Wednesday, 11 January 2012

And.... breathe

So...Hillary and me. Back on track. I had hugely high hopes, but the tension and anxiety was horrible. One of my favourite horse films is "The Horse Whisperer," based on the book by Nicholas Evans. In it, Grace, who has suffered a terrible accident with her horse Pilgrim, overcomes all her personal difficulties by finally being able to get on his back once again. Then come the credits. And, usually, a couple of tears from me (yes, I'm that sad).

But in truth, confidence isn't like that at all. Yes I'd got on Hillary's back again. Yes, I'd managed to ride again, but I was far from better. Every time I thought about getting on, I still suffered the nausea; I still shook with fear, and cried. I still tortured myself and made myself consider selling her to somewhere where she would be better looked after. This was the start of our journey, not the end, and it was exhausting.

Anxiety makes your body uncontrollably tense. You become hyper sensitive to your surroundings. This constant awareness makes you very tired; the body cannot cope with constant over stimulation and adrenaline. I was exhausted. I couldn't believe how tired feeling this way made me. For me, it was facing your fear again and again every day. Going through that  terror every day. If you've never experienced it, it must be hard to imagine. But it is very real. Mental health issues are something that I never gave enough consideration too. I feel different now.

As I mentioned before, I went to see a psychologist on the NHS to be assessed for some help. This was in April. I'm still waiting, but I told myself that whether I had help or not, the main person who had to work was me, and so I made myself put in the effort anyway.

But it wasn't always easy. One strategy for improvement, was for me to have lessons, and I had these off Gaynor's daughter, Olivia, who has now become a most trusted friend. Every Sunday morning (even now) I can be found at the yard having my lesson. The first lesson, my family came to see. I gave them my mobile to take pictures on- i have a few, plus one of my dad's welly for some reason. Olivia has had a hard job teaching me, as everything about the way I was riding was in order to self preserve due to my fear. She had to start from scratch, and although at times I must have been the most annoying pupil, she has always shown the greatest amount of patience.

Because of my fear-induced riding style, Hillary was able to feel the exact tension I felt. This made her spook. It was entirely my fault, but I didn't see it- you can't when everything in your body is telling you that you are in the safest part of a bad situation. But although my body didn't want to change the way I rode, and felt as though it was completely and entirely wrong, I tried to trust Olivia, and believe in what she was saying. It took me a hell of a long time, but eventually, I began to relax. And when I relaxed, Hillary did the same.

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