Saturday, October 29, 2011

Healing Horses

When I was little I rode horses all the time. I became completely addicted to them and every time my parents and I went on a drive they would always shout out, "Horse!” when they saw a farm and I went on a trail ride every time we traveled. Horses are so powerful, strong and magical. I was never afraid of them until one time, due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, I was thrown off. I was bedridden and in the worst pain I had ever been in due to a back injury, I even had to drop college classes because of it. The one thing I loved so much, had hurt me and I became afraid and it was heartbreaking. They became scary and unpredictable and my childlike wonder completely vanished and a harsh reality of these beautiful animals set in, that working with them could harm me. Then in 2008 when I was working on my BA in psychology we had several personal topics come up and I recall talking about how much I missed horses. My instructor encouraged me to face my fears and find again what my soul used to enjoy. So I did. I found a barn and started taking lessons. But my fear was still there; it even got to the point that I would have panic attacks and such extreme anxiety I could not even physically get on the horse. But I continued to push through, knowing that the fear I felt was a small price to pay for the joy and extreme exhilaration I felt after working with a horse. In 2009 I decided I wanted my own horse and I got Tango.  I loved him and the two of us got along perfectly, but then out of nowhere my anxiety, fear and panic attacks came back and for a while even just being near a horse would give me a panic attack. I couldn't ride him any longer. But I didn't give up. I started taking natural horsemanship lessons and working on groundwork and taking more lessons and this year I can finally walk, trot, lope on a horse without having a panic attack! I did my senior project in school on Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and spoke about the healing power of horses as facilitators into our own insight and healing process and I have experienced first hand. Being a survivor of sexual assault it was so emotionally healing to know that I could control a 1200 pound animal, that I could tell him what to do and he would listen, that I too was powerful, could be the alpha and be strong and confident. When I work with horses I walk away feeling as if I could do anything in the world and being able to experience that feeling after feeling completely powerless during an assault has been incredibly healing and I highly recommend survivors to look into therapeutic horse centers. Contact me if you have any questions and I would be happy to help!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Story of Healing and Strength: Victim vs Survivor vs Living

I have been a rape survivor for 11 years now and I am starting to feel the label of being a "rape victim" slowly starting to rub off of my forehead. It is a long and difficult process to go from being ME to being a victim of a violent crime, to a survivor. I have come to the conclusion that I am both victim and survivor but the meanings change over time. I guess one could also look at it as I was a victim at the time of the rape and as soon as I was able to walk away alive I became a survivor, but that is something that can take time to own. This and many things lead to the difficulty of knowing your identity after being raped. At age 14 I was just trying to discover who I was as a person, then after being raped, I needed to discover who I was despite of it, and let me tell you, honestly, it took years. It is not that I disappeared completely, but that my true self was overshadowed by my victimization and as I slowly stopped feeling like a victim and more of a survivor. I was able to surface again, like coming to the top of the water to take a gulp of air. I no longer think of my assault on a daily basis, my fear of being raped again is no longer a compulsive thought, which for me was a huge step in the healing process. At the beginning I felt as if I had a big sign on me that said, "I was raped." I felt as if everyone knew and was looking at me and judging me. After I stopping feeling like a victim and more like a survivor, which by the way the definition from the dictionary is below:

Definition of SURVIVE from

intransitive verb

: to remain alive or in existence : live on
: to continue to function or prosper
So I was obviously surviving, I was breathing, waking up in the morning and going about my day. I was functioning. But I was not LIVING. I was existing and going through the motions of life, but not fully feeling it or experiencing it. I feel as if I am now finally starting to live, it took almost 10 years to feel this way and there was not one single event or day that I felt a change but just realizing that I did not think about my assault or have the fear of being assaulted again for a few days. That I went out at night with out feeling fear. That I am starting to pursue things that I enjoy and that make me happy. I am finally LIVING.

And I love it.