Cape Bretoner with PTSD heads to Invictus Games

Former Canadian Army sergeant Brian MacEachern lives with post-traumatic stress disorder, but this week it's all about sports and team as he looks forward to competing in Florida.

'It's a wonderful feeling to see my teammates live again,' says Brian MacEachern

Brian MacEachern has found a sense of purpose again through athletics. (Mike Power)

A former soldier from Westmount, Cape Breton, who has post-traumatic stress disorder is heading next week to the Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla.

The games were founded by Prince Harry in 2014 and are a multi-sport competition for injured and ill soldiers.  

Former Canadian Army sergeant Brian MacEachern lives with PTSD, but this week it's all about sports and the team. 

"It feels great," he said from Toronto, where he joined with Team Canada to welcome Harry on Monday.

The 40-year-old MacEachern spent 17 years in military service. He did several tours in Afghanistan, along with postings in Africa.

He says the lingering stress from what he experienced and the length of his service eventually led to PTSD.

"You just wake up one day and your life is spiraling out of control, and you don't like the person you've become," he explained.

Getting unstuck

MacEachern received a medical discharge from the military and moved home to Cape Breton.

After that, he seemed to get stuck.

Then, his wife Jennifer bought him a Crossfit membership, and it changed their lives. 

"He started to get up, and he enjoyed going to the gym," she said. "He looked forward to it and he started to do a little more family stuff with us."

MacEachern will compete in cycling, shot put and discus in Orlando. (Jennifer MacEachern)

Focus and a team

MacEachern completed a half marathon last fall.

He learned of the Invictus Games and applied to Team Canada. Since his acceptance, he's been back on a pretty strict routine. 

"I have a schedule to follow, so it's been helping keeping me busy," said MacEachern. 

He says the training is helping him mentally too.

"My head's been a little clearer, clearer than usual. I have something to focus on and I have teammates all around me, just like I had in the army. They got my back no matter what I do."

In Orlando, MacEachern will compete in the cycling races, shot put and the discus.

The prince and the PM

On Monday, MacEachern was on hand when Harry and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the 2017 Invictus Games for Toronto. 

"It was awesome," he said. "I got to talk to the prince, I got to shake his hand. And the prime minister too. We did a selfie."

Brian MacEachern took a selfie with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Brian MacEachern)

His wife and their two young children will meet him in Florida. 

"I''m very excited," Jennifer MacEachern said. "Very excited and proud." 

The only Cape Bretoner, Brian MacEachern will join two other Nova Scotians on the national team. 

This year's games will feature 500 competitors from 15 countries. 

Invictus is Latin for unconquered, a philosophy MacEachern and the other competitors embrace. 

 "It's a wonderful feeling to see my teammates live again," said MacEachern. "That's all I can say, we're living again."