Ray Karam is a husband and family man with five children. He owns multiple businesses and is an active community member of Ballina, a coastal town on the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, Australia. Many know him for his consistency, openness, deep care, vitality and excellent dress sense. Most notably, however, many associate Ray with a man who always makes time to connect with people and hear their stories, passions and concerns. In a nutshell, Ray is community. No one would ever imagine that recently he has made a miraculous recovery from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), after experiencing multiple attacks and tragic circumstances, while serving as an Australian police officer for 13 years, mainly in inner Sydney.
During one family dinner, Ray Karam’s sister-in-law Heidi Baldwin, who only had a vague understanding of his history, began to ask questions. Ray’s tenderness in sharing the details, stories, wisdom and insight that he has gained from this part of his life is astounding. This has led to the questions being recorded for others to experience.
What has resulted is a groundbreaking piece of writing, which provides insights into a world few understand. Ultimately, it is a love letter of understanding and compassion to all those who choose to serve and protect their community as police officers.
Why did you want to be a policeman?
I grew up in a small country town called Casino, where pretty much everyone knew everyone. There was a local Policeman when I was growing up and I would always see him jogging past our place. I didn’t really know him, but would see him as he ran past and he would always say ‘hello’. I admired how he was, almost like a protector of the town. He always seemed so friendly with everyone and I was very young and so I would only see him during the day. At one point, when I was around nine years of age, family friends of ours had reason to contact the Police for some support. As a result of that, a Police officer spoke to me. I don’t remember his name or what he looked like. I do remember he was very caring, but at the same time seemed so strong. It made an impression on me and from that day forward, my mother will tell you, I wanted nothing more than to be a Police officer.
I didn’t really have a plan with school, but I knew what I needed to do to get into the Police and so my grades and classes were tailored to this. I got to know more of the Police around town and they all seemed like great people, friendly, outgoing and always helpful. I saw that most people respected them and always had time to chat with them. I knew from a very young age virtually, that I was going to be a Police officer and I would often have dreams of being the hero, saving people. I just wanted to be like the Police were in my old hometown: people that cared for the community.
As soon as I was old enough, I applied to be in the New South Wales Police. I was young for my year at school and to join then, you needed to be at least 18 years and 9 months. I got a job in a retail store in town, until I turned that age and had my application ready to go. Just as I was keen to get my driver’s licence on the day it was legal, I pretty much sent the application to join the Police on the day I was old enough. I had already been talking to a number of current and retired Police in Casino, about what the Police was like. I wanted to know all there was to know. I went to Sydney for a number of tests: physical, medical and also an interview in front of a panel. I had never really been to Sydney before, only once in fact with a school excursion and we had stayed on the north side of Sydney. It was going to be a big step not only to leave home but also to live in a big city. I relied on family there to show me where I needed to go and it seems funny looking back that all the physical and medical testing was done within the Redfern area, an area in which, later on, I would spend almost 10 years of my life.
After the testing and the interview, I was passed as successful and went onto a waiting list. The recruitment of Police at that time had slowed and at one stage completely stopped because of State Government decisions. I was told that I would be in the next class and pretty much every couple of months I would call up and be told the same story: that there was no recruitment and as soon as there was, I would receive a phone call. It would take two more years with a number of trips to Sydney for me to finally be accepted and make my way to Goulburn to the academy.
I never received the phone call, but I remember receiving a large white envelope in the mail. It arrived at my parent’s house and Mum gave it to me. I remember not opening it and driving to Casino to pick up my then girlfriend, whom later down the track I would marry, but that’s another chapter of the story. Anyway, I had the envelope and I remember driving around with my girlfriend and being too scared to open it. I remember she opened it and told me that I had been accepted and would start at the academy in November 1993. It was about 2 months away. I remember being happy, shocked, confused and sad. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday: I didn’t know what this all meant; I had been waiting for so long and now it was here; I didn’t know what to do; I was leaving home…
What was the training like?
I had never really been away from home for any length of time until I went to the Police Academy. I had always just lived with my parents in Casino. Goulburn was a long way away and I was to live at the Academy for the next 6 months to do the training. I didn’t know what to expect and from the outset, I pretty much cried myself to sleep the first few nights. I missed home and felt isolated and would ring Casino most nights. I remember buying countless phone cards and writing letters home. Any time I had extra time off, I would drive from Goulburn to Casino for the weekend, nearly a 24 hours round trip. There were only 75 Police trainees in my class and because there hadn’t been any Police recruits for a while, we were the only ones at the academy, which had been built to hold around 450 students at one time. I remember the isolation and how painful it was. There was only a handful of us that stayed weekends at the Academy, as many of the recruits were from Sydney and they would simply just travel home for the weekend. We soon got to know each other and it was unlike any other experience I have ever had. It was like being back at school but you were getting paid, while at the same time learning to be a Police officer.
