So I have Major Depressive Disorder, or whatever you want to call it, and have since about the 6th grade. It's the real deal.
I've been around horses my entire life, riding regularly since I was 6, and the horse industry has been my primary occupation (to whatever extent I've been able to work) for the last several years. It's what I know, what I'm best at, and possibly even what I enjoy at least some of the time (to extent I enjoy anything ) Certainly, I believe horses saved my life during my teens.
But I really struggle with aspects of this industry and often feel "complicit" in things that really bother me. I struggle with not always being able to live in line with my values at work, which is of course, really bad for depression.
Does anyone else out there ever have this problem? I love horses and spending time doing the thing I'm most interested in, but horses seem to forever be misunderstood, mistreated, and general sources of heartbreak. I've been exposed to many different sides of the horse industry, and they all have pros and cons and usually it comes down more to individual care or callousness.
Here are some examples from over the years of the kind of thing I'm talking about:
1. General neglect, owners being unaware of issues or unaware of their importance which then plays out in my mind to the slow and painful breakdown of the animal (neglecting teeth, lax hoof care, improper or crappy feed).
2. Ignorance of medically significant symptoms/behaviors (possible ulcers, lameness, moon blindness) which go untreated and sometimes result in the horse being punished (for being cranky, tripping, spooking).
3. Overuse - over riding, over working, over racing, particularly very young or extremely old horses.
4. Under use - sitting in a box stall for weeks or even more.
5. In general taking short cuts on horsemanship, usually because good horsemanship was never bothered to be learned in the first place. Failing to see the "why" behind good horsemanship and how my recommendation should lead to less work and cost over time, not more.
6. Bubble wrapping - spending ridiculous amounts of time, money and energy obsessing over the slightest deviations from perfection in soundness, health, etc., and indulging fears of what will happen if the horse is ridden, perhaps (gasp) at a trot, or (heaven forbid) in imperfect footing, and then given some (oh just nevermind!) turn-out time with another horse, until more problems are actually created.
7. Misinterpreting horse psychology in general, leading to abuse. That's not to say I'm a mystical horse psychic, but it's amazing how often people make interpretations with are convenient for themselves or their egos at the expense of the horse's best interest or just reality.
I have never had the money, influence, or even energy to be in charge of a barn or business, although I don't get the impression that alleviates these problems much. Trainers and vets all live at some extent at the mercy of their clients. And even when I've just ridden for pleasure, it's not like there's a magic bubble I can live in and do everything perfectly (ha.) and remain blissfully unaware of world's horseback riding dunderheads. So I feel stuck between doing what I know best and at least theoretically love, and getting a daily dose of learned helplessness aggravation where I feel I lack the power and control to stop things that hurt animals and bum me out.
I really feel alone with this feeling most of the time, like the people around me either don't see the problems I'm seeing or aren't as bothered by them. Often these same people seem to care a lot or have really strong opinions about things I don't think matter much at all (saying things like "How could they blanket that horse?" or "not blanket that horse?!" in 45 degree weather and I'm thinking, "How can you you poke your horse in the nose all day for wearing a sour expression and acting pissy at mealtimes when you haven't checked him for ulcers?")
Because these feelings can get really overwhelming for me, I'm not sure I'm even accurately evaluating how bad or important these problems are. I don't like feeling like I'm "looking the other way" all the time, but I also know I need to try to accept that life is messy, people are cruel (including me), and there's collateral damage around us all day long. I can't control it. But I struggle to feel good about myself or stay committed to living life.
I feel the way you describe, often about life in general, the ways people do things. And about cats and dogs as well as horses.
I, too, do not like feeling like I'm turning a blind eye to things; and like you, I do not have the money or influence to feel I can be very effective for change. Until I read your post I never realized that the fact that there are so many negative things going on, plus the fact that I feel powerless to change any of them or even set a positive, effective example, could be so depressing to me as well as making me angry, as well as worried for the animals affected and their people. I do know that "getting depressed" is not the same thing as having depression, so I'm not trying to say I know exactly how you feel. I just hate wanting to do something and feeling so ineffective.
