Winter in New England is never exactly fun. Even this year, though we were treated with a mostly snowless and uncharacteristically warm season, it was no different.
…actually, you know what? That’s a bald-faced lie.
This winter was, decidedly, much worse, despite the warmth and lack of precipitation. I can’t blame the weather this time around, though. You see, right before the season hit, I made a lot of important and GOOD life changes. I bought a horse, moved into a new job and new department in my company, and began trying to adult for realsies. These were exciting and positive things, but I uprooted my whole life and turned it upside down in the span of a month or two. I am a wildly anxious creature, and that makes change extremely difficult for me, no matter how much good it will do in the long run. Throw that on top of starting and ending my first sort-of relationship, as well as worrying about the health of my best human friend, and you can see why things began to unravel.
After a few months of dealing with elevated anxiety, I realized that my carefully constructed and reinforced walls were riddled with cracks and holes from repeated beatings. I panicked when I realized this. I am an intense person by nature, with an emotional volatility that can be damaging to myself and others if I’m not constantly on top of it. These walls were integral to the protection of all parties involved (or so I believed). I scurried to and fro, trying to keep up with the repairs on said walls, but once all of these life changes settled down on my shoulders, I had to spend an inordinate amount of energy just to function, never mind expend extra on keeping up a facade. Shortly thereafter, I didn’t have the ability to keep up with the repairs either. My anxiety, having bubbled to an unmanageable level, raged right through those cracked and damaged walls and I struggled to just function, never mind be the actress I had become so skilled at being. The walls crumbled, bit by bit, until there was nothing left but a pile of rubble.
I was left entirely open for damage, and damage hunted me down like wounded prey. I completely lacked defenses, so when I found myself in the throes of an unceremonious resurfacing of an emotional issue that I thought I had laid to rest years ago, it caught me viciously off guard. I was forced to my knees by the weight of it, unable to catch my breath, vulnerable and raw and aching.
It was too much.
There are few things psychologically scarier than having your sense of self decimated into something you can’t even recognize. I have spent roughly ten years showing the public a carefully cultivated image of who I wanted to be, and the fact that I am physically incapable of gluing things back together quick enough to continue holding up that front causes a paralyzing amount of terror. I don’t know how to function without my armor anymore. I have hit the point where this fractured person that I’ve become is all I have left to offer. I have to sit in the rubble and sift through the brokenness, to try and rebuild myself from sharp edges that no longer fit flush with one another.
This is where I have to make a choice.
I can choose to rebuild those walls. I did it once, I can do it again. I can return to being the girl who hides. That is easy. That is safe. That requires very little thought and even less bravery.
Or, I can choose to start fucking living, which is probably the scariest thing I’ve ever had to force myself to do.
The girl I have been has not been living. She has been acting. The motions came easily, but there was no genuineness to them. She was cold and closed off and refused to believe in the goodness that the world can hold. She had forgotten what it felt like to be compassionate and empathetic and truly, wholeheartedly kind. She had forgotten that connection, both human and horse, was essential to living. She grew used to making herself small and silent, to stifling her voice for so she wasn’t a burden. I have to find the girl that used to be able to connect with the world around her, who used to honestly and deeply care about the people, creatures and causes in her life. She’s in there, and she used to be mine. I just have to find her again.
Thankfully, I have real reason to fight this battle now. It has taken me almost four years, but I have something that I want to connect with again. When I feel like I can’t bear to sift through the wreckage for another day/hour/minute/second, I can press a button on my phone and my own personal silver lining stares back at me, his white eyelashes stark against dark eyes. My little grey horse, with all his tendencies to be hyper-reactive and highly anxious, has kindly and tenderly taken care of his disaster area of a human without question or pretense. He has centered me when I could not center myself, and he has forced me to be present when I was so lost in things out of my control that I couldn’t get out of my own head. He has taken me away when I most needed it, with pounding hooves and flying mane, pinned ears and whistling wind. He has brought unadulterated joy and laughter with his goofy, childlike personality. I sit with him, and there is peace. It’s not always long lasting, and I may not be able to sustain it on my own right now, but for a little while, I can breathe again. I can contemplate the idea of a better tomorrow when my fingers are tangled in his mane and not have it be an unattainable idea. He has been a tangible beacon of hope in a situation that has felt suffocating and unrelenting. He has given me a reason to continue my story, no matter how much I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, and I am eternally grateful for that.
I don’t know what lies ahead for me. This is uncharted territory and it’s a road that may not end for a very long time. I do know that I have an entire cheerleading squad’s worth of wonderful, impossibly kind, supportive people who have consistently ignored my attempts to push them away, which has been a bewildering and tentatively promising discovery. I have a saint-like therapist who is actually borderline excited by this development, because for the first time in the fifteen plus years she’s known me, I am showing her something raw and real. I have the drive to fix this instead of hide from it, so I have a shot in hell at leading a life that is worth living.
And, maybe most importantly, I have a horse who is patiently waiting for me to return to him with an open heart, so he can tell me, in his own words, that he’s been right here for me all along.
“She’s imperfect, but she tries.
She is good, but she lies.
She is hard on herself,
She is broken and won’t ask for help.
She is messy, but she’s kind.
She is lonely most of the time.
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie.
She is gone, but she used to be mine.”
She Used to Be Mine, Sara Bareilles