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Advice on not letting depression and anxiety effect your riding

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    Advice on not letting depression and anxiety effect your riding

    I posted on an off-topic day about a month ago basically trying to get thoughts and encouragement to finally go see my doctor about possibly having depression. Long story short I had been having an even harder time the last few weeks and finally managed to convince my self to go to the Doctor last week. So I have now been diagnosed with depression and anxiety and started an antidepressant.

    Anyone have advice to not let this effect my riding while I'm waiting to see if the meds will make a difference. I haven't ridden as badly as I have been in a very long time. I told my coach that I was diagnosed this week to explain why I've been riding so badly. To add a little extra complication, my show hunter has been for sale for the last 6 months. Once he is sold I will be starting to look for a 1m - 1.10m jumper. Interest in my horse has really picked up recently and since he is such a good boy he could be sold in the next month. I need to get my composure back for when I have to start trying horses out and so I can make the right decision. I'm at least working with a good trainer who is picky and wont let me get something that isn't suitable.

    Thanks for any commentary.

    #2
    One big thing is just to give yourself some time for the meds to kick in and for you to start feeling more like yourself again. Most antidepressants take ~6 weeks to really start working properly, so don't be hard on yourself if you don't immediately feel 100%.

    The other thing I would do is cut back on what I was doing in lessons - not stop having lessons, but ask to focus on stuff that highlights your strengths, so each lesson is a more positive experience. If you don't want to do that, at least ask that lessons be structured such that your lessons ALWAYS end with something positive - even if it means cutting lesson time a little short to end on a really good note.

    If you're the writing type, you can also try taking notes about your lessons - the goal is to write down what you did RIGHT as well as what you did wrong, and what you might try doing differently or what you want to do more of. This works partially because it shifts the side of the brain that's thinking about things and gets the logical side more involved, so you're less likely to feel like your riding sucks and there's no point, etc. etc. I would probably also ask your instructor to read it, at least when you're first starting out, to make sure you're NOT being hard on yourself and leaving out good moments.

    (People by nature tend to remember bad stuff more than good stuff, so.)

    Comment


      #3
      Major depression

      Depression is super common, particularly in women, we are just weird as a society about talking about it. From my personal experience with long term major depression and as an MD:
      1) If you have had major depression more than once or have side effects on the meds or have depression that is more complicated than an initial straight forward bout of situational or major depression, go see a good PSYCHIATRIST to prescribe your meds. Internists and FPs are fine for run of the mill initial depression, but if things get complicated at all or symptoms persist, go see someone who is a specialist. And, yes, it does take weeks for most medications to begin working.
      2) Studies show that medication and therapy combined work best followed by medication alone followed by therapy alone followed by nothing (obviously). Get a good therapist, either a psychiatrist, psychologist, LCSW, etc. Find the right therapist for YOU. If you don't have a good fit the first time, try again. My sister went through 4 people before finding a great fit for her. Don't feel bad about "needing therapy," we are all screwed up. The less someone admits they are screwed up, in my experience, the more issues they have. The best thing I heard on NPR once is that "the definition of a dysfunctional family is a family with more than one member."
      3) Don't make any important decisions that you can in any way put off while you are depressed. Even when you think you are thinking clearly, you probably aren't.
      4) Depression is an imbalance or lack of neurotransmitters. It is genetic. Don't feel embarrassed or like there is something "wrong" with you. SO many people have experience depression, we just don't talk about it as a society. The good news is that there are a variety of excellent medications with fewer side effects than in the past, and, when you feel better, it is AMAZING!
      5) My psychiatrist says that you will often notice depression first in things that require a lot of concentration, like riding. Don't stop riding, you need the endorphins! Just give yourself a break about performance. Even when we are not depressed, we all go through periods where we feel like we are stuck with our riding or not riding well. If you do not have an encouraging coach, get someone else. The last thing you need when you are depressed is someone who is not supportive.
      Good luck and feel better! I had my first episode of depression in 1989 and then again around 2001. The second time, I realized I was depressed when I had a stop going X-C and just didn't care. I have been doing great on maintenance medication and have had no symptoms in years. There is life, great life, after major depression.
      "A"
      www.witsendeventing.com

