Grant Edwards stormed over the highway at 130 km / h, loosened his seat belt and aimed his car at a tree on the horizon.
& # 39; Do it, it's easy, & # 39; the voice of despair echoed in his head as he grabbed the steering wheel like a vice and played his death before his eyes.
The hard-boiled Australian Federal Police commander was the last person he knew he wanted to take his own life.
Commander Edwards spent three decades locking up welfare cheats and drug dealers, refusing women of sex slavery, and searching for pedophiles.
He also represented his country in shot put and bobsleigh and was the strongest man in Australia for four years, pulling planes, trains and even ships.
Commander Grant Edwards, with the help of his wife Kate Lord (left), transports a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in 2017 to relive his time as the strongest man in Australia
Edwards with his wife Kate and daughter Jacinta when he recovered from a post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his three decades in the Australian Federal Police
But the mental scars of the unspeakable things he saw while working, coupled with his horrible childhood, gradually gave him post-traumatic stress disorder.
He compares it to a rucksack that a policeman gets on his first day that is gradually filled with pebbles, as their ability to carry it diminishes.
Training for athletics, footy, and even the strong competitions for which he became famous was just a way to block everything.
When the endorphins did not work, he numbed the pain with whiskey and pills until he only had one alternative.
Now 56, Edwards tells his downward spiral, and how he fought his way back, in his memoir The Strong Man, which comes on stage on Thursday.
Edwards' life was disturbed when he was only nine years old and his father Ray abruptly left the family to live as a homosexual.
His mother Denise descended into a crippling alcoholism, which often prevented her from taking care of him and his seven-year-old sister Jenelle.
& # 39; The imaginary backpack that was handed over to the police when they joined the force was filled with the pebbles of trouble and fear long before I took my oath to serve and protect & # 39 ;, Edwards wrote in his book .
His harrowing childhood resulted in him later scoring at the & # 39; exceptionally high & # 39; side of the spectrum for childhood trauma in psychological tests.
Edwards & # 39; life was upset when he was only nine years old and his father Ray abruptly left him and mother Denise and sister Jenelle, 7, to live as a gay man
Edwards idolized his grandfather Harry Steele (right, with Edwards's grandmother) until he took his own life when the young boy was only 10
Mrs. Edwards had a long line of friends from gang members who brought addicts to shoot heroin in the living room of her house in western Sydney.
On one occasion a boyfriend hit his mother so hard that Edwards and Jenelle ran to the nearest telephone booth and used spare coins to ask for help.
Their grandfather Harry Steele soon arrived with a rifle and held it against the violent dropkick as he packed and left.
Edwards idolized his & # 39; Pa & # 39 ;, who was & # 39; a man who drank beer, gambled, smoked and had a large circle of friends whom he could engage to help with something & # 39 ;.
He was the opposite of Ray, who preferred cooking and ballroom dancing, while remembering his son Rugby League trivia badly.
But when Edwards was only 10, Harry limited a brain haemorrhage to a nursing home and hung himself at the age of 57 instead of being a burden to his family.
Edwards played rugby league for the Woy Woy Lions in the late 1980s. He loves the sport, but was never very good at it and eventually found his calling in athletics
His family refused to tell him until he found the horrific photos of the crime scene on his Nan's desk.
Homosexuality was a terrible taboo in Sydney in the 1970s and bullies in the playground teased Edwards as & # 39; the son of that p ** f & # 39 ;.
His attempts to keep his father's lifestyle secret have set the tone for the next 40 years of funeral problems such as his mother's alcoholism and his own mental health.
Edwards' mother reacted by pushing him into all the male activities she could do in an attempt to stop him from becoming his father.
A sign of things to come, he was 1.7m tall when he was 11 years old, but although he loved rugby league, he was the worst player in a good team.
Instead, his gym teacher and Olympic decathlete Peter Hadfield took him under his wing and found him an outlet in athletics.
In 1982, 19 years old, he won the bronze medal at the Junior International Open in Seoul and finally felt that he had achieved something.
& # 39; Nothing made my head clearer than hitting the gym and lifting heavy metals, & # 39; he remembered.
