PTSD is an ugly creature. It lurks in the shadows of society, is rarely talked about and even less frequently addressed. Every year, thousands of veterans come home silently carrying the weight of a burden that the rest of the world can’t even see. With one in three returning troops being diagnosed with serious PTDS symptoms, it’s heartbreaking to learn that less than 40 percent of them ever seek professional treatment. Fortunately, a new form of supplementary treatment is gaining ground and recognition for PTSD, the kind that requires a twist of a throttle and an open road.
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Oconomowoc, WI, resident Staff Sergeant Bradley J. Falls served in the 54th division ground forces for two tours. During that time, he saw more than he ever bargained for. “I pictured like what it would be like in the movies … but it was quite a different experience,” Falls recounts, citing the most disturbing thing as the uncertainty of his, and his team’s, survival on a near constant basis. Coming home, the world was a different place. Things that were once familiar seemed out of place, “At first you don’t realize how messed up you are because you’re surrounded by guys that have lived through what you’ve lived through … We pretend we’re okay, but it catches up … You can’t hide from it anymore, it disturbs your performance at work, and more importantly your relationships at home.”
The symptoms that Falls experienced are classic ones. Technically an anxiety disorder, the symptoms of PTSD occur after experience of a traumatic event in which intense fear, helplessness or horror is experienced, where the chances of safety and survival are unpredictable. Symptoms include: reliving of the traumatic event, feelings of emotional numbness and exaggerated emotional responses. For troops suffering from combat trauma, two out of three marriages are failing with relationship damage being a serious side effect of the disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment is long and often grueling with approaches ranging from cognitive, to chemical, and often including some form of re-exposure to the traumatic event. “Seeking [help] was hard, sometimes it’s easier to stare down somebody with a gun than to deal with your own problems,” Falls recalled.
The stress of treatment combined with feeling alone in their experiences often discourage veterans from continuing. However, gaining traction now more than ever is a new form of encouragement for PTSD sufferers. “Motorcycle Therapy” is a form of supplemental PTSD treatment that offers the chance for community and peace.
Image source: motorcycleusa.com
Gaining ground now as a legitimate help in PTSD treatment, motorcycles offer the chance for veterans to refocus some of their mental energy on a positive outlet. On a motorcycle you have to be aware, constantly processing, a side effect which many PTSD treatments said they find calming. “I’m very hyper vigilant, riding channels that energy. It allows me to relax,” said Falls, who is also a motorcycle club member.
The ability to join motorcycle clubs also offers veterans a sense of community. That support is a vital process in overcoming any challenge, and for many vets the brotherhood provided by a club helps immeasurably in that process.
Motorcycles can mean many things to many people. For some they’re an outlet, to others a challenge, or even to others, an art form. To those suffering from PTSD, motorcycles can offer much needed quiet in the storm. “My bike is my lifeline,” Falls says. Motorcycle donation organizations such as the V-Twin Project are also gaining ground to help this effort by providing veterans with bikes.
Here at Hupy And Abraham, S.C., we promote and encourage a variety of motorcycle causes. No matter what type of bike is being ridden or if you’re in a club or solo, motorcycle safety and unity are top priorities. Support the community and fellow riders by getting your free WATCH FOR MOTORCYCLES sticker here.
By: Melissa Juranitch