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by classen_eventer View Post
        2) Studies show that medication and therapy combined work best followed by medication alone followed by therapy alone followed by nothing (obviously). Get a good therapist, either a psychiatrist, psychologist, LCSW, etc. Find the right therapist for YOU. If you don't have a good fit the first time, try again. My sister went through 4 people before finding a great fit for her. Don't feel bad about "needing therapy," we are all screwed up. The less someone admits they are screwed up, in my experience, the more issues they have. The best thing I heard on NPR once is that "the definition of a dysfunctional family is a family with more than one member."
        I just wanted to add that part of the point of therapy is not just to "talk about your problems" (you know, the stereotypical psychiatrist's office with the couch scenario) but to help you identify the thought patterns you've developed and develop mechanisms to break out of the negative cycles, and even just to recognize your own symptoms of depression. (Note: Depression does not always manifest as being down and morose and sad, it can also influence how quickly you get angry or upset about something, how well you deal with anxiety, there's a whole host of symptoms that traditionally don't come to mind when someone says "oh, I'm depressed.")

        Anyway, once you've developed some coping mechanisms to derail your negative thought patterns, it really does help quite significantly. Even if you can't make yourself stop being down in that particular moment, you can recognize that you aren't really thinking the way you should be, and thus perhaps put off difficult decisions or change your plans to better fit what you feel able to do.

        (To make this horse related - you recognize earlier in the day that you're tending to think more negatively than normal; you've planned a fairly intense lesson after work that you expect to be challenging and difficult. So rather than going ahead and doing that, which will probably give you more ammunition to beat yourself up with when it doesn't go well - because it's challenging and difficult and so of course it won't go right first time - you can change your plans so you're doing something more low key, or so you're not going to spend the whole session working on the difficult thing but finish off with something you find fun and enjoyable and rewarding. It's not a case of NOT doing things, it's just a case of managing what you're doing when, if that makes sense. )

        Comment


          #5
          A site that might help:
          NARSAD (http://www.narsad.org/) - National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression).

          Good luck.
          www.specialhorses.org
          a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues

          Comment


            #6
            Just dont take Effexor. Ever. As in EVER EVER. Worst antidepressant I have EVER taken. I was on it for almost 8 years, and it worked GREAT but coming off of it made me feel like a crackhead. I had the worst sweats, vertigo so bad I would not even DRIVE or GO to the barn. I had brain shivers for months (google it and be mystified).

            Can I ask what you are taking? You can PM me. I've tried them all.

            I too have depression and axiety...though one is the partner of the other. Like if I get very anxious (ie, forget my meds for more than 3 days), the adrenaline from being in flight or fight REALLY wears me down and i get depressed. Or the other way around. I get depressed and then get worried.

            Comment


              #7
              Been there, done that, have the meds. :-)
              Inherited from dad's side of the family but not too bad.
              When I start to feel anxiety coming on, I focus on my brain and what in my brain is causing the anxiety. Then I have something to focus on that interests me. I.e., what chemicals, what brain waves, what triggers...

              I used to use this rationale, albeit kind of dumb, when I jumped:
              We'll both make it over the fence
              One of us will make it over the fence
              I'll either be alive--
              Or I'll be dead and not care anymore.

              I have also noticed, even on meds, that my anxiety increases when there is a change in weather-a rainy front moving in.
              Last edited by ManyDogs; Feb. 22, 2011, 12:04 PM. Reason: sp etc.

              Comment


                #8
                I don't have much advice, here, other than:

                In my experience, the idea that it would take "six weeks" for the drugs to work was a non-starter. I've been on and off the drugs for years, because three weeks is about as long as I'm able to try to do something without feeling like I'm making SOME progress. After three weeks, I feel like things are pointless, and then I get more depressed, I complain to my doctor, and they always say, "Oh, but it takes six weeks . . . " so then I just stop taking them and avoid my medical and psychiatric professionals because I can't take having one more person in my life who is disappointed in me. This fall, I went back to my doc, said I wanted to try drugs again, but insisted that she not put me on the weenie dosage, and voila--I had my usual 3 days-1.5 week period of feeling all out of sorts from the drugs, but by the end of the second week, I felt noticably different. Am I all better? Nope, I need to pick a therapist (couldn't before because my insurance was changing), but I don't feel like crying every single day, either. It's different enough to get by, which is feels like a miracle.

                As far as horses and riding, honestly, it's a crapshoot. I feel bad about myself if I don't ride, because supposedly I love it so much, and doing things you love is supposed to help you beat depression; so by not riding, I am giving into depression and am therefore a bad person; I feel bad about myself if I do ride, because I fixate on the mistakes I've made and feel guilty about letting my instructor down, letting my horse down, etc. I stop liking my regular mount and want to ride anything but that horse; I spend too much money and can't commit to making any goals, so I am forever "not ready" for shows or hunting or whatever, be it because I didn't buy the equipment in time, or I couldn't have productive enough lessons to develop my skills.

