Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy: My first session

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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

#Horses and #Therapy: Starting over again

I have a therapy session scheduled for tomorrow. I haven't been in therapy since I "graduated" in 2011. When I started therapy in 2007, I was in a horrible place. Pretty much, I was going to therapy as a last ditch effort to stay alive. It worked. I lived, and life is mostly good now. Life is really good now. It feels weird to be going to therapy when I'm pretty happy, but I recently came to the realization that life could be even better if I learned some more things and did a little bit more work.

A big reason I was able to graduate from therapy was the work I was able to do with Sunny. Somehow he showed me what I needed to work on, and then helped me do the work. My therapy sessions had turned in to just telling my therapist all of the things I had learned while riding Sunny.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for a Horsemanship Clinic. I was nervous because I had never really done anything like that, but I was excited to become a better horseman. I have a lot of experience riding, but I have never taken lessons or spent time learning anywhere but on the horse.

We got to the clinic... and the first thing he said to me was, "You have to let him know who is boss, or else he'll walk all over you and take advantage of you."
I fell apart. I don't want to be the boss. I don't want to force him to do anything he doesn't want to do. If my choices are to be the boss or to let him walk all over me, I know which one I'd rather have... and it isn't to be the boss!

I was out of sorts for the next two days. I couldn't bring myself to even look at Sunny. I felt afraid and sick and angry and sad. I came to the realization that I wasn't going to be able to work through this one without help. The Horsemanship guy was willing to push me, but the more he pushed, the more angry and scared and sad and sick I felt.

I didn't think talk therapy would help me through this...whatever "this" is, so I went looking for equine therapy. The first name to come up on my search was Wendy. She was a therapist when I was at CFC, but had since left and started her own practice. AND she also does equine therapy.

I called her. I told her about my Horsemanship Clinic experience. She got excited and told me she had the perfect horse to help me. And tomorrow, I have my first session.

I'm nervous and excited.
I know how much therapy can suck. It HURTS. And I'm so excited knowing that I can do work and feel better. I will be able to enjoy riding Sunny even more than I did before. I will learn about me and about relationships. I am excited to have something to work on again.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

#RIPRobinWilliams and some thoughts of mine

Like most people in this country, I was deeply effected by the death of Robin Williams.

I couldn't bring myself to write about it before now. There was just one thing nagging me and bothering me, so I'm writing about it now.

Robin Williams committed suicide.
I know what it's like to feel so sad, desperate, in pain, lonely, bothersome and burdensome to those I love (and who love me), etc., that suicide seems like the best option. Some people think it is a selfish act, but I'm not one to think that. Some people say it is a "temporary solution to a permanent problem", but I don't think that's always accurate either. Lots of people have had lots to say. Some have really bothered me, but the thing that has been the hardest for me to hear was said to be comforting...

"At least he's free from suffering."
"He's in a better place."
"You're free Genie."

There was a time in my life where I envied every person that died. It didn't matter how they died, I felt envious that they got to be done suffering through this life, and I had to keep living it. I dreamed of the day that I could die, and be free. I hoped I would get cancer or die in a car accident, so my family wouldn't have to deal with the stigma and pain of my suicide, but I still would get to be done.

I wanted to go "Home". I'd been taught that after death would be happier, better, and heaven was home to me. Maybe there I would find all of the peace that I couldn't find on Earth.

When you are in that kind of darkness, hearing that someone who took their own life is free... and hearing people comfort themselves with the thoughts that at least he didn't have to suffer anymore... you have no idea what it feels like to those here fighting to live every single day.

I stayed alive because I didn't want my sister or my brothers to have to face my death, but if I thought they would feel peace and relief at my death, I would have been gone. I stayed alive because I didn't want my parents to ever question if there was more they could have done, but if I had thought they could comfort themselves by saying I was in a better place, I would have gone to that better place.

I wanted to stay and live to show my friends that they could work through their stuff too. If I found a way to be happy and to live, then anyone could.

So, while I understand the desire to comfort ourselves now that we have lost a great man, I just think it's dangerous to speak of suicide in such peaceful terms. Let those that are fighting to live every day, that the fight is worth it. Hang on just a little bit longer, and you'll find freedom HERE.

Monday, August 11, 2014

#stillnevermissedashow (Funerals, plays, and brothers)

We just got back from two trips.
The trip to Portland was unplanned until a few days before we left. BJ's older brother passed away suddenly, and we went to his funeral.
The trip to Yellowstone had been in the plans from the day I found out my brother was going to be in the cast at the Playmill Theater in West Yellowstone, MT.

