A Soldier’s Miraculous Healing From PTSD

Forgiveness the key to a restored mind

“I abused my body with alcohol drinking five bottles of wine a week and then finishing off with whiskey. All that was to try and help me sleep and stop the nightmares.”

“Your anxiety levels go so high you can’t function. You don’t know how to do something simple like start a car, get into the car, or remove a trolley from the rest of the trolleys at a shopping centre.”

“She (my wife) would always be praying for me and would hear me during the night having nightmares. I would feel her hand on my head and all of a sudden I would sense this peace over me.”

What you’re about to read is a first-hand account from a PTSD sufferer.

Many returning Defence personnel suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

This is the story of a soldier who became a Christian, and who successfully confronted what is medically described as a mental health condition triggered by a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

‘I was doing a lot of ramp ceremonies’

Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Corporal Andrew Summers became a very tormented man – he had PTSD.

Andrew had joined the Australian Defence Force with the R-Double-A-F and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a technician with the Orion aircraft. He was also a piper.

This involved piping off Australia’s fallen soldiers and for Andrew in particular, this included a large number of fallen Canadian soldiers.

“Unfortunately the Canadians got hit really hard so I was doing a lot of ramp ceremonies, averaging two to three a week through the months of July, August, September and October.”

(A ramp ceremony takes place when the caskets are transferred onto the aircraft to be taken home.)

“Many of those ramps had six bodies in total coming out,” Andrew said, saying the first one he piped for was a mate with whom he’d befriended.

Haunted by grief and loss

“He was a Canadian soldier I’d become good friends with. Three weeks later he was killed in action.”

“He was the first one I’d ever piped off and it hit me pretty hard.” Andrew said this scene was repeated many times over.

“It’s not until you return home that it hits you what you have just done and you feel the grief and the loss of every one of those who I piped and eventually this would just haunt me for the rest of my time,” Andrew admitted.

This was the main factor contributing to Corporal Summers PTSD affliction. A person’s  susceptibility to becoming a PTSD victim revolves around what Andrew referred to as the Bucket Theory.

“We all have a bucket in different sizes of what we can deal with. Eventually if you don’t talk about your issues and that bucket gets full and results in self harm or suicide, as what happened with me.”

“For me it was losing my mate, multiple ramps, but then returning home to Australia and hearing public opinion about the war. Being told by people we shouldn’t be there. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Andrew said it made him feel guilty and ashamed for doing his duty.

A sign of weakness

“That added to what was already in my bucket as well as the nightmares, seeing the bodies and feeling the loss.”

“It just builds up and builds up and your bucket gets fuller and fuller and fuller,” Andrew informed.

He shared how deep down he kept trying to deal with it, telling himself he was a soldier and to harden up. This is a sign of weakness.

“But that adds to it as well and it all just piles up eventually.”

Andrew’s not alone. In fact, every military person serving in the Australian Defence Force on a base in a war zone is exposed to the threat of PTSD.

Andrew said each persons’ experience is different.

“It may not effect everybody and they may come out unscathed. It all depends on the individual and what they can cope with. How big their bucket is what they can handle.”

The PTSD descent is rapid

“I don’t compare myself with an infantry soldier because they would see things differently to how I would. Their experience is way different to mine.”

But although Andrew admitted it’s a lot harder for infantry, he said others working on the ramps have also been affected by the trauma of the job.

Once you’re afflicted by PTSD the descent into a mental quagmire is rapid.

“I abused my body with alcohol drinking five bottles of wine a week and then finishing off with whiskey. All that was to try and help me sleep and stop the nightmares.”

“You slowly over time isolate yourself. Avoid everybody. Avoid going to shops. Then your mindset starts to change. You don’t feel safe. You experience anxiety attacks.”

Andrew said the anxiety extremes were the worst thing he ever experienced.

“Your anxiety levels go so high you can’t function. You don’t know how to do something simple like start a car, get into the car, or remove a trolley from the rest of the trolleys at a shopping centre.”

It’s ok to have a cry

Andrew said you’re so panicked, you’re looking around and scoping the shopping centre as though you’re in a war zone.

“You’re home and you should feel safe. That’s the downside of PTSD. Unfortunately for us as men it’s not limited to the frontline and we don’t want to talk about it because it’s a sign of weakness,” was Andrew’s prognosis.

He said for women it’s ok because they can talk about their feelings to each other.

“It’s a leaf out of their book we need to take,” Andrew confessed, saying it’s ok to say to your mate you’re not well and have a cry.

“That’s courage to face your fear,” Andrew acknowledged. But what about his wife and children? How were they coping?

Andrew said his wife Tina was amazing. Tina had been a Christian all her life. But not for Andrew.

“She would always be praying for me and would hear me during the night having nightmares. I would feel her hand on my head and all of a sudden I would sense this peace over me.”

‘My life was so dark

But as Andrew testified, it was very hard for his wife. He said although he never verbally or physically abused her, he had just isolated himself from everything.

“I wasn’t going to family do’s or being involved with my kids. To put up with all that my wife was my rock. She’s why I’m here today as well,” Andrew shared.

