Thursday, October 30, 2014

#Horsetherapy: I feel better on horseback.

Sometimes I go to therapy, and it feels REALLY crappy.
I suppose it's like physical therapy - it hurts, but you do it in the hopes that you will build up your muscles and heal. I understand the process well enough that I keep going.

Other times, I go and I leave feeling better.
My last session was the variety that helped me feel better.

I started the session with a list of things that were on my mind. Some were things that had happened that week - some were things from the past that had been bothering me. I gave Wendy my list. She commented that for such a heavy list, she found it strange that I was smiling... and then she said she was going to go with her gut: Climb on Daisy (the therapy horse) and see what happens next.

Daisy has a bareback pad - keeps my jeans from getting quite so dirty.
I climbed up. Wendy walked Daisy around for a few laps of the pen, and then asked me what I was feeling.


I have felt invisible - but not because others make me feel that way, but because that is how I am supposed to be. I want to be heard, but can't handle it when people are listening.

At that moment, Wendy tied her lead rope to Daisy's halter to work as reigns. She told me to do it differently. Ask for some attention. Let someone listen and respond to me.

We rode in circles and figure eights and when I was done, we went back to the center where Wendy was standing.

I felt completely at home. Comfortable.

Wendy said (slightly awed), "To my knowledge Daisy has never ever done that before. She just did everything you asked with just a halter, and without even objecting. Why? Why do you think that was so easy for both of you?"

We were connected, and I felt connected. There was never a question in my mind that she wouldn't go with me. We were going to walk around and do figure eights, and then we were going to go back to Wendy. I didn't stop to ask what Wendy wanted me to do. We just did it.

For the rest of the session - it was Daisy and I working together with Wendy guiding us.

Wendy pointed out how different I was on horseback.
I come to session and I look rigid and "held together", but anxious and not fully present in my own body. My eye contact is limited and my shoulders are rolled forward in a sort of protective stance. I can force myself to stand differently, but it is a conscious effort.

While sitting on the horse, my posture is different. I feel comfortable and grounded and strong. 

I've tried to figure out why. What is different from the back of the horse?

I feel supported. I also feel the horse. I can sense (in a way words can't quite describe) what the horse is feeling and experiencing. I can feel their muscles tense when they are afraid or unsure. I can feel their bracing against the reigns or against my body weight, but I can also feel them relax underneath me. I can feel connected in a way that isn't possible with people.

I don't feel afraid. I feel strong. Whatever emotions come up for me, I can process them with the help of a horse. We can walk and move or just stand in place... and I don't worry that a horse has somewhere else (more important) to be. They are there WITH me.

And I guess, a part of me doesn't really care WHY it works for me to sit on a horse, because it does work. It just works and I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#Horsemanship clinic with Mark Rashid: A little bit of hero worship, and a lot of learning

Last week, I had the awesome opportunity to go to a clinic with Mark Rashid.
I have read every book he's written. A few of them more than once.  I have watched DVDs of him working with horses... He has played a huge part in my life even though we had never met.

He wrote about horses and trauma, and when I read his words, they became my thoughts. So much of what he said made perfect sense, and I was able to use his wisdom to help heal my life.

I would give him credit for helping to save my life, and definitely started me on a new path.

I was just an auditor. (Although, at the last minute, I could have taken my horse down there, because  a slot opened up. Unfortunately, I didn't have the means to pay for the clinic and getting Sunny down there. Fortunately, I learned a TON as just an observer.)

The first night we spent asking questions and just chatting.
Mark believes the most damaging myth that horsepeople believe is that we are supposed to be the "alpha" horse. We watch horses pushing each other and bossing each other around, and we assumed those were the horses in charge. They are not. In domestic horses, those are the insecure horses. In the wild, the horse in charge is a wise old mare: A horse that has been around and the other horses trust to keep them safe. Be a good leader that your horse can trust, and he will trust you and follow you.

