Hey there fellow Equestrian, How Are You Today?
I am not too bad today myself, I woke up feeling pretty positive about the day ahead. Mornings like that for me are rare enough if I’m being honest. I did get a good nights sleep last night and that’s something that always makes a big difference. I have GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder and that’s coupled with depression. I was diagnosed about ten years ago by my GP after going
through a total breakdown that had been building for over a year. I didn’t seek professional help until I had hit the ground and could no longer function. I didn’t speak to anyone about it, either in the lead up to it or while I was going through it. I feared being told things like – ‘you just have to get up and get on with it, your being a drama queen, it cant be that bad, you need to get back to work’.
Instead of talking to my loved ones I shut down.
I retreated into myself and I spent months trying to figure it out. Luckily, the one thing I did do was go to a professional counsellor as recommended by
my doctor. I spent a year talking to my counsellor on a monthly basis. This in conjunction with the prescribed medication, helped me find and build tools within myself to start piecing myself back together.
That first year I did go back to work, and I started putting boundaries in place. I got back to doing the things I love, including horses.
It's been ten years since I rebuilt Susan step by step.
This was by no means an easy thing to do. It took a lot of strength and determination on my part that I readily acknowledge. When I look back on
the past ten years I can see how far I have come. I can see the changes I have made. But don’t let my foolish optimism today fool you - it's not a process with an end date! There is never a finish line where you can relax and say – "there, I did it, I’m fixed!".
It is an ongoing, evolving process and once you start on the path of healing it will always take some form of work from you to make sure that you remain the best version of yourself.
I’m going to outline some of the things that I use on an ongoing basis to help maintain my mental health.
Get to Know Yourself - This one is very important to me. Knowing yourself is harder than it sounds and many people are unable to spend time alone because it makes them uncomfortable. However, this is the longest and most important relationship you will ever have, so it’s worth taking the time to get to know yourself. This is where most healing and healthy mental health
journeys start, with really getting to know yourself now, from the past and for the future.
Talking - When I have an issue that’s niggling at me, the best thing I can do is talk it out - out loud. Usually, I' call Lorraine and say ‘Hey, can I vent about something to you? I don’t need input – I just want to get it straight in my head’. Having someone listen without response, 9/10 times will help me resolve it in my own head
Set boundaries - and learn to implement them. For a very long time I was a people pleaser and usually walked all over myself to help others at any time and any cost, even at the expense of my own peace of mind. I still love to help people but if I’m busy, or not emotionally available, I will be clear in communicating that. This one is a difficult step, and it’s the part of any healing journey
that will be the hardest.
Do a Daily Check-in with yourself - do a body scan to see how you’re feeling. Breathing exercises, yoga, meditation – whatever it looks like for you. Personally, I go walking in nature and that’s where I do my best problem solving and meditating.
Love your horses - but don’t let them consume you. We are all here in this community because we love horses. One thing I’ve noticed about myself, is that there have been times that I have thrown everything I am at horses to the detriment of my body and brain. I used to feel that because I have horses, then if I wasn’t, at all times, doing something with those horses then I was failing. Because of this...
I didn’t listen when I was getting burn out. I didn’t
listen to my body when it was in pain, and it ended with hospital, depression and more feelings of failure.
Now, I listen - the risk if I don’t is too high for me. So if I
need help, I ask for help. If I need a break, I take a break – its not the end of the world and it's good to remember that no one is judging you, except maybe you.
Therapy - You’ve heard me before, myself and Lorraine – we are the biggest supporters of therapy. Seriously, it's something you wont regret.
‘There is no shame in the medication game – Pete Davidson’.
I’ve been on medication for ten years. A couple of times I tried to come off it because I ‘felt fine’, yeah –that’s because of the meds dear! I used to cringe at the thoughts of telling anyone I needed medication to get through the day, but that was an old stigma – I’ve since realised that there is, in fact, no shame in taking medication if it helps you to keep your sanity.
Medication without therapy wouldn’t work for me, similarly therapy without the medication also wouldn’t have worked for me. But this is my blend that works for me, I would advise anyone to work with the professionals in finding what works best for you.
Diet & exercise – I am not the person to talk to about this – I exercise daily, walk dogs, ride horses, but outside of that – I haven’t found anything that is for me. I also struggle with food and that’s something I am always dealing with – but when you have a regularly scheduled mealtimes, it helps – or so I’ve heard!
Outside of horses – I am a gamer and a big reader. I do at least one , if not both, of those things on a daily basis. Books are one thing I bring from my childhood as they were my very first escape from reality. When I read I’m transported from this world into another. In games, I am actively problem solving in another world, and I can zone out. I’ve often found, on days where I have a real-life problem, after a gaming session I come back with a ready to implement solution for real life. It’s a kind of magic.
Dream - I don’t just mean sleep, although – what can’t a good nights sleep heal?? I mean dream, big or small, realistic or pure fantasy. Make lists, vision boards, agendas, schedules – whatever floats your boat! I fervently believe that imagination is so important at all stages of life. When we are young, imagination is seen as something whimsical, yet once we hit a certain age we are encouraged to be in the real-world, but that’s simply no fun to me. I think adults and children alike should always and forever be encouraged to use their imagination to dream as big as they want. I also believe there is a mental power here that can
help some of those dreams come true.
Everyone is on their own individual journey, and no one plan to help your mental health is going to be the same. But hearing about other journeys is a great way to find a new idea that you might want to implement for yourself.
So today, on Blue Monday – at the start of the HAY Campaign
Equestrian Mental Health Week, I am encouraged to read your stories and I hope you will read ours. I’ll be reaching out to my friends to see how they are, and I’ll tell them – I am here for you.
If today is a day you don’t want to talk, I will still be here when you do.
Until then, we can simply exist - together.