                But then, if I "Just Take it Easy and Make No Plans" I feel as though I haven't invested in myself and am wasting my life.

                All of this is to say, I have NO idea what you should do, because if I were you, I would choose the horse my instructor liked the most, but would feel resentful and glum towards the poor beast. But if I DIDN'T go horse-shopping, I would resort to obsessing over the fantasy of a new horse, where having a new (perfect) horse makes everything about my life better. (Seriously, when I fantasize about buying a horse, having a horse even makes my eating habits better, because I believe that I will spend more time in the produce aisle buying carrots and apples for my horse and will then buy more vegetables for myself.)

                I need to be thumped over the head with a polo mallet. :-)

                I have this vague idea that you should probably avoid this sort of pattern. Therapy might help?

                Good luck, and hugs, jingles, etc.

                Comment


                  #9
                  As far as horses and riding, honestly, it's a crapshoot. I feel bad about myself if I don't ride, because supposedly I love it so much, and doing things you love is supposed to help you beat depression; so by not riding, I am giving into depression and am therefore a bad person; I feel bad about myself if I do ride, because I fixate on the mistakes I've made and feel guilty about letting my instructor down, letting my horse down, etc. I stop liking my regular mount and want to ride anything but that horse; I spend too much money and can't commit to making any goals, so I am forever "not ready" for shows or hunting or whatever, be it because I didn't buy the equipment in time, or I couldn't have productive enough lessons to develop my skills.
                  I think we were cut from the same mold!!!

                  I too struggle with lack of confidence re: shows, lessons etc. I'm pretty hard on myself.

                  I also have a very deep fear of injury or death (hey! lets ride horses! cause THATS not dangerous! (errr )but decided I wanted to be an eventer.

                  The worst part of horse related anxiety is mounting, for me. I got hurt once mounting, horse took off and I went Christopher Reeves-style off the horse. I have no idea how I am NOT ina wheelchair.

                  Every time I mount up I get tense and leary. I put it out of my mind and get on quick, because if you don't just DO it, you'll never do it. Now I'm like that cantering because I got badly hurt last year being thrown @ the canter. But it gets better I suppose, every time.

                  I remember when I was horse shopping. I obsessed about it all day, every day, got upset and sad and anxious because I could not afford what I wanted, and could not find what I needed.

                  The trick is, at least was for me, is to remember this is a hobby, something that brings you great happiness and joy. Don't make it WORK. So what if your horse doesn't sell immediately? Take pride in the fact that you are moving in the right direction, and kudos for getting help.
                  I loff my shrink, and also battled with the having to take meds part for years. But its not my fault my brain in wonky and missing some seratonin.

                  (ps, when you start feeling really good, don't make the mistake all of us have and remove yourself from meds. it's not a chicken-egg deal, the meds are helping your brain feel good)

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by LittleblackMorgan View Post
                    I think we were cut from the same mold!!!

                    Now I'm like that cantering because I got badly hurt last year being thrown @ the canter. But it gets better I suppose, every time.
                    We ARE cut from the same mold. I got a compression fracture in August from a fall at the canter; it healed right after the new year, but now I have a sprained foot. :-) I haven't ridden since I fell. It's like I don't even belong on COTH anymore!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      I have a new warmblood, my dream horse, and I cantered her ONCE since november. I got a ripped bicep and a sprained ankle. Arm is never going to be the same...

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I have a lot of the same issues, but will just pipe in on the fear of cantering. I was thrown from a mare who took off on me and then slammed to a stop from a gallop. I still have permanent nerve damage down my left leg from the herniated discs at L4/L5 and L5/S1 thanks to her, but she also gave me a God awful fear of being run away with. That was 1997.

                        When I came to have my palomino morgan I take my name from (my heart horse) I was terrified to do more than trot on her. I finally one day spent all day logically thinking about it and realized all that this mare had done for me (she was 4 and I had her since she was coming 3) and how she had never once hurt me and had in fact gone out of her way to take care of me. So, that day I saddle her up and went in to the indoor. I rode around and got her loose and then I cued her to canter. I went round and round until I was smiling AND breathing. It took about 8 laps around. My poor mare was probably quite gassed, but all that trotting had kept her pretty fit. LOL. It finally occurred to me she couldn't run away with me very far in an indoor anyway and she was not that mare that had hurt me 10 years before.

