the best day in my life was the worst day in theirs…

today larry is 11 and my love and thankfulness lives on…

Nanette Danielle

I’ve always known that I’m addicted to my phone…but I actually laughed at myself a little while ago and thought jesus, this is an obsession…I was in the bathroom at the airport, waiting to board my flight…I was in a line up of anxious travellers trying to empty their bladders before heading to other parts of the world…I think the thought of using a airplane bathroom haunts a lot of us…as I was waiting for my turn, I felt my bag vibrate and I immediately reached in and pulled out the phone…sure enough, yup it was ringing – it was my sister…

so here’s where joey turns crae crae…my first thought was weird, why is she calling, we were just texting…my second thought was obvi something is wrong…but before the third thought came to my head, I was saying ‘hey sis’…her bubbly voice answers ‘hey just wanted to say have…

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sorry not sorry…#unapologeticself

my sister gave me a necklace this year for Christmas…the card attached read “I’m not sorry” – “she is unapologetically herself”…it was both beautiful and inspiring…it lies neatly around my neck and it defines quite nicely how I have chosen to live my life…she did it again #winning…I’m not sure if she knows how this necklace made me feel but it stirred up enough thoughts to write….

I sit on my floor this morning and I gaze at my pup laying on the couch, my face to his nose so I can feel the warm air he exhales…breathing in and out, I wait for that warm air to brush my lips and nose…he snores, I chuckle…breathing in and out…it’s the last day of 2016…i choose today to be alone so I can reflect on my year…the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful…i didn’t use all my insurance for my psychologist but drained my insurance for my naturopath, so I think I’m dealing with things a bit differently than 2014…

I think we all get sentimental around the new year and this year I question – but why…tomorrow is certainly a brand new day, a brand new start but so was yesterday and so is today…why do we always yearn for that Monday start or that January one start…a start is defined as the beginning of something and not as the beginning of something ‘on Monday’ or as the beginning of something ‘on January 1st”…we need to stop kidding ourselves and take some responsibility for how we live our lives, take ownership of the decisions we make and ultimately admit that we are okay…

we humans tend to hold onto the negative experiences and brush the positive experiences aside…I’m guilty of it but by god I’m not letting the negative experiences define my person nor take over my memories of a full year anymore…did that, wore the t-shirt, rode the pity party bus and then realized I had to jump the fuck off before I let bad vibes tarnish my memories of days past and steal the hope of my days to come…

as years pass by I try to live without regret…every decision I made got me to here…every choice I’ve made got me to here and here is okay…every year people experience loss – loss that makes your heart ache with every beat and that loss is often unbearable but every morning you take one foot and place it on the floor and you follow that with your second foot and you get out the door…life is a fascinating thing…it’s unforgiving, it’s everlasting…I find myself crying lately for things that I will lose and not for what I have lost…funny thing about me – the losses are numerous, the heart in several pieces but still working as a functioning unit to sustain me…but the past is the past and I cannot grieve it any longer…I lump my experiences into a big ball of ‘get your ass out of bed you fucktard’ and I forge on…my sadness for what is to come is also ludicrous – I know this and I lump all that anxiety into a big ball of ‘get your ass out of bed you fucktard’ and I forge on…

see you can’t live in the past nor in the future…if we do so we miss today and today has the potential to be the best day ever…

she is unapologetically herself…

ever try to define yourself…I can’t be the only one…I so thrive on feedback, it excites me knowing what others see in me…am I doing all I can do to effect change…am I doing all I can to make others think, reflect and pursue something in life…am I doing all I can to make others love themselves…am I doing all I can that when I’m gone, they’ll say ‘she did all she could do to love life’…

it’s not easy being close to me…it’s not easy being my sister, my parents or my friend…I’m not sorry for the person I’ve become…I think I’ve written in the past that I was always that person that said yes to everything, went to everything, smiled for everyone and was everyone’s best friend…that was then and I was fucking miserable…this is now and I say no, nope, nada, never, and hells no…when questioned why – my reply is simply ‘just cause’…it makes me a bitch, it makes me unapproachable, it makes me stubborn – that’s what others think…but me – it makes me happy, it upholds the danielle that I’ve created, it allows me to be true to my passion…I wear my heart on my sleeve – you’ll never question whether I’m unhappy, angry, perturbed or simply bored – you’ll know it…I am self aware, I am confident, and I am me – unapologetic…

life could be so much easier if I could go with the flow and embrace the day as others want me to…but holy no…my unapologetic self will always be passionate, will always draw enemies, will always swim upstream, will always face resistance, will always lose friends but will always have your back and remain true to the person she has chosen to become…no one made me the person I am today, that’s my own doing and damn I did good…

a new beginning…

albeit a new start – there will be heart ache…it’s life folks…not one of us will not be affected…god that sounds terrible…but I’m learning as I grow older, loss is inevitable and I think it’s why I’m so unapologetic…I need to love now…I need to learn all I can now…I need to embrace all I can now…because there is no guarantee that I will have a tomorrow…I need to lay my head on my pillow at night and thank the stars that my day was a good day…with loss comes strength…with loss comes growth…with loss comes tears and heart ache – but how lucky are we to have had people in our lives that we cherish…if someone chooses not to be in your life you need to thank them for not wasting your precious time…time is valuable…never let others try to take you down…stand up for yourself – learn to love yourself…

I learned long ago if you don’t love yourself first, how is anyone going to love you the right way…I finally love myself and I tell myself that everyday…#weird no #awesome…

she is unapologetically herself…

in 2017 keep the fire that ignites the passion in you going…it’s not about weight, it’s not about relationships, it’s not about a bigger house, it’s not about more money, it’s not about more anything – it’s about you and what you do with each precious moment of your life…embrace it, strap on your wings and forge on…never regret – always remember…

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reflections…

sitting at a table in a crowded coffee shop – reflecting…

sitting on my patio, surrounded by nature and a dog – reflecting…

driving aimlessly down the road with the dog panting in my ear – reflecting…

lying in bed at night, lavender oils filling the air – reflecting…

my god I’m a reflecting whore…

I remember in university the word reflection sent us into a spiral of eye rolling, f-bombs and blank stares into the twilight zone…why must we always fucking reflect we’d scream to ourselves as we dug into the chips and dip and sipped our beers…reflections were to be documented, reflections were to make us better thinkers, better clinicians, better empathizers…just better…that was 15years ago when that word became part of my vernacular…

today it means something greater to me…it means I’m comfortable in my mind…people often don’t believe me when I say that I literally can sit and clear my mind – thinking of nothing just blank space, well those that have seen me hypnotized can vouch for my ability to lose myself but others are non-believers…I hate myself for saying this but I love reflecting…as long as that reflecting is healthy and I don’t get caught up in unhealthy thoughts cause that happens…

reflections…

lately I’ve been trying to calm my mind and body before settling in at bedtime…i’m starting to realize that I need to start practicing what I preach on a daily basis…

a few weeks ago I had an episode that scared me – a medical scare that has since resolved (no need to worry)…I was home alone and terrified…but I was calm…my mind was racing, my phone was dying, my dog was sleeping…knowing a little about the medical field I had myself diagnosed, deficits identified, house for sale and home care workers hired – despite being calm, I was full of worse case scenario…that night I became dependent on others and it was the worst feeling ever…I managed to call a dear friend who stood by me the whole night and what she witnessed was a mess…a mess that we can now laugh at but a mess…fast forward about 2days later and I began to realize that as much as I preach I am independent and I don’t need anyone, I realized I was dependent on everyone in my life…and those people were ready and willing to jump at the chance to help me…

I became humbled…

my preaching gets me into trouble sometimes and I’m so damn stubborn that my own mother said and I quote “I feel sorry for you how you block people out” – I laughed at this when she said it but was she ever right…I am the master of blocking people out…I am the master of ‘I can do that myself’ until a few weeks ago when I became dependent for the first time in my life on my friends to help me with day to day things…things we take for granted…the funny thing was that I wasn’t the one who reached out either – why I wonder am I that god damn stubborn…it was another dear friend who quietly reached out to others to tell them that I needed to be checked on because my parents were travelling…when confronted she said ‘obviously I told them, you weren’t going to you fool’…we chuckled cause she was so right…

always the rescuer, never the rescued…so I preached…

not asking for help in my life, makes me strong – that’s what my stubborn mind tells me…well in reflection it just makes me stupid…

as I sat home on leave, I reflected daily…my phone never stopped, my friends reaching out hourly to make sure I had everything I needed…humbled, happy, lucky, relieved but above all willing to accept help…that’s hard for me…accepting help…these feelings always lead me to back to weakness and vulnerability and I feel like every time I write I use those words…but I’m learning that in life, lessons take a life time to learn and I have a desire to share, to educate, to enlighten, to reiterate that weakness is strength…

my father sat me down the other day and said, yup it’s my fault for how you are…you have my desire, my anger, my work ethic, my cut throat tongue and my unwillingness to be weak but dancer (yes that what he calls me) it’s killing you…and when he said that I think back to when he was my age, I remember seeing him angry at the world, screaming into the phone at inconsistencies in his work life, carrying the weight of the job on his shoulders, phone constantly ringing, people constantly fighting and him the rescuer…I am my father’s daughter…I witnessed him fall, I witnessed him struggle, I witnessed him save himself, I witnessed him change and I witnessed him survive…I think the thing that scares him the most is that he sees me experiencing the same thing he did…but he’s the one trying to break my fall and up until now I wouldn’t let him catch me, until now…

reflections…

I’ve become my father…I’m laughing as I’m writing this because I so am…when this finally hit me, I am painstakingly transposed back to my youth – I close my eyes and I see my father’s figure at the table, phone to his ear, red in the face, puffy in eyes from lack of sleep, lack of quietness, lack of peace…I hear my mother plead, don’t answer that phone call, let it go to voicemail…I see my father squirm cause he can’t – he picks up and the cycle continues again…these people need me, there’s no one else that knows about this…omg I’m my father…

reflections…

when dad wanted to return to work, I wrote him a return to work plan – yes I did…and now they write mine…

so my bedtime routine, is a routine…it involves lavender oil, reading for enjoyment and reflecting…waking in a pool of drool means its working…independent versus dependent – two words that guide my clinical practice and perhaps I’ve held on to the meaning it takes on in my work world and haven’t embraced what it means to me as a person…being independent is who I am but I have a wealth of friends I don’t give enough credit to…I have a wealth of friends that I need and saying that kicks me in the guts a little because it makes me vulnerable…but again practicing what I preach is what I aim for in life…

if we don’t open ourselves up because we’re afraid to be hurt or disappointed, we’re missing out on the kindness and love that those around us want to give…not everyone has the opportunity to live and experience emotions…we need to place value on the opportunities that present themselves to us and let go off the negativity that comes with hurt but rather embrace that hurt and understand that it is okay because we are alive…sad feelings are okay because we learn from them and we nourish our bodies and souls from all emotions…

for those that have left this earth, I’m sure they’d long for one more moment to feel emotion – any emotion…living is a gift…don’t be stupid and waste it…live it, embrace it and own it…

today I sit alone on my patio with my dog at my feet and I reflect and smile a little wider…

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boyfriends* and bullies are fucktards…*only the mean ones :-)

did you find when you were younger you thought you knew everything and the cockiness that exuded with that knowledge, in hindsight was a tad bit out of line…my own cockiness about being a good friend, a good girlfriend, a good daughter, a good sister, a good worker is slowly diminishing as the years progress….as you experience each experience in life, expectations of how the story ends often disappoints…that’s what I’m learning in my 40’s…lower the expectations and you’ll have less disappointments…but jesus how low does one go…do we put out positive vibes to the universe and sit back and wait…hummm how’s that going for ya….

I remember a friend once saying “I’m a good friend and I expect others to treat me as I do them”…and yah she’s right…but is that setting us up for frustrations…and one could insert any word in that sentence “I’m a good worker…” or “I’m a good girlfriend” and still the story ends in frustrations…I’m struggling to strike the balance and I often wonder if others are too…and then as I sit back, I think is there a balance…I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished and the path I’ve taken may not make sense to others and I like to think I don’t care…but then the human emotions in me tell me I do…I share and I don’t get the response I want, I don’t share and I don’t get the response I want – then the fuck it I can’t win response comes to my lips…

looking back on my life, there has been tremendous growth in me as a person…I can own that…I don’t think my parents would have mapped out my life the way I experienced it…I think they love the person I am today and are super proud of the work I do…but I think they must have had many sleepless nights thinking ‘what the fuck’…it is so not all rainbows and butterflies and puffy carebears and smurfs in the backyard…

