Army veteran Paul Colling lost the life and the job he loved after a traumatic leg injury left him in near-constant pain.
He knew from a young age that his goal was to follow in his brother’s footsteps and serve. “Joining the army was everything, it was who I wanted to be”. As a physical trainer in the Signals, sports-loving Paul regularly took part in endurance marches and fitness training. But an injury sustained early on in his career was to have enduring consequences; Paul sustained a traumatic ankle injury, damaging the ligaments, tendons and cartilage during a training exercise.
Despite his injury causing him frequent bouts of pain Paul went on to have a successful career training recruits. But in 2017 his career came to a sudden end; another training exercise had caused more damage. “They scanned my leg, and I was told I had to leave. It was like my world ended. Who you are, everything you’ve worked for, everything you wanted to achieve just gone.”
“I think that was the first time I’ve ever been mentally broken. It snapped me.”
On the surface, Paul seemed to manage the transition into civilian life fairly seamlessly. He found a new job with a waste management company that created stability and his employers were understanding when operations for his injury were needed. But the soldier inside was at war with his new path, and Paul struggled mentally with the sudden loss of his military identity. Twice, he reached the point where he considered ending his own life.
“Every soldier is taught to crack on and show they’re alright, so I didn’t really acknowledge my declining mental state at first. Looking back now I felt lost, confused and alone. Struggling with the acceptance that you’re not who you wanted to be, that everything you fought for, is hard.”
A Help for Heroes coaching course provided a crucial turning point. “The course helped me accept that I probably wasn’t 100% mentally where I thought I was. It made me see life from a different perspective and it’s also helped me help others along the way.
“I‘m also a member of the Band of Brothers fellowship which is great because it brings everyone together – it doesn’t matter what a person’s battle is or what they’re going through, you’re all helping each other.”
Now, Paul’s career is thriving and having made progress in his own recovery, he even volunteers for us to raise awareness of the continuing need for veterans’ support.
“It really is lifechanging what the public do to raise the funds, they do an amazing job.
“There are 40,000 other people out there who might be going through the same battles I did – struggling mentally or physically.”