When I was younger I joined the A.T.C the Air Training Corp, (little kiddie version of the RAF). An amazing opportunity where we got to experience so many things, flying, sports, drill, night exercises. I have so many fond memories of those days. The sense of camaraderie, the exciting new experiences, the crazy endeavours.
I have no doubt that the squadron and its leadership helped me get through those in-between years. I never talked about my history with any of them. They knew I was fostered because my foster dad was one of the leaders but that was it. With other groups of people being fostered made me a bit of pariah, In A.T.C it didn’t matter. I was a Cadet, then an N.C.O and that was the only badge that mattered, I was part of the team, we were all different and that was really amazing.
I have been wondering recently how I have managed to live with so much baggage when other people find themselves struggling to be able to live a normal life. I have no doubt that A.T.C played a part in helping me on that path.
One thing I was always very good at was shooting. I loved firing a rifle, I would often get the best targets on the range and the adults would marvel at how “Cool, Calm and Collected” I was.
They would run different drills with us sometimes, rapid fire where you had to load, shoot, load, shoot…all your rounds off as quickly as you could. And my favourite drill… They would turn the lights on and off in rapid succession without a pattern. Your job to take the shot.
I would feel the tension rising around me as the other cadets felt the growing pressure of waiting for that moment the lights came on and then firing. As soon as the lights came up there would be a flurry or rounds launched down the range.
It was in those little moments that I think my ability to dissociate from emotions came into its own. I never felt the pressure, I never once rushed my shot, I was always last to fire. And in those drills I always performed the best always getting all my rounds within the space of a two pence piece.
I even learnt after a while that I didn’t need the lights to be on to hit my mark. As long as I calmly took as much time as I had to line up my aim, I could fire the round in the dark and it would still find its target.
Stephen jokes sometimes I might become an assassin if I ever went into the forces because of my ability to detach.
When I think about a lot of the traumatic situations I have faced over the years, rarely in the moment have my emotions got the better of me. In the face of the hardest situations I am one of those people who applies a laser focus, under pressure I perform best, part of that has been the ability to set my emotions aside.
I suspect the challenge for a lot of PTSD sufferers is whilst in the moment it is helpful to detach we have to find a way to come back. and process that emotion, if we don’t we find ourselves at risk of always being ready for the shot and never being able to take it.