In 2006, Allan Kobayashi went through the darkest time of his life.
Kobayashi, who served as a petty officer second class with the Canadian Forces, had returned to Victoria from tours in the Middle East, when the night terrors began.
He had incredibly vivid night terrors, and as a result, sleep became virtually non-existent. The day presented its own set of challenges as well. He didn’t like being around people and loud noises, he had massive amounts of anger, uncontrollable and often unprovoked fits of rage, could no longer hold a conversation with friends and family, and was unable to connect with reality.
Shortly after, Kobayashi was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental illness that can result from exposure to trauma.
In the years following his diagnosis, he withdrew from his family, unwilling to accept the fact that he suffered from the disorder and tried to self-medicate by turning to drinking and fighting. Eventually the night terrors, lack of sleep and stress of work led to his breaking point and Kobayashi snapped. But instead of getting angry, he decided to do something he hadn’t done in a long time — he went for a run. And 24 kilometres later, he felt like a new person.
“The endorphins, the smile was ear to ear. I felt fantastic. From that point on, I think that’s where that little seed was planted in my head that running was something for me,” said the now 37-year-old.
Running quickly became a way for Kobayashi to deal with the side effects of the disorder. Now, he’s helping others cope and raising awareness of the disorder as the founder of the Wounded Warrior Run B.C. taking place later this month.
As part of the fourth annual run, six runners, many of whom served in the military or navy, will relay run the length of Vancouver Island from Port Hardy to Victoria from Feb. 20 to 26.
The group will run for seven consecutive days, covering roughly 700 kilometres, and will stop at legions, community centres and fire halls along the way to raise awareness about PTSD and connect with people suffering from it.
For Kobayashi, the event has become more than just a run, but a chance to reach out, offering veterans support to break down the stigma of PTSD.
“My favourite part is connecting with other people and sharing my story of strife and all the badness, and allowing them to know it doesn’t have to be like that, that there are people who are willing to support, that are willing to help in any way shape or form,” Kobayashi said.
“To have them (veterans) accept and have that willingness (to get help), that’s the magic to me.”
Tsartlip First Nation runner Bernice Smith will also be taking part in this year’s run. In previous years, she’s met the Wounded Warrior runners along the way, but this is her first year on the team.
Born and raised on the Island, Smith has experienced the impacts of suicide and has friends and family who suffered from depression. She also knows residential school and domestic violence survivors — experiences which can also lead to PTSD.
“Really what it (the run) is, is to raise awareness, but also to open that conversation that nobody is alone, that we don’t have to hide, that we don’t have to be embarrassed that we’re suffering from depression or PTSD. There is a listening ear, there’s a shoulder just to be there,” Smith said.
The run has raised more than $100,00 in the past three years — funds of which have gone to Wounded Warriors Canada, a non-profit organization that helps members of the Canadian Forces, by providing support to those coping with PTSD and their families.
For more information on the run visit woundedwarriorrunbc.com.