A lot of the training was a bit surreal and I don’t think I fully took in what was happening; it was almost like a dream. Looking back now it seems like it wasn’t real. I was there, but at the same time, it seemed to be happening to someone else. I remember how fearful I was of doing the wrong thing. I was trying to learn while at the same time speaking up about things that didn’t make sense. We would run through ‘mock’ scenarios during our training. These were constructed crime scenarios where two people would act as the Police officers and other classmates were the offenders, victims and witnesses. At times even the instructors would get involved. We would all dress in character and essentially act the roles we were assigned. This added to the surreal experience, because you were acting about something that was going to be reality soon, yet it still seemed unreal, so far from our daily life to date. The practical application of the experience gained in the role-plays was limited, because they were constructed and artificial, whereas reality is often completely unpredictable. They were helpful to some extent, but also created a lot of ‘what if…’ questions about what we would do if the ‘real’ situation deviated from the script.
In the end the academy could only do its best to prepare you. I don’t think any amount of training could have prepared me for my first year in the Police. I was always very naturally fit and driven and so the physical parts weren’t really an issue. I had never really shot a gun and so that part was daunting. The training around the use of firearms itself was very controlled and precise, but again strangely it didn’t seem real. I mean was I really going to be carrying a gun? At some point was I going to wake up and realise this was all just a dream? Could Ray Karam really become a Police officer?
After two months at the academy, we were sent home or near home to go on the job training in a Police station. We were there as observers and for four weeks we were to experience seeing and being around the inner workings of a Police station. I returned to Lismore and stayed back at home. It was great to be home, a huge relief. There was a mixed reception by Police at the Lismore station towards the Student Police Officers or SPO’s, as we were called. I remember a running joke was that a Police dog had more rank than I did and while it wasn’t the whole station’s view, it certainly was a part of the way we were treated.
I remember a few Police really supporting me and showing me around. I do remember going to my first autopsy. I hadn’t even seen a dead person before and here I was going to the morgue to observe an autopsy. This was part of the training and something we would report back on when we returned to the academy. I remember walking into the morgue and it just feeling cold. I’m not sure if it really was, but I wasn’t prepared for any of it. I walked in and the coroner introduced himself and told us a bit about the person. Coincidently, the deceased’s name was Ray and as the coroner was discussing the type of death, he also started performing the autopsy. I remember the smells as if I am there now. It was intense for me and I found myself looking away, but at the same time not wanting to show I couldn’t handle what I was seeing. I remember thinking that a lot of the things he was discussing about the deceased were similar to a man I worked with before I joined the Police. Whether naively or innocently, I just kept listening and watching, not realising what I was watching. I had a belief that nothing bad ever happened to good people and I thought of myself as a good person. When the coroner started to explain what the deceased did for a living, I realised it was the man I knew. My first autopsy was being done in front of my eyes on a person I actually knew personally. We had worked together.
The supervising officer who was with us must have seen the look on my face and asked me if I was OK, thinking the sight of what I was seeing was upsetting me. When I told him that I knew the deceased, he ushered me out of the room and spoke to me. He was slightly supportive and said, ‘What are the chances?’ I didn’t return to the autopsy and when we got back to the station, most officers laughed, but I could tell they didn’t think it was funny: it was more of a message that that’s how we deal with things like this. I didn’t know what to think and this memory and its associated smell followed me around for years. In fact, you never really get rid of these memories; you more just gain understanding of why they occurred. I never came to terms with this memory until I found understanding about it and that understanding came with the work I have done with Universal Medicine.
Did the reality of the job align with your expectations?
I didn’t really know what to expect but all my thoughts were of being a Policeman in a country town, because this was all I had experienced. My plan was to get to the country ASAP, but that didn’t happen for some 10 years. I remember dreaming about taking care of people in a small country station. I remember growing up knowing how much the town stood on the back of the integrity of the local Police. I always thought I would be a Police officer for life. I never thought of doing anything else. I never dreamt of retiring. My only thoughts were of being a Police officer and to help people. It was almost like a childhood dream and yet somehow, it seemed connected to an older impulse.
The reality of the job was a far cry from what I had imagined. I remember first being stationed at the City of Sydney or City Central, right in the heart of Sydney. It was a far cry from a country station, with hundreds of Police stationed in the one spot. I remember getting ready for my first day. I caught the train from Granville, where I was staying with family, to Central. I was in full uniform because this is what the academy had told us to do. As soon as I was at the station I was told not to do this, as you would be a target. This made sense and I complied willingly as I had no idea of what to do if I got in trouble. (These were the days before mobile phones.) Most of the time on public transport, no one would sit near you or even talk to you if you were in uniform.
We were paired up in a ‘buddy’ system for the first three months and I was paired with a Senior Constable. She was very forthright with her views and I was told to do what she said and not open my mouth. As time passed, we became good friends and I gained her respect, as a man who respected others, listened, but also had a voice. I remember on my first night shift, we were driving up the street and I looked to see three men kicking in the window of a jewellery store. I told my partner to stop and she saw what I had. I jumped straight out and chased one of the offenders. I chased him down a back alley and into another street. I had no idea where I was but I knew to chase.