He also pointed out that a horse is not capable of "disrespecting" people. Respect and disrespect are human ideas. A horse is a horse, and he does horsey things... If you teach him to do something (intentionally or unintentionally) he will usually do it. Be aware of what you are teaching your horse.

We also had a few hours of Mark showing us how the principles of Aikido could help us with our horses. We learned how to breath, and then we learned how to soften up ourselves and our brains so we could connect with our horses (and other people).

That clinic was hard for me. Mark put his hands on my shoulders to demonstrate something, and my brain imploded. The sad (and frustrating) thing about PTSD is that it affects me when I least expect it. His hands triggered something, and my insides collapsed on themselves. I cried. I got over it. And then talked with Mark about overcoming that. (I took some of what we discussed to my last session with Green Eyes. I love how much I am learning from the horses and the professionals in my life.)

BJ made a great guinea pig for Mark.
 The next day Mark was working with individuals and their horses. He worked with each horse/rider combo for two hours. I loved it. I was also amazed at how much he put into helping the people and the horses to get a good foundation going. One day, I want him to work with Sunny and I.
This picture made me smile...
We asked him if he was posing for us to take his picture. He just shrugged his shoulders, and then I took his picture.

This horse was having a hard time - she was really worked up and stressed. By the end of the two hours, she seemed calmer.
Also - I just loved this view.

Teaching the horse to give to pressure - it's about technique and feel. This horse/rider combo understood "feel", but hadn't gotten techniques down. I felt like this was the most helpful for me. I have the feel - horses make sense to me, but sometimes my lack of technique leaves me feeling crippled.

The clinic went for another day, but we had to rush back to be here for my rehearsal, my SIL's baby shower, and a pumpkin carving party with BJ's kids and grand kids at our house.

I haven't posted much about my life. Life is very full with fun and family and horses and mountains. It has also been good to get back to therapy. It also helps that my therapy has included horses, because horses are amazing for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's awfully convenient to have a horse in my backyard...

Biggest lesson from today's therapy session with Wendy and her horses.

It turns out, I AM capable of feeling emotions, expressing them and being relaxed.
It also turns out, all it takes to do all of that is to also sit on a horse.

My assignment for this coming week is to ride Sunny bareback for a few minutes everyday.
(My real assignment is to release some emotional energy everyday, but since riding bareback has been so effective, my plan is to release emotional energy by riding bareback.)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

#OrdainWomen I covenanted to obey my husband, and who I was to judge when I should stop doing that?

The profile I wrote for Ordain Women was published last week. Ordain Women has limited the comments, so anything "victim blaming" has been removed. There were a few comments like that... "It was your lack of testimony," or "It was your insecurities," and a few others that I never read.

I appreciate the Facebook administrators at Ordain Women censoring out comments blaming me for the abuse I experienced. I am a lot better than I once was, but it's hard not to be thrown back into old beliefs about abuse. Or about myself and how I deserved abuse, or it wasn't really abuse, or... other things that are inaccurate but I believed for a long time.

There was one comment made (and left) that has been playing with my head for days. I thought about commenting on Facebook, but decided I would rather write my thoughts here.

First, the comment. It was in response to me saying that the bishop quoted the covenants I made in the temple to obey my husband.
"Have you been to the temple? We covenant to obey our husbands AS THEY OBEY THE LORD. Abuse is not of the Lord. Nor is blind obedience to a man who is clearly not living by the spirit or honoring his covenant to love and care for you as the Lord loves and care for us. Your experience and the experience of many sister is terrible, but not the result of church doctrine. Unfortunately your Bishop's counsel was lacking and left you feeling unprotected. That is really sad, but that is not the fault of the church. We can always question our leaders counsel if it doesn't seem to fit within church guidelines and abuse or coercion are not. Holding the Priesthood would not make you anymore equal or powerful then you already are in the Kingdom of God. The idea that women are unequal or less because they don't hold the Priesthood is false doctrine. Go to the Lord in honest prayer and He will reveal the truth of it to you."
And now my response:
Yes. I have been to the temple. Every week for a three year period, and every month at the time of the conversation with the bishop. I understand what the covenant says - obey your husband as he obeys the Lord. That seems to say that I could be the judge of whether or not my husband is obeying the Lord, and then I can make the choice... but it just isn't that simple.