I watched the dr. phil show the other day, yes I’m addicted and he had posted warning signs of how you know you are in an abusive relationship – I ticked 8 out of 9…past not current – don’t freak out my peeps…I’ve come to realize that some past years of my life were honestly miserable despite the smiles and laughs, deep down the self-hate started back then…the worthlessness, the degradation, the blah-blah-blahness of my world weighed me down…my mother sent me a picture the other week and it was taken around this time and I shrilled at the look of my young, innocent face…the lack of luster, the lack of confidence and the pure hidden eagerness that lived inside of me, yet was not allowed to surface…I wrote ‘never ever share that with anyone’…she wrote, ‘I won’t sweetheart just reminiscing’…

it’s hard being vulnerable and it’s even harder staring at that vulnerability when it’s you…but vulnerability is strength…it’s guided me to where I am today…it helps me help others…that picture made me feel icky…it took me back to the very day it was taken…it took me back to a dark place that I never want to go again…it’s amazing how a flicker in time can stir so many emotions…it should have been sadness that was conjured up but it was actually anger…god I’m my father’s daughter – bit of anger never hurt anyone danielle…but honestly anger deep in my belly…an anger at myself for being such a fucking idiot but more so an anger at the other person for being such a dick…how one human can degrade another human boggles my mind…

it would happen to me once more…degradation should be a punishable by stoning – back to the biblical times…

I truly never thought of myself as having had been in a relationship like I was and it really didn’t hit me until another experience caused me to lose myself…I lost myself again for about two years, two long, long years…actually it was probably longer than that but my memory allows me to say two…as a successful career woman, I devote my time to my work…I chose that…I don’t need a husband, I don’t yearn for children, I don’t long for a bigger house and I don’t need to live an extravagant life…what I need is my sanity, my confidence, my clear mind, my desire to make a difference, my longing to uphold my namesake and my link – myself…that was taken away from me again a few years ago…

it’s hard being vulnerable…and boy am I angry at myself…what’s the saying, fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on me…well shame shame on me for I let that degradation resurface into a monster I never thought I’d battle…but battle I fucking did…

deep inhale in and here goes – did you ever think at your age you could be caught in the middle of a storm so powerful that you literally lost all your senses…imagine no beginning, no middle and no ending to a storm that brewed its’ head ever so slowly…a tiny gust of wind here…a drizzle of rain there…the blue sky changing before your eyes into a dark, deep black swirling overhead…did you ever meet someone so sweet and kind and captivating that you get tangled in a weave of deception…every word, every gesture, every sentence, every emotion, every movement becomes the beginning of your ending…

when you get yourself out of a slump and you soar into a new world where you embrace every moment, you swear never again body, mind and soul, never again will you be that young, innocent girl in that picture that lacked luster and confidence…when mom showed me it, I thought ahhhh for fucks sake I did it again…why share this now, because I’m learning that even the strongest people fall sometimes…confidence, competence, and a love for living is not enough sometimes because that innocence that exists in all of us sometimes makes us vulnerable to the predators around us…

some of you know and some of you don’t know that I was bullied and harassed as an adult in an environment that I adore…there I said it…I’m not a young girl in school who is being bullied because I’ve got pimples and I’m overweight…I’m not a high school student who sent sexy pictures to my boyfriend who now has them posted all over social media…I’m not a young kid struggling with my sexuality and being cornered in the school yard…but I’m no different them any of them going through this…I was a 43 year old successful career woman targeted for reasons beyond my understanding…

I lived a lie for a while, not knowing what was happening until someone took me aside and said it out loud to me ‘you are being bullied’ and handed me a book on harassment…I reached for a tissue, which ended up being a bounce sheet and I let the tears flow…heads up a bounce sheet doesn’t work well on a tear filled face – may work well for static but not this, I promise…I can speak freely of this experience now without having a meltdown, well not a major one at least…for those that stayed by me, phew – thank you…for those that I lost, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to sustain us…

I kept saying how does an adult be bullied…I’ve read, I’ve talked, I’ve meditated, I’ve drank, I’ve cried…I’ve wanted to run, run as fast as I could and I was on the verge of leaving something I loved for the simply notion to run…and then I remembered I don’t run – like legit physically don’t run…lol lol…no seriously, my father taught me never to run and that allowed me to slow down…it allowed me to slow down and experience the bullying and the harassing in an almost mindful manner…sounds super creepy but I let myself slow down to experience it, so I could be strong enough to stand up to it…I refer to them as it because bullies don’t deserve a proper introduction…

why share this though…why blog…well because it’s hard being vulnerable…but I now know vulnerability is strength and I now know bullies target strength by honing in on the innocence that exists in our person…and that’s okay – it’s nothing I did…it’s nothing I said…I can’t own it because I didn’t create it…but I can own my reaction to it and I can own how it’s made me grow into a better person, a better clinician and better human…but it’s changed me in a way that I can’t explain to some…like the young, innocent girl in the picture lacking luster and confidence, I am now that career focused adult full of confidence that lives with chronic stress…

