PTSD is an ugly creature. It lurks in society's shadow, is rarely discussed and even less frequently addressed. Every year, thousands of veterans come home silently carrying a burden that the rest of the world can’t 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, the kind that requires a throttle twist and an open road.
|Image source: Wikimedia commons|
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 during his service was the uncertainty of his and his team’s survival on a near constant basis. After returning he cited how out of place he felt, “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, PTSD can occur after a traumatic event in which intense fear, helplessness or horror is experienced, and/or where the chances of safety and survival are unpredictable. Symptoms include: reliving of the traumatic event, exaggerated startle responses and feelings of emotional numbness or extremes. Relationship damage is considered a serious side effect of the disorder, for troops suffering from combat trauma two out of three marriages are failing.
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.
U.S. Army soldiers executing a T-Clocks checklist, Wikimedia Commons - Esther Garcia
Motorcycles offer the chance for veterans to refocus their mental energy to a positive outlet. While riding you have to be aware, constantly processing, a side effect which many PTSD treatments said they find soothing. “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 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 an art form. To those suffering from PTSD, motorcycles can offer much needed quiet in the storm. “My bike is my lifeline,” Falls says. Thankfully PTSD awareness, and motorcycle veteran programs such as the V-Twin Project and Project 22, are now gaining traction.
At Hupy And Abraham, S.C., we promote and encourage a variety of motorcycle causes. No matter what you ride, safety and unity are top priorities. Support the sport and fellow riders always, and order your free "Watch For Motorcycles" sticker here.
By: Melissa Juranitch