I had a bishop telling me he was speaking for God as our judge in Israel. He was telling me that Larry (husband at the time) was doing his part and obeying the Lord. I was the one that needed to repent. I was not doing my duty and my responsibility as a wife. I could not have the spirit with me because I was not spending the time at home that I needed. I was working two jobs, going to school, doing public speaking about eating disorder recovery, and trying to spend time with my family of origin. I was also committed to my church callings as choir accompanist and nursery leader. The bishop told me I needed to stop spending so much time away from the home, because all of those things were taking away from my real responsibility of being home and keeping my husband happy.

When I told him I didn't agree with his advice, he took my temple recommend. He told me that I was not worthy to go to the house of the Lord, because I wasn't sustaining my local leaders. I needed to go home and repent and pray. I went home angry, sad, scared. I also went home feeling sick with guilt and fear that he was right. I was sinning. I needed to repent. What he said FELT so wrong, but if he was right and I was sinning and the spirit had left me... how was I to know what was right and wrong?

Also... I had been taught all of my life to trust my priesthood leaders. I believed that priesthood authority came from God, and the bishop spoke for God... I hated what he said, but I believed he was right, because he HAD to be right.

Several months passed... My brother was going through the temple to take out his endowments. I wanted to be there. I wanted to share that with him and with my family. (I also didn't want them to know I was a dirty sinner. I had done so much work and tried so hard to prove that I was worth all of the time and money spent in my recovery - I owed it to everyone to stay good and clean and pure and WORTHY.)

I still didn't believe the bishop was right, but I believed that by humbling myself and telling him he was right, maybe I could show God (and the bishop) that I was repentant. I set up an appointment. He started right into the temple recommend interview questions... When we got to sustaining local leaders, I answered with a yes. He asked me specifically about being willing to follow the counsel of the Lord that came through him.

I told him I didn't know how I could quit one of my jobs. We needed the money. I told him I didn't know how I could quit school. I was hoping that if I worked hard enough and fast enough, eventually I could get a job that paid more, so I wouldn't have to work 60+ hours per week. I told him I would quit doing the public speaking, and asked if that was enough.

He reminded me that my duty and responsibility was to be home and keep my husband happy. If I could say I was doing my best to fulfill my true calling, then he could accept that... and he gave me my recommend.

I went to the temple with Jeff. A few months later, Larry told me he wanted to move away. I did what he said, because he was the husband. I found a way to transfer schools. I found a new job. We found a nice apartment and we went. That also removed me from my family. I no longer COULD spend time with them, so I didn't.

It's hard to describe the mind-fuckery that was the sexual and emotional abuse from Larry combined with the spiritual and emotional abuse that came from church doctrine and church leaders. I'm trying, but if you have never been there, I don't know if you CAN understand how much that combination could affect you.

It's been nearly fifteen years, and of course I no longer believe the bishop spoke for God. I don't believe that he had any knowledge or authority over my life - despite the doctrine teaching that bishops can receive revelation for the people in his ward. But I believed it at the time.

And like I said in my profile... the basic doctrine combined with all of the things that men have said and done to me have combined together to tell the story of my life. It is a sad story. It is full of horrible shit that no one should ever experience, but I did. Any number of little things could have changed to change my story. The doctrine on women and the priesthood is just one thing that could have made a difference. If I didn't believe that men had more authority in my life, and I had a right to authority over my own life, I wouldn't have allowed Larry or the bishop or anyone else to treat me the way I was treated.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#OrdainWomen: My profile.

I wrote a profile for Ordain Women. I wrote it a few months ago - but they've been swamped with new profiles, so it was just published a few days ago.

You can read it here:

Also, feel free to comment on the Facebook page here: