Stories from the Heart

Out of Darkness

The healing power of horses

Zara and her favorite therapy horse, Snoopy. ©Janice Friddle

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) really should be identified as Triggered Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The obvious reference to a past event or events doesn’t begin to describe the impact of living through triggered episodes. I am a survivor of multiple homicides and extensive abuse. My triggers are everywhere. I do not control them. They come from references on television, other media, seemingly basic conversations and innocuous remarks.

Traumatic events happen to everyone. Slavery, war, the Holocaust, gang violence, and crimes among humanity represent trauma. So does illnesses, broken relationships, and any life event that inflicts pain.

My experiences are not meant to compare to any other. It is the degree, the repetition, and other factors that determine response to triggers. One person might experience a passing moment of sorrow. Mine is not so fleeting. It is the equivalent of having sustained emotional concussions that affect my brain and emotional intellect. My trauma survival has affected processing of information.

In a recent and difficult episode, I hated reliving my life experiences so much that I didn’t speak for days. This is not self indulgence. It is darkness that intellectually points to hope on the other side but there is no light and no one who can journey with you. Even as a follower of Jesus Christ, prayer is distracted by the enveloping pain.

When triggered, the pattern is the same. I get angry, then the holes I’ve spent a lifetime climbing up from collapse and I am gone. Destined to spend hours, days, or even longer in silent self-loathing for being broken. Over 40 years, it is not fear I feel when triggered. It is lost identity of all the work in overcoming.

It is all encompassing.

I have traveled the roads of therapy, medication, alcohol, drugs, and other coping strategies attempting to fix me. My worst was over a year spent in a darkened bedroom with television for company and a loving husband and son who refused to let me stay forever in that place. During that time my only other activity was attending Church desperately seeking relief. Finding the path out is devastating to everyone around.

In a moment of clarity, I researched and completed the paperwork to volunteer with The Right Step, a therapeutic riding program. Having once worked countless hours in the saddle, working with horses and volunteering with therapeutic riding held promise.

Months went by. Trainings held but never attended.

Finally, with my husband’s encouragement, we went. Afterwards, I was quick to dismiss it as not for me. He pushed. I agreed to try. After my first lesson, I was exhausted but magically motivated. I did more and more and with it came purpose and release from the darkness.

Soon I leased a horse to ride on my own. Precious quiet times with amazing creatures whether helping others ride or time traversing scenic trails.

©Janice Friddle
©Janice Friddle

The healing power of horses is phenomenal. They can assess emotions and react innately. It is a symbiotic relationship. Connecting to the horse provides opportunities to communicate beyond any human comprehension. When I reached out to volunteer I wanted to be around horses and help others to reshape my life. It never occurred to me that the horses, this program: clients, volunteers and staff would be so healing.

The Right Step became my first step!


on_gloryAbout the Author

Janice Friddle is a writer and photographer. She enjoys western pleasure riding and is a strong supporter of equine therapy. Check out her blog at friddledom.wordpress.com!

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