Overcoming PTSD and getting back to biking
Posted by: Dragos Niculae
I was commuting to work on Woking Road, Guildford in November 2015, when the driver of a white transit van performed a sudden U-turn in the middle of the road, swerving into my path and knocking me from my motorcycle. It was a clear day, I was on my usual commute and I was going slower than the speed limit. I think the fact that the accident was out of my hands and I wasn’t in control of the situation is what scared me the most.
“It was as if fate told me to slow down.”
I haven’t been back on a motorcycle since my accident. I sustained two broken arms, soft tissue damage and serious bruising as a result of the collision. I feel like someone upstairs was looking out for me that day because although my injuries were serious, I was lucky I was doing 30mph in a 60 zone; otherwise things could have been a lot worse! It was as if fate told me to slow down.
The rehab process after my accident was long… Over time, my physical injuries healed but it’s the psychological trauma I’ve been struggling with. I saw a therapist for six months after the accident and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
PTSD has affected all aspects of life; my relationships, mood and personality. I used to be an extrovert, but I’ve slowed down a lot now and don’t socialise as much as I did – partly down to the fact the majority of my friends still ride motorcycles. As my whole family live in Romania and my marriage broke down shortly after the accident, I was left feeling alone for a while.
“I’ve always had a huge passion for bikes, so I knew I wanted to ride again one day.”
My personal injury claim was handled by Minster Law and they contacted me recently to ask if I’d be interested in taking part in their new ‘Back to Biking’ programme. It’s a three-phase initiative, offered to their clients who are struggling get back onto a motorcycle because of psychological reasons, following an accident.
I’ve always had a huge passion for bikes, so I knew I wanted to ride again one day. It’s been difficult to go back to something that has changed my life so dramatically – I’m just grateful to be alive and that I managed to go through all this without having permanent physical damage. But that doesn’t stop me being passionate about motorcycles, and I want to overcome my fear of getting hurt again, which is why I’ve decided to go ahead and take part in Back to Biking.
I miss the freedom, control and adrenaline rush of being able to go on ride-outs with my friends. To me, biking is a way of life – I feel like I’m missing out on something that I once loved and I want to get my old social life back. The programme consists of one-on-one therapy, confidence building and assisted re-training, which I think will be a really great opportunity to build my confidence and riding skills again.
“When I first got on the motorcycle simulator I felt the smile on my face grow.”
Phase one of Back to Biking took place at Brooklands Museum, Surrey, a couple of weeks ago, where I had a private therapy session before being supported on a motorcycle simulator with virtual reality equipment. I was actually really surprised how comfortable I felt! Initially I was nervous but I found my private counselling session really helpful as it built on what I’ve spoken about in therapy before. We agreed that I’m handling the trauma in the right way – accepting what I went through, assessing if there’s anything I could have done differently and moving forward.
When I first got on the motorcycle simulator (which was a sports bike, just like my new Suzuki SV650 which I’ve been renovating as a hobby) I felt the smile on my face grow. I expected to feel anxious but there were no nerves, just the buzz and excitement of a ride. It was a huge adrenaline rush and being able to tilt the simulator like a real bike, knowing I was in a safe environment, added to the thrill.
I still don’t feel ready to get back onto the road just yet, but I am excited for phase two (a physical back to biking course at a motorcycle training school). If I feel comfortable after that, phase three will see me and the other participants join a team of experienced bikers on a supported ride-out. I’m really hoping I feel comfortable during the phase two, because that means I’ll be one step closer to getting back to my love.