Saturday, June 18, 2011

Equines and Escalators.....

"It's not what I've done; It's what I've overcome that defines me, and makes me different from everyone else" (from a friend's FB status)

I am only one of the millions of people in the world who grew up in dysfunctional, often abusive, homes. And I, like many of those "Children who were Broken", have struggled my whole life with trust in others. Too many broken promises, too many disappointments, too many hurts. I learned to live my life believing that the only thing I could truly believe in with complete certainty was myself, that I was the only thing I could be sure of and feel safe in.

And when that belief in my own body was shattered with my diagnosis of PTC and the resulting nerve damage and strokes my world changed. The reach of my world decreased and my body became like a foreign invader to me. It became yet another thing to doubt, to question, to fear.

It is hard if you have never had a serious illness or injury to describe not trusting your own body to be there when you need it, so let me  simply say for the last 16 years not once when I have put my right foot down to take a step have I done it without thinking about and hoping it holds, because many many times it hasnt. I have fallen, I have broken bones, I have been bruised and embarrassed. I have many scars from falls, from burns I didnt sense I was getting (due to the numbness)...I have learned to be cautious, too cautious.

There were a million things I wanted to do or try that I haven't because I didn't have the confidence in my body to make it safe to do them. I have avoided situations where stairs might be involved, I have skipped group activities where I might fall and be seen, and I have planned my life for 16 years around my body. Even with all the accomplishments in the last 18 months, I still pre-think every step I take, I still fear falling and I still limit my life. But slowly I am seeing that falling away.

While balance and core and strength are something my trainer has worked on diligently for the last 11 months, while my body was changing, I wasnt seeing it, or probably better said, I wasnt trusting it. Despite being shown over and over that I was safe doing things I still shyed away from them. I still hesitate before I walk down a flight of stairs, I still panick if I have to step up onto something without a hand hold.

But slowly I see that changing, and I think a huge part of that is my new found passion for horseback riding. I am learning by being in the saddle that my body can do what it needs to if I just let it.

This week in my lesson I was asked to try to ride without holding on to the saddle horn. To me this was the most ridiculous request I could ever have heard. There was no way I could not fall off it wasn't holding on. But for some reason I tried it, I think it was the trust I found in Snapper during our previous trail ride more than anything that got me to let go that first time. I am truly trying when I am riding to stop trying to take control. And what I found when I let go, is that riding was more enjoyable that way, not scarier. That I had more control not less, that I felt safer not at risk. That for all my fear about my balance issues and my legs, my body worked just like everyone else's would on a horse.

That experience really spurred me (no pun intended) to try to push myself this week when traveling. To stop holding on to hand rails so tightly, to get on and off the moving walkways at the airport without holding on. To really begin to believe that all the work Nick and I have put in this past year had changed my body.

And tonight I finally conquered the biggest mountain of all. One of my greatest fears has been escalators, particularly going down. I have not gone near one for 16 years, despite facing them daily with all my traveling. I was scared to death I would step on and go tumbling head over tail.

Overcoming this has been a primary goal for months with the trainer and despite me telling myself over and over I was going to do it, I would always stand at the top of the escalator and freeze. Eventually walking away and finding an elevator (which is often hard to find and time consuming, more than once I have missed getting on an earlier flight because I was futzing around finding an elevator).

And tonight was no different, I got to Detroit and was running super late and again nearly missed the flight they had held because I had to find an elevator. I decided no more. When I got to Minneapolis I was determined I was going to baggage claim via the escalator. I didnt. I stood, I froze, I chickened out and took the elevator! But that was my last straw. I made a vow to myself I wasnt leaving the airport til I had done this, even if it meant moving in.

It took me nearly an hour of standing staring at the thing, of lifting my foot and chickening out, of putting my hand on the hand rail and pulling it away. But all the time I kept reminding myself what I have done in the gym lately and what I have done on Snapper. And finally, awkwardly I took that first step. And my body cooperated. The next thing I knew I was down the escalator (truth after getting on the ride was easy, as I suspected it would be). I had done it. I had trusted my body to be there, and it was!!!!!

Just to be sure I did it a second time. I can't say it was a ton easier the second time, and it was still pretty awkward, but again. My body cooperated.

I truly hope this accomplishment tonight is a turning point for me, or a realization of the turning point that happened the first time I got on a horse. It is time to learn to trust my body again, to believe in it to function and to keep me safe!!!!!

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