Vietnam veteran’s light at the end of the tunnel

A Vietnam veteran who lives in Coodanup, has opened up about his mental health battle and the journey out of his “blackest days”.

Edward Bowman, 81, said he still had nightmares after his 20-year military career as an Australian warrant officer and an American Special Forces platoon commander.

Following his return, Edward struggled with post traumatic stress disorder, drinking to excess and nightmares reminding him of things from the past he would rather forget.

“It was extremely difficult,” he said.

“It’s like a professional footballer who retires...you think: ‘What am I going to do with myself?’”

What I am trying to do is to find people who are a lot worse then I am and help them.

Edward Bowman

“I drank too much and smoked like a chimney.

“Veterans, and I am not saying they shouldn’t do this, but a lot of them go bush and rehash old stories...misery loves company.”

Edward said he went through a divorce and hit rock-bottom, isolating himself from the world.

“I went prospecting to try and keep myself busy,” he said.

“The hardest thing I found was to relate to people.”

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Edward said he started to write on his “blackest days”.

“I would write a chapter, or a few paragraphs, then put it away,” he said.

“I did that for about 16 years. It wasn’t exactly a speedy process!”

Edward said he was invited to the Halls Head Bowls Club, and things started to look up from there. 

“There was a heap of veterans there...the place crawled with them,” he said.

“When you start to socialise and come back to the human race again, that is when you start to wake up to yourself.”

The bowls community was a huge part of Edward’s mental health recovery, and he even went on to represent the state in the Australian Bowls Championship, held in New South Wales earlier this year.

“That’s not bad for an 81-year-old man,” he joked. 

Edward’s book A Year in the Life of a Vietnam Adviser is full of the “satirical, stupid, observed, ridiculous, comical and the unbelievable”.

Edward hoped veterans could read the book and relate to the situations, and find relief.

“What I am trying to do is to find people who are a lot worse then I am and help them,” he said.

“You can volunteer or join a local club.

“Don’t stay in your little cave, expand yourself. It’s hard...but worth it.”

For more information visit www.ayearinthelifeofavietnamadviser.com.