Arrgghhh ... this is a sad thing to be thinking about coming up to sundown on Friday. But it is also good to be reading your post and to realize I am not the only one.
I think you are right in saying that trainers and vets are to some extent at the mercy of their clients. Or, rather, that they are able to do only so much to improve things.
I also think that maybe the teachers of the young are in the best position to be the post effective. Who was it who said something like, "Give me a child young enough and there's no limit to what I can teach him (her)"? They really are the next generation to be "in charge--" to be effective--and really the only context in which I have any patience with kids is at the barn (and there I have a great deal--if they want to learn).
Someone told me once that the difference between normal and "neurotic" was the ability to detach from the bad situation.
Bad things happening to horses, to other people, in the Third World. It's all the same information to each person who learns about it, but some people can feel the same feelings less acutely.
It sounds crappy to suggest that you should "grow a thicker skin".... until you ask if it is serving you, anyone else or horses to *not* try and do that.
I don't mean to minimize your Real Deal Depression. I'm definitely on the neurotic or overly-sensitive side of the spectrum. I may be qualified or unqualified to give you advice.
I have had to try and teach myself not to feel things so accutely. It's mofo-ing work. No other way to put it. But it also has be a goal you choose and value.
As I see it, you could find the same degree of callousness anywhere. You might as well stay doing what you love and choose to teach yourself to roll with it. There are lots of things you can tell yourself in order to minimize your horror or sadness at what other people do.
Thanks to you both for the replies. I definitely hate to bum anyone out, since all I wish is to see and feel less But i understand that inherent in sharing these kinds off moods is negatively effecting others. Read at your own risk.
It's a tough call about growing thicker skin. For one, I may have only limited ability to do that. It's like telling someone "See in color less!" I wish I just had a clearer sense of what was important enough and in my sphere of control enough to warrant "taking a stand" and when it makes more sense to just let it go. I do think if there is an upside to being hypersensitive and neurotic it's to be blessed with a stronger moral compass, which in turn requires you to do something with it.
I realize that sounds a little arrogant, as if others aren't moral, and that's not what I mean. I'm just weighed down by more questions about what's right or wrong and I think it's good to have people around who will raise those questions. In any case, that beats pushing those questions and feelings down and stuffing it.
To put this in context, the other night after obsessing for awhile over all the ways I failed at work and things I didn't do for the horses but should have and on and on, I ended up pissed off at the whole world, which led me to reading up on some of our crappier world leaders I was pretty sure I was pissed at, which led me to sexual violence in South Africa and the gang raping of infants that goes on there. So this is how my mind works (and thank you so much, Google). And I think my ability to make jokes about this and then go on with my day is good evidence of thick skin. But my entertaining of those kinds of topics at all is evidence of something else. Actually, when I'm stressing out at work, one of my most reliable coping skills is to put things in context by reminding myself that no one here is training ten year old boys to bayonet pregnant women for having the wrong last name - it's just a little trail ride. Sick, but helpful somehow.
Honestly, it's really helpful to get feedback that I can toughen up and let this stuff go. I feel guilty sometimes for not being more vocal...in a lot of ways BECAUSE these are relatively simple first world problems. They could be easily solved with a small investment, or more often just a small kick in the pants. It's not like trying to figure out how to stabilize Aghanistan. In the end, since I'm neurotic, I will find things to worry about even if it's just a day going suspiciously well
I guess there's just a cycle for me of getting bugged by one too may things at the barn, hating myself for not doing a better job of my own work and for feeling powerless to improve things at the barn to hating everything and everyone and totally isolating and moving from ordinary ennui to real sadness.
But I do like horses, I'm good at my job, and the longer I'm there the more likely I will have influence to make some changes. And I have a sick sense of humor, and that definitely helps! I just don't always believe I can really do this life thing long term. That seems crazy to me.
