Athlete Lynsey Kelley has told how competing at sports events like the Invictus UK Trials gave her back a sense of belonging after she was medically discharged from the Royal Air Force.
Lynsey has been competing in swimming at the tournament in Sheffield – a major turnaround in her life after, in her own words she ‘lost her way’ after a diagnosis of compartment syndrome following pains in her legs.
The four day event saw athletes compete in swimming, indoor rowing, powerlifting, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, archery, athletics, cycling and sitting volleyball.
Lynsey has already competed in the Warrior Games and is now hoping she can secure a place at the Invictus Games with the UK swimming team.
Since taking up sport, Lynsey says she has become a nicer person and her work-life balance has improved. Adding:
"Sports recovery for me, and I know this is a bit cliche, but it's literally changed my life and I think that as a result, I've become a nicer person to be around.
"My work output is much better. I'm more confident in myself. I don't let the things that ever once bother me, you know, overwhelm me.
"I don't have that desperation or that longing feeling for something else and I think being part of a sports team has just made me find my sense of belonging again.
"Having been medically discharged from the Royal Air Force, I lost my way and it really made me quite unwell and I, I had a very fine line of, right. Do you stay where you are? Give up and just be a recluse for the rest of your life? Or do you cross that line and go out there and show the world who you are?
"I think it's just given me my little bit of a zing back. So it's done a lot for me."
Around 350 other athletes at the trials are aiming to qualify for Team UK for the Invictus Games The Hague 2020.
Lynsey will have a bit of a wait to find out if she has made the team, as names will be selected in October.
If she makes the team or not, one of the things that has really helped Lynsey on her road to recovery is managing to remain in close contact with her former military colleagues and friends. She said:
"When I left the Royal Air Force, I was still around the military. My Ex husband was in the army and then I moved back to RAF Brize Norton, which is where a lot of the people I used to work with live and my best friend is there as well.
"So I've never really been away from the military environment. Don't know whether that's a good thing or not. But I now work for the Ministry of Defense anyway. So I am still involved in that environment. But it's not the same when you have a mental health issue or a physical disability, It's almost as though you're not good enough in some fashion.
"Coming to these sports recovery weekends and meeting up with all these people, It's like you're coming home again, That's quite cliche. But you come here and nobody cares what's wrong with you. They care obviously about you, but they don't care, there's no label and it's wonderful.
"I'm really inspired by other people and I think that's what drives me to keep going cause it makes me realize that actually if they can do it, I can do it And I believe that if I can do it, anybody can do it and that's the best thing.
"That's what the camaraderie has done for all of us here. It's just made us feel belonging again."
After Lynsey left the RAF, she no longer participated in sports due to her injury, but with the support of family and friends, she was introduced to Help for Heroes, who have supported her to achieve her goal of competing at these events.
To any serving personnel or veterans struggling to get motivated enough to dust of their gym kit and get back into sports. Lynsey has this message:
"If anyone is in a similar situation to me and they didn't feel confident getting their gym kit on going to the gym, or they just didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. Please, please, please try. Try and do it, because if I can, I'm telling you now, you can, and it really is the best thing that I've ever done.
"It's given me purpose."