I watched a video the other day on stress and what stress does to your body…the physiological impact that occurred inside my body wrecked me…what once was strong muscles, clear skin, free mind, legs that could walk forever – is gone…the joy, the desire to engage in meaningful activities, the sound of laughter, the desire for passion and love, the desire to take care of myself – out the window…as I ticked off the trigger points from dr. phil on relationships, I found I was again ticking off the trigger points from this god blessed cartoon video on stress…

I did a group recently on anxiety which in hindsight is freaking hilarious looking back because I probably had the highest anxiety amongst the peeps in the room…like legit wanted to jump out of my own skin as I lectured on this common phenomenon…some stress is good I would say, it often is that motivating factor that you need to put the skip in your step when starting something new…too much stress, I would say is a bad thing because it’s more than just an emotion it’s a physical response…I would go through symptoms of stress and ask have you ever experienced heartburn (inner voice says yes), irritability (inner voice screams fuck yes), headaches (yup losing my sight from time to time), cravings for comfort food (inner voice says yup don’t even cook anymore), weight gain (inner voices says for fucks sake, #obvi), insomnia (inner voice says yes), acne (skin looks like shit, yup), or fatigue (I yawn when I say the word fatigue, so yup)…

why am I the girl who had to have a shitty relationship that probably fucked me over to the point that trust is an everlasting issue…why am I the girl who was bullied as an adult…well because shit happens…it’s not the end of the world to have had my experiences…it’s a gift to have had my experiences…it takes a lot to reteach your mind about the fight or flight concept…but my experiences have made me sit back and realize that I only enjoy flights that take me to sunny destinations…there is so much going on in this world around us…why do we as a society feel the need to break others down…as humans we do that enough to ourselves…I’m not getting younger, I’m not going to get a second chance to live my life…this is it, this is who I am, this is what I got and this is my journey to celebrate as I choose…

going into the next phase of my life, I refuse to give in to the evils of this world that often surround us…yah I may lose myself for a while and I may need a kick in the guts to come back around but knowing that I’m a survivor keeps me going…knowing that I stood up and screamed NO keeps me going…I made a pack with myself that I will never give up on myself, I will be the most important person in my life and I will choose me over and over again because I only got one life to live…let’s make it memorable…

don’t worry about being the good friend, the good girlfriend, the good daughter, the good sister or the good worker – work on being the best you first, that’s where happiness starts…bad shit happens everyday but today you woke up breathing – embrace that…

it’s hard being vulnerable but it’s super fun growing old happily…

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a letter to my father…

reblogging just because this man, i adore…#happyfathersday

Nanette Danielle

Without you there would be no me…

I’m sure the first words you said to me were “fuckin fuck you nearly killed your mother” as you held this tiny babe in your hands…what in the world was going through your mind as mom laid in a bed in recovery and you in a room with a brand new baby…well “fuck” was either at the start or the end of the sentence, who am I kidding it was definitely the first and last word…you always were a man of many words…

I’ll never know who you were then…but mom did and she picked you and we know she’s picky…I thank god for you daily and I thank the world for placing me in your arms that day many years ago…

despite the struggles, despite the heartaches, despite the long hours and days, you worked your ass off for us…I remember the…

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Horses: A Partnership Embedded in Recovery.

For those of you that have been following me since I started this adventure of blogging, know my style is informal and full of grammar and punctuation no-no’s…but it’s me and it’s my comfort zone. I’ve had so much feedback on my writing over the last couple of years, I wanted to share even more with you – having taken on a masters program, I am entering a new world of wanting to share my stories, my knowledge and my experiences more and more each day, attempting to reach different audiences and hoping my rambling sentences may have impact on one, just one of you out there.

