Jen and I connected through Facebook around October last year. At the time I was in the middle of major battle with PTSD symptoms resulting from reporting childhood child hood sexual assault by a former cadet instructor, that had occurred to me 33 years previous, I was fighting this war within myself while waiting for the court proceeding to play out and before I could receive other psychological therapy such as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).
I finally made the trip to Bullsbrook to meet Jen and the herd at 10am on Friday 2 March 2018, this period of time was particularly difficult for me as the court case was only about two weeks away. The next 4 hours were nothing short of amazing.
I’ve always loved horses, majestic and graceful animals with eyes that can penetrate into your deepest being, however I’ve been so connected with them before this day.
Jen and I sat on the big log in the centre of the arena, under the shade of a tree and just quietly chatted in the presence of the herd.
The serenity of Eagle View, being close to nature and the connection with the horses, in particularly one, Kouri, not only helped me relax but also identify injuries I’d been carrying which I had to work on.
Above: Kouri the wonder horse at the beautiful serine surroundings of Eagle View.
After sitting on the log for some time, Kouri who was quietly standing behind us slowly moved closer and then gently nudged me several times in my upper left back several times with his nose before slowly moving around the front of us and then having a pee. Jen explained that Kouri was picking up on pain I was carrying, taking some of that energy from me and then as he moved around and had a pee was discharging that energy. Sounds strange right?
What Jen didn’t know before that occurred was that I was carrying a left shoulder injury which had been troubling me.
Furthermore, as Kouri was stood in front of us he began making strange faces and moving and flicking his right ear for a period of time. Jen explained that this could be mirroring behaviour from my connection with Kouri.
Again, what Jen didn’t know was that throughout February I had been flying around the state regularly for work and the regular changes in air pressure had been causing me some pain in and around my right ear.
After some time in the arena, I began to cry, not because I felt emotional as such, but I just began discharging what I know now as tears of stress relief, and a couldn’t stop them flowing for a while.
When my PTSD is at full alert, the amygdala in my brain is firing on all cylinders, this is the part of your brain that initiates our natural intuitive reactions such as fight, flight, freeze or appease. When the amygdala is firing it’s like and alarm going off that you can’t turn off. For me that causes anxiety, sleeplessness, paranoia, hyper vigilance etc. I can tell you being with the horses, helped turn off that alarm and helped me sleep.
I’ve been back to see Jen, Kouri my wonder horse, and the rest of the herd several times, most recently a special guest for a fundraising morning tea Jen put together to help me travel to speak at mental health conferences in August.
I totally recommend giving Jen a call and going to visit the herd. Jen is continually learning and undergoing training and study to improve upon the amazing work she does. So enough of my lengthy introduction, please read Jen’s guest blog. Thanks Jen, it’s an honour and a pleasure.
The Kindness Project – Equine Facilitated Learning
My journey into recognising how the body retains trauma and the concept that trauma is a full body and mind experience, came during my study into equine bodywork and several energy-based modalities. It was during this time learning that I began to see how trauma had impacted the horses physically and that during the combined processes of bodywork and energy work I was able to help the horses process their traumas and discharge the associated energy. After these processes had happened the physical and mental changes were quite dramatic.
At this time, I was introduced to ‘Equine Facilitated Learning’ which led me on a new pathway of connecting people and horses, and seeing how horses were able to impact peoples healing and aid the journey of people reconnecting to themselves. It was here that I had found my absolute purpose.
I completed several different trainings and discovered the work of Peter Levine and ‘Somatic Experiencing’ this is when all the pieces really started to fall into place. I am now into my third year of study to become a ‘Somatic Experiencing Practitioner’. This modality allows the practitioner to aid a person to connect with their body through the felt sense instead of being a talk-based modality. When a safe environment has being created clients are able to connect with their felt sense and discharge energy that has been held in the body due to an event, which caused their survival instincts to take over. Trauma occurs and resides within the body when the survival charge is undischarged and therefore becomes trapped.
Above: Jen working with a client and horses in the arena
My herd and I work in a large open area, where they have the freedom to interact with clients as they see fit. We do not ride them and vary rarely do we use any form of tack, ropes or halters on them. They also live as freely as possible on 100 acres of mostly natural vegetation. I believe my horses connect with a client by freedom of choice; this is one of the most important aspects of what I do at ‘The Kindness Project’.
The horses help create the safety by helping to hold space for people in a non-judgemental environment. They also have an incredible ability to engage a person’s nervous system whereby through an energy exchange they are able to affect a human’s heart rate variability, blood pressure and breathe rate. They interact this way with members of their herd to create a safe environment and ensure their survival from predators. If a dysregulated nervous system is within the herd it will draw the attention of predators who seek to take the weakest prey. Therefore, if a dysregulated human enters their herd we pose a threat to their safety and the horses will come and help regulate your body.
