|March 11, 2022
|Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized
I can ride a horse. I can even ride horses that are not exactly beginner friendly horses.
This has been independently verified by other people.
You put a mallet in my hand and poof! I am quickly overwhelmed by everything.
What do I mean, “everything?”
I mean everything.
In a game, on a horse and holding a mallet (which is the preferred way to play polo I think), I am currently overwhelmed by having to hit the ball, riding with one hand, staying in two point at the gallop, catching up to other riders, going to their mallet side, riding people off, having people ride me off, turning, stopping, which direction I’m supposed to going to make a goal for my team (instead of the other team), and which way is up and which way is down.
So yeah. Basically everything.
On a dead-broke horse that bores me to tears just riding around the arena outside of a game ….. I can maybe stick it out for a whole 2 chukkers (a game is four….). Give me a horse that is a little squirrelly that is normally my cup of tea? Thirty seconds and my brain is completely shot and I’m that rider trailing behind everyone else just sightseeing a good game from the best seat in the house…while my teammates have to pick up my slack.
Eventually (I think. Don’t tell me differently, this is the thread of hope that is keeping me going) this will get better right? I’ll be able to multi-task my riding and my polo someday, right?
When I first started doing surgery it was completely overwhelming. It was not fun, it made me very anxious, and when things didn’t go right, it was incredibly stressful. But, I saw a kernel in surgery that made me think that if I stuck with it, I could be good at it and even more importantly, it could be fun. Today I love the big fat overweight old dog spays. The cryptorchids that aren’t telling their secrets. I had a vet call my clinic a few months ago to tell them that whatever vet did that puppy leg amputation that was sent to their rescue did one of the best jobs she had ever seen in her years of practice. When the stakes are high and
sh*t blood hits the fan, it’s not panic I feel, but a WHOO HOO HERE WE GO, surge of adrenaline because it’s not surgery if it doesn’t get exciting some of the time and a *chance to cut is a chance to cure.
*Only surgeons say this. Because we like surgery. Self-justification and all that. Must remind myself that not every problem is life can be solved by surgery. Unconvinced this is not, in fact, true. Jury is still out. Cut cut cut cut…..
ER is following the same pattern. Crippling anxiety of OMG what if xyz comes in and there’s no way I know what to do…is quickly turning into “you gotta shot dog on the phone???? HELL YEAH BRING IT IN.” It’s not totally there yet, but I know I have it in me.
Polo is whispering a promise of the same metamorphosis.
Tonight is the end of the quarter college lesson tournament. The varsity girls team (who WON regionals and are on their way to Nationals ? and have only been a team for FIVE months) put on a tournament for all us alumni and students who have been taking lessons all quarter.
I just found out who my horse assignment is.
It’s a horse I can definitely ride, even stick and ball on. I successfully did a speed drill on her on Monday in a lesson without dying of a panic attack.
I’ve never played her in a chukker.
It’s not a horse I could have played in a chukker 5 months ago.
If I survive tonight it will be a true testament to how far I’ve come in polo in the last 5 months.
And maybe, it will convince my brain to start transitioning from OMG I’m going to die, to Whoo hoo LET’S DO IT!!!!
Speaking of that…..I’ve been riding horses for about 20 years and I’ll be honest, I thought at some point I would have moved on in my riding to the point where I could fearlessly go forward like *everyone* around me seemed to do.
I also thought I would be far enough out of school and into my vet career at some point that I could gracefully and seamlessly transition from one vetmed clinic to the next with a quiet confidence and competence that all the other vets I know seem to exude. If it hasn’t happened by 7 years out (I had to count on my fingers to verify that math that it has actually been that long), will it ever happen?
I’m a little miffed that resolution of these problems isn’t just happening by virtue of time passing. But, I’ve always been better at logical problems than emotional ones.
There’s many ways to deal with anxiety.
Method 1: The boil the frog method where you immerse yourself slowly in situations that gradually approach the scary scenario. Isn’t there something kind of disturbing about imagining yourself as the frog? Like, do you really want to be boiled alive? My brain would like to point out that concocting a plan to deliberately boil myself alive is a poor choice.
Method 2: There’s the just jump (or be shoved) into the deep end method. Which is best done with a partner who doesn’t mind being screamed at and won’t take no for an answer but knows you know how to swim and seriously, there are no sharks that live in this fresh water reservoir. This works best with someone I trust and I know believes in me even when I can’t believe or trust myself.
Method 3: There’s the ostrich method, where you stick your head in the sand and refuse to deal with any of it and avoid it for the rest of time forever. Just don’t think about it until it hits you like a bus and let your very competent unconscious mind do the thinking and reacting.
And lastly….: There’s one last method that is the preferred method of my brain. Don’t actually do anything out of my comfort zone. If I can imagine some terrible closed casket ending to the event, then I can skip it! Not do it at all! and pat myself on the back for being forward thinking and wise. Just go ahead and build myself smaller and smaller rooms until my pastimes involve bird watching and sampling cookie dough in the kitchen (raw eggs! see! I can still take risks!).
Every single one of these methods have their time and place. Sometimes it works to acknowledge the fear and work through it. Sometimes it pays to ignore it, not think about it at all and sorta sneak onto horse back.
Because here’s the thing.
I’m a good enough rider to do this. It’s mental. I’m a good enough vet to do surgery, ER, or anything else I want to do. It’s my own mind that is holding me back.
It’s not purely anxiety, fear, or imposter’s syndrome. It’s a garbage disposal of emotions ranging from physical safety, what others will think of me that are watching, being second-guessed, being wrong, wanting to be the best at something, being fearful of mistakes, the emotion of being disappointed, of having regrets, of being frustrated, of not being good enough to matter to myself or others.
In my horse life it manifests as fear and anxiety and keeps me from fully enjoying the thing I’ve loved since I could breathe – the horse.
In my vet life it manifests as imposter syndrome despite real objective evidence that I am a decent vet in most things, and a damn good vet (“the best”) in my practices at a selection of things.
I’ve had so many objective successes that should have confirmed to my brain that catastrophe is not likely to happen, but that’s not the story my brain is choosing to believe.
I don’t have any easy answers for myself or anyone else dealing with this, except ff you can’t believe in yourself, surround yourself with people that do believe in you and know what you are and aren’t capable of. B brave enough to take their hand and have to help lead you when you can’t see the way. Trust them to put you on horses you wouldn’t choose for yourself, and refer you to jobs they know you are a perfect fit for, even if you can’t see it.
Wanna know what my current top horse-related anxieties are? Besides tonight’s game?
Yes. The endurance rider now avoids and finds excuses not to trail ride.
It doesn’t even matter what the reasons are because it’s an irrational cascade of vague negative feelings that when pinned down I can make sound very reasonable, but the root of it is that my brain is doing its best to justify the vague anxiety that is always lurking under the surface. When eventually I get this resolved either by boiling myself or turning myself into an ostrich or being pushed off a cliff, some other mental block will replace it that is equally as stupid.