I was serving in Afghanistan in 2007 with the Royal Marines. On Christmas Eve that year myself and the company I was working with were tasked with going out on a routine foot patrol. We were about to finish and were just on our way back into camp, where we were due to have two days R&R because it was Christmas the next day, when I stood on and detonated an Improvised Explosive Device, which resulted in me losing both my legs above the knee and my right arm above the elbow. Subsequently I became the UK’s first triple amputee from the conflict.
My recovery was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life – next to training to being Royal Marine, it was probably the hardest and it was very, very close. Because I was the UK’s first triple amputee, I had no one who I could go to for mentorship, no one for any guidance or training. I had physios and doctors and nurses – which was great – but there’s only so much you can learn from a textbook. I knew that if I wanted to dominate my injuries and regain my independence I needed to find somebody who had already walked this path and was achieving the kind of things I wanted to achieve.
I eventually found that with a man out in California called Cameron Clap who was hit by a train when he was 15 and had very, very similar injuries to me and who was doing the kind of things and living the kind of life that I wanted to live. So to cut a long story short, on the 9 June 2009 I hopped on a plane and went and met Cameron and his team out in Oklahoma City. For three weeks they whipped my arse until I could navigate and live independently and 9 June 2009 was the last time that I ever used a wheelchair.
I think this experience has reinforced things I already knew, but one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that your mind will quit a hundred times quicker than your body will. You have that little voice inside your head saying “this is too hard”, “this isn’t worth it”, “you can’t do this”, you know, nattering away in your ear all the time, when your body’s got a lot of fuel left in the tank. It’s a mental battle that you have to win in a situation like this. You have to learn how to silence that inner voice and focus as much as you can on overcoming what you’re facing.
The best way that I found to do that, is by making sure you’ve got really good people around you that are encouraging, empowering and motivating. You can’t be around what I call ‘morale vampires‘ – they’re the people that, no matter how great stuff is, they’ll find something bad in the situation. You want to be around the people that no matter how bad things are, they can find the great in the situation, they will really, really help you get through it – mentally and physically. So get great people around you, set yourself goals, develop a plan and then silence that negative, inner voice and do whatever it takes to go out and achieve that plan.
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I am a former Royal Marines Commando, father and husband, triple amputee, Invictus Games athlete, motivational speaker, author and an entrepreneur. I have a lot of goals in all areas of my life – my health, my fitness my family, my finances, my career, my fun – I set goals every year at Christmas in all the areas of my life that are important to me. Out of a situation, which was life changing and devastating for me and my family, I have many hopes for the future.
I hope that with all the things that I do, all the stuff that I push out on social media, all the challenges that I set myself, all the organisations that I get involved with to try and help other people, I hope people see that and if they are going through a bad time or they know someone that is going through a bad time then I can give them a little bit of hope, a little bit of motivation and maybe a little bit of inspiration. When they see this dude with three limbs missing, who genuinely is happy and motivated and still trying to squeeze every ounce out of life and I hope someone can see that and it can give them a kick in the ass if they need it. And you know, worse case scenario, if they are going down a bad path they can turn their life around and really capitalise on life – because we’re all blessed to be breathing, to be healthy and life’s there for the taking. I hope that all the stuff I do, as well as helping me and those closest to me, it helps people much further afield.
Mark found inspiration in Stronger, a film based on the true story of Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the Boston marathon bombing in April 2013. You can read Jeff’s story here and the film is out on DVD now.
Life Less Ordinary is a weekly blog series from HuffPost UK that showcases weird and wonderful life experiences. If you’ve got something extraordinary to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org with LLO in the subject line. To read more from the series, visit our dedicated page.