This blog will be a little different as it is being shared with my classmates and professor and therefore opening me up to a very different audience – sometimes my comfort comes in writing with not knowing who this blog is reaching and then when someone I know says something to me or writes me in private, I sometimes freeze and think – OMG they know this about me. It’s a very enlightening feeling this sharing and yet it’s led me to where I am today. Today as I write, I open myself and my adventures in horse therapy up for constructive criticism, for growth in my partnership with Te’sipow Therapeutic Services, for growth in my clinical practice and for growth in my own self, I submit this blog to my current course mates – yikes, exposure therapy!!

Horses…why horses…I sit back and think why in the world did I enter into this partnership with a girl, a stranger I’m glad I met…

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I work as an occupational therapist on a community-based mental health and addictions program servicing clients with severe and persistent mental illness. The philosophy behind the team is based on the belief that clients are the center of their own care, are unique, and have the right to service that promotes independence. The team seeks to empower clients by promoting the use of the client’s natural supports in their own environment. It focuses on assisting clients to build their skills and supports within the client’s home and community. A common theme discussed regularly within this team’s client population is the difficulty experienced in identifying and engaging in meaningful and purposeful occupations, lack of self esteem, lack of communication skills, lack of purpose and feeling needed and lack of control. As occupational therapists, we have the ability and skills to foster therapeutic relationships, integrate clients into their communities and offer them creative options to explore meaningful activity that will empower them along their journey. For many of our clients, they experience daily symptoms and societal reaction to them; they experience limited access to participation, limited resources and overwhelming messages of what they cannot do.

With the growing research on service animals for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness and the shift to utilizing natural community based resources, I started exploring alternative programming for my clientele in November 2014. The majority of equine-assisted therapy (EAT) programs researched offer an opportunity for horse-minded individuals to bond with, care for and learn from the animal. I really wanted to move away from hospital based formal programming and get my clients reacquainted with the natural environment, as I believe that it is essential for recovery whether it be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual recovery.

The confidence, self-esteem, feeling of purpose and control of many people with severe and persistent mental illness are low, partly due to self-stigma, lack of choices and lack of meaning in one’s life. Such self-experiences result in poor occupational performance outcomes such as reduced independent functioning, community participation and integration and progress in their personal recovery journeys. The bond that forms between horse and human is unique. The horse in comparison to any other animal has an innate ability to pick up on human emotions, interactions and intention.

 Although there are many EAT programs across the country, this EAT program is unique in that it consists of an occupational therapist – as mental health practitioner, and a therapeutic recreation worker – as horse facilitator, and peer supporter with lived mental health experience. Vital to the operation is the partnership developed with Te’sipow Therapeutic Services, owner of the stable and horses. The collaborative approach with Te’sipow Therapeutic Services provides the optimal opportunity for clients to find meaning and purpose in their time spent with the horses. It is our goal that upon completion of the program, clients will demonstrate growth both in life and social skills and ultimately progression in their recovery journey. When asked what they want to get out of the program our clients state, they want “calmness”, they want “the voices to take a break”, they want their “abuser to hear their voice”, they want to “gain control” and they want “to believe that someone believes” in them.

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The three programs offered are:

  1. Horse Time – includes grooming and feeding the horses, learning safety rules and basic control on the ground. In terms of skills learned, it focuses on physical activity, promoting independence, increasing awareness of activities of daily living, making choices, compassion, boundaries, and social, life and work skills.
  1. Spirit Horse – clients are guided through various experiences including: watching the dynamics of the horses and herd, identifying relationships and dynamics in the herd, entering the herd to catch a horse, trust exercises with the horses, learning to communicate with a horse, building symbolic obstacles to accomplish with the horse, individual and/or group tasks with the herd, and symbolic painting on the horses. Through my experience with the program I have come to believe that horses have an undeniable ability to bring about change in people; they mirror a situation and show us the best and worst of ourselves.
  1. Work Skills – a volunteer opportunity for clients whereby they are responsible for cleaning the stable stalls and grounds, collecting saw dust, gathering tools, spreading hay and filling water buckets. This program offers clients the opportunity to get volunteer hours, participate in a physical activity and build skills to better prepare for them for work. It is also be a great learning opportunity for them to gain knowledge about their own work readiness and a self-awareness of their own skills. From an occupational therapy perspective it allows assessment of a client’s work readiness, attention/concentration, overall endurance/activity tolerance, ability to follow direction, multi task and ability to work within a group as well as independently.

