Soldier hoarded bottles of his own urine and tried to kill himself five times - but being burgled changed his life

June 12, 2017


As Seen on Mirror


"Former soldier Jay Wheeler found himself living in a flat stuffed with bottles of his own urine, surrounded by rubbish piled high. 


After five failed suicide attempts, the sofa became his "best friend" and police breaking down his door to check on him the norm. 


He hoarded dozens of bottles of urine as a link to his time in Afghanistan, when keeping a bottle in a tent was essential because going outside to go to the toilet carried the risk of getting shot.


The 44-year-old was suffering from PTSD, after completing two tours of Iraq and one of Afghanistan where he saw friends and colleagues die every single day.


But remarkably it was only when a burglar broke into his home that Jay realised he desperately needed help - an event he believes saved his life and helped him to turn his life around.


Jay, who lives in Liverpool, joined the army in 1997 and was a Corporal in the Queen’s Royal Hussars, until 2012 when he was medically discharged.


He became so low that he tried to kill himself, and when that didn't work went into "self destruct" mode, surrounding himself in rubbish and not wanting to wake up, let alone leave the house.

"When I realised I'd been burgled, I wasn't bothered the fact that I've been burgled," Jay told Mirror Online.


"I was bothered that he came into my space. He'd seen all the bottles of wee. I was more concerned that he'd seen how I was living."


However Jay credits this moment with giving him the push he needed to get help.


He added: "Fortunately enough, which is a strange way of explaining this, the police had to break my door down on several occasions because of the overdoses. So the front door was never secure after that.


"So I got burgled. Ironically, the guy walks into the block and picks the weakest door. I can guarantee he had a shock. I live in a nice block, so he must've had a shock when he saw the state of my flat."


The ex- soldier , who was discharged from the army after 15 years, was so low that he would lie in the squalor because he simply didn't care anymore. 


"Because I'd given up on overdoses, I decided to go into self destruct mode. I started hoarding bags and bags of rubbish in my apartment, I was hoarding bottles and bottles of urine.


"There would be rubbish bags everywhere and flies. It was a really sad state. I was living on this couch, it was like my best friend. I took the overdoses on the couch, so it became this sort of bubble for me," he said.

After the break-in he called the police, who also seemed more concerned about the state of his flat than the burglary.


The officers got in touch with armed forces charity SSAFA , who immediately sent a case worker round to help Jay.


Jay said: "I remember getting a call and my case worker came to see me. At that stage I'd never allowed anyone into my home. It wasn't a home, it wasn't a place I'd invite anyone in.


"But I just thought, 'It's all happened for a reason'. I'd have died if that burglar didn't break in. I wasn't eating or drinking properly. I just wanted to not wake up."


Even now Jay does not fully understand why he hoarded the rubbish, but he believes he hoarded his urine because of his time in Afghanistan.

He said: "When I was in Afghanistan because we were in the green zone, there were 40 of us in this compound.


"In my tent there was eight of us and you'd have to keep a bottle beside the bed because it was safer for you to pee in the bottle than it was to go outside. Otherwise the Taliban would've got us."


Jay went on to serve two tours of Kosovo, two of Iraq and one in Afghanistan, winning the Brigadier's Commendation following his second tour of Iraq for his work training Iraqi soldiers.


But it was on the last tour of Afghanistan where his PTSD really took hold.

He said: "After all the tours I'd been on, they had nothing on Afghanistan. More or less every day someone would lose their life.


"And my good friend and colleague lost his life.


"I remember coming home and I just went shopping. I didn't acknowledge the whole tour for about six months. Then I started feeling depressed and I felt guilty that I made it back when so many others didn't."


Thanks to the burglary and, most importantly, help from SSAFA care worker Bill Hunt, Jay slowly began to rebuild his life, starting by throwing away the rubbish in his flat.


Now the flat looks unrecognisable and is a safe space for Jay to relax in.

And the artist, who has a 24-year-old daughter, says life gets better every day.


He said: “My life is improving every day, 2016 was a good year. My relationship with my daughter is much better and I have a more positive outlook. What was it that turned it around for me? It was Bill – and SSAFA.”


"I've had quite a journey so far, but it certainly isn't over."





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