My name is Annalise, and my journey with depression began when I was 14 years old. My parents divorced when I was young and my life started to stumble into a dark place. I hated myself during the years that I was depressed. I felt undeserving of anything good that life had to offer, and I never put myself first. Suicide is a big word, and when I was 17, I was rushed to the emergency room because I decided to turn my thoughts into actions. Leading up to my release from Primary Children's Hospital, my sister was determined to get me to sign up at Bridle Up Hope, a program she had heard about through friends at her high school.
As you begin the program at Bridle Up Hope, you write a mission statement to serve as a reminder of what you hope to aspire. I had written, "Be okay with trusting people or something." At that point of my life, I had had too many people walk out on me. However, I recognized the stability that the horses offered at the barn. The horses are always there, offering unconditional love. I remember that on a particularly hard day I came to the barn to see Rockette, one of my favorite horses. I went in for a hug, and as she drew closer, she nestled me right in. I started to cry because she was able sense my frustrations and connect with me as she comforted me. Horses are unique because they can't lie and they understand how you feel without the need for words. They can sense when you need comfort, and they know exactly how to respond to your emotions.
Sundays were always difficult for me, but they eventually became my favorite day because I knew I had my Bridle Up Hope lesson on Mondays. I had always been so passive, never taking control of what I needed in my life. With horses, you have to be assertive and take charge, which is what I discovered from Habit 1: Be Proactive. My advice to future girls considering joining the program would be to please just come. This organization is a safe space, and if you have fears, then this is the place to come. If you can get past a fear with horses, then you can overcome any other fear. By gaining confidence in one area, you realize you can do more. Every week that I came added to my overall improvement and ability to handle the stresses of life. Just a few months ago, my boyfriend broke up with me, and I realized that I had become too dependent on him. I was anxious, and I was grasping for a sense of clarity. It was a Sunday, so I drove to the barn and walked over to lean against the fence with Kokomo. I felt hope and an overwhelming sense of love immediately surround me. I had already graduated from Bridle Up Hope, but it was in that moment when I realized that I could always come to the barn because it was home.
I am more genuine, I am happier, and I can communicate better. In coming to Bridle Up Hope, I never expected to become best friends with the instructors. When you have your hour-long lesson with them each week, you develop a surprisingly strong friendship. I actually work here now as a service lead, and it's my favorite because I get to make the day better than it was before. My future goal is to help children because they're so impressionable. I want to help and nurture them by becoming a nurse and offering them protection.
I know that I can conquer anything because of the resilience I have found through Bridle Up Hope. Before this program, I was in such a hard place. But now every time I come here I feel lightened. It's like magic.
(Names changed to protect privacy)