Anxiety & Ambivalence

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It’s been an……. interesting…….. year.

“Interesting” probably isn’t the correct word but I feel like before I can tell you what happened in BadEventer land this weekend……….

I need to back up a bit.

In 2019 I left the startbox 41 times. ( I had to count that a few times to be sure that was real.)

I remember when Oliver Townend was the keynote speaker at the USEA convention. Other than his bizarre talk about alcoholism and having a monkey on your back, he answered a question about fear.

Oliver Townend & Ballaghmore Class at the jog just before winning Burghley 2017

Someone asked Oliver how you get over show nerves. He said some pretty wise words on this topic. He basically said the more you leave the start box the less anxiety you have about it. After competing 5 horses for an entire year

and leaving the start box over, and over,

and over.

I can say that’s completely true. Competing makes it less of an unknown.

Now, if you’re a mere mortal like BadEventer and not a machine like Michael Jung……. if you take some time off, all those cross country runs fade off into the distance and it’s like starting over.

After my best chance to jump around Kentucky got injured and permanently retired, I basically quit.

I ran off to jumper land to take a break,

and while off at jumper land, as if the entire planet knew BadEventer was having a midlife crisis, a world wide pandemic started.

Seriously, what was the toilet paper hoarding all about?

And this led to an interesting set of events.

I’m an over-the-top germaphobe.

Really.

I’ve been opening public doors that gazillions of people touch with their infection infested hands with my feet

or a glove

my entire adult life.

I’ve become highly skilled at “hiding” how I open doors without touching them, so that people don’t see that I’m truly a freak.

And now, thanks to SARS-CoV-2……to be able to boldly pull on a glove, open the door and then toss it in the trashcan that is always on the INSIDE of the door in front of everyone has been a game changer for me.

I was in Italy in January of 2020. My family in Italy work in medicine and I knew a bit more about what was coming before anyone in the US took the virus seriously. And then as the “doom scrolling” started and the daily body counts became a thing I started feeling a bit…………short of breath.

Each time I tried to take a deeper breath I had to wonder….

Is it The Rona?

Or just my germaphobia.

It worsened and I decided to cut out caffeine.

That’ll help. Less jitters right?

It didn’t help.

I got lots of sleep. I increased my exercise. I basically did everything I could think of for a couple of months until I woke up in the middle of the night with essentially a full blown panic attack.

I sleep great.

Seriously. Ever since I worked nights at an ER for 5 years sleep is not something I struggle with.

Well, except back in the beginning before cross country day. I used to stay up all night trying not to vomit. That’s actually where Tales from a BadEventer came from. I decided after a terrified sleepless night before……..

of all things, a horse show

that at least my stomach had to take this sport less seriously or I had to find something else to do “for fun.” Making fun of it all on Tales from a BadEventer has been that solution.

So when I woke up in the middle of the night freaking out about Corona virus I found myself at the urgent care asking for help.

A very understanding physicians assistant told me he’d treated more “medical types” for anxiety in the past 3 months than he had in the past 10 years all together. He told me I was definitely not the only one. Then he asked what I had taken in the past for anxiety that had worked for me. And that was a moment where I wondered if he had read my blog………

but in spite of some issues with life long anxiety in one form or another I had never taken anything before.

So he sent me on my way with a moderate “non-addictive” medication plan and wished me luck.

I was telling a friend about my literal full on middle of the night – fetal position – can’t breathe – panic attack and that I had started anxiety medication.

I’ll never forget this. She said, “Wait wait! Before you take medication………

Have you tried chamomile tea?”

Let me tell you. Anxiety meds are freaking magic. I felt completely back to “normal” within days.

And then, while still on those meds I ran a couple of events.

Anxiety medication combined with eventing was a completely different experience. It’s like channeling all your inner William Fox Pitt know how and the bad-assery of Chuck Norris.

Do you know what happened when Chuck Norris ran into the coronavirus?

The virus had to spend 14 days in quarantine.

So The BadEventer spent several months on anxiety meds dealing with her serious fear of Covid-19 and then eventually weaned off of them.

And while all this has been going on I’ve developed a pretty significant ambivalence about eventing.

I wanted it so much.

I wanted that 4* (now 5*) run more than I can possibly explain. And after trying so hard and realizing that serious professionals have a hard time getting there, and my chances were…….not exactly good, I wasn’t really sure how important all this was any more.

But eventing is what I do so I decided to throw my hat back in the ring.


Heading out to the first event free of anxiety medication………was a bit of a different experience.

Holy shit! I forgot that this eventing thing was F*CKING TERRIFYING!

I’m pretty sure this is what happens to horses that compete on things like reserpine.

I owned one of those horses. He had competed through Training level before I acquired him, but when faced with even a teeny tiny cross country jump he literally lost his mind. He would get so upset his legs would literally shake and I thought he might actually have a heart attack.

After struggling with him unsuccessfully for months I called his previous owner. I detailed the trouble I was having with him and said, “He’s the most nervous horse I’ve ever ridden. He absolutely cannot cope with cross country. I really don’t understand how you competed him.” She replied, “Oh that’s simple. Reserpine.”

So today I had an interesting cross country course.

It had one of my first frangible tables. (If you haven’t donated to the frangible fence fund you should!)

And I immediately started counting the names of all the riders that have died at tables and why they should be frangible to begin with. Then I started taking note of all the tables on course, that weren’t frangible.

And then I found that we had an upbank out of water.

I cannot even remember the last upbank out of water I’ve jumped. There was a fall study many <cough MANY> years ago and one of the findings was that upbanks out of water caused significantly more falls than many other types of jumps. After that study they really went “out of favor.” They’re still out there, but not typically at the lower levels and not even that many at the upper levels.

So as I leave the start box I have in my head things like, “oh this table isn’t frangible”

holy shit this is a big question for training level

and then as I headed to the upbank in the water my mind is running through how much BadEventer f*cking hates upbanks in general, and then oh shit these cause falls, and as I round the corner there is a giant SUN GLARE on the water right in front of the bank and all I can think is, “great, upbanks suck, upbanks in water cause falls, and now neither me nor my horse can f*cking see it.”

Fortunately my fabulous steeds took care of business.

Watch out everyone, BadEventer is back on course.

Anxiety and all.

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