Peter Simmonds is ready to share the events of his life that has led him into developing post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety in the hope he can encourage other men to do the same. He is pictured here with his daughter Madison and son Nathan.

By Tricia Mifsud

A BROADFORD father has opened up about his lifelong health struggles, both physical and mental, in the hope of encouraging others to seek help.

Peter Simmonds, 39, said an unstable upbringing led him to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, but it was never too late to make positive changes.

Mr Simmonds spent his life hiding the events that shaped him into the person he is today, but has now realised through the help of his psychologist that speaking about the ordeals would be a way to recover.

“I’ve hid everything all my life and my psychologist said the only way to get through everything is to talk about it, so now that’s what I want to do… and I hope that it inspires others to also ask for help,” he said.

Growing up Mr Simmonds was made to look after himself and his two younger siblings as they were in and out of foster care homes due to a ‘toxic home environment’.

Mr Simmonds also dealt with physical challenges due to an accident that occurred at a young age, which was neglected for many years resulting in further injuries.

One of the injuries forced him to have both ankles fused at a 90-degree angle, otherwise he faced having both feet amputated when he was 13.

Mr Simmonds must wear shoes all the time now if he wants to walk and has specially-made shoes that create a rocking motion to make any sort of walking possible for him.

His injuries have also meant he had to learn how to walk numerous times and has underwent various surgeries to heal injuries he has sustained playing sports at a younger age in his attempt to fit in.

The strain of his fused ankles on his lower back means Mr Simmonds faces another surgery for hip replacements and will again have to learn to walk.

“I have actually had to learn to walk again seven times in my life so far and when I go in for a hip replacement it’ll be eight times, but I guess I look at that and say well I’m a natural at this now, so I know how to manage this,” he said.

“All together, I have had 13 surgeries which has turned out for the better otherwise I was at risk of amputation.”

Mr Simmonds’ first surgeries included snapping both achilles and re-lengthening them and having both feet reconstructed for him to try and enjoy life as a child.

“Surgeons originally told me they didn’t want to fuse my ankles because of the increased risk of them not healing, which could have possibly taken away a lot of independence if it was not a success,” he said.

“They were also concerned on how the rest of my body might compensate for the lack of movement in my ankles.”

Mr Simmonds hopes his strength in finally opening up about his life experiences encouraged others to do the same, especially men who fear being judged for showing a lack of masculinity.

“I guess all I want out of this is to show people that in time if you put enough thought and effort into things and change the way you think, you can do and have anything you want,” he said.

“If you can just look back on your past and grab a hold of that strength and use it as a learning motivational tool, you’re already winning.

“Speak up, ask for help, masculinity is a big thing in some men, and I think opening up to talk is the strongest thing you can ever do for yourself, and we need to focus more on that. Against all odds.”