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'I was homeless after being discharged from the army with PTSD, but i'm in a brilliant place now'

Amber served in the British Army for 11 years before she was medically discharged, and is now the subject of a new documentary

Disorder - Amber (Images supplied by Amber)
Disorder - Amber (Images supplied by Amber)
  • Amber is one of the subjects of Disorder, a moving new feature documentary about three armed forces veterans who must learn to cope as civilians with PTSD outside a war zone, having suffered trauma on many levels whilst protecting our freedom.

  • Directed by Bafta-winning filmmaker Kate Blewett, Disorder is a raw portrayal of their daily existence and the challenges they face as they attempt to 'normalise' their mental health.

I was in school when I went to an Armed Forces Day and I was like, “Right, I’m going to join the military!” From then on, I was dead set on joining the army. Growing up, I was sexually abused and that was a good excuse to escape my hometown and go make something of myself and explore the world.

I was 16 when I went into the medical corps. Once I’d started medical training I loved it. It was the right path for me. I was stationed at Aldershot for the first few years and from there we were deployed to Afghanistan and Kenya, among other places.

I used to watch Band of Brothers on TV when I was younger, so in my head I was like, “Oh, I know what’s gonna happen.” You can watch as many war stories as you like, but nothing prepares you. We did the basic training, we did medical training, and then really intense pre-deployment training. You can be physically and mentally prepared for the extreme and ensure you’re strong enough to handle it, but I don’t think you can ever be properly prepared, which can be a shock to the system.

I felt immediately at home in the military, it was like my calling. There’s nothing like the friendships you build up with your colleagues in the army. I’ve never been able to compare it, the friendships you build, and the trust and respect you have for each other. I haven’t experienced that since. It’s such an amazing feeling to know that you've always got a brother or sister to call on.

Disorder - Amber (Images supplied by Amber)
Disorder - Amber (Images supplied by Amber)

I grew up very quickly in the army. At 18 being deployed to Afghanistan and 19 to Kenya I really did learn to grow up quickly. I learned about the world and not just my small hometown. It opened my eyes to what’s out there. There are some really horrible people in the world, but some really beautiful ones too.

My happiest memories of my army career when I was stationed in Kenya. That place is magical. We were giving medical aid to civilians, vaccinations for children, antimalarials and mosquito nets. I remember vividly one day the locals were doing these dances and they got us to join in. It just touched your soul, it was so beautiful. It was magical seeing their culture and the way they’re not using electronics every day.

It was when I was posted to Brunei and Malaysia I started to get homesick. It was there that I started getting counselling and therapy and they diagnosed me with PTSD. I’d been in the army for 11 years before I was medically discharged. They said I wasn’t fit for service mentally.

It was one of the worst times in my life, losing everything I loved and wanted a career in, to come into civilian street, which I’d had no idea about because I was 16 when I’d left it. It was a very difficult time and it took me a couple of years to transition because I was very institutionalised with the military, that’s all I had known. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my career, I didn’t know where it was going to take me. I ended up homeless at one point, which many veterans do because you don’t understand civilian street.

Amber - Disorder (Supplied by Amber)
Amber - Disorder (Supplied by Amber)

I had no support for PTSD until last year when I joined Op COURAGE which was set up in 2021. It’s an immediate three-month intervention and they do counselling and teach you about benefits. It’s a support network and you meet a few times a week, so it’s really intense. That helped me a lot and I know it's helping others. It changed my life having them.

I’m a different person to who I was before I went into the army. That song, I’m a Lover Not A Fighter, that’s me now. I don't want drama, I don't want anything that's going to cause me anxiety. That’s true for a lot of other veterans as well. We've done our war and fighting, we just want peace and happiness.

My involvement in the Disorder documentary came about through the charity I’m an ambassador for: Help 4 Homeless Veterans. Someone approached Steve, the CEO of the charity, and he recommended me, for which I’m so grateful.

Watch a trailer for Disorder

It was so therapeutic because there was some stuff I mentioned in the documentary that had been weighing heavily on my shoulders. It was like a release. So I felt a lot lighter after. I knew that sharing my story, even though I was nervous, was going to help others, that it would give someone else a voice, the strength to speak up. You have to be brave sometimes and take a step forward so someone else can do the same thing.

I’m in a brilliant place now. I’ve had a wonderful year and I’ve got a lot of projects lined up. I’ve just filmed in Ireland for Operation Rock The Troops. I’m the first British veteran to be on the show and to write a song with the musicians and I’m off to Texas next week to record it in a studio.

I’ve also just worked on volume one of a veterans poem book, With the support of Mark Busby of the Film Volt Group and we’re now working on volume two and all proceeds go to Help 4 Homeless Veterans. So I’m giving back as much as I can. It’s all come about from my work as an ambassador and the Disorder film, of learning how to be in front of the camera and being supported by [director] Kate Blewett. It’s really built my confidence up.

Disorder, from Genesius Pictures, will be available to watch in the UK on digital platforms (Apple, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and YouTube) on Tuesday 28 November 2023.