Sleaford RAF man with PTSD says competing in Invictus Games and meeting Prince Harry helped him to ‘live’ again

David Morris, second left, pictured with Prince Harry, fellow team member Jonny Mitchell, far left, and BBC presenter  J J Chalmers, right, a former competitor in the Invictus Games. Images supplied.
David Morris, second left, pictured with Prince Harry, fellow team member Jonny Mitchell, far left, and BBC presenter J J Chalmers, right, a former competitor in the Invictus Games. Images supplied.

A Sleaford athlete who was diagnosed with severe PTSD has just competed in an international sporting event where he met Prince Harry.

David Morris was diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder following an incident in 2011 while serving as an RAF survival equipment specialist with the Red Arrows. Such was the effect of the illness, that David said he was ‘scared of my own shadow’ and didn’t even want to leave the house’

Sleaford man David Morris in action for the rowing.

Sleaford man David Morris in action for the rowing.

But now, thanks to his determination, and encouragement from his brother, David has just competed in the Invictus Games in Sydney for wounded and sick military personnel and veterans.

David said: “It didn’t occur to me that having been diagnosed with PTSD a few years before, that I would even be eligible. I thought it was for people with missing limbs and other physical injuries.

“My PTSD has had a massive effect on my life. I was scared of my own shadow and worried to the point of not wanting to leave my house. I felt cut off and didn’t really know how to get through it.

“My brother, a serving officer in the RAF, signed me up for the Invictus Games. I attended the Sportsfest in Nottingham and it made me realise I was capable of more than what I had been doing. It bought my confidence back and started changing me back to the person I was.”

David Morris.

David Morris.

“I was invited to numerous training camps throughout the following months which culminated in the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 trials held at Bath University sports arena,” David explained. “Rowing went well despite my nerves, I managed to get 2 PB’s in my 4 minute endurance and 1 minute sprint races. When it came to the swimming events, I had got so worked up, I was ready to get in my car and go home, I was panicking, I had lost my breath and all sense of reason and I was convinced that it was going to end in disaster. But, the Invictus spirit was well and truly alive, with my team mates pushing me through every little step that I took. I managed to get myself on a start block and dive in to the pool, once in I had no option but to swim. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I reached the end and punched the wall, I had smashed my PB and looked up to see my friend Michelle crying, she was over the moon that I had beaten off the demons and achieved something I never thought possible.”

After competing in the UK try-outs, David was estatic to be selected for Team UK, competing in the rowing and swimming. He came 29th out of 60 in the one-minute rowing sprint, and in the top 35 in the 50m freestyle swimming and 50m breaststroke, where he smashed his personal best times (PBs) in front of a live crowd of 6,500.

The Invictus Games were founded by Prince Harry four years’ ago and David said he had to ‘pinch’ himself on meeting the Prince at Admiralty House in Sydney.

“We had a short introduction, where we chatted to the Prince like he was an old chum,” he said. “We were led outside into the gardens, which were directly opposite Sydney Opera House, and were interviewed with Prince Harry by the BBC. Things like this don’t happen to people like me. He brought up the subject of physical and mental injuries and we broached the subject of the ‘invisible illness’ that has caused me so much pain and stress. I found it so easy to talk about it in front of them, Prince Harry was such a calm person who put us at ease. What an honour to be able to do that, something I’ll never forget.”

Sleaford's David Morris, centre, with some of the Team UK athletes. Image supplied.

Sleaford's David Morris, centre, with some of the Team UK athletes. Image supplied.

“Over the course of the competition week, I watched so many heroic acts of bravery and determination. Watching people overcome some of the things that have held them back, whether it was physical or mental and stopped them achieving life goals, was such an emotional roller coaster and it showed the true spirit of the games. All 18 nations coming together under one flag and showing compassion, empathy and unbelievable teamwork.

“The power of these Invictus Games is hard to describe to people, it has to be seen to be believed.

“This experience has completely changed my life, and I feel it is now my turn to make sure that other people that are in a position where they are struggling with life and some problems they face, will know what is available to them and will hopefully be put back on the right track.”

Team UK was delivered through a partnership of Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion and the Ministry of Defence.

David Morris speaking to Prince Harry on the BBC. Image supplied.

David Morris speaking to Prince Harry on the BBC. Image supplied.

David added: “Through this incredible experience with Help for Heroes and Invictus I have achieved things that I never thought possible. Getting to represent the UK is something I never thought possible. My recovery has been down to a great team of people and determination from myself. I have managed to find ‘Me’ again and actually live.”