Lately I’ve been hearing from people that they feel alone, misunderstood, and isolated because those around them are so reactive to their self-injury. I think most of us have experienced this at some point, no? Some of us are ashamed of our need for SIV, others proud and protective, some simply accepting of it. Living with SIV challenges many relationships, including that which we have with ourselves. And it often challenges our relationships with others intensely.
Relationships with other people can be difficult when they learn about SIV. I am incredibly fortunate as I have many deep and delightful friendships with people who do not judge my scars. Yet true friendships take time and mutuality to evolve, and not all are wanting to do this when they meet a scarred person. Yet there are all sorts of relationships. On a recent conference call, when I was answering questions about SIV, we shifted into an excited conversation about the powerful healing influence many of us have experienced from relationships with companion animals. This is one of my favorite topics to talk about and it turns out that there were quite a few people like me on the call. We talked about how cats, dogs, birds, horses, and other animals provide us with an opportunity to connect with a living being that does not judge, that responds to us with sincerity, and that we are responsible for tending to. I’ve learned a great deal about who I am, and who I want to become, from life with my dogs and cats and, the past 5 months, my horse. I have learned about power, responsibility, vulnerability, tenderness, trust, living in the moment, taking risks, and having fun (I used to be much too serious). They have all been catalysts of healing for me, in ways that no clinical intervention could begin to touch. I have changed in my depths, and these relationships have challenged me to grow in the relationships I have with my own kind, humans. I wonder if this is true for you as well?
I caught my eyes filling with tears on my way to the barn this morning to tend to the horses. Not tears of sorrow, but of tender overwhelm. The horses have taught me so much, and challenged me to risk and grow in many new ways. They may be huge in size, but they are prey animals, not predators, and so they know fear. And they know trust. And I have learned deeper levels of calm and understanding and attentiveness from them. These are qualities I am learning to apply in other places as well, most importantly with myself and the people around me. For now it is time to walk the dogs, then play with the cats, and spend the evening with dear friends. All of whom celebrate this healing journey with me. None of whom look twice at my scars. I hope this blog is such a place of acceptance too.