“It was through her constant sharing of her relationship with Jesus with me that pulled me through.”

As a non-believer it got to a point where Andrew’s life was so dark. In his troubled mind he believed he couldn’t be a husband or a father.

Andrew Summers attempted suicide on October 6, 2012..

“My wife was out and my children were in bed. I had the alcohol ready and all the tablets, hoping I’d fall asleep and never wake up.’

‘I cried out to God’

“And at the moment I was looking at the wedding photo and a photo of my kids, basically saying goodbye, I heard this little voice in my head.”

Andrew said he’d never heard this voice before. The voice was telling Andrew  about his wife and Jesus.

“That distracted me. I got on my knees and cried out to God. I said, ‘If You’re real, if You’re legit, if You exist like my wife says You do, then get me out of this situation, and if You do I will follow You the rest of my life,” Andrew declared.

He gave God an ultimatum. God had 24-hours to prove to Andrew He existed. As for the suicide attempt, that was something he wasn’t to tell his wife about for another 12-months.

“But the following morning she went to church where a man, Captain Alexander Thornton, who doesn’t go to her church, was there that day.”

Andrew’s wife spoke to the captain and found out he was from Singleton Army Barracks on his way to Toowoomba, and he was a psychologist in the Australian army.

God answers prayer

Andrew’s wife told the captain about Andrew. She went home and shared what had happened at church and the conversation with the army psychologist.

“My prayers just got answered and You do exist,” was Andrew’s response to God.

God had answered his prayer within the 24-hour period Andrew had set. But the road to healing from PTSD for Andrew was just beginning. For him the healing would come through carrying out assignments.

“One was to pack-march on Manly beach to raise awareness for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I pack-marched 40-kilometres carrying 40-kilos in full combat kit on dry soft sand.”

“But during that moment of facing my own demons and going through the journey of healing doing that, even there He showed up,” Andrew remarked, saying the next pack-march was from Newcastle to Sydney. Sydney had just experienced a terrorist attack. The Lindt Cafe siege.

“And God was telling me He wanted me to visit a mosque.”

‘The Imam gave me this big hug’

Andrew said he had a lot of hatred for Muslims and Islam. The Lord told him to go to the  Gallipoli Mosque, the largest in Sydney, and be wearing his uniform.

“This really frightened me.” The very thought of this mission was accompanied by nightmares of being decapitated.

Andrews’ wife rang the mosque and to cut a long story short, the Imam wanted to meet Andrew. The day eventually arrived and accompanied by two friends from church, they arrived at the mosque.

It was 7pm Friday evening, the busiest time of the week as hundreds of Muslim men attended the mosque for prayer. He and his two friends were ushered into a room where they waited for the Imam.

“The Imam came in and gave me this big hug with big smiles. It really threw me, I wasn’t expecting that. We sat down at a table and he never took his eyes off me the whole time.”

“I shared my journey with him. What I’d been through in the Middle East and what I’d been through when I returned home and I was a Christian.”

“Then I told him how much I hated Muslims and how much I hated Islam and said to him how much this was tearing me apart because I’m a Christian. Then I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Are you able to forgive me?’”

The power of forgiveness

“He just looked at me with a big smile and said, ‘I hugged you when I came in didn’t I?’ I said, ‘Yes you did.’ He said, ‘It’s not hard to forgive you with what you’ve been through.’ He said, ‘It’s taken you a lot of courage to come here and face us and speak with us,’ and we began to talk about God.”

“Before we knew it, there were three Christians and two Muslims glorifying God in that room,” Andrew testified.

The Imam invited Andrew and his two Christian friends into the mosque which was now empty. It was there the Imam said he wanted to pray for Andrew to be healed.

“So away we went. He prayed for me. And after that one of my friends said to the Imam, ‘Is it alright if we pray for you?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely.’”

“When we stopped the Imam said, ‘Look at this. This is amazing!. Three Christians and two Muslims praying for each other right under the dome.’”

‘Jesus healed me through forgiveness’

“He said, ‘This has never happened before in here. This is what we are about. Loving each other.”

Andrew said that was the first time in eight years that he had never felt any anxiety.

“It literally disappeared. It lifted off me. Since that day I’ve had no nightmares, no anxiety issues, no fears of shops, no looking over my shoulder, literally just walking free.”

For Andrew, what God was saying to him about his future, that wherever God would send him he would always be safe.

It was also to show Andrew that He loves Muslims just as much as He loves Christians.

“The mosque didn’t heal me. Jesus just took me there and He healed me through forgiveness. It all came down to that.”

 

Hear Corporal Andrew Summers testimony at Vision’s God Is On The Move website:

Discover how God gave a soldier with PTSD, a renewed heart towards Muslims

 

Footnote:

Corporal Andrew Summers is currently serving in the Royal Australian Air Force.

He has served in various forms of the military for more than 20 years.

The memories of his deployments stayed with him and Andrew was officially diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2012.

In his journey with PTSD Andrew was assisted by the Military Christian Fellowship, an organisation that promotes Christian faith in the Australian Defence Forces.

If you or someone you know needs help please call Beyond Blue on 1300224636.

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