As I noted on Friday- which was a lot of fun, eh? - and which many of you congratulated me on- thank you!- I passed my Level 3 Rider test. I successfully wrapped a horse's legs in stable bandages and shipping bandages, I completed the written test, and I rode the pattern. Actually I rode it one and a half times. I requested to the last half of the pattern over again because I messed up the pattern, and fortunately I caught it, and Susan allowed a re-do, but I am well aware that for Level 4, the last one required, she won't be my examiner. I might not get any second chances.
I have the winter to improve my weaknesses. I know what those shortcomings are, and I even know how to fix them...except for one.
I have holes in my brain where MEMORY is supposed to be!
This is nothing new. I'm well known for being absent minded, forgetful, and...something else.
But. It's gotten worse. It's getting worse. I'm not sure how long the decline has been going on, or when it intensified, or if I can blame the meds or the lack of. All I know is, it's not all that cute anymore. Not funny. Quite worrisome, actually.
A few years ago, when I was showing my horse regularly at the saddle club, my brainmelts were frustrating. The pattern for a reining, trail, showmanship or horsemanship class was posted the morning of the show. At one time, Champ and I did every class we were eligible for. We started off first thing in the morning with showmanship, a class in which we halter our perfectly groomed horses, and lead them through a pattern for the judge's inspection. The point is to exhibit our beautiful, perfectly groomed, well behaved horses, and above all, demonstrate how good we are at showing off a horse to his best potential.
Champ hated this class. Too much standing still and behaving. He'd flap his goofy lips as we waited for our turn. I ignored Mr Flappy Lips beside me and promptly forgot what I was supposed to do with him once we stopped two feet away from the Judge. By this time I had done all my mental prep. All my visualizing, all my calming techniques, all my special mantras. It all disappeared in the show ring.
I put my kids on him for the leadline classes. Then we did western pleasure, which is basically walk-jog-lope on the rail. Horsemanship, always messed up the pattern one way or another. Trail, the whole thing would fall apart halfway through, usually after successfully opening and closing the gate and crossing the bridge.
Finally we'd do the games, which we often did better in. There were no patterns to memorize and no standing around. I did manage to screw up the cloverleaf for the barrel race a few times, and I'm pretty sure I remember getting very lost in the pole bending and not being able to remember which direction to go. But, in games, there were no patterns to memorize.
I gave myself a break. Memorizing four of five patterns in one afternoon is tricky. I told myself not to worry about my Level 3. Just work on it. I studied it on paper. Susan photocopied it and put it in a ziploc bag so I could take it out to the ring with me and look at it as I walked it from horseback. I walked a horse through it. We jogged through it. I rehearsed it exactly as marked. I went home and closed my eyes and visualized riding it, perfectly. I imagined what my hands and legs would be doing to cue the horse through all the moves. I spent 6 months with this pattern.
I pulled out all my old psychology tools, blocking out the memory of my disastrous Level 1 test a year ago, when I stood in the snow facing the horse and couldn't remember, after thirty years of riding, which foot to put in the stirrup first. I chose to remember the good rides and the happy feelings and why in the heck I'm doing this anyways. I told myself that I was prepared. That I'm a decent horseman and I can not only handle this but I can do it well.
Wouldn't it be tempting to start berating myself? Typical Heidi. This happened at the saddle club. This happened at the Fair in September. Heidi always loses it when it counts.
I could go even further than that...
Heidi forgets every appointment she makes.
Heidi is always late.
Heidi forgets to sign her kids' stuff from school.
Heidi doesn't know what day it is.
Heidi can't remember what you told her five minutes ago.
Heidi loses things because she forgets where she put it.
Don't trust Heidi. She'll let you down.
See how I can berate myself? Years of practice. Ha. Looks like I can improve with practice. Ha.
But now I have to steer things in a different direction for a while. Stay with me- it'll all come together.
As on ongoing project, I've been slowly working my way through a book called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns, MD I've been at it for months, partly because I've also got other books going at the same time, but also because it's not an easy read. It's requires some thought in order to understand the concepts of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It is absolutely worth it though, because by changing our thoughts we can change our outlook on life. Not make everything perfect, but bearable, and maybe even- gasp- enjoyable!
This book lives on my bedside table, where I can chew off a few paragraphs before bed, if I'm awake enough. I've always got another steady read going. The last book I finished reading was...are you ready for this????
NERVOUS SYSTEM Losing My Mind In Literature by Jan Lars Jensen...A memoir of a writer who mentally fell apart just before the publication of his novel. I mean, suicidal, delusional, paranoid, the whole thing. He knew that his novel would be the cause of a major world war which would surely end only when all human life on the planet was destroyed. I'm not sure what this says about me, but when he described how it would all go down, I actually could see where he was going with it. Kinda all made sense. While in the psych ward, he figured every unfamiliar person he met was a spy or an undercover assassin and that it was only a matter of time before they offed him. Anybody could be pretending to be "hospital staff" in order to keep an eye on him and subdue him if he made a wrong move. As my bestest friend Biddie says, "Paranoid's just good sense when everybody's out to get you."
Okay, so we've got:
-Heidi melting down on horseback, unable to remember what she studied, as well as forgetting what she did half an hour ago.
-a self help book on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
-a memoir of a writer who tried to stop the publication of his own novel from within the confines of the psychiatric hospital.
Now I'm going to put it all together for you.
Jensen, drugged up in the psych ward, couldn't read anymore. Words not only stopped making sense, but actually held no love for him anymore. Imagine his distress over this. When released from the ward, with his meds somewhat stabilized, he slowly began working his way through the Dr Burns book, "Feeling Good", the same book which is on my bedside table. Jan Lars Jensen got further than what I've gotten so far...either that or I read it and forgot...but he was talking about something called "CATASTROPHIZING." Yeah I know, I hadn't heard that word either, but apparently psychiatrists get to make up words. Cool.
If you're CATASTROPHIZING you are turning some event or problem into ARMA-FREAKIN-GEDDON. (My description.)
It's not just a novel; it's a catalyst for world destruction.
It's not just a memory lapse; it's my entire brain irreparably damaged.
It's not depression; it's an impenetrable black cloud from which I will never ever escape.
It's not just blowing a reining pattern; it's proof that I cannot get it together and will never succeed.
It's not simply a rejection letter from an overworked literary agent who needed to clear off her desk before Christmas; it's a sign that my book is crap and nobody wants to represent it.
IT'S A CATASTROPHE!!!!
never always never ever forever always never.
Somehow I ended up in the church basement yesterday talking with two of my friends and this came up. I don't remember how. See?
I'm a big believer in feeling the way you feel because, darnit, that's how you feel. I hate being talked out of it- it's MY mood and this is REAL TO ME. I think that to try to cheerlead somebody out of it is demeaning. Dont' get me wrong, I've done some cheerleading to other people, but for the most part, I think it's okay to recognize that this is how I feel.
If you're bereaved or in fear of becoming homeless or unable to stop crying, that's real. That's scary. Troubling. Legitimately awful. I would never belittle that.
But you know what? There comes a time when we have to stop CATASTROPHIZING. Our hearts are beating right now. I am still breathing. I haven't cried in over a week.
For real man, I passed that test. I passed. So freakin what if I didn't pass with a perfect score? Is it a CATASTROPHE????
I can't freakin remember why I started writing this or what I meant to say. I think I said it though. And I'll just leave it at that.