Tonight military Paralympics Ireland athlete, Phil Eaglesham, will compete in Target Shooting on the world's biggest sporting stage. Supported by Help for Heroes Sports Recovery, Phil has turned his life around to take part in Rio Paralympics 2016. Here, in his own words, is Phil's story.
The beard isn't just a gimmick or just something to do. The beard has played a big part in my mental health and is a physical sign that people can see, that can help explain mental health.
Mental health is something physical but you can't necessarily see it. So people need a physical approach to be able to understand. After I was going to take my own life because of the impact it was having on others and the effect it had on me, I didn't want anyone to recognise me or ask me questions about how I was. I spent my time sitting in a seat in the corner of the house, curtains closed, not answering my phone, texts, emails, avoiding social contact. Even looking at myself in the mirror sent me back. The person I was looking at wasn't who I was now.
I grew a beard so no one would recognise me. I was still in the Marines; people wouldn't ever expect me to have a beard. hence they wouldn't glance in my direction or stop me. When I looked in the mirror it wasn't a fit, healthy Royal Marines Commando, it was someone else, someone I had never seen before. In a way it was my mask from the world and from myself. With a beard, hat and glasses, I could blend in if I had to (and I mean had to) go out. When I looked in the mirror I didn't see myself the same.
Over time and a lot of work with Somerset Partnership, Hasler Company, Help for Heroes and The Royal Marines Charity. I began to see myself, not the old me how I used to be, but a new me, the person I am now. It allows me to accept who am in the present moment. I haven't dealt with the future and my continued deteriation but I have been able to accept what this present time holds. Funnily enough the one thing that was meant to disguise me little over a year and a half ago, is now the feature I want people to recognise.
Dealing with something that you can't physically see is extremely hard. It's up to others in society to help and not judge with their eyes, instead support with their heart. Hopefully on one of the world's greats stages, the Paralympics, I will be able to highlight this issue.
By getting athletes and supporters behind #philsbeard I hope that it will highlight some of these issues. It's a visual display for something that's not visual to the naked eye. This isn't just a problem for veterans, it's a problem in everyday society that needs recognition.
So please, if you agree and feel like you can support #Philsbeard then take a picture wearing yours. Whether you have grown one, drawn one on or even bought a false beard. Show your support and post them tagging @pjeaglesham #Philsbeard
Thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully it has made sense of what is normally overlooked
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