A former RAF paramedic who has battled severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is set to take on some of the most challenging competitive games in the world.
Michelle Partington, from Hindley, will jet off to Canada next week to take part in the notorious “Invictus” games, battling it out against former military personnel from across the globe.
Michelle, 45, will represent the United Kingdom in rowing and powerlifting alongside fellow Wiganer, Michelle Turner.
Following her military discharge in 2012, due to mental health illness, Michelle has worked tirelessly to help others struggling with similar issues by giving motivational speeches in schools and businesses. On applying to Invictus, she fought off competition from 700 applicants to gain a place on the 90 strong team.
“Invictus has given me a focus,” she said. “I wasn’t looking after myself. I wasn’t eating properly, something needed to change, I thought now I’m doing this I have to cook for myself and I have to train. I’m eating better I have lost weight and I’m training every day. It’s also given me an outlet for when I get frustrated.”
As a paramedic, Michelle was deployed to Afghanistan three times throughout her career. “The last time was the break in me sadly,” she added. “I was picking people up from the front line. My dream job became my nightmare in the end.”
Not only has training for Invictus given Michelle a new lease of life, she has also found support in her fellow teammates. During her first rowing bootcamp, in Newport South Wales, Michelle began chatting to another team member called Michelle.
“It turned out she’s also from Wigan and her dad lives on my street,” she said. “Out of the whole Invictus journey this has been the best bit.
“I have got a really good friend out of it. I already have my gold medal as far as I am concerned. It’s like a love story without the romance.”
Michelle, who is set to take on other able-bodied teams, has also made sure to mark the memory with a tattoo. She decided to get in touch with Alchemy Tattoo Studio on Wallgate following recommendations from her friends.
“They do a lot for charity,” she explained. “They’ve even done the tattoo half price for me which is amazing. They really are so generous.”
Jimmy Davies, an Alchemy tattoo artist, told the Wigan Post that Michelle is “an inspiration” to him after having spent time talking to her about her plans. “She does a lot of work for injured military. I think she chose us because of the clients she has seen come to the studio. I think the Manchester bee tattoo for the victims of the terror attacks gave her a positive vibe about our message of tattooing.”
The amateur athlete is finalising preparations to leave for Toronto next Wednesday.
“I am so nervous now,” she said. “I keep thinking am I going to make it? I’m not a medal contender so I just want to make sure that I get a personal best.”
Once Michelle returns to the UK, she will continue to focus on building her business of mental health talks. She also runs a charity called Behind the Mask, providing free mental health support for sufferers. For more information visit www.facebook.com/BTMC15