We ran up another street and into the back of a building, over a fence and back into another street, where we then popped out onto George Street, one of the main streets in the city. The offender ran into a busy café/restaurant and I chased him through the main service area into the kitchen and out again into a back alley. I finally caught up with him, arrested him and put him in handcuffs. Then I realised I had no idea where I was and had no radio. So I walked him back onto George Street and my partner found me. We took him back to the Police Station and charged him with breaking, entering, stealing, resisting arrest and assaulting Police. This was my first ever arrest and what would become the first of many foot pursuits. I still wasn’t fully conscious. I didn’t think of what I was actually doing and where I was.
After three months, I was transferred to Redfern Police station. At that time, it was notorious for being busy, violent and hard work. It was for the most part the busiest station in the city and there was a lot for me to learn, not about the work but about people. Also, soon after I joined, the Police was going through a major shakeup. The Wood Royal Commission was on and a number of Police were being investigated, charged and sacked. The public’s perception of Police was changing because of this and it seemed like every second person thought we were corrupt.
I wasn’t prepared for what people would think. I guess I had lived somewhat isolated from city attitudes and thought everyone was like me and just loved the Police. I had never really been disliked by anyone and when I was the one wearing the uniform, I thought I must have been standing out and that was why people were always looking at just me. I came to realise, however, that a lot of people didn’t like the uniform, no matter who was wearing it. It was hard to understand and I did take it personally for a long time. I had always backed myself and thought that when people got to know me they would see me for who I was, but the Police uniform often stopped any further interaction with people seeing you as a person. They saw something else and no matter how you were with them, probably they would never see you for who you really were. This was one thing I became determined about: people seeing people and not people just seeing Police. I would have people constantly not believing I was a Police officer, even though I had a uniform on. They would constantly say I was ‘too nice’ to be a Police officer. I guess the quality of people around me as I grew up, influenced very much how I was as an adult. Casino was and is a great town, but it was the people around me, my role models and how I observed them relating to each other, that shaped how I was.
I really cared about everyone but in fact, after I was seriously injured for the first time, I didn’t want to leave the station. I wanted to get back to the country, but in a way these incidents almost glued me to the city. It was like I had to prove something to someone and not return home until I proved it. When I think about it, there wasn’t a specific person to prove it to, but it was like I felt that I needed time away from the country, to grow up and be rounded out as a person. I had seen so many people travel and the accepted wisdom was that you had to leave the home town area to make something of yourself. I guess this was the belief I had adopted and yet everything I was feeling told me it didn’t make sense.
When was the first time you were attacked by someone from the public?
It was 15th of January 1995. I had been offered overtime after working my full shift. It was summer and we were putting on extra foot patrol crews around the area to deal with an increase in crime. I remember this shift like it was yesterday, but at the same time in a way I have detached myself from it. It’s like I have it as a memory, but it’s as if it doesn’t belong to me somehow. We were driving down a street in Redfern near a notorious trouble spot, when my partner saw a male he had spoken to a few days earlier, with another two males leaning on a fence. At the time my partner had confirmed that this male had given him a fictitious name when he had spoken to him previously. When my partner looked at him, this male made a gesture with his finger towards us and with that my partner stopped the vehicle and we approached the males.
The area we were in was undergoing some demolition work and so had a mound of bricks and rubble not far from where these men were standing. As we approached the men, I advised the Police radio of our location. My partner spoke to the male, who already seemed quite agitated. The male gave us another name and I stepped aside to do a ‘check’ on him via the Police radio. As I was speaking, I could see the conversation between the males and my partner escalating and then, in an instant, the male had his hands on my partner, who then said to him that he was under arrest. I went to support and the other males started to punch and kick us and tried to pull the male away, before my partner could arrest him.
In a flash, it seemed like we were surrounded by over 250 people, while we were trying to arrest this male. I had no sooner got my hands on the male to help my partner, when I was hit hard, very hard in the face by an object. It knocked me down and I remember grabbing for my jaw. When I grabbed for my jaw, instinctively I reached down to my knees. I was convinced it had been knocked completely off; such was the force that hit me. The noise was deafening. It seemed impossible that a blow to the head could make such an obliterating noise in your head. My ears have still literally rung every day since.
How did this feel?