God love ya. We all have those feelings to a degree. We all can get "judgemental". It's how much we let it guide our actions that is the difference. Thinking about these things is ok; acting on them is a big step. We all have opinions about others. They can be strong. I feel like we have to create a less stressful situations sometimes so we aren't bombarded with these strong feelings. Boarding barns are full of drama; maybe a job change/adjustment is called for. I want to avoid places & people & situations that don't make me happy to be there. EX: I don't go to the SPCA because it so emotional! don't go to horse auctions! These depress me. Avoid places/people that aren't therapeutic for you. That you don't like. Don't talk to them; don't listen, don't look.
Somewhere along the line; we have to learn "I can not fix the world" !! I can only fix myself and my reaction to it. That's the key. Stop looking outward and keep focused on yourself, your feelings, your reactions. Eyes on the prize I say. I'd also say that sometimes we keep focused on outward troubles, other people and other situations to AVOID THINKING ABOUT OUR OWN !!! I have a full time job taking care of myself. I gotta prioritize my time & energies to do just that. Love yourself first before you worry about them other peeps!! You can't do it all. It's not your job to worry about others & their horses.
CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES WISELY !!!
Seek only happy places.
Life's too short to carry the whole damned world on your shoulders!
And be sure to take your meds and get your counseling to help. Bounce these thoughts off of your therapist too.
It sounds like you are dealing with a fair amount of general axiety too...your description of what happened the other night, where your work stress lead you to having uncontrolled thoughts about all kinds of terrible things you can't do anything about, sounds like both of my boys (22 and 10), who have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
The older one worked with a therapist last year who did Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He found it very helpful as she gave him some tools and exercises to help him be aware of, and get control of, some thought patterns that were making him miserable and making him feel paralyzed by the enormity of everything that was going wrong, might go wrong, etc... He also had some idea that he had to fix or worry about things that weren't his responsibility and that he couldn't do anything about. He learned to focus on taking care of the things he COULD do something about, breaking them down into smaller, less intimidating, pieces so he could be successful at them before moving on to the next, seemingly impossible, task. This really helped his sense of competence and self-worth too. He's managed to get from "I can't solve ANYTHING because I can't solve EVERYTHING" to "I'm more than capable of taking care some problems, that are actually my responsibility, and within my capability, to solve". A much easier way to go through life .
Last edited by Canaqua; Sep. 8, 2012 at 12:57 PM.
Reason: Awful run on sentence ;) It's only slightly better now
Sooo...really just looking for support from other horse people. I really appreciate all the kind words. It's true I have both anxiety and depression. I do get support from friends, family, and therapy, but the combination of horsiness and relative anonymity of COTH can be a good resource. Just was wondering if some other people get bugged by this type of stuff. Just wanting to vent and commiserate I suppose
I've had some great therapy (in addition to less great) and it's enormously helpful. I've never responded to any type of medication for the depression, so that's not an option, but I have made life and lifestyle changes that have made things more manageable. None the less, it's something that will still rear its head more than I would like and it's not situational. I have to respect my strengths and limits, but be careful to not just avoid triggers, since my depression will follow me where I go, ultimately even if/when I crawl under the covers and decide not to come back out. I'm pretty sure my current work is as close as I will get to a good fit. Having these feelings doesn't mean I'm acting on them in any way at work. I just like to explore different ways to manage or sublimate icky feelings. Sometimes I'm quite sure my emotions get ramped up on their own and then start running around looking for something to pin themselves to. The extent "horse suffering" bothers me is correlated a little with how much suffering a think is occurring and correlated a lot with what my stress load was 5 minutes prior. Either way, I gotta cool down before I can decide how to react (or not).
My therapist doesn't know horses and as a ACT therapist would encourage me to find ways outside of therapy to manage my emotions rather than discuss them at any length with me. At the time I posted this I was feeling pretty alone and getting suicidal feelings. That happens sometimes and I feel just fine today. Posting in this forum seemed worth a try.
