Welcome to Trauma Tuesday. What do we do when we are stuck with past trauma leaking into our present? Is healing possible when it seems like we have tried everything? Can animals facilitate healing where other methods have been ineffective? Let me tell you about my own healing journey and an unexpected twist that occurred this week.
For decades I suffered with depression and anxiety without knowing the cause or the cure. Then in my late forties I discovered I had repressed memories of severe childhood abuse. What I had experienced as a child was almost unbelievable and I am amazed I am in such good shape today. After several years of intense work focused digging out of my subconscious the memories of what happened and resolving the trauma, my depression and anxiety lifted. I was amazed. This led me to do the work I do today. I see now how stuff locked into my subconscious was ruling my life without my knowledge. I can also see how everyone’s behaviors and reactions are influenced by subconscious garbage. There is a way to be free.
Sometimes people ask me how they will know when they are free of the past. I think it is a matter of gradation. During the entire process I was getting better and better. Am I completely free? No. I would consider complete freedom to look like no more mental afflictions. This is the ability to allow everything to be just as it is without the drive to change it. I still work to improve my body and my mood.
And while I am free of clinical depression, I suspect I have not completely resolved my past trauma. I still seem to overreact to stressful situations where there are deadlines and I think I need to achieve a certain level of performance. My anxiety is much less than before, but this year, when I started putting myself out more I noticed, I noticed that I still was overreactive. I still haven’t gotten to a place where I trust in the benevolence of life.
Anxiety aside I have one other bold symptom of unresolved trauma. That is chronic tension in my right side. I suspect this has been with me my whole life, yet in my twenties I was so disconnected from my body that I never knew I was tense. Over the years, I have seen many practitioners and invested thousands of dollars trying to relieve this tension. It seems to be multifaceted and layered.
When I first became aware of it, I just noticed that my right side was tight. Especially from my neck to my hips. The tension would always through my spine out of alignment and I would fidget to get comfortable and twist to get it to release. The interesting part of it is that sitting meditation makes it worse. When I went to my first 10 day retreat in 2000, I was in good physical shape for meditating. I had been practicing 2 hours a day in anticipation of the 11 hour days expected at the retreat. However, by the third day my right side felt like it had a hot poker running up and down it. By the end of each hour sit I was leaning 30 degrees to the right in order to relieve the pain. I finally learned that if I used a back support the tension would not escalate as much. Today, I only meditate short periods of time sitting upright. Otherwise I am plagued by tension throughout the day. I typically meditate reclining or laying down – a much more challenging way to meditate, but the only way my body can tolerate it.
Although I’d known my right side tensed up during meditation, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that my right hand would also form a fist unconsciously. I once asked someone to watch my as I lay quietly on a massage table and focused on my breath. They reported that not only did I clench my fist, but I also tensed up my right foot as well.
Where is this reaction coming from? It is certainly unconscious and I suspect it is because of some still yet unresolved trauma. I have tried to analyze it with out success. Is it tensing due to fear? Is it tensing because I am holding back rage? Is it a specific memory? Is it just general trauma? Is there something that I am resisting remembering? My body remains silent to me.
Since I am committed to being free, I know I will eventually resolve this. What I didn’t expect was that my recent interest in horses may be answered prayer. Let me explain.
A year and a half ago I began caretaking a 10 acre parcel. Three of the acres were an orchard with a secure deer fence. Another six of the acres was undeveloped grassland with a few old walnut trees, oak and pine. It also had a deer fence, but was open in several places allowing the deer access. It seemed a shame to let all this land lay unused.
In October, our area experienced devastation due to fires burning out of control. Many animals were displaced and I offered the land up as a refuge. No one took me up on it, but it got me thinking more about putting the land to use for horses. I envisioned a couple of retired, old horses, coming home to pasture.
In November, on impulse, I went to the local livestock auction to find out more about how the auction worked. They told me that they no longer auctioned horses. So I went online looking for an alternative. This is where I found the North Texas Feedlot’s Facebook page.
The feedlot housed horses purchased at auction by a kill buyer. The feedlot was given permission to post the animals on their Facebook page with a purchase price in the chance that they could find a home before being shipped to Mexico. A group of people monitored the page, the animals ship dates and did fundraising to save the animals. I saw many nice animals, but Texas is a long way away.
I followed the page and was notified every time a new batch of horses came in. It was nerve wracking. A horse would come in. Some I liked a lot and I was relieved when they found a home, sometimes at the last minutes. After a month, I realized that if I wanted a horse there was no hurry, they always had very nice horses in need of homes. I had my eye on a few that come in just before Christmas, so I decided to get more information. I asked about transport cost and learned that the transport to California would cost as much as the horse did.
This was getting crazy, I thought. Each day I told myself you have to stop following the North Texas Feedlot page. Getting a horse is a huge commitment. You don’t know anything about horses and these horses are complete unknowns. In an attempt to convince myself I was crazy, I talked to a horse person about the idea. She gave me some suggestions. I talked to my daughter about the idea. She loved the idea of me having horses she could ride.
I then found rescues closer than Texas. That made more sense. Find something local and ease into this. I woke up ready to unfollow the feedlot. But I had hooked my daughter in the day before. She had been looking at the lot and sent me a photo of one she liked. Yes, it was a nice brown gelding. And the Arabian gelding I’d been watching had half bail paid, so he’d only be half price. I posted a comment on his page about cost to transport and before I knew it I had an excellent quote back.
I had to make a decision. I had two questions. Were the horses healthy and sound? And was I crazy? I called Glen Phillips. Glen Phillips is an animal whisperer. I had used his services a couple years ago and have complete confidence in him. He cured my dog, that had been limping for a week, instantly. All that over the phone. He has agreed to be a guest on this podcast, so expect that in the next couple of weeks.
I sent him the four animals I was considering. The Arabian Gelding had already been placed by the time he got back to me, which was good – since it had a kidney infection. The brown gelding was in a lot of pain from arthritis he said. It could be healed but it would need supplements and despite its desire to stand still it would need to be ridden. The other two animals, a five year old mule and a 12 year Palomino Mare were in good health.
But what he said next was the game changer. He said if you ride the mare two to three hours each day you will get off and be unable to walk because all that tension you have in your right side will be gone and your muscles will not be used to it.
Never mind that I never told him I had right side tension. I began to cry at the possibility of being free from the tension. I also got scared about the commitment of 2 -3 hours each day. This was not going to be a simple rescue a horse and put her out to pasture. This was going to be a complete lifestyle change. I wasn’t ready! Yet, it was what I had been asking for. Was it possible that I could be free of tension?
He went on to tell me that the Mare was sad and being put out to pasture was not what she needed. She needed purpose. He said she was an alpha animal, but that spirit had been beaten out of her by her previous owner. It could all be recovered and that our mutual healing would create a fantastic bond. I can’t remember if she was going to teach me how to heal from sadness or if I was going to teach her. Probably doesn’t matter.
Glen told me that when I rode her she would pull the tension out of my body. However, she doesn’t hold it. With each step it would go out her hooves into the earth. I could imagine this, just feeding the earth all that nice energy that I’ve been holding onto. I am curious.
I asked if the mule and the mare would be compatible. He said yes. The mule would set the energy for our little herd. Mules are always in charge. And he said she won’t mind not being ridden. Since she is the subtle influence controlling the group I named her Moon. And the Palomino mare is Star Healing.
Many people contributed to posting their bail and they have been moved to a rescue out of the freezing cold of the feedlot. They are set to be transported to me in three weeks. In the meantime I am getting the land ready for them and me ready for the change.
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Cheery Monday by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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