Horses are extremely sensitive to energies and I have found they are able to read our bodies and find places of discomfort; it has been my experience that through touch they are able to help shift and process people’s energy for them. This connection also allows them to see things that are currently affecting a person life, and I have regularly encountered them playing out a scene for a person just like a movie. It can be something that is causing the person issue and will be from their past, present or future. Not once have the horses got it wrong!
Above: Jen and a client, making that soulful connection
It is my absolute belief, through research, training, personal experience and my connection to my herd that they willingly help the humans who enter their space.
The horses and I see that every person that chooses to work with us is completely worthy of healing their trauma and finding their true self. The herd as individuals and as a collective have an incredible gift and if a person is willing to be available the horses are willing to share themselves with you. As people who feel broken arrive, I feel they must have seen a glimmer of their own worthiness and are keen to help find their whole self once again, and that is something we are able to help them do.
This story is nothing short of incredible! It's my honour to share this story from Phil Hewitt.
Phil truly epitomises every fibre of what a ROGUE RUNNER is, 'Running with Heart'.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of being one of Phil's fellow 33 runners invited to be interviewed for his book, incidentally called 'Outrunning the Demons' which is due for release January 2019.
Like me, Phil and the others featuring in the book, use the power of running as a therapy, meditation and time for self-care. I could not refuse when asked to be involved and for one can't wait to get my hands on a copy when it is released.
Thanks Phil, keep on running brother!!
Please consider the content of this blog, it may make you feel uncomfortable that may relats to one or more of your own experiences. Should it make you feel uncomfortable at all, please speak to a person you trust about how you feel, and/or seek professional help or even send me a message.
The trouble with being stabbed, assuming you survive, isn’t so much the knife that goes into you. No, the real trouble is the mess of thoughts it leaves behind – thoughts, in my case, far harder to deal with than the physical injuries.
I was walking back from watching England lose a one-day international against South Africa at the gorgeous Newlands cricket ground in Cape Town in February 2016. And I was stupid. I made bad decision after bad decision. I carried on walking when I should have walked back, and I walked straight into danger – danger quickly realised.
In a ghastly, grim, crime-ridden suburb, I was stabbed twice in the leg by a mugger demanding my camera. The weird thing is that the stabs felt like punches, which is probably why I fought back. I pulled him to the ground, where he started kicking me in the back, which was the moment I looked down to see by leg was awash with blood. No, those punches most definitely weren’t punches.
I let go of my camera, and my attacker got to his feet and loomed over me. I wasn’t getting up. To make doubly sure, he unleashed a volley of kicks to my chest and stomach before legging it through the rubble and undergrowth.
Thank goodness, a passing pizza delivery driver stopped within a couple of minutes. There was an awful lot of blood. He bundled me into his car just as I was thinking that my number was probably up.
And he whisked me to hospital. 15 stitches. Three broken ribs. A bruised liver. And one very, very messed-up head. And that was the problem.
Phil in Cape Town after the attack, a bit pale, bruised in pain and now battling with his ow thoughts
I like to know things. That’s my nature. But suddenly I was in a world where I knew nothing at all. What did the knife look like? I hadn’t seen it. Where had my attacker been all day? What did he get for my camera? Did he stab anyone else that day? How grubby was the knife? How many people did he stab that day? How many people has he stabbed since?
It’s more than two years ago now. But I still want answers. Does he remember me? Is he even alive? Surely, you can’t carry on doing what he was doing with impunity.
Questions, questions, questions – and all I had and have still got is the complete impossibility of answers, especially not to the big ones: what would have happened if pizza driver Steven had simply driven on by? Do I owe my life to fluke or masterplan? I haven’t got a clue.
Within a couple of weeks, out and about for the first time, I had a horrid panic attack in a busy shopping precinct. I don’t think anyone noticed, but for five minutes, if anyone had touched me, spoken to me, even come near me, I would have dissolved into tears. I just wanted the ground to open up beneath me.
So what did I do? The next day I did what I have always done. I ran. And it hurt like hell. Broken ribs. Flesh barely healed. But something lifted.
It’s two years, three months ago now. I am jumpy. Sudden noise makes me leap out of my skin. My memory is abysmal; my concentration is dreadful. But I am still here. I have added three more marathons to my pre-stab tally of 30, and I count them the most precious marathons of the lot.
I have still got PTSD and frankly can’t see it shifting any time soon, but running gave me strength. It makes me, ME again.
And that’s precisely the subject of my new book.
'Outrunning The Demons' will be published (simultaneously in Sydney, London and New York) on January 24 2019 – my tribute to the strength of character that running allows us all to show.
The book is based on 33 interviews with people from the UK, the US and Australia who have faced awful circumstances and have found that the best way back is to run.