 Our clients come from a variety of backgrounds and upbringings, have a variety of mental health diagnoses and have varying goals that they are working on. What brings them together following the stable session is the bond that they develop with the horses. As soon as we walk into the stable and breath in that first breathe of sawdust, hay and horse smell, we hear the clients breathe a sigh of relief – some describe it as a “freedom from the chaotic world” they live in, a “release from all worries” and “a calmness in [their] head”. Several themes have emerged from the feedback from the programming. Clients used words such as “calm”, “loved”, “happy”, “peaceful”, “safe” and “makes me feel like I’m in control” when describing how the interaction with the horses made them feel. When asked about how the programming helped with recovery, most people responded it helped them socially “as it was great to meet new people”; the hands on experience with the horses was reported to help with mood – “they made me happy”; and a few people reported that they learned how to be assertive “in an appropriate way”. When asked what skills did the participants learn, the majority reported “confidence”, “knowing when to have fun”, “how to bond”, “how to develop trust”, “how to be creative”, “how to communicate”, “how to connect with horses”, and “overcoming my fear of horses”.

My own experience working with clients who experience fear, voices, trauma, fatigue, sleep deprivation and watching them caress an animal and hearing them say “thank you” not to me, not to the facilitator but to the horse encourages me as a therapist to continue the advocacy for EAT programming, further development of the Spirit Horse Hope Arena and Te’sipow Therapeutic Services.

Horses…why horses…because I could never mimic what happens in the round pen in an office setting. As an adjunct therapy intervention, it has been proven essential to recovery.

For more information on programming, please visit www.spirithorsenl.com or like on Facebook – Spirit Horse with Te’sipow Therapeutic Services.

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if only…

if only…

two tiny words with the weight of the world attached to them…I had a friend ask me the other day if I had ever wanted kids, to which I responded “I really did once upon a time” and then my life began…she responded, “if only, hey” and me “yup, if only”…

if only i had met the ‘one’ that everyone talks about…I’d be in a house with three bedrooms, filled with toys and the pitter patter of feet going about their days…I’d be home at 4, cooking supper for the family and sitting around a table built for daily use…I’d be clearing away the dishes as the hubby filled the tub and bathed the babies for the night…I’d be sitting, drinking tea, listening to the laughter come from the bathroom above me, listening to the kids and their father fill the night air with love…if only…

if only I had stayed in past relationships because it was the safe thing to do…if only I had said yes to the one that came back and begged…I’d be in a house – we’d be renting for sure – and kids, not sure…I’d be home at 6, I’d have to cook supper, we’d eat watching television, I’d clean up and I’d yearn for conversation…I’d yearn for laughter and I’d yearn for love…I’d be sitting, drinking tea, listening to him play music from another room while I was trying to concentrate, read or listen to a favourite show…the night air would be filled with silence, judgment and a sadness, the kind only I would know…if only…

if only I had stayed in that night…if only I hadn’t been in that situation at that exact moment maybe I wouldn’t have lost interest in working out…I’d be still going into the gym three mornings a week, I’d be the strongest I’d ever been, I’d be flaunting and shining and eating my homemade granola bars…I’d be home by 5, I’d be cooking and singing away…I’d pack my breakfast and lunch by 6…I’d run a bath for myself and the night air would breathe away the worries of the day…if only…

if only I had never taken that job…if only those people were good people I wouldn’t have been hurt…if only others didn’t trust in me to be strong…I’d be happy, eager…I’d be stress free, worry free and light hearted…my trust would be unscathed, my body untouched, my mind unharmed, my passion unhurt…hiding wouldn’t be an option, anger wouldn’t be a daily emotion and nightmares wouldn’t rock my world…if only…

if only…I were skinnier, happier, healthier, taller, leaner, stronger…if only…my hair was longer, my clothes nicer, my phone newer, my gaming better, my education higher, my pay greater…if only…I had a job, I had a house, I had a yard, I had a snow blower, I had a car, I had a cabin, I had a…I had a…if only…

what happens to us if we live by these words, we’d never allow ourselves to feel, to fail, to cry, to laugh, to embrace and to love…we’d never leave our houses if the hurt that disables us never heals…we’d never learn from our mistakes, those shitty ass mistakes that we all make and we all shake our heads and think ‘gentle Christ did I do that’…we learn our greatest lessons from feeling disappointed in our own selves…our biggest regrets are the things we grow from and by god we’ll never make the same mistake twice, well some of us will but then we learn twice as hard…

