I’m trying to think of a way to start this post without saying, for the millionth time, that this year has just been crazy for the entire world. Australia was on fire in January, now the majority of the world is on lock-down and trying not to get sick and die, but in a lot of places people ARE dying and it’s horrible. It’s hard just being a human being right now, much less an artist who has depression and anxiety problems.
Many people would tell you that art is a luxury item and not a necessity. I think this pandemic has proven that art is much more necessary than lots of people would think. Not only are people streaming shows and movies, but I’ve also seen an amazing outpouring of artists offering free online painting classes, coloring pages, art lessons, and more. The local co-op I’m part of did a drop of free art supplies and they were snatched up in minutes. Even if you’re not creating art right now, you’re probably using the creations of artists to get through this time- whether those artists are movie directors, actors, costume designers, writers, musicians, game designers, illustrators, YouTube creators, or bloggers, you are most likely using the creations of at least one artist to get through this stressful time.
And even though I know all of that, it’s been very difficult to see what I do as beneficial to anyone at this time. I know I have some people who enjoy my creations, and even a few who read this blog, but it’s been so hard for me to feel like I should even be writing or drawing at this time. Part of that is stress and depression and too much bad news on social media. Part of that is just my brain telling me that there are more important things right now than horse drawings or YouTube videos or even blog articles about whatever I’ve got on my mind. I see my friends who are much more successful artists than I am also having a hard time right now and think to myself that if they’re struggling, of course nothing I’ll do will make any difference at all and I should just stop creating, stop writing, stop posting for a while.
Then, a few days ago, a local therapeutic riding center I’ve had some dealings with posted this…
This post nearly made me cry, because I could see that SOMETHING I was doing was being enjoyed by at least one person. I released these coloring pages several weeks ago, and had no idea if they had even been looked at by anyone, much less printed and used.
This comment was also made on the same post:
It’s amazing what a difference just a small thing can make. If you are enjoying the work of an artist during this time, please reach out and let them know if you feel comfortable doing so. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, and it doesn’t cost a cent. But it can make that artist smile and encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing.
What artists are you enjoying during this time? Let me know about them in the comments! (If it’s a music artist, let me know what songs you like! I’ll check them out!)
The past few months have been rough on the entire world as a whole. People are dying, people are getting sick, losing their jobs, losing time with their friends and family, unable to celebrate birthdays, weddings, or even have funerals. Schools are closed, shops are running out of supplies or their workers are being assaulted for enforcing purchase limits. People are stuck at home, trying to make things work while also terrified they’re going to be the next statistic. Hospitals are overcrowded, short-staffed, and under-supplied. I’ve seen stories of people who haven’t seen their beloved lesson horse, lease horse, or boarded horse in weeks and are desperately missing their time with these calming animals. The world seems scarier now than almost any other time I can remember, probably right up there with the 9/11 attacks.
I am blessed that I’ve been able to go to the barn every day and see my horse, spend time with her, brush her, feed her, give her a kiss on the nose. I think about the people who can’t see their horses and my heart breaks. I wish every day that this crisis would pass so that life can go back to “normal”- or at least as normal as it could possibly be after what we’ve been through in this awful time.
The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful for me and I haven’t been handling the trauma well. I spent two weeks worrying that my best friend had the virus, waiting desperately for her test results to come back, taking over the duties of caring for the horses every day, and also taking over walking dogs that needed care. I was also making store runs for her and for other families we know who couldn’t go out because of health issues. And though I’m happy to help out those who need it, every trip to the store came with a bucket-load of stress.
What if this is the time I get sick? What if I come into contact with something and take the virus back to those I’m trying to protect? If I get sick, who’s going to take care of the horses?
A simple grocery run turned into paranoia. I already don’t like crowds, now I’m turning into a germaphobe on top of that! Every time I have to go to a public place, I worry about if I have enough hand sanitizer (I don’t, I’m nearly out and can’t find any in our area) or if I’m going to accidentally touch my face before I can get somewhere to wash my hands. I’m an anxious person anyway, but all the uncertainty has added heaps of stress onto my shoulders- to the point where I’d lay down at night and have to force my shoulders to un-tense so I could actually get comfortable and fall asleep.
And during this time, because of my best friend being in isolation, I’ve only ridden my horse a handful of times. But I have ridden, and every time I tack up I feel immensely guilty for it. There are people out there not able to see their horses, and who are forgoing riding so that they don’t have an accident and end up in the hospital and taxing more of the resources that are needed for the sick. I’ve read the articles about not riding, I’ve seen the sacrifices other riders are making, and I have intense guilt for saddling up and getting on.
