Rather than just sitting in the house all day resting, I feel normal. It gives me a sense of being a Marine again. It takes me back to who I was probably more than anything.
Five years ago, military Paralympian Cpl Phil Eaglesham contracted Q Fever whilst on tour with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan. Although the infection has been treated, his condition continues to deteriorate.
“Not being able to play with my children affects me more than I could ever explain. Even things like playing with Lego or building a jigsaw puzzle can be difficult. I get tired and frustrated very quickly.”
Phil and his family have a constant struggle to manage the long term physical and physiological impacts of the illness, as they do not know how much further it will worsen.
“I tried to take my own life. I’d just had enough of the deterioration and the impact it was having on my wife, the kids, others around me. It’s difficult to talk about it, but it’s good to talk about it.
“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.”
Phil was introduced to para-shooting in 2012 at the Warrior Trials in the USA. Initially reluctant to try sport, he liked that shooting did not wear him out like other sports.
Discovering shooting has given him an outlet, as well as something positive to focus on. Phil has found that while his illness continues to decline, his shooting scores continue to improve. The sport has also given him the opportunity to compete again, a natural instinct for the former Royal Marine.
“Rather than just sitting in the house all day resting, I feel normal. It gives me a sense of being a Marine again. It takes me back to who I was probably more than anything.”
Phil wants to be a good example to his children and make his wife proud. He wanted to show them that you should never give up, that incredible things can still be achieved, even if life doesn’t happen quite the way you would expect.
“Help for Heroes have been at the forefront of helping me move my sport from a hobby to growing into a professional athlete. The support that they provide and the knowledge that there are genuine people out there who really want to help. It’s even down to thanking the people who put the pennies in the box. I see getting to the Paralympics as the best way to say thank you to, it’s as much theirs as it would be mine.”
Phil has had the honour of represented Team Ireland at the Paralympics in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
Watch Phil's inspiring ‘Road to Rio’ film, where he represented Team Ireland in the Paralympics.