It was strange having the two trips so close to each other. One where we were saying good-bye forever to BJ's brother, and one where I got to see and hang out with my brother.

I had been SO excited to go see Justin. He loves acting, and to spend his whole summer doing what he loves with other very talented people doing what they love... I was just so excited and happy to get to go see him in that environment. Not to mention how much I had missed him since he left for college, and then went straight to Yellowstone, and is headed straight back to college as soon as he is done there. I may get to see him as he drives through... but he'll be in a rush since school will have started before he gets done at the Playmill.

At Matt's funeral, I cried when BJ cried. I cried when his wife was crying. I cried when his little granddaughter asked why she couldn't open the box and see her Papa inside. I cried when I saw the sign that said, "All fresh vegetables are from Matt's garden, Enjoy!" He loved his garden, and he loved sharing his garden with the people he loved.

All of those tears were empathy for the pain everyone else was experiencing.

There were two moments where I cried for me.

After the funeral, we decided to go to Matt's house to hang out with his wife and everyone all together. I didn't want to go to his house when he wasn't there. I couldn't pull it together enough to walk in. I didn't feel like I had a right to cry over BJ's brother... He needed me to be strong and comfort HIM. I didn't want to be in a party at Matt's house, and have him not there to enjoy it. He would have LOVED having all of his siblings, his kids, his nieces and nephews, and so many friends there to share his house with. Eventually, since I couldn't seem to stop myself, I just let myself cry and feel sad that he wasn't there.

It is a Great Uncle's responsibility to teach his Great Niece to sneak frosting off cakes. She kept calling BJ and his brother "Papa", because all three sons look alike. She broke my heart, because her Papa was her favorite friend.
 The next day, as we were hugging his wife and kids goodbye, his wife told me how glad she was that BJ and I had found each other. She loved seeing how happy he was, because she loved him and he was a special man. Then she told me to take care of him. Matt and Dawna had only been married for eleven years. Like BJ and I, it had taken them a while to find each other... And now Matt's gone... and the thought of losing BJ suddenly one night while I was sleeping hurt. I felt for Dawna - there's so much she has to do now that Matt is gone, and he's just not there to talk to, to cuddle with, to watch tv with, or to eat dinner, or to text and say, "Hi!" My insides ached for her, and at the thought of someday having to say goodbye to BJ.

We came home, unpacked, and then packed up to leave again two days later.
I cried uncontrollably as we drove to see my brother. I felt guilty - as if somehow me getting to see Justin was hurting BJ. I felt bad somehow that my brother was alive, and his wasn't.

They say that losing someone makes you appreciate the people you have left - that may be true, but for me, I had a hard time (at first) enjoying seeing my brother because I felt so bad for BJ.

But then... I got to spend time listening to Justin's plans for his future. We went hiking, and I took lots of pictures. I got to meet the rest of the casts of the shows he is in. I got to watch him play two of his dream rolls.
I told them to smile... I don't think they even looked at each other to know that they were giving me the same non-smile smile...


I don't know exactly what was happening in this picture, but it's classic. I'm glad BJ got this picture.
 After Les Mis, he asked me if I cried during the show. I did, but not in the parts that most people would cry... The story is a tear jerker - there are a lot of emotions that show can bring out, but this time... I cried when Thenardier (Justin) was waltzing with Madame Thenardier. He was doing what he loved. And he is damn good at it. And, as his big sister, I was so proud of him, and so happy for him, I cried.
When Thenardier is selling fudge, you buy it!

Thenardier after the show. I think this is the night that the rest of the cast almost had everything cleaned up before I let him go back and do his job to help. Sorry to all of the Playmill cast.

LeFou singing... except this isn't LeFou, it's Justin dressed as LeFou singing "Friend Like Me" before the show.

It made me SUPER happy to see how much he was loved. After the show, he had a whole group hanging on his every word.

They love him.
 After four days, it was time to go home, and I cried again. I miss him. I'm so happy that he is finding his place in the world, and I miss hearing him sing regularly. I miss his laugh. I miss seeing him grow and learn and talking about it.

Thinking about how much I miss him, I felt really sad for BJ again. I think how much I miss seeing Justin, and the thought of never seeing him... it hurts almost more than I can bare.

Life is short, and unpredictable, and I'm glad we got to be there for Matt's funeral and to spend time with everyone together. I'm really glad I got to see Justin perform.

Though, I'm pretty committed to my hashtag (#stillnevermissedashow), so I'll be seeing all of his shows at least once.