A Fishermans Paradise veteran’s moving tribute to his wife has gone viral on Facebook, with the solider praising his wife's courage in supporting him through mental illness.
In 2009 Ash Wilke joined the army to defend his country and secure his family’s future.
In 2012 he was deployed to Afghanistan, a trip that would change him forever.
Since his return the now 32-year-old has suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and debilitating panic attacks.
After a bad episode landed Ash in hospital for five days, he turned to the internet to let the world know about his ‘amazing’ wife, Ella, without whom he is certain he would not be here.
“Without her, I probably would have killed myself by now,” he said.
Ash’s emotional and candid tribute has been shared more than 30,000 times and details his wife’s support through periods of self-harm, alcoholism and problems with his mental health.
“I wrote it after having an extreme episode,” he said.
“At about 8pm I started having a bad panic attack.
“Long story short it lasted for hours and hours, and by that time my whole family was asleep.
“I tend to black out and I lose bodily function. At one point I came to and I was naked in the bath and I'd vomited all over myself.
“I yelled out to my wife and she came in, washed me off and gave me some of the medication I take to help with the panic.
“But nothing works, so I had to go into hospital where they gave me stronger stuff.”
Ash requires round-the-clock care support, with his wife now his full-time carer and ‘rock’.
While in hospital Ash witnessed another patient undergoing a panic attack, a moment he said put everything into perspective.
“When I was there I saw a guy have a panic attack for the first time,” he said. “It was extremely confronting just to see someone in that state.
“It really put it into perspective as to what my wife has gone through as it wasn’t the first time I have had an attack like this.”
Ella said like any marriage she made a vow to standby Ash in sickness and in health and will not desert her post.
“You say for better or worse, not expecting the worst, but you take each day and work through it,” she said.
Following Ash’s post the couple has been met with a string of inbox messages from strangers reaching out to offer support and share their personal stories, reassuring the couple they are not alone.
Ash has also found comfort in groups like the Veterans Motorcycle Club and Ulladulla Men’s Shed who have provided a recreational outlet and most importantly an ear.
“It’s really nice because no-one needs to be a big shot and tell you how good they are,” he said.
“You find that we all understand each other a little bit better and we all get to talk a little bit.
“There is one guy here at the moment having a hard time and yesterday while we were doing some work he got to talk about it it.”
Ash finds this one of the most important factors in his recovery, explaining the opportunity to speak openly is somewhat cathartic.
“With the bike club if I rock up and I go, ‘Mate, I’m f...ked. I’m having a really bad day,’ there’s no judgement, there’s no ‘buck up and sort it out’,” he said.
“It’s all, ‘What’s going on? How can we help?’
“I’m a good 20 years younger than the average guy in the club and we all are able to talk on an even playing field.
“No matter how much a person wants to help, if you’ve never been in a situation it’s harder to speak to civvies [civilians] about it.”
When Ash joined the Army he enlisted to fly drones, a skill he thought would be transferable to his life after service.
However, one of Ash’s first combat encounters stays with him daily as a haunting reminder of the terror he has faced.
“When I first got to Afgahistan, the first week we were there, there was an American patrol going through Tarin Kowt,” he said.
The Taliban put a bomb on this kid and told him to walk into the patrol and then blew him up.Ash Wilke
“The Taliban strapped a bomb to a child. The word around the traps was it was a down-syndrome kid and the Taliban put a bomb on this kid and told him to walk into the patrol and then blew him up.
“Killed the kid and two American soldiers.
“That was the first week I was there. I thought, ‘f..k. This is not cool.’”
Since Ash’s return, he and wife Ella have gone on to have their second child, Angus, now seven-months-old, with down syndrome.
“It really hits home,” he said.
“It’s like people say poor them, poor them and what harm we are doing over there.
“But if they strap a bomb to a down syndrome child, well... there’s bigger problems.”
Ash was medically discharged from the Army in August 2015.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness or depression please contact one of the telephone counselling services:
- Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
- Headspace 1800 650 890
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Lifeline 13 11 14