One way of managing a chronic disorder, particularly one that affects physical mobility and causes constant pain, is figuring out what treatment works for you. What helps me may not benefit you, and vice versa. I believe that sometimes a little trial and error can help you discover what brings physical and mental relief.
I’m lucky that when I was diagnosed, I already had a hobby that was an excellent form of exercise within the bounds of what my doctor allowed with my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). He told me that riding is great for me, but falling off is not. What a surprise. Riding also provided me with a bonus: emotional release.
In addition to massage therapy, I found that riding was an incredible form of therapy for me — that’s why equine therapy is a “thing”! My horse Arti and I worked in a continual state of compromise; some days I wasn’t feeling well, and walking around on him (or even with him) could help loosen my tight muscles and relax my mind. On other days he struggled, and I had to change my plans to meet his needs.
It’s difficult for anyone other than a horse person to understand the bond between horse and rider. That connection goes far beyond the relationship between a human and their cat or dog. I know because I have those pets, too. With a horse, much of your life revolves around their care, and each has to trust the other with their life every time you get in the saddle.
As a horse, he trusts that you won’t ask him to do anything dangerous, and as a rider, you rely on your horse to avoid actions that could cause you to fall off and be injured. Arti and I both felt the same physical stresses, and as we spent many hours together “rehabbing,” we developed a bond deeper than any other I’ve had. Caring for his needs pushed me to be a better person and enhanced my physical and mental health.
During my time with Arti, I met some amazing people who challenged my negative mindset and pushed me to develop a more positive outlook. I was starting to put the pieces together and to realize how much my physical well-being affected my mental state — and vice versa. I knew that if I wasn’t careful, it could cause a snowball effect. Negativity had been my go-to for a long time because I was in so much pain that merely getting by often seemed like an insurmountable feat.
But as I met friends, and one in particular, who refused to take part in my negativity, I started to realize that if I adopted a more positive mindset, the world didn’t feel so heavy. And it was a little easier to accomplish more. The positivity also began to have beneficial effects on my body. I recognized that the cycle of physical and mental connection could work both ways: I could drag myself down with negativity and feel worse, or I could build myself up with positivity and experience the benefits in my body. This realization was a significant turning point for me, and one that has shaped how I have dealt with my EDS ever since.
Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.