Just shocking, devastating and it still upsets me. I have a video of the incident, that was broadcast on TV and you can still see the disbelief in my eyes, the shock and bewilderment, even when I was being taken away in the ambulance. In a way, it was like a world ended on that day. I felt something had been taken away from me. I was open and trusting, as far as a Police officer goes, but this backed me up. I’d been hit with half a house brick on the left side of my jaw. It had cracked my jaw and knocked 4 of my teeth out, as well as giving me a long laceration to the face, that exposed my jaw bone and teeth. I’d never really been hit in the head before and in this situation, I didn’t know what to do. It changed me and changed my world instantly. I remember on the night lying in hospital and all my Police friends coming to visit. Some went white and faint at the sight of my jaw. I didn’t look in the mirror until a few days later. Somehow I knew that the actual sight of the injury would also haunt me so I just didn’t look. I remember the boss at Redfern at the time, not coming out to see me, instead sending a message through another officer, that he would catch up with me over the next few days. It would be a month before he saw me. I remember my girlfriend at the time saying, that that night I changed. It wasn’t obvious to most people, but to her the spark in my eyes had grown dimmer. I withdrew and didn’t understand. I mean, just the fortnight before, I had been in exactly the same area, lying on the bonnet of a Police car with young children running around me. We were all watching the New Year’s fireworks together.
Even writing this now, brings a strange type of feeling to me: I remember it; I am back there in a way; I understand more now about what it means, but for over a decade, I felt somehow as if I had been robbed. It was as if from that point, my life changed, changed significantly and while some would say I was still a great person to be around, I knew from the people that had known me for a long time, that something was wrong. So strangely, I stayed away from the people I knew the best and stayed in the city for what could be considered years and years too long.
I went into a spiral for what seemed like a lifetime from here on and would often work very hard and then party even harder. I remember calling my mother a lot, speaking to her about committing suicide. I couldn’t sleep and was literally scared to go to work, but was determined never to show it. I remember having some time off in Casino after the injury and then returning to work at Redfern. I had to work on restricted duties for a while because of the braces on my teeth and swelling that was still around my face. Initially I wanted to get back to Casino, because I thought then everything would be OK.
I remember going to a psychologist both outside and inside the Police and acting as if everything was fine. The mentality was that you didn’t reveal to people like this how you were feeling, that they would only use it against you down the track and I didn’t feel I could trust them. I did what I had to do and returned to work. I was happy to be back to full duties, until I was actually outside the Police truck and then I found I was paranoid. I thought everyone and everything was out to get me. I hated this feeling and again tried to hide it, to bury it so no one saw. I thought my feelings were a sign of weakness and in a place like Redfern, I didn’t think I would last if I showed it. I remember every time I went back into the area where I had been hurt, my left leg would start shaking uncontrollably. I was thankful for the long pants so you couldn’t see it, but it wouldn’t just tremble, it would shake to the point that it would distort my voice. I learnt to cope by putting all my weight on that leg and that usually covered the shake.
When I shared what was going on with close friends, they would confirm what I was saying and would assure me that it wouldn’t pass but I would learn to deal with it. This was backed up by most of the professionals I spoke to about this, that in time I would find a place for all this in my life. I never understood what was happening and what had happened to me. I was confused, bemused and angry with all that was going on. My life was a place of coping and it seemed everything was impacting me. I would do my best to distract myself from what had happened, but there were so many triggers, especially at night or when I slept. I dreaded closing my eyes for over 10 years. You could say I didn’t really sleep for a decade and in fact that would be pretty accurate. My sleep was limited and to look back now I don’t know how I functioned. Anytime I closed my eyes, the walls would close in. It was like a revolving nightmare. It was so frequent that it became normal, an accepted part of my life that I would cope with or learn to cope with. In reality it was far from normal. Inside I was a wreck, while outside I just put on a brave face and tried to convince myself I was all right.
What was the attitude of your colleagues around this topic?
My close friends were shocked and pretty much my colleagues at the station were as well. Some of the community sent me flowers and I remember one lovely lady sent me a fruit basket. The general attitude at the station was that I would get a big payout for the injuries (this never happened). For me, I just wanted to get back to work. I remember going home, back to Casino, because my teeth were wired and my jaw couldn’t move. For a few weeks, I could only drink banana smoothies. I was also concerned about my parents and the town as they had just seen me on the news and I knew they would all be concerned. I was blessed to grow up in Casino and have so many people care about me. I wanted to get back to them and be taken care of. I think a lot of the Police don’t want to admit the danger we were constantly in. It was like: Don’t acknowledge it and you will be ok.
I didn’t sleep well for years and years as I’ve said after this attack. I didn’t dream anyone was going to hurt me, but after this it was like my whole body was on constant alert. It would never shut down. I would pray and even scream for the nightmares to stop. I would cry every night, uncontrollably, in the shower so no one saw. I was living a double life. The things that controlled the demons were alcohol and exercise, but they would only work short term. Pretty soon, after both, I would feel worse and then the same again. The Police sent me for counselling and I saw a doctor for a few sessions. He talked to me about my feelings and assessed that I was OK. I never really told him anything, because my colleagues had said: Don’t tell them anything about how you are feeling. Otherwise you could lose your job.