After thinking about it a bit, I think I do just need to accept my feelings on this as springing from my own values and perspective. Others may share them "to some extent," but I really feel ok about being significantly bothered, even if at the end of the day I can't do much about it and it's not under my direct control, and whether or not I have people around me who relate to those feelings. For clarity, I'm not talking about boarder drama. I've had to personally assist in the euthanization of horses whose deaths were a direct result of the stuff I was griping about above. I've seen even more than that I feel should've been put down but were left to linger in extremely poor condition. I'm also not talking about other people's horses, for the most part, that I have no business with (ie I'm a boarder, they're boarders). Mostly I'm talking about horses who occupy a grey area of not completely under the sphere of my control and responsibility, but not totally outside it. Eg., Clients' horses, employers' horses I give the majority off care to. Horses I may be expected to work when my training and background tells me they should ...uh, not be. So I suppose that's just a dynamic that will result in feeling frustrated sometimes. Sometimes I have more opportunity to influence these situations and I can only do that if I'm paying attention and feeling feelings And sometimes I just need to let it go and look away I'm pretty well positive some people are born into the world better able to tell which is which, but I will keep working on it
I *still* think it's good for you do be in Horse World.
And yikes! to the places your mind will lead you with your fingers to follow and Google helping you out. What I mean about "work" in that instance is to *know* where Googling World Atrocities will get you and refuse to let your fingers do the walking. It doesn't change anything about what goes on in the world or how you feel (at the moment), but it *does* keep you from going deeper into that particular bit of depressing research.
I'm like you: I *like* it that I can see the pain of the underdog. On a moral level, I don't want to give that up. I do have to figure out how to continue to be useful to other people in the face of those overwhelming injustices. It it's any consolation, I don't think that anyone in the thick of this-- pick Gandhi, Mother Theresa or whoever-- gets away with not having to do this kind of emotional management. Sometimes I think their great strength lies in the ability to just "show up" in the face of it all.
Which leads me to the benefit of HorseWorld for you. The best part is that you *can* make a horse happy in the moment relatively easily. At least it's easier than fixing the kind of suffering that people do. I like HorseWorld for this reason. I feel that my capacity to do good is more in line what what is required. I don't have to feel overwhelmed and I can feel proud of myself or effectual if I just ask if the horse appreciated my care.
Putting the horses at the very center is key. It helps me "get out of self" and also know a version of myself that is far stronger and happier than I would be if I were setting myself to be the next Gandhi or Mother Theresa. I know my limits.
I am concerned about your statement that medication is not an option. If you entertain suicidal thoughts at times.....they would surely help. That "you have never responded to them" does not mean they did not benefit you. Sometimes antidepressants and anti-anxiety agents don't totally obliterate the feelings/sense but only blunt them. For example: your lows might be higher and your highs lower. This means you gain a normalization or "evening out" of your emotions. They kinda level off. You still feel; maybe just not as strongly....or for as long....or as scarey. This can be very comforting. It's often subtle. Taking those meds does not cure depression or make it go away. It helps you cope, live and gain a better life quality. There are dozens of meds with dozens of combinations to try. Please consider this !! Keep at it!!
You do not need to explain this to me or anyone too btw unless you want to. This is your private business of course. I just wish to express my concern and hope for a lessening of your stress. Sometimes we just aren't strong enough to do this on our own.
Thank you for sharing with us.
Best wishes! .
Thanks for the kind words, mvp. You are, of course, very right about my googling. Sometimes when I get in a bad mood I start making all the worst choices about food, exercise, music...internet. On the bright side, the horrible stuff I stayed up reading about led to a really great conversation yesterday with a coworker and now I feel much closer to that person. But, no, no more late night political atrocity research Sometimes I wish I could do more Mother Theresa type work (and it's true, she struggled a lot with feeling sad and hopeless. She showed up anyway), and I did use to. But I have to know my limits and I probably put more good back into the world when I do respect those limits.
You are also completely right about caring for a horse in the moment and I'll try to remember that. The good news is I do think that fact that I obviously care about both the horses and the business and am willing to back that up with hard work has started to have some positive effect at work. In the last two days I experienced at lot more willingness and initiative around better managing horse work schedules, getting turn-out and treating bumps an gunks.
