Six years ago, my whole life changed. One chance encounter. One gift from God.
My name is Sarah, and I’m a twenty-five-year-old daughter, sister, auntie, girlfriend, friend, cousin, artist, designer, photographer, entrepreneur, hair stylist, and child of God. I felt it essential to list WHO I am because six years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say any of these things about myself.
I wouldn’t have been able to acknowledge the gifts and talents I have as an artist, designer, photographer, businesswoman, or hairstylist; or the importance I hold in people’s lives as a daughter, sister, auntie, girlfriend, friend, or cousin.
Six years ago, I was seemingly a “normal” individual. I went to my high school classes, graduated with average grades, had a boyfriend, spent the money I earned from working as quickly as I made it, rebelled against my parent’s expectations of me, y’know, the typical teenage stuff. What I, and others around me, didn’t notice was that I was losing balance more and more each day, and when I say losing balance, I mean picture a balloon that one starts placing rubber bands around. Tighter and tighter until it bursts. I was about to burst. I didn’t have a word for it then, but knowing what I know now, the terms are anxiety and depression.
I grew up in a stable home with my parents and my sister – we were comfortable and again “normal.” Reaching my pre-teen and teen years, my state of mind started to change dramatically. My mother and I began to develop a very toxic relationship. Screaming matches, throwing things, name-calling, mistrust, and manipulation all had a significant effect on our mental health. These things triggered a lot of self-sabotage, anger, and self-harm for me.
My mindset started to become very dark, feeling like life was happening TO me instead of FOR me. When one battles anxiety and depression at the same time, it becomes this twisted hamster wheel. My depression disabled me from being motivated in daily tasks and goals. Still, my anxiety would kick in and cause panic attacks because I felt guilty for not being motivated to complete those daily tasks and goals. I can only now acknowledge the state I was in, in my relationship and mental health, because of one chance encounter, because of one gift from God.
I posted an ad on a Facebook group looking for a horse to lease, as I didn’t want to get back into showing, but I missed being at the barn. I received a message rather quickly from who I now call my best friend, Brittney. She informed me that her mother has a barn in Dorchester, which was a short distance from me, and that she may have a few horses that suit what I was looking for at the time. She also told me I would have to call her, as she did not typically respond to other forms of communication at the time.
Boy did that set fire to my anxiety at the time. Full panic overcame me almost instantly, but a whisper pushed me to hit the dial button and speak with her.
Her name is Mary. Brittney being the chance encounter and a vessel of God, Mary, and her horses were the gift. After meeting with Mary and her horses, there was an instant connection to be part of her vision.
🌻Seattle (the horse that started it all for Mary and her dream) and I went for a couple of rides, and then Mary asked if I would like to intern with her – assisting in horse care and the therapy sessions she offered. I didn’t even give it a second thought, didn’t ask what kind of therapy, didn’t even think to ask her story and her vision. I started working full time, moved in with a friend to be closer to the barn, and began what I thought would be a typical barn job.
I’m laughing as I type this now because nothing is even remotely ordinary about what happened here. To tell you everything in detail, which I would be content to do, would mean writing a book instead of a quick story. But I’ll share the first moment that has stuck with me the most.
The first time I experienced the therapy sessions, I didn’t even know I was having one. It was one of the coldest months of the year, and I put the winter blankets on the horses before leaving for the night.
Mary had just come back from vacation, so she was there helping me and saying hello to her beloved horses. I should also mention – while Mary was away, she had brought in another helper so that I could also have some time off, so this was the first day back to the barn for both of us. We had fed, watered, and given hay.
The blankets were the last step – and I was on the final horse, Jewel, under a year at the time, with the most beautiful eyes and gorgeous roman nose. To say she was one of my favorites would be an understatement. I always saved her for last so I could take my time and say goodnight to her.
This night was different; this night, she wouldn’t let me near her. She paced and moved away from my hand, which frustrated me as I tried to make her comfortable for the night. I became so frustrated with her that I threw the blanket down on the stall door and insisted that Mary needed to do it because “Jewel didn’t like me anymore.”
Mary calmly asked me to pick up the blanket and walk back into Jewel’s stall, irritated and nervous about being injured. I did it anyway. She began to pace again.
🌻Mary asked me a question, which started me on the journey I continue to walk today.
“Why are you angry, Sarah?”.
I said, “I’m tired, and I want to put her blanket on so I can go home and sleep, and she’s behaving ridiculously.”
Again, “Why are you angry, Sarah?”
“I just told you.”
Silence. “Why are you angry, Sarah?”
Cue the tears, not just a couple of tears – sobbing. She asked me to sit and speak to Jewel about how I was feeling. It was from that moment with Jewel and Mary that my whole life changed.
In that conversation between the three of us, I realized the amount of anger I held for my mother, the amount of anxiety I had, and how deep of a depression I was experiencing. I never had words for these feelings, and I always just believed the adults and teachers that told me I was “just a difficult child” and that I’d “grow out of it.”
There was a lot of feeling and emotions at this moment and in the years after it. But I genuinely owe my new relationship with my mother, my ability to forgive, my confidence and love for WHO I am, and my mental health and mindset shift – to Mary, her horses, and God.
There have been many more moments like this over the last six years, for myself and for clients of Mary’s that I was blessed enough to encounter, and there will be many more to come as we live the life God has intended for us.
🌻But this moment will forever hang in my memory, as this was the moment Mary and her horses gave me a voice.🌻
This moment created the path of growth, faith, forgiveness, and love that I am experiencing now, six years later. I was not only gifted this moment and this chance encounter – but I was also gifted two lifelong friends in Mary and Brittney and the company of some fantastic four-legged soul healers.
Our lives are a journey, and sometimes we veer off the path. All it takes is one moment, one conversation, one gift to get us back on the beautiful and unique path we are destined to experience.
Sarah Verhoeve 🌻