I am in a relapse of my eating disorder. This looks like so many things, but mostly it is a life thief that slowly and methodically chips away at my soul, robbing me of pleasure, love, and connection. My mind follows the well worn grooves of self hatred, obsession, and shame. It tells me that the disorder hasn't gotten "too bad" as continues to erode my joy.
Last year, when the whisperings started stirring in my mind after I accidentally saw my weight at the doctors office, the horses started calling me. I had never spent a moment with a horse besides a trail ride as a kid, but suddenly out of nowhere I was obsessed with them. After finding a work trade gig and working with horses twice a week, I took my first intuitive steps down a new path.
At first I was a little scared of them, these huge powerful animals. I felt like I had to make my energy huge and hard - set these strong walls around myself and be as big as them. It was so incredible after over a decade of obsessing about trying to be "smaller" that I was trying to be "bigger". I would walk into their stalls all puffed up with my huge boundaries, all tight and rigid, feeling like one snort or swish of a tail would knock it all down in a moment. I didn't know how to touch them or connect, I just wanted to have control in these interactions. A few of the horses just got out of the way, but some of them pushed back, refusing to move to let me in. Hank would stand squared up in his doorway refusing to let me feed him. I’d puff up and get all tough and tell him to move, but he wouldn't budge. It was exhausting and I would finally squeeze past him and try to get out of his stall as fast as possible. We'd knock heads trying to avoid each other, and generally scare the shit out of each other on a regular basis.
When I started learning ground work (literally working with horses on the ground), my whole world changed. In a join up you are focusing your energy on the horse, and they are focused on you. You are asking them to run in a circle using your energy, as well as asking them to change directions. Eventually you are weaving a connection and they start to see you as trustworthy. If you’ve joined up, when you drop your energy they come towards you and you are connected by this invisible thread. In these moments I learned how rich a relationship with a horse is, what a gift it is. Every flinch, moment I was distracted, self conscious, nervous - the horse felt it. If I shifted my focus, she stopped running. If I thought I was doing a terrible job, she lost focus and did her own thing. If I got too big and hard, she didn't connect with me. She constantly pulled me back into the present moment, and into my body in a way I never could on my own. Through those moments together I learned how to be big and open, not big and with rigid boundaries. I learned that my energy and my body could not be separated, and together they communicated a subtle language my brain couldn't comprehend. And I felt joy. Just an unmistakably joy of being in every moment with them. I could just be when I was with them, and rest in their huge sweet energies.
Since those moments I have been with them almost every week. I muck stalls and feed them as an endless thank you for the gifts they have taught me. In these moments of opening to the realities of my relapse, I feel them calling me again. Even though I am with them every week, I have stopped being their student. I have shifted my focus and lost my way. So I return to the tools they have taught me: take a deep breath, ground, remember that you are apart of a herd, connect from your heart center, focus on where you are going, and move with grace.