Friday, December 22, 2017

Horses, Depression, and an Impending Sense of Doom...

So I have never really opened up on here about me really. Y'all know my horses marginally well but almost nothing about me. So in the interest of young riders coming up, older amateurs, and everybody else who rides. This post isn't sunshine and rainbows.

 For 15 years of my life I have been struggling with moderate to severe clinical depression and anxiety. I was actually diagnosed this past March and started taking Prozac not long after. I really love those posts on the internet that romanticize depression, you know the ones pretty skinny girl, a single tear, some kind of candle or wilted flower... its all bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit. 
Depression is sleeping all day because you can't get out of bed, its not taking a shower for a week until people start commenting on your hair, losing weight because you can't bring yourself to make food its too much energy, no matter how well your ride goes you still hate yourself, not being able to get to the barn because you are so overwhelmed and the thought of driving is almost sickening. 

I ended up pouring all of my self worth into riding well, winning at shows, being told i'm a good rider. Which as we all know is NOT healthy. Imagine the downward spiral when I messed up at a clinic or show. I felt like I had to know everything and if I didn't I was a failure. 
Failure. Undoubtedly the scariest word in all known languages. 
If I didn't make it to the Olympics I was a failure and would let everyone down. You can see where this is going... I don't have a lot of money I'm lucky my mom rides too and understands otherwise I don't think I would have horses at all. So in the highly political who's who of the Olympic selection committee I really don't stand a chance unless a millionaire would like to sponsor me. When I was finishing High School I came to the realization that millionaire's didn't become millionaires by throwing money around. This included that I might never get married and be able to split an income. So now I had to plan a future where I was 100% supporting myself and my horses and my dog. You can imagine how well that went over with clinical depression. I think its a real stumbling block for young riders. 

One minute you're riding in junior / young rider all hopeful maybe I can go pro! And then reality sets in and oh my god I've turned into an adult amateur. I don't know about anyone else but adult amateurs are made fun of constantly. I can't tell you how many articles and facebook posts about "I'm an adult amateur so therefore I suck at riding! lol pass the wine!" Which is where my own personal irrational fear of failure came back recently with a vengeance.  

There are a couple things wrong with this. Adult amateurs do not suck at riding and we don't need wine for every occasion. We like wine, big difference. (personally I wouldn't turn down a good pinot grigio) However! I have also been to winter clinics where we all drank hot chocolate and hot tea, so there! And the next falsehood! Adult Amateurs are the Queens of riding.

Merideth? why do you say such a thing when we aren't featured in magazines and such? 
Ill tell you. Who else can hold a full time job, ride and train a horse, and make their life look somewhat under control? Adult Amateurs that's who. We are freakin superheros of the horse world. Going to the barn at weird hours around work. Riding even though we're tired. Succeeding on one or two horses come hell or high water without playing a numbers game of "one out of these 12 horses will probably succeed" We are awesome. Full stop. 

1 comment:

buckpony said...

This post really hit home. Horses were my entire life, from the time my Grandfather gave me my first pony at age 9, up to the point where I had a baby while a junior in college with dreams to go to vet school and specialize in Equine Sports Medicine. Life has a funny way of going, and the things we think we want aren't always what we get. When I thought my life had ended and I had no idea what would happen next, I had to take one minute at a time. One breath at a time. I had no idea my life was just beginning. I was fortunate enough to be able to keep my beloved horses; I had 3 at the time and had no plans to get rid of them. I had graduated from Pony Club and was still working at an eventing barn and a separate dressage barn, and for 2 of the large animal vets in our area. I had so many plans that didn't involve raising a child. I took each breath and lived every minute the best I could up until my beautiful bouncing baby boy was born. I was 21. I changed my major to environmental science and finished school. I lived at home and did the best I could to find a little job. My best friend proposed to me when our son was almost 4. We married when I was 25 and he was 29. Somehow I managed to hang on to a pony or two, get an amazing job at one of the best global environmental engineering firms around, have 2 more children and an amazing husband. We bought 4 acres in the back of a neighborhood 14 years ago and we have a small barn, 4 ponies, 3 incredible children and a very nice life. I would have never imagined. Our oldest is now 21, a junior in college and a pre-vet major. I have been on Prozac, Zoloft and Lexapro. I am off those now and am focusing on my job at the engineering firm I have worked for for the past 18 years (which has just been bought by another engineering firm)...and I am just beginning to pursue my new dream of starting an equine-assisted therapy program. I was never diagnosed with clinical depression, but I have fought demons and severe anxiety all my life. I am 43. There have been times where I have not been able to function, but somehow I kept breathing, taking one breath and one minute at a time. Horses are my drug. They are what have kept me going all these years. I competed, but never at a very high level. I had those dreams to go to the Olympics, but I had a problem with commitment - I just couldn't make myself commit to that level of riding and dedication. Plus, I loved my little backyard ponies too much to rehome them to get anything with potential to ride at that level. Life has a funny way of going. I am sorry for writing a book, but please know you are not alone. Please keep fighting. Take one breath at a time and one minute at a time. You are an amazing young lady and an amazing young rider. Hug your sweet horses and your Mom. They need you as much as you need them. Your life is just beginning and you have so many wonderful things in store for you. Don't let the depression win. Huge hugs to you.