I #LoveMNWinter. Biking saves my life.
By JJ Kahle
(Content Warning: Childhood sexual abuse)
I am a survivor. Specifically, I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). As a result of the abuse I survived, I have a condition known as PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder.
Trauma is a dark passenger. I developed a number of symptoms that I have experienced as a result of this trauma. These shame-based manifestations include intense self-loathing and hellish disdain for my own body. I’ve worked hard to rewire my reactions and impulses. Healing from trauma is hard work.
Riding my bike brings me joy. I don’t know if I can really explain why that is, but cycling brings me great pleasure and it’s good for my body! It helps remind me what a wonder my body is, how strong it is, and how I can propel myself using my own strength. This autonomy is something I crave and is a tremendously positive way to start and end my work day.
Cycling has tremendous benefits in addition to the way it makes me feel! Since I enrolled in the Dero Zap commuter incentive program, I have commuted over 9,000 miles by bike. I have become much more fit and physically healthy. I have saved my family thousands of dollars by eliminating a second car and all of the costs of insurance, maintenance and gasoline that go with it.
I know I’m not telling you anything new. The health and commuting benefits are obvious and you’ve heard it all before. But I continue to marvel at the least quantifiable but most crucial aspect of commuting by bike — the way it makes me feel. As a survivor, cycling plays a key role in my healing. I can feel the power of my body. As far as winter biking is concerned, it’s all just part of the adventure. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I love riding in winter.
If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, I stand with you. I hope that you’ve found ways to fight against the shame and rage that may haunt you as they do me. If you think cycling could play a role in your healing, please check out Grease Rag events, whether they’re Open Shop Nights, Full Moon Rides, and the Winter Skill Share or others. Check out the Grease Rag blog, read about other amazing WTF (women/trans/femme) folks who are creating safer spaces in the cycling community.
Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.