Daily Archives: October 17, 2013

Riding For My Life Part Three: Wimpy

In a fit of irony, the stable owner named my bucking bronco “Wimpy,” after the very first Quarter Horse sire to be registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) in 1940.  ”Wimpy” was anything but wimpy.  As we saw in the previous installment of this series, Wimpy II was happy to bite, kick, and generally try to kill me in any way he could dream up in his horsey mind.  My personal mission in life was to gentle him.

After the backward crash incident, he suddenly gained respect for me, a little creature one-tenth his size, and decided he’d better settle down and go to work.  When I had his walk, trot, canter, and gallop under control in the ring, and had taught him to change leads and side-pass, I took him out on the trail.

Oh boy, that was some fun.  As soon as I got him on the trail and headed into the woods, he took off like a cannon ball galloping full tilt down the trail, the bit between his teeth so I that I couldn’t control his wild career.  Wimpy, my foot.

Tree branches whipped me in the face.  My glasses flew off.  By some miracle, I raised my left hand and my glasses thwacked right into it like a scrub nurse smacks the handle of an instrument into a surgeon’s hand.  I didn’t try to put them back on, but hung onto them for dear life until Wimpy wore himself out and slowed to a respectable trot.  I rode the son-of-a-gun all afternoon for that, till he and I were both exhausted and dripping with sweat.

“That’ll teach you,” I muttered as I untacked him and rubbed him down.  His muscles quivered with exhaustion, and I was afraid he was going to “tie up.”  Tying up is when a horse’s potassium or other mineral levels get out of balance from over-exercise or other stress, or else their muscle cells start leaking, and their muscles start contracting out of sync.  They fall down writhing and are in danger of their kidneys shutting down.  It’s a very dangerous condition and can be lethal.

I stayed with him a couple of hours, until I was sure he was going to be OK, then wobbled my way home on my bike.

I was starving after that adventure, but by force of will ate as little as possible at dinnertime.

“You’re looking really good these days,” bubbled my mother.  ”It must be all the exercise you’re getting, riding your bike and the horses.”

I do believe my mother has an eating disorder.  ”Looking good” in her lingo means “You lost weight,” or at least “You’re thin.”

I reveled in her approval.  Getting Mom’s approval meant everything to me.  It took a lot to get it.  Good grades were expected.  Making good art was expected, since both my parents were artists and I had taken Saturday art classes since I was five.  But “looking good” was a big step up from “fat ass,” and I determined that I was going to look really good.

We moved again that year, and the stable was too far to get to by bike.  Both of my parents worked in a town far away, so they didn’t get back until after six in the evening.  It became my job, at age fourteen, to prepare supper.  I didn’t mind it, since I love to cook.  Fortunately they were so grateful to have dinner waiting for them when they got home that they did not complain when I created experimental dishes such as spaghetti with raisin sauce, or egg foo young swimming in a sauce created from random liquids found in the refrigerator door.  They ate it without complaint.

I didn’t eat it, beyond tasting while cooking, and spitting the food out after tasting.

That year I was a freshman in high school.  Having started the year skinny, I garnered the respect of the girl population and the lust of the boy population.  I was invited to join the cheerleading team (Cheerleading!  Me?), which I declined.  I wasn’t the cheerleading type, and I hated the snotty girls on the squad.

I found, though, that the hypoglycemia that accompanied the anorexia caused my brain to be fuzzy–not good for Advanced Placement English or Latin Three, my favorite classes.  So at lunchtime every day I picked up a chunk of peanut butter fudge in the cafeteria, and nibbled on it all day to keep the brain fuzz at bay.

At last I reached my weight-loss goal: seventy-eight pounds.  I could wriggle in and out of my size one Junior Petite jeans without unbuttoning the top button–but I couldn’t stop.  My brain knew I was thin enough, but every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw was fat.  So I kept on with my rigorous weight-loss program, and joined the Cross-Country running team at school.

My mother looked at me with admiration: “Boy, you’re sure looking good.”  But now, I didn’t feel like it.  All I felt was fat.


“Crawling in my skin these wounds they will not heal”- Linkin Park

It seems to fit right now.

I feel like I have bugs crawling on my skin, This is apparently common with Lexapro (generic version). But I am on so many pills, who even knows. I see the shrink in the morning, my last appt before being faced with a new one. I’m just gonna tell her that my anxiety has worsened, my skin is crawling, and it all happened around the time i started the lexapro. I’m not having too much trouble with lamictal or lithium and i have never had a problem with xanax…

That leaves,,,Lexapro. I dread telling her. She already thinks I’m so anti depressant junkie, If she simply wants to increase the dosage, I think I am gonna opt out. If this crawling thing doesnt go away, I will stand corrected. I didn’t have this shit with Cymbalta, Stands to reason it’s the new med in the mix.

