This is Richard’s extraordinary account of how he harnessed the power of cycling to overcome complex mental health conditions and secure his place in the 2023 Invictus Games. Richard left the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 2010 after struggling with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) resulting from tours in Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq: anxiety and panic attacks became his unwelcome companions.
He tells us: “In 2018, my life took an unexpected turn when I began experiencing panic and anxiety attacks. Little did I know that these episodes would be the first indicators of a condition that would change my life forever: complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). Leaving me with debilitating anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Today, I share my story, not only to raise awareness about the challenges faced by individuals with complex PTSD, but also to shed light on the transformative power of the Invictus Games and the incredible support of my family. I got involved in the games after suffering a few difficult periods in the first half of 2022 and the Invictus programme was suggested to me as something to look at. I wasn’t sure, or keen and felt very much I wasn’t eligible or worthy.
I applied in June and then did nothing; I ignored the email asking me for more details until finally in late September I responded and was accepted into the programme. I was invited to my first pre-selection camp in Colchester in November 2022, and despite a lot of reluctance and feelings of being a fraud and I would be somehow “found out” I was persuaded to attend. I was apprehensive, but as the first day got underway, I began to feel more and more at home. Meeting other veterans and listening to their stories and journeys made me realise I wasn’t alone; I wasn’t a fraud and I did in fact belong to this group after all. I then attended my second selection camp in December and after which I was invited to submit my formal application to be part of Team UK.
Applications had to be in by 31st December 2022 and I took a long time to write, rewrite and write my application again and complete a 60 second video I was comfortable with. I was initially very apprehensive about submitting an application, fearing what rejection might do to me. But I realised that even if I wasn’t selected, I had gained so much from the pre-section camps that I could use that as a platform to build on. I finally submitted my application a few days before the deadline and had very little expectation of being selected, believing there were others who were far more worthy of the places than me.
On the 7th of February 2023 I received the email confirming I had been selected. I sat in shocked silence staring at the email before a rush of emotion just overwhelmed me. It took a while to sink in and to be presented with our Team UK launch kit prior to the public launch really hit home that I was part of the team and get to represent my country once again. But equally, I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of being valid again, of my struggles with my health and CPTSD had been legitimised and I wasn’t simply faking my way through life. It’s hard to put into words what the feeling means.
Being selected for the Invictus Games and having the opportunity to represent my country and fellow veterans fills me with an overwhelming sense of pride. The chance to pull on the uniform of my country once again and stand beside some of the most inspirational and courageous people I have ever met is a humbling experience. The Invictus Games offer a platform where wounded warriors can not only showcase their incredible resilience but also reclaim their sense of identity and purpose. The supportive and empowering environment allows them to channel their strength, both physical and mental, into competitive sports. Through the Invictus Games, veterans defy the limitations that their conditions may impose, inspiring others and themselves in the process and serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit that resides within each of us.
My journey with complex PTSD has been marked by many challenges, but it has also shown me the power of resilience, support, and the potential for healing. The Invictus Games has become an integral part of my recovery, offering a path towards rebuilding my life and reclaiming my identity. I am eternally grateful to my family, Lucy, Harry, Noah, and Georgia, who have stood by me during my darkest moments. Their unwavering love and support have been invaluable.
To all those who may be struggling with the invisible wounds of war or trauma, I encourage you to seek help and remember that you are not alone. The journey to healing may be difficult, but with perseverance and the support of a compassionate community, it is possible to find solace, strength, and purpose once again. Seeking support and reaching out for help are crucial steps in navigating the treacherous path of depression. The darkness may persist, but with the assistance of compassionate individuals, therapy, and perhaps even medication, it is possible to find a way forward. By breaking the silence and shedding light on our struggles, we empower ourselves and others to confront the demons that haunt us.
Remember, you are not alone in this battle. Reach out, share your pain, and allow the strength of compassion and understanding to guide you towards healing. The Invictus Games serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit that resides within each of us.”
Rich is competing in both the Time Trial and Criterium Racing cycling events in Dusseldorf in September 2023. He went on to tell us how Freemasonry has helped him:
“I was initiated into Freemasonry in April 2017 and raised to Master Mason in April 2018. I was introduced to Masonry by a neighbour who introduced me to the Royal Lodge of Faith and Friendship No270 which meets in Berkeley.
I had wanted to get involved in Masonry for a little while, the bond of friendship, the fraternity and the charitable elements of the Craft really appealed to me as well as the history. It was also important for me to belong to an organisation that was striving for the betterment of others and our communities. Being part of something bigger than ourselves feels comfortable to me after serving in the military. I thoroughly enjoy masonry and while my health has had an impact on occasion over the last 12 months, I am on my path to the chair and currently fill the role of Senior Deacon within the lodge. I also this year joined Dunkerley Mark lodge which meets in the Province of Bristol”.