The Slow Walk of Healing

Man, did I have a bad year in 2019. I remember having to “call a friend,” when she posted on one of her social media accounts that anyone could reach out to her if they were having suicidal thoughts. That was me. I was literally suicidal in 2019. It was bad, really bad.

I lost everything that year. I lost professional relationships. I lost friends. I lost all my income. I lost my apartment. In some ways, I even lost my kids. I had to put all my worldly belongings into storage, pack up the cat, some clothes and drive to (fucking) South Dakota and stay in my sister’s attic. What a shit show. I hit a cruel rock bottom without any of the upside of the raucous good time that normally accompanies an addiction. My life was effectively over.

It got a little better over the summer of 2019 as I started to relax and enjoy the beauty of the high plains. But, by the fall, I realized I had to take care of my financial affairs and head back to Florida. A series of extremely unfortunate events occurred when I did, and thus, 2020 began almost as badly as 2019 had… and then… the PANDEMIC.

WTAF.

So. As I rolled into 2021, drained of my savings, my IRA, all my worldly assets, even without a car, I had to rebuild. Alone.

But I did rebuild. As I’ve done time and time again in my life. This time, I had the luxury, the privilege, of not having to support anyone but myself (and my trusty comfort cat).

I invested in my mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. I took the opportunity to finally explore the dark depths of my life experience and begin the healing process than I had suppressed for all my adult life. Two words: complex trauma.

I started an intense, regular regime of therapy. I made a commitment to lose the weight I’d gained over the pandemic (done) and continue on my path, and I opened my heart and soul to the Universe.

I recently described myself as “Christian+.” I was raised a Christian, yet I find there is something magnificent going on out there that cannot be explained by any religious dogma. It has links to science and it is beyond human comprehension. I fall in with Albert Einstein here with this thinking:

“One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike. We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. It is entirely possible that behind the perception of our senses, worlds are hidden of which we are unaware.”

Albert Einstein

I started writing. Really writing. Writing stories from my life. Writing features in magazines. I began taking photos and now consider myself an amateur photographer. I started a film production company that is meeting with some success. I became engaged in civic responsibility and am serving on a few boards where I’m making a contribution. I consciously made the decision to Marie Kondo my social network. If a person I’m connected to is not sparking joy in some way in my life, I quietly disconnect. I aligned my priorities around “what matters.”

Unless the health market spurs a breakthrough in affordable, adult longevity, I realize I only have a couple more decades on the planet. My goal is to live out the rest of my days enjoying my best life.

Today– heading into the fall of 2021, I’m centered, strong, grounded, and connected. I’m traveling to the beat of a different drummer that maybe only I can hear. And I’m okay with that.

Namaste.

No Quarter

Connie is a beautiful, 25-year old American Quarter Horse mare.  To look at her, you wouldn’t recognize her as a 1200-lb training prop.  This is because lovely, gentle Connie has a mind of her own.

connie

What I learned at my second session at Crossroads Corral has stayed with me all week. I thought I’d write about it.

When I arrived at the stable, my therapists, Lindsay and Kathy, walked me over to a pasture where several horses were grazing lazily. They told me to pick any horse out of the pasture to work with for the session. Connie happened to be the closest horse, so I slipped on her halter and led her to another dirt-filled corral.  I could feel Connie had a gentle spirit, but she was wise in the ways you are when you’re getting close to end-of-life. I enjoyed petting her, talking to her, and just appreciating her majestic beauty.

Kathy motioned to a pile of objects just outside the fence of the corral.  She gave me explicit instructions:

“Use any of the objects in the pile to create an obstacle course for the horse to go over.”

In the pile of objects were styrofoam noodles (the kind you use in a pool or a lake), small beach pails, hula hoops, and a few long, hollowed out PVC pipes.  I grabbed the easy stuff, and constructed an obstacle course I could easily lead the horse through, including a little “jump” I devised with two pails turned upside down supporting a noodle “rail.”


Spoiler alert: if you’re considering sessions with Crossroads Corral, stop reading here. 


When I was done, I turned to my therapists and said, “Okay,  I’m ready.”

Kathy then says to me,

“Okay, now take her halter off and lead the horse through the path – without touching her.”

WhaT?  I thought to myself.  You couldn’t have told me that FIRST?  I felt a sense of betrayal and trickery, but put it out of my mind.  Not a good first step toward building trust (which is kind of why I was coming to therapy).  I realized that this was the lesson–  seeing how I would perform in the face of an extremely difficult task.

But, how the hell was I going to bend this splendid animal to my will?

At first, I really tried– in good humor– joking with the horse, cajoling her, using the tools to get any reaction out of her, all the while feeling the uncomfortable internalization of humiliation, failure, and judgment at the same time. Connie was not responding enough to do what I wanted. At the back of my mind was a pragmatic assessment: “This is fucking impossible.”

Like most times in my life when something is particularly difficult, I then made the decision to “stop playing.”  I shared with the therapists that from a very early age, I would not compete in games I could not win.  And being even more truthful, I confided that many times in my life I could not afford to fail, intimating that this exercise was very stressful for me.  I just wanted it to stop, and move on to the next thing.

We talked through those issues, but finally Kathy told me, sternly, yet patiently, “I’ve seen dozens of ways this can be done.” In other words, it was not impossible. That challenged me.  I decided to try again.  Lindsay piped in, “We’re on your team!”

What happened next I will never forget.

I started using the tools again and began focusing exclusively on the horse. Really focusing – in a kind of spiritual, at-one-with-the-universe, centered way. It’s hard to explain, but I lost myself in the task at hand with a blind ambition to work together with the horse to complete this preposterous feat.

First, myhulahoop fear of failure fell away, then the pressure and presence of the therapists fell away, as I became entranced with moving, whirling, shaking the tools and watching the horse react and reading her the best I could.  I remembered in the fog of this activity, the therapist had told me the obstacle course was of my own design. So, I changed the design.  I reduced the course to one obstacle.  I removed the noodle from the “jump,” yet felt it might just be possible I could actually get the horse to walk through the two pails.  This seemed cognitively absurd, but I was in the zone. I kept trying.

And then, just moments later… she walked through the pails.  It was like magic.

Squeeee!

I couldn’t believe it!

I felt like I had just won the Triple Crown with Connie.

All that self-doubt, including the arrogance I brought to the lesson by simply stating the task was impossible, made me inventory and examine all the feelings that surrounded the process of working through the assignment. It taught me not only not to give up on myself, but not to discount the holistic forces that can come together to make something seemingly inconceivable happen.

Wow.

Human Whisperer

 

Version 3

Say hello to Buddy, my new therapist.

So, I’ve begun something I’ve always been interested in looking into called, “Equine Therapy.”  I was driving home and happened to see a banner on a horse fence that caught my eye. I almost got into an accident taking a photo of it on my iPhone.

banner

Equine-Assisted Therapy has been used to treat trauma and was popularized especially for veterans who were experiencing PTSD coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Considering I love horses (see proof), I have been curious about this since I first read about it. It’s strange that after all these years, I haven’t really dealt directly with my past trauma in various counseling sessions. I typically go to counseling to deal with a current crisis. I’m not in crisis right now, and haven’t been in a while, so this may be the best time to exorcise some old ghosts.

The stable is less than a mile from my house, Crossroads Corral.  I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up, but my first impression was positive. The farm is very peaceful and the two counselors (one therapist, one equine-assistance expert) were compassionate, knowledgable, and kind. I was surprised how much I divulged in just my first session with two strangers.  I’ll report back after I’ve attended a number of sessions to share how it’s progressing.

So far, I love the whole idea of it and am looking forward to going again.