Seasonal affect is kicking my ass. I can barely drag my ass out of bed each morning, hitting snooze until I literally have to throw clothes on me and the kid, shove pancakes at her, and get in the car. By 7 pm, my mood is so low I just want to go to bed, I am fighting it, and my kid who never sleeps is helping. But I am exhausted in every way,

The anxiety and panic have become unbearable.My kid is relentless. She bosses me around, manipulates me, has constant demands. Nothing I do is good enough. I buy her things, she destroys them. I ask for five minutes of space, within sixty seconds she’s hungry or thirsty even when she has a snack and drink already. I keep thinking maybe i don’t pay her enough attention so I got a coloring book and crayons today and tried to do that with her. She sat and broke all the crayons, peeled off the paper and threw it on the floor, then complained over every thing I tried to color in, Nothing is ever good enough, nothing is ever right.

‘She doesn’t do this with anyone but me.

They say, “You let her get away with it.”

I grounded her all weekend because she threw a toy at a wall outlet the other day and blew half the circuits in the place, I tell her no. I use a firm voice. I take things away and have her earn them back with good behavior, I make her stand against the wall, I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING. She is making me insane and feeling so disrespected and inferior is making me think maybe I just can’t handle the mom gig. Even as I write she is in her room bawling because she had a nightmare. This has become nightly for three weeks now and she will keep up the screams and tears until I let her come to my bed. Some nights I am so tired I let her. But it occurs to me that the doctor told me to let her cry when she was a baby…Maybe I need to do that now.

I don’t know what’s right anymore, my thinking is so distorted.

I need to call the landlord and get an electrician in here because I have no power in my bedroom, half the outlets in the other rooms don’t work. But my stupid brain is telling me to put it off, because I am in no mental space to allow my home to be invaded and be judged  by someone. I also fear when they go to work on it, the bugs will just explode from the walls. I spray and spray and they just keep appearing.

I want to fucking scream.

I am surrounded by my dad, questioning whether I paid my car insurance, like I’m a sixteen year old, Then berating me for not having the power issue fixed, I try to explain but a man who doesnt believe in mental illness can’t fucking grasp it,

I am overbooking myself because I can’t remember making appts on certain dates I have one at 9:20 in the morning, then at 10, then I have to pick my kid up at 11. And I can’t understand what I was thinking to schedule it that way.

I’m crumbling.

I have no one to ask for help. Or support. The money situation is devouring me stressing me ti every last penny. I don’t understand how I could go from managing so well to…this. Maybe I fucked up going off Cymbalta. But mania isn’;t any better.

I have been bowing out on social stuff making up lies and excuse because no one wants the truth, I am losing my mind, sorry I can’t hang out right now but I am pretty sure you are judging me and out to get me, Talk to me around springtime. Cripes.

The toughest thing is that I am an independent person. So to feel like I am going to lose it if I don’t get some help soon makes it all worse,

Now…my kid is still caterwalling and I am going to go try to comfort her. I cannot keep giving into her, though. She has become an emotional terrorist. I am not liking her much these days. It’s sad because she is so cute and funny and smart…And I love her so.

But the way she treats me makes it hard to not feel like utter shit.

I am giving my all here and all she does is remind me it’s not enough. I should be stronger than this, but I’m not, not right now.

I am anxious about my appts tomorrow. I will not sleep well. Which is a given because this child is not going to give up, she is relentless. And I am just weak at the moment.

She’s slept in my bed 8 out of 12 nights, where do I draw the line without becoming monster mom? God, I have no idea.

It’s like everything has fallen on top of me and I am being told to claw my way out of the rubble but I need a hand and no one will do anything but watch as I struggle in a futile effort.

Geesh, I sound dramatic even to me.

But mental illness can be pretty dramatic when it saps your will to live like it is doing to me.




Riding For My Life, Part Two: Hello, Ana

That fall Caroline’s big sister went off to college.  Caroline had to confine her voyeurism to her mating parakeets.  The big Thoroughbred went to a new home, and I was horseless all that winter.

The name-calling and mocking continued unabated at home, and since I really was a bit pudgy, the kids at school were relentless.  Twiggy made a splash as Model of the Year: “Thin was In.”  I stumbled through that school year by immersing myself in Latin.  I took a bullying beating for that one too (“Egghead, Dork, Brain), but I didn’t care because I knew they were just jealous.

By the time school got out that summer between Junior High and High School, I resolved that things were going to change.  I would not enter High School pudgy.  I would be Thin.  Very Thin.  I hatched a plan.  Half a piece of toast with butter, sugar, and cinnamon for breakfast, with black coffee; a blob of peanut butter for lunch; and as little for dinner as I could get away with.  The latter turned out to be easy, since my mother approved of my efforts to lose weight.

