They have seen things that most people can’t imagine, but for people living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), talking about their shared experience can be a way to heal. That is the point of the Wounded Warriors Weekend in Nipawin and the Run to Remember torch relay across Saskatchewan leading up to it.
For decades after his military tours with the British Armed Forces in Northern Ireland and the Gulf War, Chris Siddons didn’t know what was wrong with him.
“I just thought that that was how I was made, but when you hit rock bottom and you go and see somebody for some professional help, then the diagnosis and everything just fits into place,” he said.
Now living in Regina, he was diagnosed with PTSD in August 2014 after two attempted suicides in the same year.
“I served in Iraq and Northern Ireland. I lost four friends. I watched two of those people die, and one of those was under my command. So there’s lots of negative thoughts and intrusive thoughts around self-blame, self-pity,” he said, describing some of the memories that he’s still coming to terms with. “Was it my fault? Could I have done something differently?”
He says finding his service dog Sierra at the Regina Humane Society in January 2015 saved his life.
“She’s now a qualified service dog, she keeps me alive,” Siddons said with Sierra by his side, as she is 24 hours a day and seven days a week. “She keeps me grounded. The negative thoughts are not so bad as they were in years past.”
At the launch of the Run to Remember torch relay in Regina for PTSD, Sierra walked by his side and was recognized when he was announced as an honourary torch bearer.
Siddons now works as a provincial PTSD coordinator for the OSI-CAN Support Initiative through the Legion and the Mental Health Association. He said events like the Run to Remember are key to raising more awareness about PTSD or Operational Service Injury (OSI).
“It’s an injury. It’s a workplace injury, it’s not a disorder that was given to us,” Siddons commented. “So our first responders fall into that category too whether it be EMS, fire, police, corrections, 911 dispatchers, border services… they all see traumatic events on a daily basis.”
He says special events like the Wounded Warriors Weekend are a significant way to connect with other people who really get what it’s like.
“It’s healing to talk with other people that understand and get it. It makes telling your story a lot easier,” Siddons said.
He runs peer support groups in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Weyburn and finds that the healing process works both ways – telling his own story helps him deal with it while also inspiring others to open up.
The Wounded Warriors Weekend is in Nipawin, Saskatchewan from July 28 to 31. In the weeks leading up to the final event, the Run to Remember will stop in towns across the province to raise awareness about PTSD and all the people who live with it every day. http://www.woundedwarriorsweekend.org/