That is what I did this week. My activity has been limited since my accident on March 13. 2018 and my traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitation. Limited not only in terms of going places and doing things around the house but also being able to do my job. Working as a riding instructor and doing summer camp was what I did every summer for years and years until I got hurt.
Last Summer Was A No Go
Last summer I was unable to get out of the house much besides for doctors appointments. My muscles weren’t as strong and I hadn’t gotten proficient with the walker yet.
I’m on a lot of medication for my different symptoms and last summer it was still at the point of figuring things out. What worked, what didn’t and changing doses.
Going outside in the heat with 10 or 15 kids for horse camp just wasn’t happening. It wasn’t an option. I was still in such rough shape that the thought of summer camp last year hardly crossed my mind!
I have always been an anxious person. My anxiety has been magnified ever since my accident, making it a lot worse, unfortunately. I’m learning to deal with it though.
One of the things that I knew would help my anxiety was planning. We chose the activities we were going to use then put them in folders. We also held a camp meeting for everyone who was working summer camp. At the meeting, we answered specific questions about each activity. Then, by the time the meeting was done, each activity had been assigned to someone. We went into it with everyone knowing what they are responsible for. Maybe it didn’t make anyone else feel better, but it helped me!
Following The Lesson Plan
The camp is divided into three groups and each morning they rotate through three activities: a riding lesson, an unmounted horsemanship lesson and arts and crafts.
I was the riding lesson person before. Now that I got hurt I’m the designated unmounted horsemanship lesson teacher.
Luckily, the groups of kids I had to deal with were small, 3 and 4 at a time. That definitely made it easier.
I literally had to follow the lesson plan word for word in order to get it done. I took notes on the lesson plan each time I taught the lesson to help me do better for the next lesson.
Even after teaching the same thing three times each day I still could not have done it without my lesson plan written out step by step. Taking notes as I taught it also made a big difference for me.
I expected to struggle the first day or the first time I taught a certain lesson plan. What I was not expecting, was that it would be a continual struggle every time I did it throughout the week. I was in some ways disappointed about that. In other ways, I was proud that I got myself through it, despite the fact it was way harder than I thought it would be.
Sometimes the most dreaded part of camp is dealing with unruly campers or demanding parents. Luckily, this was an easy group of kids and parents to get along with.
I still feel proud of myself because there was a time not long ago that I would have had a total panic attack about being around that many people. I would have felt self-conscious, which would have come off as me being unfriendly.
Talking to that many people and being able to process what they are saying was definitely hard. I not only managed to do it, but I also did not have any anxiety about it which is a first! Even before I got hurt I had bad anxiety about all the interaction with the parents and kids at camp.
What About Being Around The Horses?
Being really close to the horses is still a big issue for me. Especially when it involves a small space like the barn aisle crowded with horses and kids. I honestly don’t even want to watch them in the barn from a distance because it freaks me out so much.
First, I’m afraid for myself, that I won’t be able to get out of the way if something happened. Second, my mind is always thinking about the worst case scenario and thinking about how someone could get hurt. Kids get so excited around the horses and rush and don’t think about what they are doing. As an experienced horse person, I know these are the kinds of behaviors that end up causing accidents around horses. They don’t do it intentionally, but horses are sensitive to our energy. So a barn full of excited kids can make for some nervous horses.
I stayed as close to the horses that I could where I didn’t feel like I was on the verge of panicking. It was hopefully good for me to just sit back at a safe distance, be quiet and watch everything. Seeing that everything was fine and nobody got hurt, even when they do things that were silly or unsafe I think helped me to calm my nerves.
There have been times when I have literally been sick to my stomach around the kids and the horses because I was so afraid of getting hurt again. Or worse, someone else getting hurt and then not being able to help them.
I’m proud of myself for the little bit of close interaction I did have with the horses. I felt like I was in control. I know my limits with being close to horses at this point and I managed to stay within my comfort zone, but still feel like I was able to participate. To me, that felt like progress.
Camp Show Judging
I did not even blink when it was decided I should be the judge for the end of the camp show. I judge our farm shows three times a year, which has a lot more kids and classes in it. The thing is, I have always had my friend Christina to help me keep things straight at those shows.
Judging on my own was a whole different story. It was a challenge keeping the papers organized. I got the pages mixed up and put the scores for some of the kids on other kids papers.
For a few minutes there, I was really flustered. Finally, when I was on the verge of losing it, I managed to just take a deep breath. I decided I had to slow down. I felt bad if it seemed to people like I took a long time, but literally, I had to slow down. Otherwise, my brain could not process what the heck I was doing. I managed to judge the show despite it being stressful, I was proud of myself for that.
A Lot Of Stress And A Lot Of Success!
There was a lot of stress in my life during this first camp week. I didn’t know what it would be like to be back out there participating in camp again. I didn’t know if the kids would respect me, or if I would have trouble communicating with parents. When I get stressed sometimes I just can’t find the right words, so I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to get through the lessons I had to teach.
It wasn’t easy, at all. It was a downright hard week. One of the hardest weeks I have had since my accident. It was also one of the best weeks because I overcome some of my anxiety. I still have a long way to go as far as being close to the horses goes. Though I think I even did well with that this week. I was thinking about my fear and anxiety around them…but it didn’t overtake me. I never once felt close to a panic attack.
So Here Is To The First Successful Week Of Summer Camp!
I’m glad that all the kids came and learned. That they made memories with new friends and horses. To me, just the fact that I was able to participate and help, made the week a success.
Even though I was walking with my walker, and not getting close to the horses. I was out there in my element and even though it was hard I did it anyway.
So the moral of the story is keep on keepin’ on. It is hard. TBI sucks, there is no way around that. If there was some magic wand fix for it I swear I would tell you.
Just take it day by day. Do what you feel comfortable doing. Know your boundaries physically and mentally.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try. As it got closer and closer for summer camp to begin this year I got more stressed. I made up my mind though that I was going to do it even though I wasn’t sure how it would go.
I’m glad that I did not let my fear get in the way of me giving it a try. It will probably take me until the next week of camp, in two weeks, to fully recover from this one.
It was physically and mentally a challenge. I’m looking forward to doing it again though. It is just one more step closer on my journey to beating my TBI!