I had my first equine assisted psychotherapy session yesterday.
Boy howdy - it was intense. Partially because I get pretty intense in therapy. (I want to get whatever work I need to get done, DONE, and move on to something less painful and more fun.)
As I pulled up to the barn, I saw Green Eyes (human therapist. At least her nickname as of right now on this blog) with a horse. Then I saw the horse, who was tied to the fence, rear back and rip the whole fence out. She took off running around the barn with the boards that used to be the fence catching her and anything in her path as she ran. Green Eyes caught her, calmed her down, and I could see the left front foot was red from her own blood.
I waited at my car until I saw Green Eyes coming back with a different horse. This horse seemed anxious and nearly ran Green Eyes over in between the barn and the turn out.
Strange how chaotic horses made most of my anxiety go away. I was stressed about therapy. Nervous about how it was going to go, and what work it was going to take on my part. Horses being horses - even if it's a wreck - make sense to me, and I feel pretty comfortable in that world. At least I felt comfortable, until Green Eyes came back and asked me what I hoped to accomplish in therapy...
She gave me the speech on horse safety, and joked about horses tearing fences down. Then she told me how with horses, in order to get them to engage with you, you have to be totally present in your body. I KNOW that, but somehow her telling me that, brought up all kinds of emotions.
One thing I have always appreciated about Green Eyes, is her power of observation. Some people would have missed the look of panic in my eyes, but she didn't. I haven't seen her in six years, but she didn't waste a second getting started.
I'd love to give you a play by play of the whole session, but I can't remember it. The thing about being totally present in the moment is that it moves quickly from one thing to the next.
She asked me about any medical issues, and I told her I had none, but then she said something like, "Anything related to why you're here today?"
I have chronic pelvic pain. It never stops hurting. It gets worse every 30 days or so. I've been to doctors, and have been unimpressed with their medical advice. (Not to mention the terror I feel at the idea of exams!) I have just figured it is something I have to live with. I don't think about it much, and I definitely don't think of it as a "medical issue".
But... maybe with a little therapy work... and mind body work... I could find some relief.
I'm pretty tight and rigid in my core and hips. Green Eyes said we'd work on that.
I have been in a lot of therapy. I have sat on couches and talked, and it was all helpful, but this was perfect for where I'm at now.
By moving around, I was constantly feeling something.
Having the horse there, I felt pressure I wouldn't have felt if we were just sitting and talking. The horse also played different roles at different points in the session.
Green Eyes said this horse is sometimes an asshole. Something in me shutdown, but I couldn't have put words to it until Green Eyes made observations about what happened when I approached the horse.
I wanted her to like me. I didn't want to do anything wrong. And I didn't want to touch her, nor (really) have anything to do with her. We had a quick discussion about how interracting with anyone (including a horse) is entirely my choice. (WEIRD! I still forget I have choices like that.) And then it dawned on me:
"You said this horse was an asshole, and why the HELL would I want to engage with an asshole?"
At which point, the horse ran away from me and to the opposite corner - as far away from me as she could get.
Then we talked about learning to judge who will be safe. Trusting my opinion over what others say. She told me to find what I could trust about the horse. That was easy. She showed no signs of aggression whatsoever. I could see she was paying attention to us - even when she was far away from us.
I approached her again, and this time I told her (the horse), I wasn't sure how I felt about her yet, but I wanted to get to know her. She put her head in my chest and we stayed there for a minute. Then she turned and put her head over the fence (away from me).
Green Eyes pointed out that her (the horse's) body language was not that dissimilar from my own when I first came in. I was aware of the horse, but I was standoffish and wouldn't let her get close. Green Eyes pointed out how this horse will always make you work for a connection. She doesn't want you half way.
I'm kind of like that horse. I don't let just anybody in, and I wait to know I am 100% safe before I let you all the way in.
I also kept flinching. Green Eyes asked if I had ever had to defend or protect myself from my left side. Nothing that I recall, but since my session yesterday, I realized that I pull my left shoulder up when I feel afraid. And if I'm really afraid, I pull my hand up. It's not something I think about, it's an automatic reaction that I just do. I imagine my chronic pelvic pain could also be related to some automatic reaction.
There was more, but I can't remember it all now. All of that in one session. And yet, I didn't leave feeling drained or overwhelmed.
I left feeling excited.
I've been in pain for a long time. I've felt sort of stuck for a little while.
Life is so much better than it once was, so I hadn't thought much about trying to make it even better. Since I wasn't dying, and I wasn't thinking about dying, and life is really good and full of wonderful things, I hadn't thought much about the possibility that there could be more. Life could be even better.
In this first session, I can see that life can be even better. I can feel even better.
That's really exciting to think about.