I felt alone and lost. I would go alone to most of the treatments for my facial injuries. Just the dentistry work took months and I remember the needles into my mouth were a nightmare. I couldn’t handle anyone touching my face at all let alone pushing a needle into my mouth. I remember stopping treatment, because of the pain and not ever going back to finish the work that had been started until another 10 years later. The only reason I went back then, was because of a problem with some of my teeth. Before that I didn’t let anyone touch my face at all, for any reason. The bottom part of my face was numb anyway from the injury, but I couldn’t handle anyone touching me at all really.
Were there any other attacks?
Pretty much every year of my career I was seriously injured in some way, from a broken jaw to displaced teeth, broken nose, torn muscles, bruises, hamstrings, groin, knee operation, bruised back, black eyes and the list goes on. Other officers were injured too. I remember many nights and in particular one afternoon, when there were a number of us in an area of Redfern trying to arrest someone. The person escaped and a large crowd turned their attention to us, throwing bottles, bricks and rocks at us. We were out numbered and decided to withdraw to the bottom end of a street. As we started to run out I remember looking back into the air and seeing bottles, rocks and parts of bricks raining down on us. We put our heads down and ran and as we did the officer beside me was hit in the back of the head by a rock and went down. I picked him up and we ran and stumbled out together. He was bleeding from behind the ear and as a result is now partially deaf in that ear. I can’t really describe it, because at the time, you don’t think it’s real, but it is absolutely true that a lot of the time we were working with injuries, some small, some large and some you couldn’t see. It seemed as if someone was always getting hurt and I think we were lucky in those days, that someone didn’t get killed. It was certainly more than luck.
Some would say you were never asked to put yourself in a dangerous place but it seemed that was part of the job and you and everyone else just accepted this as normal. I always believed that if I did the right thing by people or my job, that I would get the right thing done by me. This was just that, a belief and reality said otherwise. In fact most Police said otherwise and had a favourite saying in reference to how the Police Service viewed us: “You’re just a number.” All Police have a unique number that identifies them and as I was entering this phase of my life, it seemed like this was the only thing the Police Service saw.
I remember one reality check when I was being targeted by a local gang, who had taken exception to me, because I had arrested one of their members multiple times. They harassed me at work, which most of us accepted as part of the job and the gang realised they couldn’t get to me. I have a great love of cars and so I have always owned distinctive and usually clean cars. We always parked our cars in a designated area, a private Police carpark. One afternoon, I was travelling home, which was only 20 minutes from the Redfern Police station, when I saw one of the gang’s cars in my rearview mirror. I thought this was a coincidence and just kept driving.
When it became clear they were following me, I rang the station to get some help. I could see there were five of them in the car and I was on my own. This same gang set fire to another Police officer’s private car in Redfern only a couple of weeks prior, but we could never prove this. The station told me they were too busy. I got upset and told them again, but was pretty much dismissed. I couldn’t believe it. I rang my mates around the area, who were off duty at the time and they all converged near my house and waited for me. I drove the long way home and pulled up near my mates. The gang just drove slowly past staring at us and we just stared back.
Nothing was ever done, even though I reported the incident to my superiors. I made an application and pretty soon all our registration details were suppressed, so no one could see where we lived through checking our vehicles on the RTA. We did this because a number of times other people/offenders (other than Police) hacked into the Police radio system. They had done checks on our private cars, on my private car. They would sound pretty much like a Police officer, using Police call signs and language. The Police radio would broadcast our details as was customary, giving these people our personal details over the radio. The Police radio was often listened into by other people but the broadcasting could usually only be done via actual Police radios. A few radios had gone missing, stolen from Police vehicles or lost in foot pursuits over the prior months. It was very, very disconcerting to hear your own vehicle being checked on the Police radio, while you were at work, listening to your name and address being broadcast, realising that your vehicle had never left the Police car park and wondering what would happen next. This was used as an intimidation tactic by criminals with a grudge, as if to say: We know your car and where you live. I never drove my car to work again. Mostly, I kept it locked up at home and would walk, ride my bike or take public transport everywhere. The revised policy didn’t really help though. I didn’t feel safe at all and I didn’t feel supported or protected by the very Police Service I was a part of.
Did your attitude and openness towards people change?
Greatly! Everyone was a threat and everything was a threat. I couldn’t relax or rest and I couldn’t be away from work. I worked extra shifts, nights, anything I could do. I didn’t take holidays for years. I was afraid that something would happen without me being there. I wanted to be everywhere and not let anything bad happen. I know I changed how I was in all my relationships. I became harder and had an attitude of hit first or be hit. This didn’t always mean physically, as I would use my voice and attitude as a defence to keep people away. I went through many personal relationships and always had my Mum on edge as well because she could see I didn’t know what to do. I loved being a Police officer, loved it, but I was struggling. I was a mess physically and even more so psychologically. This word ‘psychologically’, while being a hard word to spell, was also a word that you didn’t use when it came to Police. A mental health problem was a brush you didn’t want to get touched by. There was a perception that it indicated weakness; that it was ‘unknown’ how you would respond in a crisis and so there was always a fear of losing your job or what’s more losing respect if you were labeled as having a ‘mental health problem’.
