It’s hard enough to be a young person these days, but when you struggle with disabilities it can feel unbearable. Meghan Dixon, an autistic 20-year-old from Texas, shares her story.
In the fourth grade, Meghan was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder called “Asperger Syndrome” that makes social interaction and nonverbal communication a real challenge–and school a living hell. To make matters worse, the medication her doctors prescribed resulted in weight gain that gave cruel peers even more fuel for the fire. Meghan says the bullying started in elementary school and just got worse by the year.
“Because of my Asperger Syndrome, no one would accept me,” Meghan writes in an email. “No one wanted to be my friend. When I would react with hurt feelings, they would either laugh at me or say I was weird. It was as if I was on this crazy alien planet–and I was the alien!… I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong. The students at the school I went to made me feel like a parasite who infected the world. The bullies would tease me or tell me to do things, and then laugh at me. They would call me names like freak, retard, fat and ugly, and tell me I was worthless. I have even been told to go kill myself, that God put me here as a joke, that I’m a mistake.”
Meghan’s bullies tripped her in the hall, pushed her our of the lunch lines, and started humiliating rumors about her. When she became upset and started crying, they just laughed. Once, in high school, a group of boys got into a fistfight because they didn’t want Meghan in their group for the class project.
“I have never been asked to spend the night at a friend’s house…,” she says. “I have never been invited to parties like other girls my age. I was the awkward outcast girl in school that nobody wanted to sit by, talk to or be friends with. I even got voted off all the lunch tables–I had to eat lunch in the bathroom because no one wanted me at their table.”
Teachers looked the other way or, worse, wrote Meghan off as manipulative, lazy or spoiled. Her mother, therapist and doctor tried advocating for her but weren’t taken seriously by the school system. They even tried transferring Meghan to a charter school but the bullying patterns just repeated themselves.
From the outside, Meghan looked like a normal kid. But on the inside, she was combating an invisible disability. Alone and defenseless, she sunk further into despair. She started having anxiety attacks each morning because she didn’t want to go to school, and at times grew angry and even violent, lashing out at her family.
“I couldn’t never sleep at night, and if I did fall asleep, it was because I cried myself to sleep…,” Meghan says. “I become so afraid of people. I become VERY depressed and suicidal. I would cut and burn myself. I would even take pills and would try to overdose–that didn’t work. I was becoming a VERY different person that I didn’t want to be. I wished I was dead. I thought that if I killed myself it would all be better. I didn’t understand why I had to live this unhappy life. It was as if I was broken and lost inside a world that didn’t want me. I had no self esteem at all. I hated myself. I saw myself as the most ugly girl to ever walk the earth. I hated the way I looked, I hated my skin, my body and my hair. I felt worthless.”
But there was one bright spot in Meghan’s life. After Meghan’s Asperger diagnosis, her mother discovered a nearby equine therapy stable called Wings of Hope and enrolled Meghan in lessons. Meghan discovered that on the back of a horse, all her problems seemed to melt away. Eventually, Meghan’s dad got her a horse of her own–a older rescue named The King Elvis.
He told Meghan that life hadn’t been kind to The King Elvis, and her first thought when she met him was, “What happened to this horse?” He had a dropping lower lip and was missing half a cheekbone on the right side of his face as a result of abuse.
“That’s when I realized that The King Elvis was just like me,” Meghan says. “The only difference is, he had physical scars people could see, and I have emotional ones.”
“That horse saved my life,” she continues. “He gave me a second chance at life, and I gave him a second chance. The King Elvis showed me so much love and compassion. He gave me compassion when no one else would… For once in my life, I felt like I could succeed. The King Elvis was always there for me… He carried my through my darkest days, he carried me when I needed a friend. I would go and talk to him and ride him for hours. Some days I would just come home and cry on his shoulder and his mane would catch my tears. [He] made me feel safe.”
She shared the following poem:
The King Elvis
I remember the day I came to save you, I knew that I needed you as much as you needed me.
This is the place I will stay, this is the place I will be, forever just you and me.
When I looked into your eyes and you looked into my eyes, it was like you could read my mind.
You would never let me fall behind.
I knew you were treated bad, and I knew you were sad.
You would never give up on me as I would never give up on you.
Oh, how could anyone do this to you,
you have two big brown eyes full of love and a heart of gold.
I will never let you go.
You are the part of me that I need, the part that makes me complete.
You are the true meaning between love and friendship.
You take my pain away.
On a rainy day you brighten my days. You make my world a better place.
I will never let you fade away –you are here to stay.”
Meghan’s time with The King Elvis was too short–he passed away peacefully of old age–but horses were in her life to stay. Wanting to distance herself from an emotionally unhealthy environment, she dropped out of high school and redirected her energy toward riding and working. She now has three horses (Ebony and The Great Cass) and hopes to someday run a ranch for unwanted horses: rescue horses, abused horses, horses that would otherwise be heading to slaughter… and especially older horses that no one else seems to want.
“Some people believe a horse is worthless after a certain age, so they send them to slaughter or to a killer buyer or to a person who is going to abuse them. They are wrong. Those horses have a reason to be here,” Meghan says.
She already has a name for the place — “Megan’s Heart Horse Ranch & Rescue Farm” — and a motto: “Every horse deserves to be loved by someone once in their life, they need to know what true love really is.”
“When I look into the eyes of these horses I can see and feel the healing hands of God,” Meghan says. “I have had many challenges in life that only the horses could help me with. I want to give this opportunity to others so the horses can help them too… I want to make the world a better place for humans and horses.”
Meghan’s story was recently featured on an episode of Horse Country USA:
Learn more about Meghan’s quest to advocate for wild horses and burros on the Meghan’s Heart Facebook page here.
Go Meghan, and Go Riding!
Here at Horse Nation, we believe that the best therapists are our own horses. We love sharing the stories of special equines — email yours to [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming edition of Back on Track “Horse Therapy.” Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!