Edwards won a $ 100,000 scholarship to play American football at the University of Hawaii, but left after a season to take care of his alcoholic mother at home
Later that year, due to his size, strength and speed, he won a $ 100,000 scholarship to play American football at the University of Hawaii.
In what became one of the greatest regrets of his life, however, he went home for a Christmas season to check on his mother and never returned.
& # 39; My scholarship ended when I returned to Sydney and saw that Mommy looked sick and sick like an alcoholic, & # 39; he wrote.
& # 39; I was destroyed by her demise, it had gone so fast. She also made it clear that her decline was because I had not been home. And that was it then. & # 39;
Participate in the power
Police were in Edwards' blood. Two of his uncles were in the NSW Police and his great-great-uncle Arthur Loftus & # 39; Lofty & # 39; Steele helped capture Ned Kelly in Glenrowan.
Unfortunately there were strict height-to-weight ratios in those days and he was told to weigh 93 kg at a length of 1.95 m.
Bulking for shot put and soccer had its weight at 121 kg and he had trouble dropping it while working as a bouncer and bartender.
His mother's health was not improving and it was clear that he had wasted his time giving up his scholarship to help her.
& # 39; I was destined to fail because Mommy didn't want help – not from Nan and certainly not from me. I was blind to that at the time, because I really believed that I could & # 39; fix it & # 39 ;, he wrote.
& # 39; I imagined the devil holding Mom so tightly in her grip that she just didn't have the strength to fight him. & # 39;
Edwards joined the AFP and rose to the rank of commander after stints in many different departments
Edwards at the opening of an orphanage that supported the AFP in East Timor when he was stationed there
Mrs. Edwards died in 1987 at the age of only 46 and never lived to meet her two grandchildren.
With the help of some diuretics, a persistent AFP recruiter and a sympathetic doctor, Edwards was finally approved and graduated from the academy in August 1985.
He started in the fraud team where he got prosperity sneaks, including a socialite whose immense wealth was built on stolen identities.
Then it was a tour of the drug team, internal affairs and the Family Court as he rose through the ranks.
On the one hand, he even watched as Prime Minister Bob Hawke joked with a group of naked wedding guests who refused to come out of a pool at the motel.
Even in that first decade, the daily horrors accumulated – filling his imaginary backpack without him realizing it.
& # 39; You will witness the destruction of natural disasters. You will remove children from dysfunctional families and be furious to see them covered with stretch marks and swear through life in flea-ridden, maggal-filled houses where the stink and dirt offends your senses, & he recalled as advice to aspiring police.
& # 39; You may need to be in an operating room while surgeons struggle to save the life of a drug courier whose belly is full of illegal drugs worth enough money to buy a two-story home in an exclusive suburb of Sydney.
Edwards became an NSW champion shotgun and won bronze at the Junior International Open in Seoul at the age of 19
In his time as Australia's strongest man, Edwards dragged trams, planes, a 400-ton ship
& # 39; You could attend a scene where the friends of a deceased person were so stoned that they used the electric cord of an iron to try to make his heart jump when he stopped breathing.
Worse when he was researching sex trafficking and saw thousands of hours of material for child exploitation to catch pedophiles.
& # 39; Every young person who wants to join the federal police must realize that it is guaranteed that their hearts will break if they are called upon to investigate the horror of toddlers who are sexually assaulted, "he wrote.
& # 39; God knows that you are consumed by anger that makes your body shake and force tears from your eyes. & # 39;
Edwards was not only filled with anger, but later with overwhelming feelings of guilt and nightmares about the children he couldn't save.
The strongest man in Australia
Out of the blue Edwards got the chance to represent Australia in the 1992 Winter Olympics in a team of four men bobsleigh.
Having traveled through Europe and North America to take part in qualifying events, they were so broken that they sometimes had hotel beds, they qualified, but the Australian Olympic Committee did not allow them to attend for fear of losing too much .
Bitter disappointed and angry, Edwards hit the gym with renewed strength and met David Huxley, who convinced him to take part in a strong event.
After an unexpectedly good performance against larger opponents, he was addicted.
