Art therapy for veterans

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Farrukh Azhar joined the United States army in 1985. He was in in the Gulf War, as well as operation Iraqi Freedom, before leaving the service in 2005. Like many soldiers, Azhar suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. While dealing with PTSD, he discovered an unlikely answer to his inner demons.

“I realized the stress and anxiety I was having, I could channel it in painting, so I started using all kinds of colors, and different techniques to get rid of a lot of stress,” Azhar said. 

Azhar battled through some dark times, but having a brush, and a canvas saved him from making many poor decisions.

“I am able to channel that energy and now, I’m getting a better quality of life. I am laughing, I am joking, I am full of energy. That’s the difference,” Azhar said. 

That difference has led Azhar to be one of 13 veterans in the four-state area to have their artwork displayed at the second Veterans Vernacular at Berkeley Art Works in Martinsburg. Gary Bergel, curator of the exhibit, says this artwork is a release valve for veterans. 

“What they’re feeling inside and can’t express verbally, because they get into trouble or might trigger themselves to act out in a wrong, self-destructive or violent way,” Bergel said. 

Azhar says it is refreshing to be in a gallery full of work from fellow veterans. As he looks around, he feels and understands what each person is going through.

“You get to see what’s in the person’s inner mind. That’s the wonderment of it, the inner mind. You get to see this — that’s what you are seeing right now. It’s the inner mind, and that’s what’s so fascinating with me, and art. See, I can laugh again now,” Azhar said. 

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