The bad news, my elderly father of very possibly of less than sound mind exploded at me the night before last and I just lost it. My mood just hasn't been that stable the past week and getting back to "baseline" has been a bit uphill. I got off the phone and just bawled for an hour until I talked myself into taking ativan and waiting 24hrs before making any big suicide decision. That always works, but I never believe it will at the time. When I get like that I'm always convinced I won't make it through another day. Blah.
When I tell people I deal with depression I pretty much always hear that's a surprise as I come across as happy and relaxed. That's great, because I REALLY hate to subject other people to my BS, but I explain, it's a tempest on the inside!
LOVING WHAT IS
WHO WOULD YOU BE WITHOUT YOUR STORY?
I NEED YOUR LOVE--IS THAT TRUE?
When you first read her, you want to throw the book across the room. But after you work on it a bit, you may find yourself genuinely laughing at what you discover about your own thoughts. Very useful method.
(I also recommend high doses of fish oil )
All pretty practical, may not help you, but in the "can't hurt" category.
Thanks wateryglen! I really did give it the college try, over many years, over 30 meds in various combinations. I'm still open to trying something really different if and when it becomes available, but truthfully, I feel SO MUCH BETTER now that I'm not spending so much energy giving meds a chance to make a difference and trying to grit my teeth through side effects. (no daily meds for 9 months. GAF score would be higher by anyone's evaluation.)
That said, my depression is not really typical and medication is very helpful for a lot of people and I understand sticking with it and finding the right one/combo is a life changer for many, so I encourage people to not get caught into thinking they can just manage it on their own through force of will, taking up running in the mornings, or drinking herbal tea. If someone tells you that cured them, I'm sure something was wrong and really bothering them, but it was not Depression
Although suicidal ideas are scary for everyone involved, they really aren't the same as suicidal impulses, and they don't happen to me all that often and aren't always this intense. If I can just convince myself to do one helpful thing, I can start turning things around and make it to the next morning, when I ALWAYS feel better. Of course, benzos are meds and can be great in these situations. Usually, when I do get the "I simply cannot go on" drama in my head, it's late enough in the day that taking something that will make me sleep isn't going to be an issue. It's the fear off falling asleep and having to face another day I have to get past to swallow the dang thing. But I still wish there was a happy pill I could take in a pinch at 10 in the morning to get through work, or needing to drive home or whatever in the event I have the bottom fall out from under me early. I'm certainly sorry none of the daily meds have helped me. Keep on keepin' on...
I like WateryGlen and MVPs responses.
I dont read Giveaways or craiglist posts or Missing horses forums, too depressing.
And add yo' daddy to the list of Off Limits Depressing Things when you already feel bad. Hehe. Easier said that done, of course, but it's both fine and possible to tell someone that now is not a good time to talk.
Also, if your tendency is to go to Sad or It's My Fault rather than He Done Me Wrong after a difficult conversation, I suggest you find a safe friend to speak with and cultivate the habit of anger. Feeling pissed is a normal emotion. It also has some useful energy and self-esteem that comes with it. No, it's not a great emotion to stay in, but short-term anger does a job for us in sh!tty times.
Right again. Anger is not a comfortable place for me at all. Bu-lech! And other people don't seem to care for it either. I'm still working on convincing myself that people may not like me angry in the moment, but may well respect me more, and will always prefer that to miserable, bitter, or passive aggressive and grumbling. I'm also still working on being skillful with anger. More respectable in how I convey it, if you will. More self-assured and intentional - less weepy or hysterical
One of the most useful things I got out of my run with DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy, which was developed with Borderline PD in mind, but really great for ANYONE) is that each emotion has an associated action. Even though I don't feel comfortable expressing anger, when I feel it I know I'm being motivated to confront a problem, and if I have the power to do that, I can go ahead and confront (even if the way I finally do it is pretty mousey). It's interesting to note, as horribly uncomfortable as I was about my annoyance at some barn management issues at work last week, and as awkwardly as I did end up expressing it, and despite some defensiveness along the way from the other party/ies, ultimately I now have a pay raise and more authority at work to show for it and at the moment anyway, all those relationships are better, not worse, since I first posted. There is, of course, a limit to how much anger I can express to those I work for, so maybe I will return here to boil off the excess again in the future.