& # 39; It was exciting and the euphoria I felt was intoxicating, & # 39; he wrote.
Edwards lifts a huge log over his head during the 1999 World & # 39; s Strongest Man competition in Malta
Edwards entered the Guinness Book of Records by dragging a 36.8m steam train
In 1996 he won the title of Australia & # 39; s strongest man, which he had until 1999, before retiring in 2000 at the age of 38 when his body gave in.
During this time she dragged along trams, planes, a 400-ton ship, and entered the Guinness Book of Records by dragging a 36.8-meter steam train.
Edwards reached more than 160 kg and worked on muscles by consuming 6000 calories a day from 11 meals, including four cans of creamy rice and 25 Weetbix.
He also injured injuries, ripped his right pectoral muscle, achilles tendon, quadriceps, hamstring, single and multiple knee operations and suffering three hernia in his back.
But the biggest wounds were those who hid the endorphins and the tension of the competition, pain that would haunt him later.
The bunker of Green Village
By 2012, Edwards had worked at the AFP office in Los Angeles and was a leading figure in keeping the play in East Timor.
His marriage collapsed in 2005 after years of trying to hold a failed union together for his daughter Emilee, who was born in 1993.
His new wife Kate & # 39; Lordy & # 39; Lord was dead to him who went to Afghanistan when the task arose to lead the AFP mission there with 30 officers below him.
Edwards eventually left and left her and their young daughter Jacinta behind.
He trained the Afghan police for a year, but also solved numerous diplomatic disputes in an extremely dangerous environment.
Edwards minutes before he flew home after a year of running the 30-man mission of the AFP in Afghanistan
In October 2013, the & # 39; green village & # 39 ;, the home of 2,000 contractors and foreign police, were attacked by insurgents of the Taliban.
Edwards and his colleague John & # 39; Ben & # 39; Cartwright sat in a filthy bunker with their Glock guns pointed at the door, knowing they would be out if it were forced down.
The attack was halted after about an hour with no friendly victims, but the siege left a mark on him to help lift his mental health.
For years he had administered self-medication with alcohol most nights, and without access to anyone, he switched to sedatives.
Months later, the AFP withdrew its mission despite Edwards' desperate attempts to sustain it, and he was so angry that he refused to accept a group order.
Edwards returned angry and detached from his wife and child and suffered so much from a parasitic infection that he could not hold a coffee cup.
All the while he was troubled by traumatic memories, guilt and regrets.
& # 39; Falling asleep without the help of medication was to get myself to suffer from waking nightmares before the nightmares that had plagued my sleep & # 39 ;, he wrote.
& # 39; If I didn't have the calming means to shut me off, I would have been lying awake for hours, disturbed by the constant stream of images from my time investigating human trafficking and the exploitation of children.
His liveliest nightmare hung out the window of an airplane and tried to hold a man who begged for help, but always dropped him and heard him scream as he fell.
After Afghanistan, they moved to the Gold Coast and worked as an aviation commander in Brisbane.
His daily commute gave him too much time to think, and it was on a journey to work on the highway that he almost gave to his demons.
The following excerpt describes the torment that drove him to the edge, and what pulled him away from it.
In 1996 he won the title of Australia & # 39; s strongest man, which he had until 1999, before retiring in 2000 at the age of 38 when his body admitted
& # 39; My last day on earth: The Strong Man by Grant Edwards – an excerpt
I was halfway between the Gold Coast and Brisbane when I decided it would be my last day on earth.
I wasn't going to commit suicide when I left the house, but somewhere during my one and twenty minute drive, it seemed like the best solution to my many problems.
I decided that I could not go on, everyone I loved lacked. I had done my best to wear a brave face at home, but the face that was exposed when the mask slipped disgusted me.
What I saw was a man and father who was lost, a policeman struggling to be decisive. Nothing in my life seemed logical anymore.
As I drove north along that highway, my mind fell into overdrive and piled up piles of bitterness and gall. Every negative thought stung my brain like it was a giant wasp.
The f ** king doctors do not listen to me. God, I'm pissed about the way we were treated in Afghanistan – nobody really cares what we did.
