Shane Dimech believed his life was under control; that his 11 year stint in the army was well behind him.
However, six years after being discharged, Shane's world began to fall apart and he tumbled into a nightmare of depression and anxiety, a succession of hospital stays and a cocktail of medications.
"I just hit a brick wall," the 41-year-old said.
During his time in the army Shane undertook a number of jobs in artillery, ordinance and water transport across Australia and overseas.
Posted to Iraq for seven months in 2006, Shane described the conflict as not your typical war.
"There were a lot of roadside bombs, rockets and mortar attacks, and sleeping in body armour," he said.
And, while Shane loved life in the army the culture didn't fit the lifestyle of the newlywed.
"It was a bit of a boys club."
Returning to civilian life Shane went back to his first love, the ocean, working for some time driving tugs and operating a lucrative boat concierge business.
There were a lot of roadside bombs, rockets and mortar attacks, and sleeping in body armour.Shane Dimech
Before his life in the armed services Shane had completed a sail making apprenticeship.
Growing up on the banks of Lake Macquarie, Shane began sailing as a three-year-old; I have always had anything to do with water."
Shane began to question his mental health when work began to replace family life and his alcohol consumption increased beyond a social beer.
His worst fears were soon realised when he was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, anxiety and alcohol addition, and told he would never work again.
With no reason not to trust what the doctor said, Shane's business was put on the market and a massive 22 foot caravan purchased with plans to embark on a two year odyssey throughout Australia.
But, luck was not on Shane's side when his dad became ill 12 months into the adventure and a forced side-trip to Taree.
More visits to the Veteran's Mental Health Hospital in Queensland, more drugs and chats with mental health workers, and Shane then began to research his own mental health and to find out 'who he was'.
"I was emotional-less person; I was not happy and not sad, I was just flat.
"The happiest and saddest thing had the same feeling for me.
"I didn't feel safe to leave my bed and the answer was to take more medication and stay in my bed."
Shane said many PTSD sufferers wake up for their medication just to go back to sleep again.
"I wanted to get my mental health back naturally."
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Weaning off medications, which could be taken up to 12 times a day, took about six months, Shane undertook a series of RTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) sessions and began using essential oils, discovered yoga and physical exercise.
He moved to Forster and earlier this year brought the Buddy Up Australia, a support program for current and former military, first responders and their families, to the area.
"It is a registered charity and it fits in what what I want to do."
It assists personnel keep in the well zone of mental and physical health through exercise and social events.
The only Buddy Up service along the Mid North Coast, the Forster chapter attracts regular attendances from people in Forster, Tuncurry, Failford and Taree, for a range of activities, including stand up paddle boarding and kayaking.
Get in touch with Shane at firstname.lastname@example.org
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