But I do it anyway. Because being with my horse, getting in the saddle and riding is the only bit of “normal” that I have right now. Because horse time is my therapy time and right now I desperately need it. Because the time spent brushing, tacking up, and riding is the only time I’m not thinking about getting sick. It’s a much needed mental vacation right now that I probably shouldn’t be taking but I feel like I’m going to lose it if I don’t.
So, yes, I know that I shouldn’t be riding right now. I know that other equestrians are making the sacrifice of not putting themselves in danger so they don’t potentially make things harder for the doctors and nurses that are fighting right now. But I also know that without riding I’m going to be an incoherent ball of anxiety in a padded room before April is over. Besides, I could slip and fall in the shower and end up in the hospital, but you’d better believe that I’ve been washing my hair. I could walk to the mailbox that’s fifty feet from my front door and get hit by a car. I could be in my kitchen cooking dinner and cut my own finger off by accident.
I’m going to continue doing the one thing that still feels somewhat normal because without a bit of sunshine in my life my mental health is going to be worse than ever. If it makes anyone fell any better, I’ll be wracked with guilt about it the entire time before I ride, because I’ll know that I should be making that sacrifice.
I truly hope that soon those who are separated from their heart horses will be reunited with them, and that all this madness will be a bad memory. Until that time, do whatever will help you make it through, so long as you do that thing as safely as possible. Make sure you’re washing your hands, covering your mouth whenever you leave the house, and staying home as much as possible!
I don’t have April’s blog posts planned out yet and have been unable to think of something to write today. So I just want to check in with anyone who’s seeing this. How are you? Are you staying at home when you can? Washing your hands and not touching your face? Honestly, not touching my face is the hardest thing EVER for me.
I went and rode Glory this morning for about 25 minutes. I felt guilty doing it, because what if I fall off and need to go to the hospital? But I also could get hurt just getting in my shower, so I decided that I needed some Pony Time Therapy for my own well-being. I feel so bad for the people who can’t go see their horses at this time, and I know I’m so blessed to be able to see mine. I don’t know that I could stand not seeing her for weeks at a time! I hope that everything calms down soon so things can go back to as-normal-as-they-can-be. After what’s been happening, I don’t think the world will ever go back to the way it was before.
I hope that everyone who sees this blog is doing well and staying strong. Please stay safe and healthy!
This blog post isn’t the one I wanted to write today. It’s not the topic I put on my monthly calendar to write for today. To be honest, I don’t even feel like writing a blog today, and with as terrible as my week has been I very much thought about just not posting a blog at all. But then I decided against it, because I really want to make this blogging thing a regular activity. I have fun writing, I have fun updating this blog and hearing from those who take the time to read what comes out of my keyboard.
But I confess… I’m feeling very depressed the past few days. It’s not been a great week and I want to just curl up in bed and sleep for a few days and not have to deal with anything. But I can’t do that, because I was pretty much in that state all last year and it was awful and I’m trying not to get like that again.
The bad week started out with me getting back from a trip to Milwaukee and the next morning I had to take my husband to Urgent Care because he was throwing up and couldn’t even keep water down. The urgent care diagnosed him with a GI bug and gave him medicine and a note for work for him to be out again on Wednesday. Fast forward to Wednesday, and Byron hears from the temp agency he’s been working with on this job that the company he’s been at for almost 4 months now is letting him go. No warning, no indication of anything being wrong beforehand. He was told that the reasons were that he “wasn’t catching on fast enough” and “wasn’t taking enough initiative”. He had never been given any feedback beforehand about anything other than the company loving him. We were certain that they were going to hire him on full-time when they could in the next few weeks, so this was a complete blind-side.
Last year, I lost my job in January and Byron lost his in March. We spent the next few months in survival mode, not sure if we were going to suddenly become homeless. We sold possessions, I walked dogs, cleaned houses, pet-sat, and did anything else we could think of to keep afloat. Now I feel like that cycle is starting all over again and I just don’t know if I can take it.
Tomorrow is my 37th birthday and I just don’t care. If I didn’t have a shift at the co-op then I wouldn’t even leave the house. I can’t handle another year like last year. I’m going to try really hard to keep blogging and to keep doing art through this, because being creative is a great outlet for me, but sometimes depression makes it really hard for me to work on anything at all.
Anyway… I guess there’s not really a point to this other than for me to whine and vent a bit. Sorry it’s not a more positive or interesting blog post.