I really appreciate the kind support of you strangers!
AND!! OMG!! NOBODY and I do mean nobody...can get to you better than family members and ESPECIALLY parents!! IMHO!! They know how to really get to you deep inside. But....somewhere in our adult lives (dont' know when exactly! ) we learn to push them away along with all the hurt they can bring. Kinda distance yourself, talk to the hand, yeah I hear you but I have MY own opinion kinda thing. Look at their motivations/actions/and what they say and frame it with the thought - Hey I wouldn't let a friend or stranger get away with that! Say that! Do that!!. And then we learn to do "limit setting" with them like we do with children. As they age; their mental status changes. Their priorities change. Mine were terrific with the "guilt" thing and NEVER approved of my horse habit. But it was because they didn't want me to spend all that money or get hurt ! Oh Well!! Just say...Oh Well!!! It is what it is. Do not let someone who is not of sound mind get to you. Their assesssments are not accurate. Let them say their peace then take a deep breath and don't respond. Sometimes it's good to let them have their way. We don't need to confront every single thing we don't agree with. Choose the battles you want to die in!! as they say!!
BTW....I think you have it more together than you are giving yourself credit for. Your insights seem so spot on. Ease up on yourself! Some of what you say is all normal stuff to me! Life ain't all happiness! Work sucks! People often suck! The world sometimes craps on you! It is what it is! Keep your glass half full!!
And carry on with a smile.
Keep smilin' - never let them see you sweat!!
Congrats on the pay raise-- the result of feeling pissed about something and taking action to change it.
In addition to all the smart things you have learned about how to have a normal range of emotions and what kind of self-preserving work they do for us, here's a couple more ideas.
1. Are you a woman and can't feel anger/don't like it/worry about what others will think if you are angry? Yeah, well, welcome to Western Culture, hon. In general, sadness and self-deprecation are acceptable for women to display (and therefore to feel), while men are "allowed" to have anger. It seems like a raw deal for the ladies until you remember that guys aren't supposed to express hurt or sadness. Good luck with that. My point is that you should try your best not to buy the hype.
2. Do anger the way a great mare does it: She gets only pissed off enough to take the minimum amount of action that will get her what she wants. Once she has what she wants, she's done and goes back to neutral. We horsewomen are very, very lucky to have the mare example. It is a healthy way to let so-called "negative" emotions do work for us. Others who haven't seen mares do this and really come to know and love them don't have such a wonderful model.
I'm a 28/male and also suffer from MDD, GAD, BPD, migraines, joint pains. Horses have begun to help me very much but I live too far away to spend a TON of time around them, but I try and it's all i think about when I'm not.
You have put that VERY well. I found horses are so complex and most people don't have the confidence to even begin to LEARN about their "pets". To me the hardest thing is dealing with the people. Trying not to "help" or "give advice".. EVER. Even when asked, just be as simple and short as possible! Most ask questions but when the answer directs immediately to the human being the problem, subconciously they don't want to learn. So they take an ineffective indirect approach to it and fail anyways, lol. Try to focus on horses and not stupid humans. It will make you so bitter if you let it get to you you'll turn into something you don't want to be. It must be all the more harder if you work there though! But yes like i said you have to let it go and just try to keep yourself safe as best you can without "training" the people. Horses don't need training. People do. Every time. Every time a horse is lame, injured, or causes something to happen it's the human's fault so you can either go crazy or let it go as a mantra when you're there. I've been practicing this since a lady got mad at me for calling her out... and have avoided so much drama and felt so much more at peace! well that's my advice. You don't want to turn into a crazy bitter person... the horses will sense it on you anyways! And with people like us it's one thing or the other. You either let it go as a mantra or let it give you a stroke.