Edwards received the right help and medication, stopped drinking, and although he still has days when he can hardly function, he is far from being the broken man he was on that highway
Then it engulfed me: dad, dad, mom, the lost chances, including Hawaii, the Winter Olympics, the schoolgirls who mock me as the & # 39; p ** f & # 39; s son & # 39; s , the parents with the East Hills Bulldogs who said that I played like a cat.
F ** k them. F ** k everything.
It was as if every gram of bitterness had burst out of the cracks in my mind and I drowned in it.
I estimate the episode took ten minutes, but it felt like I had been bombed for hours.
At last I thought, of course, and with tears in my eyes, I felt my hands grip the wheel just as firmly as my Glock had grabbed the Green Village bunker that day while I waited for the Taliban insurgents.
But a struggle to save my life was not what I was looking for.
My eyes focused on a tree a few hundred meters from the highway. I loosened my seat belt and pushed my seat back as far as possible to maximize the impact when my head hit the windshield.
My death took place before my eyes, but I didn't care.
As I pressed the gas pedal to the floor, the voice in my head urged me: do it … it's easy.
The landscape rushed past me, my heartbeat rose rapidly and I even felt drops of sweat breaking out on my forehead. I was so attuned to myself.
My jaw clamped tightly. There were no prayers when I saw the tree come closer every second. The speedometer had hit 130 kilometers per hour – forensic investigation would certainly say that I had taken the turn too quickly.
Edward & # 39; s daughters Jacinta and Emilee
The voice in my head cheered wildly as I rushed to death through my own hands. DO IT! DO IT! JUST F ** KING DO GOOD!
I had one foot in the grave, but at the very last moment my trance was broken. I saw Pa of all things.
Dad had been my protector when I was a little boy, and I have no doubt that he was again this day. As I focused on the tree, his image came to me.
My first reaction was to feel love, but in a nanosecond my emotions turned into anger because of the way he had left me. F ** king suicide. Why, Dad?
That was the circuit breaker. It suddenly dawned on me: all I would do was to chase the same feelings of misery and desolation that I had experienced with Lordy, Jacinta and Emilee, the same as Dad had done to me when I was a 10-year-old boy, when he changed the sheets tied around his neck and jumped out of the window.
I came out of the twilight zone and back to reality. What am I doing? I am about to do my family exactly what my grandfather did to me.
How on earth can you bring Lordy through the trauma to identify you in the mortuary? You weak bastard.
I realized I couldn't do it, lowered my speed, drove off the highway and parked in front of a coffee shop. My heart was still beating, I was shaking. I had no idea what to do.
Eventually I got out of the car and walked hopelessly in circles. I felt so lost. The three cups of coffee that I drank even helped me calm down. I finally breathed.
When I forced myself to think about what I was getting so close to, I noticed that I had just watched a movie that had a different ending than the audience expected.
Back from the edge
His near-suicide eventually led him to see a doctor who diagnosed him with PTSD, but fearing he would be started from the AFP, he refused help.
Instead, he continued to drink and anesthetize with painkillers while watching endless war documentaries and neglecting his family.
Eighteen months later he was in Virginia, US, at the World Police and Fire Games and began to cry uncontrollably under a tree.
He emailed Kate and promised to get help and tell his bosses, even if it ended his career.
AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin instead refused to let him stop or even refuse his upcoming posting to Washington.
Next month he will retire after 34 years and start working in mental health, hoping he can help others recover as he did
Instead, he promised that the force would support him and set up an advisory group to improve the AFP's handling of mental health.
& # 39; He said he would rather have one of his officers tell him they were having problems, because it's the ones who don't recognize a problem that worries him, & # 39; Edwards wrote.
Edwards received the right help and medication, stopped drinking, and although he still has days when he can hardly function, he is far from being the broken man he was on that highway.
When a fellow officer shot himself at her desk, he wrote a letter to all 6,500 AFP employees calling for help like he did, and later told his story about Australian Story.
Next month he will retire after 34 years and start working in mental health, hoping that he can help others recover as he did.
The Strong Man by Grant Edwards will be available in stores on 1 August.
For confidential support, call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14
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