I’ve been “kinda-sorta” blogging since the days of LiveJournal, which I can’t believe is still around, by the way, so for about 19 years. Back in the days of LJ though, I was just writing diary entries and reading funny posts on my friends page, so it was a personal thing and not something I considered to be a blog. I mainly wrote to stay in touch with my friends or to vent about things going on in my life at the time.
I don’t remember when I stopped going to LiveJournal, but it was probably sometime around 2012 because I know that I met a friend I still have to this day through a role-playing community on LJ, and we met after the first Avengers movie was released. So, yeah, definitely sometime after 2012. I haven’t had a regular on-line journal or blog since then, but I’ve started quite a few blogs that have failed.
Oh, yes, I don’t even know how many blogs I’ve started that haven’t lasted more than a few posts before I lose interest in them at all. And the really bad thing is that I love the thought of blogging. I really want to have a regular blog and have tried to have one for years, but I consistently post a few articles and then stop.
So one of the reasons why I started blogging again here on my web-site is because I really, really want to have a blog. I love writing just as much as I love drawing, and I love the thought of having a place to share my thoughts, my writing, my art, and my experiences. Which is why I keep coming back to the idea and why I’m trying it yet again with this site.
What’s been holding me back? What has made me give up on each blog before this? Why do I think I can consistently update this blog when I failed so many times before?
I can definitely answer what has made me give up on so many blogs before this one. And it comes down to one word.
Every time I sit down to write one of these posts, I am terrified. And this is something I have struggled with since the times of just posting for my friends to see it on LiveJournal, but it gets worse when I’m trying to blog about something specific. I think of a topic I want to talk about, begin to write, get about halfway done, and I suddenly get gripped with fear. Fear that no one will read this. Fear that no one cares about what I’m writing about. And, worst of all, fear that I have nothing interesting to say about anything at all.
There’s a little part of me that believes I am extremely boring and that no one will want to read about what I have to say. There are so many people more knowledgable, more experienced, and more successful than I am in every topic that I want to write about, so why in the world should I write about anything? Even now I’m starting to think that I shouldn’t blog about my anxiety over blogging because why would anyone want to read about me struggling to blog?
It’s a vicious cycle, it really is! Sometimes living with my anxiety can be exhausting.
So part of why I’m really trying to stick with blogging this time is to get over this fear. Or- if I can’t get over it- so that I can learn to deal with it and do this even though I’m afraid. I’ve had a lot of fear to overcome in life. Doing art and working with horses has taught me a lot, including how to work through fear and come out on the other side as a better, stronger, more confident person. I hope that through this blog I can work through another fear, and also that I can share some of my favorite things with those of you who take the time to come here and read the silly things that I write.
What fears have you had to work through in your own life? Let me know!
I was officially diagnosed with it about two years ago and started taking medication, but looking back on my life, I’m pretty sure I’ve always been extremely anxious. As a child, I remember reading a science book and then being terrified that the sun was going to blow up and we were all going to burn up and die. I was scared during fireworks displays on the Fourth of July that bits of smoldering fireworks were going to drop on my head and burn me. School turned me into a wreck if we had to answer questions in class or read out loud because I was terrified I would mess up and make myself look like an idiot in front of my classmates.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve had anxiety my entire life and no one really noticed. I was a crybaby, and anti-social, and a scaredy-cat, and any other manner of mean name you could call a child who has anxiety and no one is willing to open their eyes to that fact.
As a child, I always wanted to have a horse and learn how to ride. That dream didn’t start coming true until I turned 30, and suddenly I had the opportunity to work with horses and learn how to ride. Learning to ride at 30 years old is not easy, let me tell you. First of all, most people at that age know very well that they can die at any moment, thank-you-very-much, and so I didn’t have the luxury of learning during that fearless time that young children have. Though sometimes I wonder if, because I have had anxiety since a very young age, I ever had that “fearless and immortal” period of my life at all.
“Even with medication, all these falls started making me anxious.”
One of the first times I ever got in a saddle without someone else checking the girth (the strap that holds the saddle to the horse) for me, the horse walked away from the mounting block while I was just starting to get on, the saddle slipped, and I fell under the horse. During a riding lesson at another barn, I went to get on a lesson horse who wouldn’t stand still at the mounting block at all and I ended up going right over the other side and falling. Before I had another couple of falls in the past year and a half of riding, ninety-percent of my horseback riding related falls were while I was trying to get in the saddle.
Even with medication, all these falls started making me anxious. Since they happened mostly when I was getting on the horse, I began to get seriously terrified of not having my girth tightened enough that my saddle wouldn’t slip when I got on. Getting in the saddle when there was no one there to hold my horse was also a nightmare, because what if I tried to get on and they walked off without me firmly sitting down in the saddle?! The horror!
