Kate MacEachern, a former Corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces is on a mission.
Walking from Nipawin Saskatchewan to Chilliwack BC, Kate's journey is all about creating dialogue around PTSD, it's causes, it's side effects and the solutions that can bring a measure of happiness, joy and sunshine back into people's lives.
The 45 pound rucksack she carries on her back is symbolic of the burden of PTSD that so many first responders, service personnel and veteran's carry.
The journey through PTSD is all about learning to live with a new normal.
Like everyone out there, I have a few causes that are close to my heart. Finding a cure for MS - my wonderful husband has MS, so, it's important to me that we find a cure, anything to do with children who are suffering from sexual, physical and psychological abuse. As a survivor, those causes are important to me. PTSD; being a survivor, having dealt with psychiatrists and doctors, insurance and bureaucracy, I know all too well about the stigma involved with PTSD.
PTSD almost robbed me of my life. I had survived repeated beatings at the hand of my mother, I had survived being sexually molested, I had survived the car crash that put me in braces, physically, but inside, my spirit, my soul and mind were struggling. Nightmares, cold sweats, very little sleep for days and weeks and months and years...mood swings, sometimes violent ones...along with a host of other unpleasant symptoms.
After several medications that did not work (Wellbutrin, Zoloft etc) the drugs the doctors eventually put me on, Paxil and Amitriptyline ended up exacerbating the problem instead of alleviating it. No one knew at the time, that you should not drink coffee on Paxil. Here I was, 2-3 pots of coffee a day on 40MG's of this stuff and low and behold, when they adjusted the Amtrityline the last time, it triggered suicidal thoughts. After about a week of not being able to shut the voice off in my head, feeling like I couldn't tell anyone what was going on, terrified of what the outcome would be, I checked myself into the hospital. I spent two weeks being weened off of caffeine, through tests, it was discovered I had caffeine toxicity and 75% liver damage caused by the combination of coffee and Paxil.
I went through hell. My family went through it with me. Counselling helped some, but none of the drugs the doctors tried on me worked and with the last set almost killing me I decided I would pitch the drugs and find other ways to deal with my challenges. I meditate now, watch my diet, use herbal supplements, read a lot of spiritual books. Riding my motorcycle helps me cope as does snuggling with my cats...but...
It wasn't until I went to Wounded Warriors Weekend
in Slave Lake AB last August that I truly, deeply got the message that I wasn't alone, I wasn't weird, I was wounded.
Being surrounded by others who had similar sleeping patterns to mine, watching others trigger, listening to the experiences of others who like me, wanted to do more than just survive...it wasn't until that weekend that I felt accepted, by ME. I had bought into the stigma that the doctors, friends and strangers had labelled me with. I was ashamed of me and this weakness. NO MORE.
At Wounded Warriors Weekend I found a new layer to my healing.
I feel stronger inside than I have in years, and I believe that the simple act of dialogue brought an enlightenment an understanding to my brain that it had not been able to accept before.
Although I wasn't a soldier or a veteran, I wasn't a cop or a fire fighter, not a medic either, the people who attended Wounded Warriors Weekend, made me realize that my trauma's while different from theirs, were real, horrible and that I wasn't crazy.
I was more like them than not, I was simply trying to find a new normal while resenting loosing the old normal.
One of the people who touched my soul and helped rekindle my fire and passion for life, was Kate MacEachern. Having been thrown from a horse during a training exercise with the Lord Strathcona's Mounted Regiment, this woman, whose back was broken, who later experienced a stroke because of a dislodged blood clot caused by the horse incident, a woman who was told she'd never walk again, might never function fully again, helped me.
She helped me through her compassion, her empathy, her courage, strength and inner beauty.
Kate MacEachern is all of those things and so much more.
After interviewing her, spending time with her, I vowed that I wanted to do more surrounding the issue of PTSD.
I wanted to support our Warriors, those who do jobs that horrify, that destroy the soul, the body and the mind. The Police, Medics, Fire Fighters, Soldiers, Veteran's - these people do jobs that I am not sure I would have the courage to do. They see horrific car wrecks, people burning alive, children being abused, bullets and IED's taking the lives of their friends - they see the WORST of humanity & Mother Nature and yet they rush in to help instead of pulling back.
