I Look At This Picture And What Do I See?
I see that it is an old picture taken way, way, like years before my accident. I remember we were getting the horses clean to go in a Thanksgiving parade. As you can see from me wearing my tank top the weather was way warmer than usual for November.
It looks like someone took this picture without me knowing they were taking it. That is what is so great about it, it didn’t interrupt my moment. I was calm and relaxed. All my energy and attention focused on that horse. It looks peaceful and therapeutic being with the horse.
Was I Scared Before?
Before my accident, I was a very confident horsewoman, both off the horse and on. Unlike some people, it wasn’t a natural thing for me. My confidence was learned and built over many years. Riding did not come naturally to me. I wanted it bad enough that I was able to work through my fears.
When I was younger I went through a reckless, fearless stage. Where I did stupid dangerous things with horses. I started breaking bones and that was the end of that era.
I can say that I had settled into a healthy balance of respect for huge potentially dangerous animals. Confidence, not carelessness. Fear was not an issue at all. If you would have told me as an adult that fear would become an issue for me, I wouldn’t have believed you.
When I first went back out to the barn you could not keep me far enough away from the horses. I had panic attacks about going out to the barn to teach lessons. I would not go in the barn with any horses out of the stalls. When I was teaching lessons I stayed as far back in the corner of the arena as I possibly could.
Coming up close to a horse made my brain go one hundred miles an hour with “what-if” worst-case scenarios. Every time I went out to teach lessons it was running through my mind that if something bad happened I would not be able to help the rider, or the horse if necessary. For a while, this took all of my teaching confidence away.
Luckily, as time has gone on and I have reacclimated teaching lessons is a comfort to me. It makes me happy that the knowledge is all still there, even if I’m having trouble communicating it.
Every time that I’m at a safe distance that I feel comfortable with I can feel my confidence building back up. Since I need the walker to help stabilize me while I walk, I’m constantly thinking about if one of the horses acted up I wouldn’t be able to get out of the way fast enough,
Self Preservation Versus Reality
In that picture, I see someone that is calm and confident enough to be able to overcome her fears. I see someone that has the strength of mind to determine what situations might actually be dangerous. As opposed to times when my body and my mind are being overly protective and causing me fear.
There are times when my fears are totally legit, I try to stay out of those situations if I can. It helps a lot in my mind though to be able to say to myself in my head that a situation that I fear is not legitimately dangerous.
Is There Evidence To Support My Fear Or Am I Just Making An Excuse?
I have a doctor who told me that when I was in those panic situations, I needed to define whether or not there was evidence to support the way I was feeling. For example, not being very mobile is a totally legit reason to keep my distance from a horse. It is not a legit reason to not go to the barn or to teach from outside the ring.
There are times that out of self-preservation I can feel myself getting tense and panicky. If I can manage to not let my thoughts spiral out of control, and really think about the situation. A lot of times I have built it up in my mind to be worse than it really is. Or if I’m completely honest with myself I have to admit that I’m making excuses because I’m afraid.
I had to accept the fact that I was afraid before I could begin to work through it. For the longest time after I got hurt, I wasn’t going to the barn or seeing the horses. Part of that time it was because I wasn’t strong enough physically to do it. The rest of the time I was avoiding it
I had to admit that to myself in order to fix it.
Not Allowing Myself To Have Negative Thoughts About Myself Because Of The Fear I Have Developed
It is totally normal that after something like what happened to me that there would be an element of getting over fears that need to be addressed during recovery. That is not through something that you should beat yourself up over.
I remind myself of what I was capable of doing without fear. Just because I’m currently not able is by no means saying I won’t ever be able to. It’s the exact opposite! It is a reminder that I have the skills and the strength to overcome my fears and get back to where I was before.
No “Normals” With TBI
One of the things that I learned quickly in my TBI recovery was that you might as well take the word “normal” out of your vocabulary. Every day is different and unique in its own way. Sometimes your symptoms will be really bad, others not so much. Sometimes you might feel like there is no rhyme or reason for your good days and bad days. Learn to accept that the fact that your “normal” might change every day and that’s okay. The best we can do is all we can do. Don’t beat yourself up.
Take As Long As You Need
Let’s face it, our brains and our bodies are going to take as long as they need to heal. They might take their good old time, or you might recover quickly. Everyone is different (no normals remember). If you are committed to overcoming your fears you will be able to, who cares how long it takes?
A Second Look At The Picture
I have to reframe my thought processes. Looking at that picture I should see what I’m capable of doing. The confidence that I had and the way that being around horses made me feel more peaceful, not scared.
It was just me and the horse focused on one another. The way it is supposed to be. I have tons of pictures with me riding horses. Jumping big jumps or on a trail ride. Lots of dressage test pictures. Those don’t inspire me the way this one does because when I look at this picture the only thing I feel is calm and happy.
To me that is the most important thing, and what I’m working towards. To heal enough physically to be safe and confident around horses. As well as to heal the internal wounds that have caused me to now have fear about something I once totally loved.
Keep On Keepin’ On
I can get back to it. I’m sure of it! I just got to keep on keepin’ on and things will get better and better. I’m fully aware that some days are easier to get through than others. As long as you get through you are making progress and you should feel proud of yourself.
Slow progress is still progress. Don’t give in to your fears!