The War Inside: Combat Veteran Sarah Lee On PTSD & How Cycling America Saved Her Life

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“The war inside is totally different from the one we were trained to win.”

Sarah Lee 


Imagine finding yourself in a place so painful, dark and hopeless that suicide feels like the only option.

Welcome to post traumatic stress disorder.

Few things are more important than mental health. Nonetheless, the World Health Organization estimates that about 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the United States, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 18% of the population — 7.7 million of whom are afflicted by PTSD.

Sarah Lee is one such individual.

A former Army Sergeant and Operation Iraqi Freedom II Combat Veteran, Sarah experienced more than her fair share of trauma during her 2004 deployment. After 8-years of service, she retires to civilian life and begins to struggle mightily with re-acclimating to normalcy. Numb, she begins to withdraw from friends and family. Her only companion becomes chronic neck and knee pain. And her only solace the food she binges to salve her emotional wounds. 100 pounds heavier, she is then diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening, grapefruit-sized ovarian cyst.

By April 2017, Sarah descends into a depression so bleak, she very nearly takes her own life.

Today she tells her story — an inspiring tale of survival and service that begins with a bike

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However, countless who suffer from PTSD never find their way out. In fact, 22 veterans take their own lives every single day.

The very day I hosted this podcast was no exception. On November 7, 2018, just miles from my house, 28-year old combat veteran Ian David Long was planning an outlet for the dark thoughts he couldn’t shake. And just hours after Sarah shared her solution with me, Long succumbed to his pain. Pulling out a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol with a laser sight, he opened fire on a crowd of 20-somethings gathered at the Borderline Grill in Thousand Oaks, killing twelve before fatally shooting himself.

The confluence of these two events — and the disparity in their respective outcomes — perfectly underscores the severity of PTSD, our mental health epidemic at large, and the dire need for better diagnostics and more innovative treatment solutions for the untold millions who suffer.

So let’s talk about it.

This is a story about courage. It’s about healing. And it’s about redemption.

I’ll let Sarah tell the rest.

To view our conversation on YouTube, visit bit.ly/sarahlee424. And don’t forget we’re also now on Spotify here: bit.ly/rrpspotify

Peace + Plants,

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SHOW NOTES

Background, Context & Reference:

Resources & Services Mentioned:

  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs: federal Cabinet-level agency that provides near-comprehensive healthcare services to eligible military veterans at VA medical centers and outpatient clinics located throughout the country
  • National Center for PTSD: is a division of the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs
  • The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States: (VFW) is the largest and oldest war veterans service organization, we have a long and proven historyof providing vital assistance and support to America’s service members
  • AMVETS: non-partisan, volunteer-led organization formed by World War II veterans of the United States military that advocates for its members as well as for causes that its members deem helpful to the nation at large
  • American Legion: non-profit, U.S. war veterans organization made up of state, U.S. territory, and overseas departments, which are in turn made up of local posts
  • The American Legion Riders: motorcycle enthusiast members of the American Legion
  • Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association: association of Veterans from all branches of the United States Armed Forces who ride motorcycles as a hobby
  • Team Rubicon: veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering, interstitial music. Video, editing and graphics by Blake Curtis and Margo Lubin. Theme music by Ana Leimma.

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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