What does your motorcycle mean to you? For some, it is a pure passion, for others the most exciting means of travel, and for adventurers, it is both! But what if it was a way out? Meet Tyler Clark, a 32-year-old recovering veteran who got the courage to change his life with the thought of traveling the world on a motorcycle. He recently posted his story on Social Media to raise awareness of mental health.
Ty served in the Australian Army for almost thirteen years. He also served in Afghanistan in 2012 and in Iraq four years later. Whilst visiting home in 2011, he was sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier. He neither reported the case nor said anything to anyone except his parents and his closest friend. Life in the army had its toll on him. He was surviving an alienated life by exercising heavily and abusing alcohol, ignoring everything that was going on in his head.
His best friend constantly tried to make him aware of the path he was on, and finally, it clicked. He was in a total mess. It was time to take action and that was it! Save money, leave the army, and travel the world on my motorcycle. I want to find myself. He went to a map shop and started planning the trip.
2015, was supposedly his last year in the army. In May, his superiors called him and proposed an assignment in Iraq to help train the Iraqi Army so they could fight ISIS more effectively. He accepted.
Right before he left, he met Sarah, and to her, he was an open book. He shared with her his plans to travel the world by motorcycle. Sarah was a biker herself and after one month from their first meeting, she was ready to join him. So whilst he was away, working three jobs, she saved up enough money for her own bike and gear.
In 2016, eight weeks before he was due to come home from Iraq, he picked up a very nasty infection in his leg. He went through a lot of hardships to get recovery and his infection got worse. When he finally came home, his doctor told him that he was two days’ shy of having his whole right leg amputated. He went through three subsequent operations and five months of intensive physiotherapy in which he had to learn to walk again.
Mental Health and Raising Awareness
Amidst the physical struggles, all the mental issues he buried throughout the years came back to haunt him. Throughout all that he had been through, he attempted suicide three times. So during his physical recovery, he finally started a long journey to deal with his mental illness.
Successfully, he managed to leave on his long-awaited motorcycle trip in November last year. Whilst traveling, he still works on his mental health. He recently posted his story on Facebook to support people that are going through the same scenario, especially men who find it hard to look for help. Many people are commending his bravery.
I asked Ty to give out some advice.
What is your advice to those who find it hard to open up about their mental struggles?
If you’re struggling, don’t ignore what is going on mentally, no matter how small the problem might seem. Any issue can be solved, talked about, etc. Avoidance is probably the worst thing you can do. Think of it like this. If you’re boiling water on the stove with the lid on the saucepan, when the water starts to boil, the lid starts to move. Keeping the lid on, only causes the water to overflow and spill everywhere. Taking the lid off, releases the pressure and stops the overflow. The water will still boil without losing itself in the process.
How can family and friends approach the situation?
If you suspect someone close is going through something similar, approach them where they feel comfortable and grounded. Talk to them in a manner in which they will respond positively and use examples for them to relate to so they can understand your concerns. Don’t force anything and if they don’t open up or react the way you hope for, accept that and try again.
When I was at my worst, it took me quite some time to accept help. Having my closest ones’ encouragement was essential and knowing they always have my back as my support network is invaluable.
It is always advisable to seek the assistance of a professional and not burden yourself with ‘fixing them’. This will just lead to you taking on their stresses and problems. Support is essential, but seek help from professionals who are well trained on dealing with such scenarios.
Check out Ty and Sarah’s travel stories here