When Help for Heroes Ambassador Paul heard about our new charity gaming fundraiser, Hero Up, he immediately signed up to stream a 24hr gaming marathon with fellow veterans over VE Day and fundraise for the charity.
“If I was to summarise gaming to me it would be it creates focus. It provides a place to share problems, to iron things out and create a distraction from the things that get me down, like pain or stress, worry and anxiety. It has a real positive effect on me, and has played a vital part in my recovery after each operation I’ve had.”
Army veteran Paul Colling served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Royal Corps of Signals, but lost the life and the job he loved after a traumatic leg injury during a training exercise 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 this 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.”
On the surface, Paul seemed to manage the transition into civilian life fairly seamlessly. He found a new job 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.
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."
As well as Help for Heroes, Paul found a comfort in gaming during his recovery.
“Gaming has a positive effect all round for me, it takes my mind of the pain a little. I can’t remember what it feels like to be pain free and that can really wear you down at times almost to the breaking point. Playing games gives you a little bit of focus, when you can’t get about it can keep your mind actively busy.”