                        I still don't like to gallop with reckless abandon, but I do love and trust my mare and know she will take care of me. Some days there is something good for the soul to hop on and run faster than your problems can keep up. Of course, I'm also running away from my problems on a morgan and not an OTTB so your mileage may vary. We're not setting any land speed records for sure with our hand gallops but the fact that I let her hand gallop is a major mental victory for me.
                        "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
                        you have a right to be here." ~ Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

                        Comment

                          Original Poster

                          #13
                          Thanks for all the comments.

                          The AD my doc put my on is Cipralex. I've taken a half-dose (5mg) for a week as of tomorrow and bump it up to 10mg on Thursday. So far not too bad with the side effects (headache and nausea but not bad enough to really complain about). The withdrawal stories I have read have ranged from not too bad to pretty awful (but that seems to be the case for many ADs and not everyone seems to react the same).

                          One good thing, my trainer is excellent at reading me when to ease off and when to push me. We had an excellent jump school today, it was just a bunch of 2' verticals but at this point even that is good for me. Some one tried the horse out on the weekend and it went well. But we decided if they don't make an offer trainer is gonna hop on once a week to keep him tuned up so that I can just enjoy him being a packer.

                          I had coffee with a friend this week that rides and has been treated for depression and anxiety since she was a teen. She been on meds and said she did cognitive behavioural therapy and found it helpful. While the logical side of me know something like that would be helpful, I can't get over the years of keeping stuff to myself and not wanting to talk to anyone about it. I'd been putting off talking about this for at least 10 yrs, so finally seeing my doc last week was HUGE for me.

                          I go back to my Doc in 3 weeks, if he suggests therapy I would probably agree to it, but I don't know if I could push myself to ask for a referral (need the referral to get insurance to cover it anyway).

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by 00pisces View Post
                            In my experience, the idea that it would take "six weeks" for the drugs to work was a non-starter. I've been on and off the drugs for years, because three weeks is about as long as I'm able to try to do something without feeling like I'm making SOME progress. After three weeks, I feel like things are pointless, and then I get more depressed, I complain to my doctor, and they always say, "Oh, but it takes six weeks . . . " so then I just stop taking them and avoid my medical and psychiatric professionals because I can't take having one more person in my life who is disappointed in me. This fall, I went back to my doc, said I wanted to try drugs again, but insisted that she not put me on the weenie dosage, and voila--I had my usual 3 days-1.5 week period of feeling all out of sorts from the drugs, but by the end of the second week, I felt noticably different.
                            There are a much wider variety of antidepressants now, some of which do start working more quickly - but six weeks is still about how long it takes to get the full effect and for any side effects to have settled down.

                            If you're someone who does better when you can see some kind of quicker result, I would definitely mention that - it may influence which medication they decide to start you out on.

                            That said, I wouldn't be comfortable with a doctor who was ready to start adjusting the dose all over the place before several weeks of treatment, because it does take some time for the longer term effects to show up. (I.e. two weeks in, even on one of the drugs where you tend to see some results sooner, is probably not the time to go 'oh, it's not doing enough, let's double the dose' because at that point you still don't actually know fully what it's doing.)

                            The exception would be if you're having bad problems with side effects, which may mean changing dose or changing medication. (Some of the medications that are generics now have versions that are essentially the same drug, but with some alterations so they cause fewer side effects - so if you start on something and the side effects are horrible but otherwise it's working, you may be able to switch to something that works the same way, but with fewer side effects.) (Why, then, do they prescribe the generic first in most causes? Because it's cheaper and health insurance companies don't like paying for brand name drugs unless they have to.)

                            I will also add that if you do start taking antidepressants, do your best to take them regularly. Ignoring the antidepressant effect, some of them the side effects are much worse if you take them erratically. (I was on one after my husband died suddenly - gee, wonder why I was depressed, right? - and if I skipped even two days I'd start feeling light-headed and fuzzy and weird. No fun.) (I didn't have problems coming off of it, though - I just did a few days at half-dose, and then stopped, to sort of step down.)

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Leather hAlter123 View Post
                              I had coffee with a friend this week that rides and has been treated for depression and anxiety since she was a teen. She been on meds and said she did cognitive behavioural therapy and found it helpful. While the logical side of me know something like that would be helpful, I can't get over the years of keeping stuff to myself and not wanting to talk to anyone about it. I'd been putting off talking about this for at least 10 yrs, so finally seeing my doc last week was HUGE for me.