Because of meeting Kate, I decided to start an event that will become it's own association in time, called Wheels for Our Wounded
using my non profit, The Canadian Motorcycle Tourism Association to do so.
to help those who need wind therapy to deal with their PTSD be able to have motorcycles converted with side cars or made into trikes, help buy wheel chair accessible vehicles or help get vehicles modified so a Warrior could drive their car or truck.
You see the government looks upon private vehicles as a luxury, but those of us who ride, know that a motorcycle is far more than a luxury, for some of us, it's a life line. Those who can't take public transit know that wheels mean freedom, independence and dignity.
Dog therapy, equine therapy, wind therapy, gardening therapy - there are almost as many PTSD therapy types as there are sufferers. This is not a one size fits all illness. There are organizations funding many of the different therapies, but vehicle therapy outside of wheel chair accessible vehicles isn't being funded here in Canada.
I called Kate and asked her if she could be my special guest since she'd be in Edmonton for May 30th - told her I'd donate 25% of everything we take in to her cause and the balance would go to purchasing a motorcycle for a veteran in need of motorcycle therapy. She agreed.
I was asked to join the team of The Long Way Home
as Operations Manager.
Overwhelmed but excited to be involved in making a bigger difference, I readily agreed.
Though we are only two weeks into Kate's 3 month long journey, I can't tell you how healing this experience has been. Gruelling, challenging but healing, for all of us in the team I do believe.
As her ops manager, my job is to take care of all the little things that crop up while the team is on the road. I apply for permits, coordinate with the rest of the team like Cindy Murphy the publicist, the events team, Pat Varga, Brenda Fredercikson, Drea Popiel, David Wilson, Sophie Pyne and Paula DeLorey her medic and all of the communities and people who reach out wanting to be involved.
I help with social media, the web site, designing and ordering of swag, ensuring the team knows what is happening from day to day. It's busy work.
The on road team is comprised of 5 women, three who are survivors with PTSD, 4 horses and one pre teen boy.
Kate is joined for the first 30 days of this trip by her son, Tyler. His message is almost as powerful as that of his mother. After all he lives with PTSD as much as she does.
For much of this journey Kate will be walking with two horses and their riders, Rebecca and her daughter Emily; Emily has PTSD. The N.A.S.H. Project provides service dogs and therapy horses and is headed up by Rebecca and her daughter.
As beneficiaries of Kate's efforts, they wanted to join Kate and show the people they get to meet what great therapy a horse can be, to talk about the effects of a service dog on its handler, to provide hope and help the discussions focus on HOPE, on supports.
|Kate, Tyler, Rebecca, Emily, Lisa and JoAnne with the Fire Fighters of|
Britannia Wilton Fire Dept near Lloydminster SK/AB
I have been volunteering a ton of my time to this walk, this cause, this woman and the team on the road and yet...I feel like I have been given far more than I have been able to give to them.
To read the stories of how Kate and her team's message have touched people's lives, to see the photos and the joy, the hope she is spreading - the dialogue that is being created.
To play witness to the to the monster determination that is Kate MacEachern fills me in a way I can't truly describe.
This is her third and final journey.
It will be the most gruelling of them all, it is truly THE LONG WAY HOME
PLEASE Follow Kate Mac, The Long Way Home and the N.A.S.H. Project. There are SOOOO many ways you can support this woman and her team as they make their way to Chilliwack.
- Join an event in a community near you.
- Be out on the highway and walk a kilometre or two with her.
- Donate a few dollars, buy a tee shirt or a pin through her online store.
- Join her Free shopping circle.
Follow her on Facebook
, visit her site
often - show this woman and this team that PTSD IS NO LONGER a DIRTY LITTLE SECRET - engage, talk share.
The more dialogue that is created, the more support will be offered to those working at reclaiming their lives and learning to live within a new normal.
Thanks for hearing me out folks and PLEASE - GET INVOLVED - BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE....
Belt Drive Betty
Editor & Rider
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