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What a Difficult Horse Riding Exercise Taught Me About My Anxiety


Today was one of the first days in a long time that my anxiety got so bad it was interfering with my love, passion and work. It was like a huge brick wall was stacked straight in front of me with no ways to go under it, or to the sides. The only way I could get over it was through jumping over it and past it.

Today my horse trainer, friend and boss was having me jump an exercise that was challenging for myself and my horse. Yet it was not impossible.

So it’s the weekend and usually, I only jump my horse when none of the clients are around. I’m not nearly as good as many of them and a lot of the girls look up to me. It’s awesome that they like me, but also so anxiety provoking. Am I good enough, am I the type of person they want to look up to? Can I hold myself to that standard of a role model? Can I hide my depression and anxiety from them?

So today my boss had me jump the same exercise the middle schoolers just finished and they were so excited to see me be able to jump. This exercise seemed simple but was technical. The first time I went through it, I completely messed up in front of all those girls. The second time, the third time… different mistakes after different mistakes. After a few more tries my horse was frustrated; I was frustrated, anxious and beating myself up. All these negative thoughts were racing through my head. My eyes started to well up and for the first time, instead of letting myself get worked into a state, I decided to take control and push through.

Last time I got this nervous, I had to start back to the basics and it set me back years in training. At that moment I had two decisions — push through it or give up. Today I chose to push through it and channeled all my nervous, anxious energy into a positive outcome. I know not everyone can relate to riding horses and jumping, but what I hope y’all can gain from this is that with all the anxious feelings I had, I made a choice to not let it overcome me. I chose to redirect this energy into something positive. Trust me, it was one of the hardest things I have done. It was so mentally draining, but I am hoping that since I was able to do this once, maybe I’ll be able to do it again in the future.

As for all the girls who look up to me, what they see as this awesome young lady. They give me the strength to strive to be the person they believe I am every day. When I fall short of that expectation, I just have to remind myself that part of me is the mental illness. It is an illness that does affect me from time to time throughout the day, and I can either let it define and take over my life, or I can take small steps every day.

Every day I try to please everyone and think I should do things perfectly on the first try. I know that’s not logical, but I get so anxious if it’s not perfectly every time. I guess that’s why I love riding so much; I can never be perfect all the time, not even half the time. There is always something I need to work on, but the reward is so much more. It gives me the confidence to go on to the next day, next week, next year.

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Thinkstock photo via Jupiterimages