Just like Shannahan, I had been running away the whole year. Running headlong into things that I knew nothing about and that could hurt me, acting in dangerous ways despite knowing better. Next, I try Delamont, a beautiful bay mare, tall and skittish. I have to be extra calm around her, which teaches me to become more aware of my emotions. One day my heart is beating rapidly because I am excited about a new route where we could gallop and she skitters away. I have to walk and calm myself down before she lets me stroke her. She teaches me to become aware of myself again, to gauge where I’m at before I go jumping into things, to not just feel my emotions but to acknowledge them and conquer them.
A lot of the time I go to the yard and just hang out with the horses, watch them and be with them. A little pony, Liquorice, decides that he is going to follow me around and be my best friend. After following me from a safe distance the first day, he is always right behind me. He barely reaches my shoulder, but when I walk, he walks. When I stop, he stops. I scratch him and take off his ticks. He tickles me with his lips. He teaches me to enjoy every moment and to ask for what you want.
One day, as I am hanging around with the horses, two girls come and ask me if I want to join them for an outride. They take two of the little ponies, I saddle Deli. We go for a two hour outride to the beach. I’m nervous as we ride to the beach and speak a lot of nonsense to the other girls. Despite this, Deli calmly follows my commands.
When her hooves hit the sand, a smile stretches onto my face. I kick her into a gallop. We fly across the white sand, the waves exploding next to us. I inhale the salt air as it nudges us on and the power of the horse seeps into me. On her back, I am strong. I am in control. I am happy. We gallop away our worries with the sea breeze in our hair. And I feel like I am free.
During the day, I write and spend time with my mom and the dogs. I find myself laughing all the time: when Piccadilly tries to jump on my bed and misses or when Nemo eats Lindt chocolate balls out of the wrapper. I laugh when I am by myself, just because I can.
I go out with two friends and I don’t drink. I find that I am even crazier sober than I am drunk. Who knew? I stop binging and punishing myself with food. I realise what it means to nurture myself.
My mom and I buy pepper spray and a Taser gun for me. Way late, I know, but better late than never. Just knowing that I have these on me gives me a renewed sense of power, a sense of not being such a helpless victim. Of knowing I can fight back.
I feel like I was reconnecting with what is real, with what is important and what is me. I still feel the constant presence of fear. Judith talks about how trauma victims are often keenly aware of their continued vulnerability to threats and reminders of the trauma. At the stables, I am mostly alone. One day, a man comes looking for his brother. He has a confident swagger that screams danger and I am scared.
I go jogging for the first time since I was raped. My usual route is a couple of blocks around our house in Port Elizabeth. As I’m running, an alarm goes off at a nearby house. I keep running. Then another alarm goes off. And another. Despite my beating heart, I keep running. After a while the alarms stop. An ADT car screeches past me with its alarms on. I’m mad. How can I live my life if, every single time I try and do something that empowers me, it goes wrong? Instead of jogging the shortcut home, I keep running. I refuse to let someone scare me. Maybe I want to re-establish a degree of control over my own bodily and emotional responses, to reaffirm a sense of power. But after that day, I don’t ever want to go jogging again.