What workplace social norms got in the way of healing?
You were never to show you were scared and that things really affected you. It would seem you could pretty much get away with most things, except talking about feelings. Feelings were generally avoided and not spoken about. It wasn’t because people didn’t care or even that someone directly told me to not say anything. It was more one of those unspoken rules: don’t show how you feel because if you do you will be punished somehow. There were stories around about some Police going ‘a bit mad’ (as they say) and these officers were no longer respected. They were spoken of in a way, as almost being dead. It was like saying, “He was a great bloke”. The emphasis was on ‘was’.
There was something that divided the rank structure in the Police that I couldn’t put my finger on. It seemed to kick in at the rank of Sergeant. ‘Sergeant’ and below were one style of Police officer, while any rank above this, seemed as if they were in a different Police Service. When I was working, it was almost like the two didn’t understand each other. This would normally make sense because of the difference in the jobs they do, but when they were promoted, people would change almost overnight, and no one knew how it happened, but plenty saw that it did happen. It happened to me with one of my friends: at one point, I knew him really well, but after a promotion his attitude to things changed and we were no longer really that close. These divisions within the Police were common in different stations, offices, ranks and locations. There were many things like this about the job, that didn’t make sense and eventually for me, it became all too much.
What was it like to admit you had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
I don’t think I ever really admitted it. I was diagnosed and wasn’t really sure what post traumatic stress disorder was. I remember sitting in the office of a Police Doctor in Sydney and he gave me a file to read. I started to read it and the guy I was reading about sounded really, really sick and I was concerned about how bad he was. I kept reading and wondered who this guy was and how he was still walking around. When I gave the file back to the doctor, he asked me what I thought and I told him, “The guy sounds pretty bad”. He looked bemused, thinking I knew what he was talking about. He saw that I hadn’t got it and he said, “It’s you. This is your file”. I don’t know if you have ever experienced this, but it is like the world stops, it stands still. You know you are still breathing, but you don’t know where you are. You can see the setting around you hasn’t changed but you are not in your body. It’s like you are floating around and trying to get a handle on what has been said.
It was more than a state of shock and I wasn’t sure what to do. I never really thought I was sick or unwell. I was in extreme pain, couldn’t sleep and felt like I wanted to die but didn’t consider that was a problem. I thought it was normal because I had been this way for already so long. From all that had been said to me, it was made clear this was a part of my life to which I would just learn to adjust or deal with it. PTSD was new in a way. It had been around for a while, but it didn’t seem anyone knew how to treat me. They could give me all types of advice, medications, exercise, goals etc. but no one could explain why some days I just wanted to die.
I remember the thoughts had got to a stage where I feared to put my gun on. I was having thoughts that I should shoot myself in the head and after a while I was scared that I would unconsciously just do it. Those thoughts were always with me. They were a part of me. It was inside of me and I couldn’t understand how I had come from being the way I was when I was younger, to this. My life as a Police officer was all I had ever wanted and now I felt like it was trying to kill me.
I realised a lot more that day and walked out of the office in a surreal state. I remember wondering what it all meant. What did it mean? What was going to happen? I mean, it sounded like my Police career was over and that should have given me relief I guess, but I wasn’t ready to go. I didn’t want to go and yet I didn’t want to be there. What was I going to do? Then I was scared what people would think of me. I thought already I was going mad. I really couldn’t think straight. I was becoming more and more paranoid about many things and felt like one day soon I was going to lose my mind completely.
What were the behaviours that made you realise this?
As I’ve mentioned, I actually thought I was normal. I thought it was normal, the feelings. People were telling me it was because of many things, the trauma, a chemical imbalance, the job, the work, my upbringing etc. Everyone had an answer and I was seeing counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, healing practitioners of all kinds, priests, anyone really, looking for answers about why I couldn’t stop what was destroying my life.
The big moment of realisation came after I had been transferred to Kyogle. I thought getting out of Redfern was the answer and so I applied and was given a transfer to Kyogle, a small town near Casino, my still considered hometown. I approached that town like I did everything: I loved it and wanted to be a part of it.
There were warning signs though. I remember yelling at one lady for making an illegal U-turn and nearly bringing her to tears. I apologised when I saw she was in shock but I realised something was happening to me. I remember going to a routine job and seeing a man that ‘looked out of place’. I went back to the station and searched files. I knew I had seen him before. My partner dismissed it and wanted to go home because it was the end of the shift. I knew this guy though and so I told him that with or without him, I was staying.
