This is my new blog to continue my journey with my Dales Ponies. It will also be the story of my building a new life for myself, alone now, except for my friends, horses and dogs, since my partner died in March 2009. We had lived and worked together, mostly twenty four hours a day, for nearly 28 years and I have never lived alone before. It is a tribute to my wonderful friends that I am still here, still sane(ish) and ready to re-invent myself. I love them all more than words can ever say and can never thank them enough for all they have done and are still doing. It is also a tribute to Alexandra Kurland and 'The Click That Teaches' that I know how to save myself now. To new beginnings.......

Friday, 25 September 2009

Anxiety and Reassurance.

I never really knew what anxiety felt like until a few months ago. For the last 28 years I had always felt safe and cared for but now I'm only too familiar with it. It was almost constant just after David died and was probably the reason I couldn't eat at all for a while. It's a feeling of intense dread, as though something terrible is going to happen unless I do something to avert it, which is tricky when the dreadful thing has already happened. It affects my breathing and it's almost as though I forget to breath and have to keep taking lots of deep breaths to try to minimise the gut wrenching effects of it.

I thought I'd shaken it off completely now so it was a huge disappointment when it crept up on me again a couple of days ago. It never happens now if I'm with other people and it only sneaks up on me when I'm alone.

I fight back by going a bit hyper and throwing myself into anything suitably challenging that will give me a high if I can master it, or by texting a friend who always makes me feel safe just by replying. I don't really know why, or why only he can do this for me, but I think it's because he has a stillness and calmness about him that's very soothing, plus I know he will always tell me the truth as he sees it, even if it's difficult to hear, if he thinks it's in my best interest to be told. I trust him implicitly never to just humour me or spare me. I use texting because I'm better at explaining things in writing and can tell him things I'd be too embarrassed to say face to face, or even on the phone. Some of the things I've told him make me wonder how I look him in the eye but no matter how insane my messages sound he always understands and now knows me better than I know myself.

When anxiety struck this time I was too tired for the hyper strategy so I asked him if everything going on here looked OK to him, because I still felt as if I wasn't doing enough or trying hard enough somehow. He reassured me and I immediately felt better.

It's what I try to do with my horses, now I know how it feels to be anxious and know what sort of person I need to make me feel safe. I try to copy his calmness and stillness and it has been hugely helpful to me when dealing with nervous horses. It's almost like a martial arts type quality - a grounding and centering - real emotional control and stability, combined with tremendous sympathy and empathy.

That same evening I watched a programme on the television about two soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and their rehabilitation. One particularly touched and inspired me. He had lost both legs above the knee and one arm, and yet he was SO cheerful and positive. It made me feel ashamed. I have everything going for me and nothing to complain about. Putting up with a small and ever decreasing amount of anxiety is such a tiny thing to have to bear. I hope I can remember him next time I feel it coming on and just brush it aside and ignore it as the triviality it is.

The fact that I watched this programme is a step forward too, as for some reason watching the television used to bring on anxiety, as did listening to the radio. That seems to have gone now too and I'm starting to watch the programmes we used to love again but I would never rush in to watch anything anymore. I'd rather be outside with people and horses. I am very, very lucky because I have plenty of both here to keep me company now.

I text the designer of the Inky Dinky Saddle to tell her how delighted I am with it and how, when the children told me how comfortable it is, I just had to have a sit in it myself. She asked me if I'd write a testimonial for her new website, with photos if possible. I said it would be an honour and asked if she'd like one of a 52yo sitting in it as well, for comic effect, and she said yes! I told her only on the condition that it had the caption under it "The Biggest Kid of the Lot"! Her reply was "absolutely"!!!!


  1. You should never feel ashamed of how you feel - it's just how you feel, nothing more. Just let the feelings be what they are, then let them go. I think, as you say, this is just how we want our horses to deal with their anxieties and worries - it's OK for them to feel them, but we try to help them let them go and feel better inside.

    You've surrounded yourself with wonderful people, and of course the horses - always the horses. You're able to be open to what they are experiencing - this is a great gift.

  2. Very good advise from Kate. Accept the feeling and let it go. I did in the past depression, I had panic attack. So i understand very well your description. Again Kate's advise is the best.
    Accepting even embracing (not fighting) then move on.

    I think you have already a good set up of coping strategies.

    You are amazing.

    For me I have found that I become too involved, I am highly emotional. But to calm down an agitated horse I first dettach myself from the world. I think of what I shall cook tonight, of what kind of home-work I shall do with my son, to dettach myself from the situation, then I come back to the present situation, but in a dettached cold manner, like if I was watching the scene from afar. It works everytime, I am calm and the horse will calm down.
    I do not know if I make sense, but it helps me to calm down while working with an agitated horse ^-^

  3. Thank you both very much.

    You sound very wise Kate and I think you are probably right but I'm a fighter. A quiet fighter but a fighter none the less. I have to fight against all the feelings that I don't want to have and try to find a way of changing them. It's just the best way for me to cope. I need to feel brave and proud of myself, and that I did everything I could to help myself.

    Muriel, I can see that would work but I am the opposite. I totally immerse myself in trying to help the horse overcome fear and being there for them. It's what my friend did for me. He couldn't think of what to say to help me so he was just there for me, a calm and reassuring presence, concentrating on trying to find things to do to help. He noticed every tiny detail and gave me his total attention, willing me on through it all. I KNEW that he cared and would do anything he could to help me, and even when I felt totally worthless and didn't really believe that anyone did care I could SEE that he did.

    That's what I give my horses - my total attention and commitment to be there for them, willing them through their fear, noticing and reinforcing every tiny effort they make to help themselves, because they have to decide that they want to, just as I did.

  4. I've never felt that kind of anxiety, but, with the little experience I have had with it, I can only imagine how dreadful a serious attack would be.

    I agree with everyone else about not being ashamed of your feelings. They are perfectly natural. It's only when those feelings begin to interfere with your ability to cope and live in the real world that it's a truly serious issue. From all you have been doing, I think you are coping well. You have accomplished some amazing things so far. I have a feeling as time goes on the bad feelings will disappear altogether. Just be patient with yourself.

  5. I suppose it would be overhuman not to be depressed, sad or anxious from time to time after what has happened, Helen.

    And sometimes getting time to think is not good.

    Maybe it is a bit like the story of the half full, or half empty, glass?
    Where we have to keep working to put as much positive feelings and experiences into that glass, making sure it keeps staying half full (or full), to kind of balance up for the difficult things?

    If I experience something difficult, I kind of put it into a drawer.
    Then I open the drawer just a tiny bit, once in a while, to glance at what's down there.
    And when it is not so difficult anymore, I can open the drawer and look at it properly.

    Good luck Helen. You are doing fine.

  6. Thank you SO much, both of you!!!

    HorseOfCourse, I agree completely. I try all the time to build up a big new store af positive associations with things as they are now, and it gets bigger everyday.

    I also try to avoid having too much time to think but peer into the drawer occasionally, very quickly, to see if I can handle it yet.

    You made me smile with that last sentence because that's just what my friend tells me all the time, using those very words.