Since I had lost “my” horse, I looked to the nearest horse-source: the riding stable in the center of town.  It was around five miles from our house.  I mounted my Schwinn three-speed and pumped my way mostly uphill to the stable, marched in, and announced to the owner that I would be willing to clean stalls and tack in exchange for an hour of riding a day.  He almost fell over backward with joy.

I started that very day, mucking out stalls, tossing the manure and soiled bedding into a wheel barrow and toting it to the manure pile out back.  It was back-breaking labor, but I counted the seconds until I had finished and would get my first ride.

The owner looked at my sneakers and clucked his disapproval.  I flushed, knowing that sneakers were not only inappropriate, but forbidden, because one’s foot could slide through the stirrup and get caught, leading to a bad accident.  He pointed me to a pile of cast-off riding togs left by disaffected (and wealthy) pupils.  I found a pair of tall boots only two sizes too big, and a pair of baggy English britches to go with them.

He nodded his approval and pointed to a ragged-looking, skinny nag.  I eagerly took up a rubber curry, brushes and mane comb, and soon had him looking as presentable as he was going to get.  I tacked him up with saddle and bridle, led him out into the arena, and clambered onto his back via the mounting block.  The owner watched as I steered him around the arena, demonstrating my expertise at posting to the trot.  The poor old horse could barely manage a canter, so I didn’t press him.  My hour passed before I knew it, and I led my mount heaving and steaming into the barn.  His name, I found out, was Kelso, named after the great race horse.  I wondered if that was someone’s idea of a bad joke.

Kelso and I became best friends that summer.  I was soon allowed out of the arena with him, and we wandered the wide network of trails that sprawled behind the stable.  With care and patience, Kelso soon filled out, and became sleek and fast.

As Kelso was filling out, I was, to my great satisfaction, shrinking rapidly.  I learned to recognize the dizziness of hypoglycemia as a welcome sign of becoming thinner.  I abandoned the noontime peanut butter in favor of spending more time working and riding.  My English riding britches started falling off me, and I had to dig through the cast-off pile for a smaller pair.

I noticed that as a thin person, my mother’s rants meant less to me.  They lost their sting.  I was Thin.  I was In.  I forged ahead with my campaign, determined to get as willowy as possible.  What was possible, I didn’t know.  I only knew that for the first time in my life, I felt in control of Something.  And that Something was Me.  My life.

In the meantime, the owner of the stable got a trailer load of horses in from Out West.  ”Green-broke,” he called them.  As I later discovered, “green-broke” meant that someone had been on their back before.  It did not mean that someone had stayed on their back.

He called me over and pointed out a fine-looking gelding, about fifteen hands high (a “hand” is four inches).

“Think you can ride him?” he asked casually.

“Of course!” I snorted.  What a foolish question.

“Tack him up, then, and take him out in the arena.”

He was a little skittish in the cross-ties, and shied violently when I tightened the girth.  He clamped his teeth firmly when I went to put the bit in his mouth, and bit me good when I used the horseman’s trick of sliding my thumb into the space behind his teeth (called the “bars”) to make him open his mouth.  That just made me more determined, and we had one hell of a fight, until I had saddle and bridle both properly on, and lead him out into the arena.

He wouldn’t stand next to the mounting block, so I pulled him up to the fence.  No sooner had I got one foot into the stirrup and the other off the ground, preparing to swing into the saddle, when he commenced bucking.

Well, there wasn’t any choice at that point but to swing my leg over anyway and try to get as much purchase in the saddle as I could, given the commotion that was going on underneath me.  I managed to catch the other stirrup on the fly, and remembering my riding master’s chant, “Keep your heels down, keep your heels down,” I kept my heels down and stood up in the stirrups, hanging on to a piece of mane, until my wild one wore himself out and stood heaving and snorting beneath me.

“That’s a good boy,” I said, trying hard not to shake.  I turned his head and walked him gently around the ring counterclockwise, then turned him toward the fence and rode him clockwise.  Then I urged him into a trot, but when I began to post he stood straight up in the air, teetering.

By the dictate of what instinct I know not, I stood up in the stirrups, keeping my heels down, and sprung off backward, keeping hold of the reins.  The horse crashed down on his back and I let go and jumped out of the way.  He thrashed in the dust of the ring and struggled to his feet panting, his eyes showing white with fear.

I walked up to him, talking to him gently, and took the reins.  The English saddle on his back was smashed.

I led him around the ring until both of our jitters calmed down a bit, then turned and headed for the barn.

The owner was standing there grinning.  I was petrified: a good saddle smashed, a horse nearly killed.  For myself, I thought nothing.

“Well,” he said around his cigar, “You’re a good little rider, aren’t you?”