It got to the point where I would double and triple check my girth before getting on the mounting block. Then I would play a game called “The mounting block isn’t the correct distance from the horse”, and I would go down and up the mounting block several times, adjusting its position until it was perfect. Then I would stand on the top of the mounting block, staring at my saddle as though it were a firing squad. Eventually, I might get in the saddle, or I might just call it quits and decide not to ride at all.
We got a VERY tall mounting block eventually at the barn I boarded at, and that made things a little bit easier. I could put my horse (a rather short Morgan mare) next to it and literally swing my leg over and sit down, no stirrups required. And since there were no stirrups required to get on, I could be reasonably sure that my saddle wouldn’t slide and deposit me on the ground underneath an animal with four hard hooves and that spooks easily.
But this didn’t really solve my anxiety. And things just became worse when the person who owned that mounting block left, taking my salvation with them.
I got a breastplate, figuring that even if it wasn’t actually designed to stop a saddle from rolling side-to-side, it would be enough of a placebo effect that I would be able to calm my anxiety and get on. But even with the extra piece of tack to give me peace of mind, the anxiety was still there.
“Yes, anxiety about being anxious! I truly am a mess!”
I soon realized that the anxiety was stemming not just from fear of the saddle slipping, but also from the fear of the horse walking away before I could get in the saddle, AND from my embarrassment about my anxiety. Yes, anxiety about being anxious! I truly am a mess! I knew that I was going to have to get over this and get on my horse like a normal human equestrian is supposed to, not climbing down onto the horse’s back like I was doing a squat in the gym. (Besides, the taller mounting block only allowed me to do that if the horse was as short as my personal horse, and not many of them are. If I rode a taller horse, I was out of luck and HAD to use the stirrup to get on!)
I was in a bind. Nothing I’d tried had worked yet, but I was determined that I was going to stop having so much anxiety about an activity that I truly love and I was going to teach myself to get over this and stop being stared at while I climbed into the saddle like it was my first day of riding. By now I had been riding for almost five years and this just seemed silly. But I was lost on how to make myself not anxious when even buying a piece of tack that was supposed to help me didn’t help at all.
In the Five Second Rule, you give yourself a task that you need to start. Let’s use getting out of bed since it’s her example in the video. So you say to yourself, “I am getting out of this bed now,” and then you count backward from five to one, and you start that task. It helps squash procrastination because you have a set time limit to start the task, and it kills anxiety because five seconds isn’t enough time to second guess your decision. A simple “5-4-3-2-1” seemed… TOO simple.
But it was worth a shot when everything else had failed me, right?
I was eager to try this technique and was going riding with some friends the next day. I told myself that I was going to make sure my girth was tight, then I was going to do my countdown and get in my saddle- and I was going to use my stirrup to do it like a normal equestrian!
“5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!”
The next day came and I repeated my plan over and over again to myself as I tacked up. I made sure my girth was good and snug and that my helmet was on, and I went to the mounting block. I made sure to adjust the mounting block back a little further than normal so I would have room to use my stirrup. Then I got to the top step, adjusted my reins, put my foot in the stirrup, and said “Five, four, three, two, one!”
Boom! I was in my saddle! I was giddy over this little victory, could my stirrup worries be over with, finally? I had to get down at one point during that ride to adjust something in the arena, and I used my countdown to get on using my stirrups again. Two for two, I was on fire! Then my friend asked if I wanted to ride her horse for a few minutes because I had never been on him before. This horse is significantly taller than mine, and I knew I was going to have no choice but to use the stirrup for this one. Another countdown and BAM! I was on a horse that I’d never ridden before, and I’d used a stirrup to get there, and I hadn’t fallen off! I was over the moon!
I am happy to report that I now have very little anxiety while getting in the saddle. I can’t say that it’s completely gone, because I often ride a friend’s horse bareback and that horse walks away from the mounting block like she’s just been kicked in the butt the second you get on her back. But when I’m on my horse I use my stirrup and I don’t get anxious about it. I know now that even if my saddle slips a little, I’m good enough that I can still get on without falling. Those little baby steps and a five-second countdown gave me the confidence I needed to get through the anxiety and start enjoying the beginning of my rides.
I still have a long way to go with my anxiety, even when I’m riding, but I know that I can get there. And I know that because I conquered my fear of a silly little thing like putting my foot in a stirrup.
Have you ever had an anxious reaction to something that you knew was silly, and if so how did you deal with that anxiety? Have you ever used the five-second rule to deal with your anxiety? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments or on Facebook! Or you can email me to connect too.