In the face of overwhelming adversity, eventually you just gotta get up and get back to work.
Okay, obviously, it’s not that simple. Depression doesn’t go away because I decide I want it to. Healing is never linear. But I’m a storyteller: I can make a narrative out of two shoelaces, and this is my life, so that’s what I’m going to do.
The people who tell you that grief lessens with time are all lying. All it does is get quieter. But it starts out screaming, screaming and wailing, so deep in your body that you can’t make it stop, like a ringing in your ears. The screaming will always live inside you; eventually, though, it screams from further away, and it becomes less distracting, and turns into an old friend: one who’s annoying because they won’t ever shut up, and they like to turn up at your door at really inconvenient times, but you’re fond of them nonetheless, because of how important they’ve been to you.
At least, that’s how it’s always been for everything else I’ve lost. But after losing my childhood dog, and then my ability, and then my job, and then my best friend, I didn’t think it would ever quiet.
When I was 18, the spring after I graduated high school, I was bucked off while in the air over a jump. I remember that moment in flight thinking to myself “am I really about to die over a goddamn crossrail!?” I remember being on the ground with my instructor standing over me, asking how many fingers she was holding up. And then I remember nothing, until some indeterminate amount of time later, sitting in the barn aisle while my instructor was on the phone with my parents so they could figure out the best way to get me home, because clearly I couldn’t drive back. I had to call her the next day to figure out what had happened. Somehow I brought the horse back to the barn, untacked and took care of him, and put all my gear away. I don’t remember any of it.
I know there are some people who really love chiropractors and feel like they’re completely different after seeing them. Hell, I even know some horses that act completely different after an adjustment.
I am not one of those people.
I woke up the next day and knew almost immediately that something was up. It wasn’t pain, so much, but an aching stiffness. But it was fine, I told myself, expected, and the urgent care doctor agreed: it’s just whiplash. Here’s some muscle relaxers; it’ll be gone in a week or so. It was a Friday.
I still went to work that day, although I brought someone along to help me (this would become very common). It wasn’t too hard, really – I was just stiff, and needed to rest. Afterwards I called my boss, who was at a horse show that weekend. “Hi,” I said. “So, uh, I know this is really inconvenient timing, but I got hit by a car last night.”
Some dates are ingrained in your memory forever.
On the 28th of June, 2018, I had recently turned 25 years old. I’d worked with horses in some capacity for almost all of my life, but at the time, I had been doing so professionally for several years. In the months prior, I had been working very hard on my riding and general horsemanship skills because I was preparing to take the next step up in my career and begin grooming full time at a much higher level than before. My preparations had been a little slowed by the planned and peaceful death of our 16-year-old childhood dog a few weeks prior, but I still had my own canine best friend, and with support from my friends (and a Dramatic Life Change haircut) I was starting to get right back into the swing of things.
I was happy. Until I wasn’t.