Staff Sergeant Michelle Fisher is a Utah native who joined the Air Force through the delayed entry program when she was 17 as a Security Forces Airman in September of 1999. During her decade of service, she deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. While serving in Iraq, Fisher experienced the loss of fellow soldiers, near death experiences, and was sexually assaulted.
Upon returning home, adjusting to civilian life was difficult. Fisher struggled with post-traumatic stress (PTS), military sexual trauma (MST), and other symptoms when she returned from war. To cope with her undiagnosed trauma, Fisher began abusing alcohol. In 2009, she was arrested for driving while under the influence. This was a blessing in disguise, and soon she received treatment through the VA to help her cope with the wounds of war.
Since 2009, Fisher has completed many evidence-based treatment programs, including Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Advanced DBT, and inpatient substance abuse treatment. She also got involved with the recreational therapy programs through the Salt Lake City VA and local nonprofits, like Continue Mission and Wasatch Adaptive Sports, where she learned to mountain bike.
In 2014, Fisher was hired as an instructor for Wasatch Adaptive Sports and now teaches cycling, mountain biking, snowshoeing, fishing, and skiing. She works directly with veterans from the community who are currently attending the same inpatient program that helped her in 2013.
Fisher uses mountain biking to tackle her PTS and substance abuse symptoms. It has allowed her to connect with members of the community through a shared passion and become a liaison for suicide awareness and pro-mental health messages to save lives. In 2016, Fisher was selected to participate in the Bush Center W100K. In January of 2017, Fisher completed a study through the University of Utah and the National Center for Veteran Studies to help understand the effects that recreational therapy has on PTS recovery. On January 5th, 2018, Fisher celebrated her four-year sober anniversary.
Currently, Fisher is working on her adaptive ski certification so that she can teach adaptive skiing anywhere in the US. She is also working on returning to school to finish a degree in engineering. Recovery is a lifelong journey and she is committed to continuing down a path that will help others. Recovery is also something no veteran can do alone.