I call myself reality danielle sometimes, both in work and in my personal life…the ‘if only’ game has come and gone in my life…I have a few days left before my 45th and I refuse to play the ‘if only’ game with myself anymore…sure I could have a three bedroom house full of kids and love…sure I could still be working a day job with no chance of advancement and living a shitty ass life with a shitty ass man…sure I could still be that kick ass gym girl with an ass as hard as a rock…sure I could have left a job where I was being harassed and bullied and found a new work place…if only I had done those things…

if only…i teach others daily that life is about passion and desires and it is so worth living…have I ever thought of ending it, life that it…have I ever thought others would be better off without me…have I ever thought of leaving it all and vanishing – hells yah I have…looking inside, I’m the one eternally single but eternally happy – insert higher tone on that last happy…if only others knew what my happy looked like…sometimes a loss equates my experiences…sometimes a celebration equates my loss…if only others knew…

I think I’m a pretty intelligent individual and I often think others are truly numb to my feelings and experiences…if only they got it…

if only others thought about others as much as I think about them…holy philosophical…its my damn writing addiction…

a client asked me the other day was I “happy and at peace”, “did I find my person” and “have I found my passion”…we were at a local coffee shop and I literally replied “well holy jesus girl, which do I answer first” – we both laughed…my answers…

I always think I’m happy until I’m driving home in my car and my cheek glistens in the sun and I taste a saltiness on my upper lip and I am crying…is it an unhappiness or an overhappiness, I pondered…“do you really cry by yourself she asked” – mother of mercy yes, I replied…and we laughed…my tears often are a result of a disappointment or a fault in my own self of setting expectations that others can not live up to, or do not have the time or idea that I’ve even set them…my tears are for the “if only” scenarios I play in my mind…but to answer the question, yes I’m happy because my “if only” scenarios would have never led me to the life I live today…

peace…this was a hard one…I wasn’t sure what she meant by peace…“I’m not sure what your definition of peace is but I feel secure, if that makes sense”…she nodded…secure in my own body, secure in my faith, secure in my thoughts and secure in my love for myself”…are we ever at peace with our decisions and life choices – I couldn’t answer that…

my person…if only I had that person that was my soul mate, one to share my ups and my downs…one that knew my likes and dislikes…one that would answer a text, a phone call, or simply know I needed a get away…if only…I answered simply “I found my person about 3years ago”, she smiled and I continued “I had no idea who this person was but when I saw her I thought, damn this is my rock”…I chuckled and I said “girl my person is myself”…“if only I was my own person”, she said…

if only I could teach others to enjoy alone time, if only I could instill a sense of self worth in those that question themselves, if only I could show how my heart beats with every accomplishment I reach…if only…

a life yearning for what we don’t have, I truly believe is a life wasting what we have…decisions we make daily shape and nurture us…it saddens me to think that people are lonely, sad and can’t survive without dependency…but I own that, I shouldn’t judge…that’s my downfall, I have nothing left to give somedays and that’s just me…I think I’m so comfortable in my own skin that I practice what it would be like when the world will present me with the biggest sadness that I can dream of…that’s my coping mechanism and it’s my weakness – the inability to give what others want…

if only…

I was told by a great woman one night that she feels sorry for me…with a chuckle she added because I shut everyone out…the table giggled and I gulped…

if only I didn’t…

my if only scenarios led me to a life – a self proclaimed workaholic, blogger, aspiring published author, mother of a 4-legged monster, auntie to amazing little men, realist, lover of travel and addicted to living…my qualities – a passion for my work, a desire to learn, a willingness to try but only those things I want, an eye for design, an honestly that is sometimes brutal and a willingness to lose to maintain my dignity…

if only i wasn’t me…who would I be…I always wonder that…who would I want to be…

if you could live a life that you thought you’d live, would you be happier, smile more, enjoy more, love bigger and survive longer – if only you had the answer…

life is a gift, a gift that keeps on giving…surrounding yourself with those that make you shine is the goal in life…there is no place for longing for what we think we need…I may not have the hard rock ass of my 30year old self but I have the experience of the 44year old self that has come a long way…

in life we’re either hammering the nails to expand our path or we’ve pounding them out to remove the obstacles that present themselves along the way…if only you could learn to accept the path you’ve ventured – happiness would never elude you…

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