He stayed and I found what I thought was the guy on the Police Wanted file. He had changed his appearance but I could see his eyes, I never forget eyes. My partner disagreed, but I told him I was going back to approach this man. My partner came with me, but still wasn’t convinced. As we approached the guy, I could see in his eyes that I was right about him. It was just a question of how this was going to play out. I was on guard, because he was wanted for armed robbery and a drive by shooting. He had warnings for possession of firearms. Our nearest support was about twenty minutes away. I walked over to him and he knew that I knew and with that he went to punch me and run. I grabbed him and just held on. We wrestled for what seemed like ages and finally we got him handcuffed and drove him to the Police station and charged him. This woke me up, but scared me more. I thought I was escaping the danger in a quiet country town, but this male was from Sydney and had ended up in Kyogle. I felt again I wasn’t safe and that this hadn’t been a good move at all.
The final straw was when I had just been to a fatal car accident involving a truck. Among other things, being a Police officer in a local town, you are expected to counsel everyone. I was on the phone to the wife of the gentleman who had been driving the truck. He was uninjured physically but emotionally he was a wreck. I was explaining to his wife, (with whom coincidently I had gone to school), about the emotional state he was in and all the stages he would go through in the future. The detail I was describing was almost like I was talking to myself. I got off the phone and just sat still on my seat in the station. I was alone and when I looked back over what had just happened, I started to cry and it was as if at that moment, the sky fell on my body and I couldn’t move.
I felt so heavy and was powerless to even move myself off the chair. After a while I got myself together and finished my shift. I walked next door, which was my home, attached to the Police station and collapsed in the shower crying. It wasn’t unusual for me to cry in the shower. No one could hear or see you doing it, so for me at that time it was the perfect place. Only this time, the tears didn’t end and I thought my life was ending. I was shaking, scared and pretty much after that day, I never stepped inside a Police Station to work again and I never touched my uniform again. I took it off and could never look at it, let alone put it on. I tried time and time again, but it would break me down and I would end up in a heap on the floor.
It was really disturbing and I remember not leaving my house for days on end. I had my driver’s license taken, because I couldn’t concentrate on the road. I was medicated and almost hospitalised a few times. One day I remember walking out in the street and the footpath started to move; everything started to move and I had trouble walking straight. I would get panic attacks and only left my house to go and buy groceries. Most of the time I would sleep, wake up and watch TV and go back to sleep. I would come out at night when no one was around. I felt ashamed. I would run at night when no one was awake. Here was a young man who loved everything and everyone, but avoiding anyone at all costs.
How long after did you meet Serge Benhayon?
It was a few years after this, that I met Serge Benhayon, in about 2009. I had left the Police but was still under the care of doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, physiotherapists and other health practitioners. I didn’t feel like any recovery had occurred and from all reports it seemed as if it would be a lifelong condition, I would just learn to cope with. My life was up and down and at that point I weighed nearly 100kgs. That may not seem significant, but I had started in the Police at 72kg and today I weigh just under 70kgs. I was resigned to life just being this way for the rest of my life. I didn’t really want contact with people. I had been that way for so long that it had become normal for me. In a way I didn’t know things could be different.
What did you think of Serge Benhayon when you first met him?
I didn’t trust Serge, but that wasn’t exclusive to him. I didn’t really trust anyone or anything. I was desperate though, because I knew something wasn’t right, but no one I saw could make sense of what I was seeing and what I was going through. The system I was in was: medication, talk about your thoughts and learn to cope with what you think… memories I was having. It was just about coping.
I read one of Serge’s books first on his recommendation, “The Way It Is”. My wife at the time had seen him and spoken to him. She felt he was different in the way he approached things and he gave her the book to give to me. I read it; I was reading a lot at that time after never really ever reading. I read it; I read it again and then I read it again. I must admit the first time I read it, I didn’t understand it, but I was determined to know why I didn’t. Amazing as it may sound, the second time I read it, I understood more and the third time, it was the same. It made me interested and his book, it made sense. When you consider yourself and others confirm that you are ‘a bit mad in the head’ (‘mental’ it was called), when something finally makes sense, you want more of it. At that point, I honestly thought I was going to be like I was forever and I would eventually just learn to cope somehow. I was at a point when I felt like I had seen, spoken and taken everything that was suggested, prescribed and thrown my way. I had seen no improvement in how I was; in fact somehow I felt worse.
I won’t say I was open to Serge Benhayon; I was sceptical. He was going to have to prove himself and do it very, very well. I remember reacting to what Serge was saying at times, but I would walk away and it would make me think. At some point later, it made sense and this kept happening. I wanted to know more every time I saw him. I wanted to listen and learn about what was going on.
What made you trust Serge Benhayon?
I watched Serge: how he treated people, how he spoke, and the way he spoke. I watched him everywhere, with everyone and when I was around him, I felt reminded of something. I didn’t know what, but something was familiar, which at the same time sparked my suspicions. When he spoke in groups, I would listen and it was like he knew me and knew what was going on. At these times, he didn’t speak personally to me but he was talking about how life was and it made a lot of sense about the way I was feeling. The more I listened, the more things made sense. It made sense of things that had happened a long time ago. I remember one day making sense of some of my school years from one of the presentations.
