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Almost 25 million suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in the U.S. alone. One woman found a unique way to cope with her PTSD after a traumatic event – by following the call of the wild.
After an ex-boyfriend raped Sarah, she developed agonizing PTSD. She lost 33 pounds in five months. “Depressed, anxious, and scared, Sarah knew that she needed to move on to stop reliving her painful past,” says ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork. “Her life was almost ruined by a sexual predator – but she had no idea that it was about to be saved by a different kind of predator.”
Things turned around for Sarah when she visited a wolf sanctuary with her family, and realized that she needed to focus completely on winning the wolves’ trust – it gave her the chance be fully in the present and take a respite from the pain of the past.
Sarah explains that the sanctuary is run by her cousins. “I went into the enclosure for the first time, and it was like my brain shut up. When you have PTSD, you are on guard against the entire world. Your brain is constantly in this fight-or-flight mode,” she says. “When you have one concrete thing to focus on, you’re not imagining what could happen to you.” And, she adds, “No one is going to sneak up on you with a wolf in there with you!”
Sarah believes that mindfulness is the key to recovery. “By being present, you’re able to address core issues and triggers without being triggered by them.” Psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow says, “It seems like the wolf forced you to be in the moment.”
Dr. Dow notes that PTSD is a common disorder – one in ten Americans will meet the criteria for the condition at some point in their lives. “It’s treatable, but it’s not easy to treat.” And he thinks that spending time with wolves or similar experiences, while not a substitute for other treatments, can complement them. “We’re treating all of you, not one part of you. And that’s a great recipe for successful treatment!”