These are people who have lost loved-ones to murder, have been caught up in terrorism, have suffered depression, addiction, alcoholism or bereavement, have been viciously attacked, have braved horrid illness, have suffered the horrors of war or have suffered outrageous misfortune.
But the thing that links them all (apart from speaking to me!) is that they have found space and time and connection through running. Running has helped them grieve; it has helped them heal; it has given them freedom; it has renewed and nurtured them; it has helped them move on, re-emerge, reclaim their lives and become stronger people.
These are fantastic people. Wonderful people. Open. Warm. Wise. Generous. Brave. Just fabulous. I am really hoping their stories will touch you as much as they have touched me.
I am thrilled that Jason Nelson, Australia’s Kilted Rogue Runner, is among the people I have spoken to. He is a brave man, a fine man, a man who has himself, found so many answers through running.
Like me, he knows that running can never be the solution to everything, but like me he knows that running can help put us back together, especially if we share our stories with others who have been through similar traumas – exactly as the book does.
I am sad to say that I haven’t met Jason, yet, but he is my brother in the shit we’ve been though.
Running has been my therapy. I’d always run. Now I knew why. And this book has been my therapy too. And I am so unbelievably excited that I can now start counting the days to publication.
I am really hoping this book will spark your curiosity – and to those of you who are actually in the book, thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking to me and helping me see that yes, trauma will change us, but it certainly doesn’t have to claim us.
I hope the tales of strength will lift you as much as they have lifted me!
Phil will update about the book on – https://philhewittauthorofoutrunningthedemons.wordpress.com/
Or please link up with Phil on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/phil.hewitt.524
The book can be pre-ordered on – https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/outrunning-the-demons-9781472956514/
A completely different looking Phil, after a heartfelt run no doubt
Thanks again Phil! Such an amazing story of finding strength through struggle
Please fell free to contact me through the blog comments section, whether it's to become one of my guest bloggers, seek advice or provide feedback.
You can also contact me via email at: TheKiltedRogueRunner@outlook.com
Should you feel in a position of crisis or need some assistance please seek help
https://www.beyondblue.org.auTel: 1300 22 46 36
https://www.lifeline.org.au/Tel: 133 11 14
https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.auTel: 1300 65 94 67
I met my good mate Rahul while we studied a CERTIV in Mental Health together last year.
I soon discovered that this guy has a BIG heart and who is a very generous and benevolent giver of his time, passion and compassion.
Rahul Seth is a Chartered Accountant turned MENTAL HEALTH CHANGE MAKER. He is the founder of the Perth Active Depression Support Group, a Meetup group that focuses on recreation to improve the members mental health and wellbeing. In the two years he’s run the group he has amassed over 1,500 followers.
What thoughts pop in mind when I mention this activity? I bet it’s probably a past time that you did as a child & not an activity as an adult.
I’m writing this today to convince you of the benefits of adult colouring. In a recent admission to a mental health hospital I was generously given an adult colouring set by a friend. The book was filled with intricate detail of natural images ranging from animals to plants. It’s so intricate that I’ll never finish colouring it in my lifetime (and I’m only 30 years old)!
This therapy is absolutely amazing. There are so many benefits to it. The first benefit is that it requires low concentration. All you need to focus is putting pen onto paper and shading in the white bits. The great thing about this is that there is no way to do it incorrectly. You can shade in one or many colours. The sense of touch is very therapeutic.
This also gives a workout to the left artistic side of your brain. When you’re battling mental health it’s often the right side that you use to process thoughts. It’s important to give it a rest and focus on something else to deregulate.
It also teaches you about life. Sometimes I am doing a big picture which has lots of minor detail. At first I look at the picture & panic and think it’s going to take me ages to do. But then I start to work on a small area and give it my full concentration. Before I know it I’ve conquered the section & moved onto the next one. The big picture gets colourful and looks amazing. Can you see the parallels to life?
One thing that I’m now hooked on is digital colouring in. At first I didn’t like it as it didn’t have the same sense of touch as with the pencil on paper. However I got quickly addicted. It’s a lot of low concentration tapping that leads to stunning visual graphics that you can’t produce with the traditional pen and paper. You pinch and zoom into the areas to get the detail just right, just like the analogy of concentrating on the small parts of life to get the big picture.
There are free apps for this but most offer a subscription service to do it. I recommend try the free ones first to get the hang before committing to a paid app. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed though if you go down the paid route.
Colouring for adults. Who knew it could be so therapeutic?
Rahul works professionally in the mental health sector.
His hobbies include Photography, Formula 1, Graphic Making and of course Colouring In.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RS_au or Instagram @Rahulsethau.
For Perth Active Depression Support Group visit the Meetup page at www.meetup.com/PerthADSG