                              I go back to my Doc in 3 weeks, if he suggests therapy I would probably agree to it, but I don't know if I could push myself to ask for a referral (need the referral to get insurance to cover it anyway).
                              Cognitive Behavioral Therapy isn't REALLY about talking about WHY you are the way you are ("tell me about your relationship with your mother") it's more about actually looking at your behavior - what you're DOING - and coming up with conscious ways to modify it.

                              I mean, I suspect that to some degree understanding how you formed the thought patterns you have is helpful, but a good therapist should be able to understand that you're not comfortable immediately opening up and spilling your guts, and work with that. MOST people aren't exactly comfortable with opening up and talking to a stranger about their fears/anxieties/issues, etc. It's a pretty normal thing for folks who do therapy to be dealing with.

                              And you don't have to solve all the problems all at once - there can be short term goals and long term goals.

                              The most difficult thing about therapy is really just finding a therapist you're comfortable with - there is absolutely NOTHING WRONG with saying "I don't feel like I can talk to this person" and asking to see someone else. Different therapists have different ways of interacting, and so they meet the needs of different types of people. You wouldn't expect to be best friends with any random person you meet on the street, right? Same thing. Gotta find someone you feel like you can work with.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                You have access to a horse to ride, and lessons. You are able to get out to the barn and get on the horse.

                                To me these are such positive things, and such causes for happiness.

                                I know there is more to depression than being happy or unhappy.

                                But you really do have a lot of positive stuff going for you. You are able to go to a doctor and pay for that, and for meds.

                                I am glad you have all these positives in your life.
                                Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
                                People Who Hate to Rush to Kill Wildlife Clique!
                                "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Unfortunately, I'm an expert on this subject.
                                  Keep to your riding schedule, even if you don't want to. Giving up things you enjoy doing, will increase your anxiety and depression.
                                  Exercise will increase your endorphin levels and may give you relief from your feelings of sadness. Set goals in regards to your riding, this will give you something to work towards and increase your desire to ride.
                                  When at the barn, concentrate on you and your horse. Focus on your riding, don't let negative thoughts interfere with the job at hand. I know this is easier said then done, but the more you work at it, the easier it will become.
                                  Some days, I find myself arguing with my depression. I tell it "you will not get the best of me, I'm going to enjoy this time with my horse."
                                  I know what you are feeling right now, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Riding has always been my safety net and even at my darkest moments, it has always helped me feel better.
                                  Even if you don't want to ride, go to the barn and ride your horse. The more you give up, the more depressed and anxious you will become.

                                  Comment

                                    Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Thanks Zenyatta that is helpful. I have a hard time thinking of goals with my current horse when my main goal was to do jumpers this summer. And on top of everything else (newly diagnosed and starting meds) it looks like I might be out of the saddle for awhile. Pulled my horse out of his stall this morning and he might have a bowed tendon. It looks horrible but he's trotting sound on it. Gonna have to get the vet out this week to look at it.

                                    So of course now I'm freaking out about recovery time, how this is gonna effect his sale price if he does recover and how my already small budget for the new horse is getting even smaller.

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                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Leather hAlter123 View Post
                                      Thanks Zenyatta that is helpful. I have a hard time thinking of goals with my current horse when my main goal was to do jumpers this summer. And on top of everything else (newly diagnosed and starting meds) it looks like I might be out of the saddle for awhile. Pulled my horse out of his stall this morning and he might have a bowed tendon. It looks horrible but he's trotting sound on it. Gonna have to get the vet out this week to look at it.

                                      So of course now I'm freaking out about recovery time, how this is gonna effect his sale price if he does recover and how my already small budget for the new horse is getting even smaller.

                                      Dealing with depression/anxiety makes you more vunerable to stress. Take a deep breath, if it is a bowed tendon you will deal with it.
                                      Start formulating a "plan B", what do you need to do to obtain your goal? Maybe it will take longer, but it's still obtainable.
                                      When ypur mind goes off on it's own, you need to stop and bring yourself back to solving the problem at hand.
                                      I know you're dealing with a lot right now, but things will get better. Give the meds a chance to work and seek support from those who are close to you.

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                                        Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        I think my horse is trying to see how much stress I can put up with. After one day of wrapping it looked much better and then this week the vet couldn't find anything wrong.

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