s life or one mother’s life, it’s done the right thing. poppyappeal.com.au