Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Horses That Made Me: Part II

As long as I’m with the horses, there will always be good in the world, no matter how dark it gets inside my head, and no matter what my physical health problems throw at me.”

This piece was submitted by one of our readers who wishes to remain anonymous. She provides a unique perspective on life and the role of horses. Trigger warning: this piece discusses mental health issues, trauma and suicidal ideation.

Horse kisses are the best kisses.

If you missed the first part of “Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Horses That Made Me,” you can catch up here.

When the world shut down due to COVID, we moved to a virtual platform which took a lot of getting used to. It was around fall of 2020 that yet another alter floated out of my psyche. Well, two. The first one is an angry teenager who enjoys illicit drugs and all things of that nature. The other one is a horse. It is possible to have alters of other species and mine is, well, what she is. I’ve only truly felt safe around horses and that is likely how she got there.

I’ll now fast forward to the next relevant bit. I had been a working student for almost nine months and the barn manager where I was absolutely had it out for me. It got so severe that my mental health tanked and I was hospitalized a total of three times for attempting suicide. During the first stay, my protector and the child came out and that is when my diagnosis became official.

Before my second stay, another little girl popped out who is much more curious about the world, but is still fearful. She’s seven. That hospitalization ended up going poorly because my psychiatrist diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder and she, like many others, had an extreme stigma against the condition. As it turns out, that one is a trauma disorder and I don’t actually have it. It also caused problems during my last hospitalization where the same psychiatrist had the audacity to say that I didn’t even have PTSD. Yeah, I have no idea what was going on there. 

Eventually in 2022, my therapist stopped working up here and we went our separate ways. She referred me to one of her colleagues who I’m still with today and really enjoy. I was a bit intimidated by her at first, but I learned quickly that she was also a kind, gentle person. Around the time we started working together, a friend of mine said she missed me and asked if I wanted to be her other horse’s human.

Nala, the bay mare the author credits with bringing her back to life.

I remember meeting this mare for the first time and it was love at first sight for both of us.  I also had yet another alter pop out and this one is an infant. She’s nonverbal and doesn’t seem to really do much and I have yet to figure her out. Give it time and I shall.

So where are the horses in all of this? Well, I’ve been around horses for the vast majority of my life. The few good memories I have of my childhood are of spending time with them, whether I was grooming, riding, or just hanging out in a pasture. Sure, it’s been a fight to have access to them since I’m not wealthy, but horses are where I’m genuinely at peace. In my childhood photos I’m only really smiling if I’m around a horse.

The author, smiling on the naughty bay pony.

Apparently when I’m around them my entire personality changes. I’m suddenly calm and peaceful, not tense and waiting for the next awful thing to happen. I can cry when I’m with them and actually express my emotions. I’ve also participated in and assisted with equine therapy and it is absolutely magical. I’ve seen kids go from being mute to saying their first word! With me it was all about applying my horsey skills to my human life, such as setting and enforcing boundaries. Last year I also began the process of getting my riding instructor’s license, which I hope to complete this year.

The author’s first ride back after a major injury.

Lately I’ve delved into learning about positive reinforcement training and it’s completely changed the way I view things. I’ve drawn parallels between the gentle steps of R+ training and the different therapists and therapy modalities I’ve experienced. Every time I see the gentle steps working, I see that using the same mechanism in therapy helps me heal. Using intense amounts of pressure and force causes stress that can make one explode. It’s called flooding, and it isn’t a kind way to treat a human or any animal.

With those of us who are traumatized, no matter how deeply, the gentle steps of gaining trust before diving into processing traumas helps show us that bad things aren’t always going to happen. People can be kind. It’s okay to be afraid. My training methods have evolved into what I would imagine some trauma treatments look like. It’s all reconditioning in the end.

The odds of my mental health conditions going into complete remission are slim to none. It’s a sobering reality, but with therapy I’m improving to where it is possible to trust again. Granted, it still takes a long time, but as my friends like to hear me say, I AM learning to trust. As long as I’m with the horses, there will always be good in the world, no matter how dark it gets inside my head, and no matter what my physical health problems throw at me. They have a special talent for healing even the most broken of people. So, Horse Nation, go love your families, be kind to all people, and always, always, love your horses.

Nala again, being silly.

All photos were provided by and published with the permission of the author.