A foot of snow followed by 10 days of freezing temperatures allows you to accomplish some important things. Incidentally, riding is not one of them. Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged nearly as much over the last year and half. There are a couple reasons for that. My blog has always been a bit of a confessional. Falling somewhere between journal and soap box, it’s been my way to tell the world my story as a young professional. I’ve shared a lot, and in the process I’ve been amazed by just how many people could identify with my personal struggles.
But for the last 18 months I’ve been at a loss for words. What I’ve been dealing with is difficult to articulate, but there are a few concrete truths that deserve mention. I’m in the process of getting divorced, which even in the most amicable of circumstances is extraordinarily stressful, scary and sad. Events like this punctuate our lives. The ending of a relationship can feel a lot like grief, and sometimes the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel flickers and dims.
And yet the show must go on publicly. If I had a dime for every person who has said to me, “It looks like everything is going so well for you!”—their evidence, my shockingly upbeat social media accounts featuring our array of new imports—I’d be a wealthy woman. And really, from a business standpoint, things are going well. I’ve focused my efforts on finding the best possible horses for my clients, and I am thrilled with the quality, temperament and overall value of the horses I’ve imported in the last year. My customers had a wonderful 2018 show season, and we already have one rider qualified for Junior Hunter Finals in 2019. My horse Leena M has exceeded all expectations and moved up the levels confidently even when at times I wasn’t so confident last year.
The pressure to be perfect on social media is something that pervades our industry, which is partly why saying what I’m about to say has been so hard and taken such a long time to coalesce. I looked around in November and thought to myself, I have everything I ever wanted. Why I am so unhappy?
It wasn’t until I made the conscious decision to bring my dog with me to visit my sister for Thanksgiving that I realized I needed help. I had been dreading the holidays. Ever since my mom died I had strategically avoided anything to do with Thanksgiving or Christmas. Maybe it was her black belt in gift wrapping or her tree filled with an amalgam of everything from macaroni monstrosities to tiny Italian blown glass ornaments or her necklace of miniature Christmas lights. Regardless, my mother was Christmas embodied. The season that had brought me so much joy even during the hardest days of my childhood now loomed ominous on the horizon. Not only would this be my fourth holiday season without her, but it would be my first as a soon-to-be divorcee.
The emotion I didn’t expect to run headlong into and the one I was least suited to deal with was shame. I had made the choice to end my marriage, but in many ways it felt like failure. A failure at what was supposed to be the most important relationship of my life. I realized that in spite of all the other successes I’d had in 2018, this seemingly epic failure overshadowed them. And I was afraid, unjustly so, that my family would not accept me. That they too would view me through the lens of failure and offer a disparaging “I told you so” sentiment.
But that’s the thing about depression. It grows and metastasizes in your mind and convinces you that the people who love you don’t and that you don’t love the things you always have. It wasn’t until I was putting my dog in the car with me to drive to Virginia Beach, so that I wouldn’t do something nonsensical on the long trip alone, that the light bulb turned on, and I thought perhaps I ought to address my mental health in a real way. I mean, even my dog’s life dramatically improved when I put him on antidepressants. What was stopping me from getting help myself? I had made excuses for a long time whenever a friend gently suggested that I look into it. I would mutter something about the side effects of medications or the expense of therapy. But the real reason was far more complicated, because, in a weird way, I liked being sad. I liked feeling something because for so long after I lost my mom I felt nothing at all. And I had convinced myself that if I addressed my depression I would be sucked back into that emotional vacuum.
Another truth I’ve discovered is that when you’re having crippling anxiety in the waiting room before talking to your doctor about your crippling anxiety and depression, that means you’re probably doing the right thing. And of course the first medicine I tried didn’t work; it made things much worse. I have to thank my dear, dear friends who listened to me throughout the last year and didn’t let me give up during that awful week, because the second medication I tried has helped me enormously. I had forgotten about how many little things in life I love. Those little details, the way the pink morning light filters through the tree branches as I walk to bring the horses in or little puffs of steam from their nostrils making them look like tiny dragons silhouetted against the sky, I had missed them all so much. I am grateful everyday, even with a foot of snow on the ground and a grim forecast this Virginia winter, I have so much to look forward to.
Paige Cade established her boutique hunter/jumper training and sales business, Country Fox Farm, Inc. in Middleburg, Virginia, in 2015. She specializes in creating personalized training programs for each horse and rider and is devoted to helping her students reach their competitive goals on the local and rated circuits. Paige regularly travels to Europe to import seasoned show horses and prospects for her clients. Paige would like to thank Antares Sellier, Purina, Dr. Sallie Hyman and Total Equine Associates for their continued support.
You can follow her on Instagram at @paigecade.