I was also beginning to see a psychologist by the name of Caroline Raphael at the Universal Medicine Clinic in Goonellabah. I had seen many, but she was the first who kept putting the ball back in my court. She wasn’t hard on me, but didn’t treat me like a victim. She was supporting me back to stand on my own feet and this more than anything, at that point, was what I wanted. I wanted to feel strong again and not helpless or a victim of what was going on. Caroline worked as a part of the Universal Medicine Clinic, of which Serge Benhayon was the founder. I also started to see a physiotherapist, named Kate Greenaway, who also worked there, for my physical injuries. The combination of these treatments supported me more than anything else had at that point. I had received short-term gains with other treatments but nothing long term.
Serge Benhayon played a huge role in my treatment and recovery. He gave me a role model; a solid model of what was possible for me in life. It wasn’t advice or direction. It was a living example of how to be a friend, a husband, a father and a man in every situation. I watched him, not in the same way as I had previously, because now I knew I could trust him. I had seen how he lives, how he speaks and how he treats people in many different ways, but it has always been the same: with care, love and respect embedded in every word. No one could do it for me, but it was me on my feet with support that would make sense of what was going on.
I watched him with his teenage children, who were always around. Then I watched how they were with each other and I was amazed. They were all so close and attentive towards each other. It wasn’t a show or a ‘put on’. They were like this day in, day out and every time I would get caught watching them. They weren’t afraid to show their care towards each other. I had young children at the time and the way Serge was with his family touched me. I wanted to know more. When my children grew I wanted to have the relationship he was having with his children and I wanted my children to hold such open love, care and respect for each other.
Serge would never stand back from this deep care and I saw it with everyone. I wanted what he had and in true form he never held back the ‘how’ to get it. He would always convey that I was the same as him, his equal. Serge never saw me, even on the first day, as a broken down ex Police officer. He always looked beyond where I could see, always saw more of me than I did. It became more than amazing, how he was and I knew from what he said, that I could not only be like him, but that I was like him. We were no different; only he had walked a few more steps than I had.
I saw this time and time again. The more I grew to understand what was going on in my life and what my part was in the world that was facing me, the more I grew to understand how I felt. I could feel myself changing and starting to feel like I could breathe again. Little things would happen: I would sleep soundly; I didn’t want to drink or get drunk anymore. My life was changing before my eyes and I was starting to feel myself again. A huge veil had been lifted from my eyes and it was all the work of one man and the way he was.
I will be forever thank-full for the day I met Serge Benhayon. I was dead for all money. A body, a shell of a man that once was, a great Police officer, a genuine decent caring man that had lost his way. Serge Benhayon didn’t make me a new person or give me a new purpose in life. He just always, always held me in what he knew I was and everyone that truly knew me also knew. He bought back Ray Karam and when you read where I was, to where I stand now, that is not just a miracle but a walking, talking, living example of what is possible.
What support did he offer you?
It wasn’t that he mapped out a plan of healing for me or even told me what to do. I can only describe it as knowing that he would always bring me back. Most things are taking you somewhere or making you into something, but Serge Benhayon was clear. You know everything; you are everything and you have just lost sight of it. He never said this in this way, but this is what I took from how he was with me. He never told me what was going to happen, but every time I took a step along a path, he was always there to confirm the truth of what I was already doing. It was like having the best friend, mentor, father, man and role model you could ever dream of walking beside you.
Every time I spoke to him, I would walk away making sense of something that had happened in my life. He was supporting me directly and indirectly, to walk back through my Police career and make sense of it. But he wasn’t doing it through the common means. I wasn’t sitting on a couch, going over and over again what had happened. He was speaking about the world, about people and how we are with things. He was bringing more awareness to me about how I had lived and as I have said, that could be as one on one or as part of a group in a crowded room. The way he spoke just made sense of the things I had been seeing.
He never treated me as if I was broken, needy or sick. He always saw me for who I was and in fact who I am now. Serge Benhayon was the only man that looked at the broken ex-Police officer in 2009 and was able to see a man even greater than the current 2017 version. I mean I was 100kg, medicated, angry and not ever considering being anywhere near people.
Within seven years I am about 30kgs lighter, psychologically very well balanced and have just completed running for Mayor and Councilor in a Local Government election. This on top of owning and being involved in the running of multiple businesses and supporting a growing family. I would say that’s a pretty stunning turn around! Serge hasn’t made me into a new man or even a better man; he has supported me to truly be the man I already was.
The quality that is The Way of The Livingness is ongoing in the way it supports me. Serge Benhayon and I are great friends, but I don’t need the friendship or look to him for how I should be. Through these teachings I have seen and felt firsthand that my living choices bring to me how things will be. If I don’t like what I see, then I look for my part in that and take the awareness from there into how I walk my next step. It’s not rocket science; it’s not new age; it’s a return to a way of living that has always been there. A return to a quality we already are inside. That has been the easiest part for me: that I haven’t had to be anyone or be anything. All I needed to do was return to how I was and in that, it can never be taken from me, because it is me.