Roughing it for our heroes
By Steve Thomas

I’m Steve Thomas, an ex RAF Communications Operator. Since leaving the British Forces I have suffered with severe mental health issues. During the last decade they have led me to attempt suicide several times. My heart has stopped three times due to alcohol poisoning and eventually I became homeless.

Sleeping Rough - Roughing it for our heroes

Two options

I have driven away many loved ones over the years as I shut myself off, believing I wasn’t worthy of their love. I hadn’t spoken to my mother for two years. Then in June this year my sister made contact with me to tell me my mother had passed away. Shortly after, the relationship with the only woman I had ever truly loved finally ended because I was still holding onto that evil hatred of myself.

These traumatic events forced me into a place that gave me, as I saw it, two options. To take the long sleep once and for all and put an end to the relentless pain – or stand up and be proud of the real me again.

I chose to love me.

I couldn’t lose any more beautiful people from my life and I couldn’t undo what I had done or bring my loved ones back. As I grew stronger I felt I couldn’t let this keep happening to so many others out there on the streets. Many veterans, my brothers and sisters who have given so much to our country. I was blessed that after many years of pushing my family away they were still there for me when I decided to live again. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Help me to help them

My challenge is to be as open and honest as I can about my journey through those dark days battling with my mental health. It isn’t easy, but I know it can be beaten. I still don’t think mental health issues are accepted enough. The shame I felt separated me from society, driving me deeper into darkness.

I want to do what I can to share my experience and help put an end to our veterans ending up homeless. I am embarking on a 1,400 mile walk through Wales and England this Christmas and New Year. I’ll be sleeping rough, reaching out to our homeless veterans to help spread the message that it’s ok to talk and share. Everyone should be able to share their suffering without any shame or stigma.

Thanks to the support and donations I have already received I have raised my target for Walking with the Wounded. So I am able to focus on the getting my message out there. I want to raise awareness that there are so many of our veterans homeless this Christmas. They are suffering with their mental health and unable to ask for help. Like me they feel worthless and not worthy of asking for or taking help. I also want to show people that it’s not shameful to talk about their problems; it has been my road to recovery.

Walking for the veterans

I will be walking 25 miles a day for 50 days between the 18th December and the 18th February, sleeping rough. I will be starting in my home village in the South Wales Valleys, going over the Brecon Beacons up to North Wales. Then I’ll be crossing over to the East of England, down through London, the South Coast and back through into South Wales. Spreading the message that “It’s OK to not be OK”. And talking with and sharing a cup of tea and some food with the homeless I meet along the way. I’ll be giving them information on people who can help them turn their lives around.

1in4 mental health anthology

I know from my own experience that homelessness is not something you choose. It’s not a nice place to be while suffering with your mental health. I already didn’t like myself then. I felt that people were looking at me with either pity or judging me. This led to a huge downward spiral that I just couldn’t see a way out of.

Hopefully my challenge will not only show people how many of our veterans are suffering this Christmas but also let those that are suffering know how many care. People can share and follow my journey on Facebook.
All my very best, Steve.

Learn more on the Roughing it for our Heroes Facebook page

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