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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Overlander

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Overlander

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Overland Bound Members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and represent a wide range of vehicles and expedition styles. There is one group of members in our ranks that stand out in their commitment to the Overland Bound mission, and that is US Military Veterans (especially those suffering from PTSD). 

We asked Overland Bound Member #1023, William Campbell, to share more about his journey with PTSD and how overlanding has helped him in his healing process. 

PTSD and Overlanding

By William Campbell

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is understood by most on some level.  It is typically associated with negative experience(s) while serving in combat far from home.  While this is true, PTSD is a disorder endured by tens of thousands of individuals who have numerous and diverse experiences that produce the same symptoms.  These symptoms include hyper vigilance, anxiety, depression, anger, flashbacks, and strong feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.  Non-military traumatic events may be physical or mental abuse, an automobile accident, or witnessing the death of a friend or relative.  We are all susceptible and there are literally hundreds of ways to develop PTSD.  

There is no current way to determine in advance who is likely to develop PTSD and the degree of severity.  For some, PTSD can be completely debilitating while another may contract a form that allows normal functioning. Those that suffer from PTSD are not crazy. They are not weak. They are simply responding normally to abnormal experiences.  Every person has their own threshold which explains why a shared experience may have a profound influence on one, and roll off the back of another. The more traumatic experiences you’ve had throughout your life, the more you become predisposed to develop the disorder.  

My story

Full disclosure, I’ve been diagnosed with a chronic form of PTSD. Without going into great detail, I was abused as a child.  It was this abuse that led me to escape to the military where I learned what was and was not acceptable behavior.  I didn’t know what it was like to have positive self-esteem, and certainly didn’t know the foundation for chronic PTSD had been laid.  I was already exhibiting symptoms of traumatic stress prior to going to war in 2004-2005 but was not consciously aware.  For me, it was combat that pushed me over the edge.

Bill and his PTSD journey

Those with PTSD, particularly those with a service background (e.g. the military and first responders) often seek out those things that give comfort.  It may be hard to believe, but often those with PTSD seek out the security they felt while a member of the service.  This may seem counter-intuitive given the cause of their PTSD may be rooted in that very same group.  Nonetheless, it was a shared hardship and there was safety in numbers.  There is a sense you were not alone.

The Road Back Home

How does this relate to overlanding and Overland Bound specifically?  What is it about Overland Bound that gives those with PTSD a sense of belonging, well-being and comfort?

I can only speak through the filter of my own experience, but it is a sense of camaraderie and shared hardship that binds those in the military and first responders together.  Combat serves only to strengthen this bond.  When men and women return home and are separated, there is a strong sense of loss (whether conscious or subconscious).  It is only natural that upon separation one would seek out that same sense of belonging.  Overlanding provides a mission, Overland Bound the camaraderie.  Those who never served in the military may not feel the same sense of mission, but everyone wants to fit in; everyone craves the acceptance and praise of their peers.  Overland Bound feeds that desire.

On the trail - PTSD
On the trail to Gallagher Head Lake, WA with an Overland Bound crew.

From my perspective, the thing that sets Overland Bound apart is a feeling of support and family.  These aspects are important for those with PTSD because it’s this kind of environment that promotes healing.  Overland Bound encourages involvement, but does so without expectation or judgment.  This attitude is promoted at the top (i.e. Michael and Corrie).  A personal example of this occurred while preparing for 2016 Off the Grid.  Because of PTSD, I expressed my concern about being surrounded in a large group.  Those of us with PTSD will immediately identify with the fear of being unable to control the environment.  Those who don’t suffer from PTSD may not understand this seemingly irrational concern but the leadership at Overland Bound didn’t question my request.  I was simply given an accommodation in a peripheral campsite.  I always felt respected and was never treated as an isolationist.

Overland Bound is a community.  Much like the military, members rely on and support other members; it’s fundamental to the basic tenants of the group.  The concept of “It doesn’t matter what you drive” is consistent with family and acceptance.  

If PTSD is a part of your life and you enjoy exploration for its own reward, take a chance on Overland Bound; just get out and explore, Overland Bound has your back.

mountains and rig PTSD

 

 

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Corrie Co-Founder, Marketing and Editor @ Overland Bound. Often found behind the camera, keyboard or steering wheel. (But not all at once.)

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