Equine Therapy for Veterans with PTSD

Strawberry and Vickie, Bull Ring Belgians, Denmark, Maine

I started up another round of equine therapy today at Bull Ring Belgians in Denmark, Maine. I felt myself getting jacked right up for the last few weeks. I’ve been feeling raw and like my body is on high rev. I have been staying active to help shake it off, to no avail. I reached a stuck point, again.

Equine therapy worked last time to bring the anxiousness and body buzz back down to a manageable level so I am going to try this again. I was able to maintain that manageable level for over a year. I wasn’t quite sure what the trigger was this time so I didn’t know how to tackle it. This past year, I was able to manage symptoms fairly well but I had to do so by shutting down, isolating, and making me the sole focus of every day life. I made myself eat healthy foods and drink water, I exercised daily, I got a good night’s sleep, and I pushed myself to try new things.

This past spring and summer, we spent more time with friends and family. And lately I have had more mental clarity and my technical mind is coming back. For the past couple of years it just felt like mush. But the body stuff is back and the anxiousness is intense and I can’t live like this. It makes you not want to go anywhere or do anything because it takes energy just to not look like some whacked out vet. I would rather suffer in silence then try and act normal. It’s exhausting.

I thought it might be temporary but it continues to fester day after day. I reached out to Vickie at Bull Ring Belgians and went back to equine therapy. I was on fleek when I got there and even though I wanted to be in the here and now, I wasn’t. The horse can sense that and today Strawberry broke me. She was like, “No, if you aren’t gonna get real with me, don’t waste my time.” But as soon as I gave in to my emotions, she approached me gently to let me know that she was there. She let me love on her while I worked through the emotions. It was incredible.

I felt so much better after I let down the guard. Vickie was there to help me work through the emotions. I think the thing that messes with me the most is I don’t know anything but military. I planned on doing that for life. I loved it and my plan B didn’t work because of PTSD. And I feel led to do things that really scare me. So I am trying to figure out who I am and what is important to me. I don’t know what the future holds. I just know that I am military to the core. I love and hate the institution all at once.

Transitioning from military to civilian life is probably the hardest thing I will ever do in my life. I’m still not there. I care too much about the issues our Active Duty, National Guard, and veterans face. I am lost without them. For now, I identify with that. It’s what burns inside me. I am a veteran dealing with the aftermath of what can go wrong while serving. We don’t want this for our troops. We want them to continue to serve and not become disabled veterans.

I have to keep asking for help to push through the barriers. For now, all I can do is manage the PTSD while I dream about what my new future may hold for me. I want to get to a place where I can be effective yet still able to manage the symptoms. I am taking baby steps towards my goals. It’s just not going as smoothly and as quickly as one would hope. Strawberry and Vickie helped me acknowledge the inner struggles today so now I just have to accept it and embrace it regardless of the outcome. When one feels called to lead, good luck trying to fight it, PTSD or not.

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