Using the invictus games to help others
Phillip Thompson, Australian competitor at the 2014 Invictus Games
I enlisted in the military in early 2006 where I was posted to the 1st Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. I got my first taste of operational life in Charlie Company 9 platoon in East Timor 2007. East Timor started and moulded my drive to achieve all I could be within the Battalion due to the great leadership and professionalism all-round. Completing the Basic Reconnaissance course and having mentors at the calibre I did is one of the reasons I am who I am today.
In 2009, at the age of 21, I deployed to Afghanistan. Despite what happened to me, it is still the highlight of my life. I was wounded in action by an Improvised Explosive Device which resulted in being medically evacuated back to Australia with severe hearing loss and a Traumatic Brain Injury. I subsequently developed and was diagnosed with Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I battled with the roller-coaster of mental health for quite a while – even trying to take my own life on more than one occasion. It’s been a difficult few years but I was very proud to have been selected for the Invictus Games for the Australian team. More than just competing, it was the camaraderie which I loved. My sport was powerlifting but as I was new to it, I don’t think I was as prepared as I should have been! But I was so lucky because the British Armed Forces team really helped me out – their coach Ben Richens gave me some advice and allowed me to train with his team otherwise I wouldn’t have known any of the rules. I was now an ‘honorary Brit’. I got tips from the likes of Mickey Yule – who competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games – and I made some lifelong mates. To me this is what the Invictus Games ethos is all about: countries helping each other in sport as we did on the battlefield. Plus, let’s be honest, I raised the standard of humour and looks they were obviously lacking in!
I believe I have now come ‘full circle’ with regards to my injuries. I am active within the community where I speak to current and ex-service veterans about mental health and the outcomes we can achieve if we all work together. For the last five years I have been working and helping wounded and ill ex-servicemen and women gain their full life’s potential. And the Invictus Games have helped me inspire other wounded, injured and ill servicemen and women to look at empowerment through sport so we can use our injuries to motivate us to do great things.
It’s always very rewarding to see that I can help others who may have gone a similar experience to me. I’ve been through some very difficult and dark times but I’ve managed to come out of it. I think because I can speak from a true life experience people tend to trust me and listen to me. If I can save someone’s life and show them that there is life after injury, then that’s all I can ask for.