'Cricket for recovery, cricket for all' @TheCrippledCric signs off one of his first blog posts. A potent exemplification of the healing powers in sport, something that has helped bring light to this man's everyday life since his 2011 Afghanistan tour.
@TheCrippledCric served as a Veterinary Technician and dog-handler during his time in the British Army. 'I did one full tour of Afghanistan in 2011 and was injured on my second through a non-combat accident'. Patrick is one of many army veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on return to their home.
He explains, 'PTSD is different for every sufferer... I'm hyper-vigilant, always looking for danger... I can't be in crowds and I react to loud bangs'. Patrick goes on to describe the associated conditions with PTSD, 'I have depression, social exclusion, anxiety and short term memory loss.'
It's not just the psychological pain that he has to endure, but Chronic Pain Syndrome in his lower back makes it necessary to use elbow crutches for mobility.
Patrick, better known on social media as TheCrippledCricketer, has turned to cricket for his recovery. 'I plated cricket in Cornwall for 6 years before I joined the Army'. 'When I was injured I went into the Army Recovery System... and found that Help for Heroes (H4H) had set up a cricket team.' His mobility isn't great, but that didn't matter.
When asked 'Why cricket?' it became clear what effect the game has on Patrick. 'I found that I had a mental high that I hadn't had since being back in the UK... it shut out all of the noise in my head'. 'The coaches in the team adapted everything about my stance and bowling so that I could play'.
The social side of cricket seemed to shine through too, as Patrick met with others in similar situations. 'I found that I started to become my old self, with friendly sledging between my team and opposition... although being squaddies, we can be extremely brutal with each other, but it is always done in good spirits!'
He describes how cricket carried something else, something that he had been used to in his time in the Army. 'It meant that I was part of a team again, and not alone'.
Cricket impacts upon his home life too. 'The mental high I am on carries into my home life. I am more proactive around the house and more sociable with my wife'. He says the effect lasts for enough days to carry him into the next match or training session. But too long of a period without cricket and I start to decline and go within my shell'.
Cricket has offered Patrick the opportunities that he would 'never have thought possible'. He illustrates the power of sport in general. 'This isn't just limited to cricket, H4H has a specific Sports Recovery cell where they offer many sports for the wounded, injured and sick service personnel to try'.
'Sport gives these people a purpose and feel like they can do something they enjoy, rather than being told they can't'.
Patrick currently plays for the H4H cricket team who travel around the country to play the sport they love. He plays locally too. 'Devon Cricket Board have relaxed their rules so that I can play able-bodied league cricket for a local team', which allows him to use his walking aid and bat with a runner. Another side, Yelverton Bohemians CC 'have been so welcoming'. 'There are a few serving personnel in the team which has made it a little easier to fit in... They are just happy that I want to be involved and play cricket with them'.
@TheCrippledCric has had some media attention since the start of his blog 'The Crippled Cricketer', with both the BBC and Plymouth Herald doing pieces on his story. 'The blog is another way for me to deal with what is going on in my head'... 'It took it out of my head and put it on a screen'.
Patrick is somewhat humble when discussing his blog and its reach. 'If people are inspired by it then fantastic'. 'I don't necessarily want to be an inspiration, I am just happy if people take comfort from knowing they are not alone... and to try sport'.
Despite his modesty, Patrick is an inspiration and an example of how to make a positive out of a clearly negative situation. His ability to talk about mental health and PTSD is a credit to himself. Sport and cricket has given The Crippled Cricketer the confidence to talk.
You can read his blog posts at www.thecrippledcricketer.wordpress.com.
You can read more from me on www.stuartfagg.wordpress.co.uk