Well I’ve just sat down still overwhelmed following a surreal few days. I started the weak in a spa hotel in Spain and ended it competing for a place on the Invictus team and shaking Prince Harry’s hand.
Back in 2014 when I first started writing my blogs I wrote a piece on the Invictus Games and about how the focus and coverage was on the physically wounded personnel. I was struggling to come to terms with my own diagnosis of PTSD and was angry at the fact that not many recognised my injury. Those with missing limbs AND those with PTSD came back from tour with a piece of themselves missing. It matters not wether its obvious what’s missing, it matters that it’s acknowledged no matter what.
I then wrote a 2nd piece on the games in 2015. Prince Harry talked more about hidden injuries and it warmed my heart to hear him talking about it. I felt then that my injury, my PTSD, mattered. I lost a huge part of who I was in Afghanistan, some parts I know I will never get back. However, I’m learning to be the new me, the hear and now me, the me who wants to fight every day to help others who have also lost a piece of themselves somewhere along the way. I am also going to make the most of the life I have ahead of me. At one time, in my darkest moments I wanted to take my life. I’m now so determined to take my life as far as I can!
A few months ago I received an email about applying to compete in the Invictus Games. Initially I deleted the email, not giving it a second thought. For a few days I kept thinking about the email and wether I should just go for it and apply; I ignored it again. All the way through my life, through school and throughout my various RAF training courses, I was never any good at sport. I always came last at sport and was never picked for anything because I wouldn’t be any help. I was always last in any running PT lessons but I never gave up. I made it to the end no matter how long it took me!!!
I clicked on the email in the ‘trash’ folder and it opened up. I followed the instructions and before I knew it I had applied. I received a confirmation email of receipt but then didn’t hear anything for a while. In January I received an email to complete some eligibility paperwork and to choose which sports I was interested in. Rowing was the only one I felt I had a chance at!! I then received an email about attending the next training camp in Newport. I was sooo nervous but there I was, in the car, driving south.
From the first day of training I knew I had my work cut out for me. I was absolutely shattered and couldn’t keep up. I left after the weekend feeling dejected.i was battling with myself, thinking I wasn’t good enough. However, I received the training programme from the coach and started training; pushing myself further from my comfort zone. Just over 3 months later and I found myself at trials. I felt sick with nerves and I had an injury but I still did it. I took part in trials to compete in the Invictus Games; OH MY WORD!!! It’s a waiting game now to find out if I’ve been selected for the team.
Aside from the sporting aspect of Invictus something else, something so very special returned to my life. Banter, human spirit and comradery; things you only truly feel part of when you’ve been in the military. Being part of a team again, with people you’ve never met but instantly connect and form a bond with. That, above anything else, has been so good and even if I don’t qualify for the team this year, this has been truly amazing. That overwhelming sense of belonging somewhere again cannot be underestimated. If I get selected it will be the most amazing thing to happen to me in such a long time.
I was asked what Invictus means to me. It has made me cook and eat properly again, it gets me out of the house and into the gym. It’s made me feel better about myself and I feel more energised. Invictus has given me a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging somewhere again and it’s given me some new friends for life: especially my Michelle from Wigan 😃
Whatever the outcome I have achieved. I went for something I never believed possible. I dared to dream and I’m now living the dream. Oh, and I chatted with Prince Harry; top bloke!!!! Guys, if you want something then find the strength to just go for it. You may or may not succeed but you will never know if you don’t try. Give it a go; you can’t lose if you never had it in the first place; you can only gain.