Dealing with Depression in Your Own Way

I wanted to share a story I wrote for a contest with everyone. The story happened to win, which I am extremely excited about, but even if it hadn’t won, I wanted to share. A couple of years ago I started dealing with depression due to a myriad of things happening in my life. I fought through it with the help of some medication and discovering CrossFit. Unfortunately, again because of a myriad of things, I’m dealing with a slight tinge of depression, but I’m not combating it with medication this time, just going through the motions and doing my best to look forward to better days ahead. Marlise Langenhoven dealt with clinical depression for almost her entire life, but because she discovered horses and the power they have to make everything better, she’s now medication-free and living her life in a more positive light. Is she 100 percent cured? No. But she’s doing everything she’s ever wanted to do now and enjoying life with her family. All thanks to finding the Time To Ride.

Not Your Standard Medication

Depression is like a dark hole, and there are days that you struggle just to see a glimmer of light. For some it can be crippling, but others find a way to fight through. They might do it on their own, with medication, or with the help of angels around them.

For Marlise Langenhoven, her angels just came in the form of horses.   Riding horses has been a lifelong dream for Marlise, but it was unreachable in her early years. Growing up in South Africa, horses and riding were for the more privileged.   Marlise grew up moving around a lot with her family moving to the United States when she was 28 years old. She struggled through abuse as a child and multiple moves until she became an adult and married her husband of 20 years, Mark.

Then came her first child, and the stressors of being a new mom and the new challenges the dynamic change brought about led to her diagnosis of clinical depression.   “I was very depressed, on medications … having a hard time coping with life in general,” Marlise recalls.

Then one day her daughter suggested riding lessons. “When she said that, my heart kind of sunk a little bit because where I come from, riding is a very expensive hobby, and my family couldn’t afford it at all,” she says.  Still, she looked around her home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for a place to just take one lesson at the age of 38.

“I can remember the first time I got on and started riding,” she says. “I was just on a lunge line going around in a circle, but I can still remember how it felt to just be on a horse and to do something I have always wanted to do.”

Expecting to only take one lesson, Marlise was hooked from the very first step and continued her lessons, even though she was one of the oldest riders at her first trainer’s farm.

“When it comes to riding as an older adult, it’s very intimidating…at least it was for me,” she says. “You’re surrounded by all these young kids who are much better than you are.”

Ending the Victim Cycle

Marlise found that with every lesson, every little thing that she started getting right during her lessons, as a rider, pushed her to want to do more. She felt accomplished after every ride, no matter how small the gains were.   After about a year, Marlise and her daughter moved on to their current trainer, Lauren Romanelli in College Grove, Tenn. In one of her early lessons, Lauren said something that hit home to Marlise.

“Lauren would say, ‘Stop riding like a victim.’ But I had no idea what she meant,” she says. “I had my shoulders back, my chin was up, and heels down.”

Then it hit Marlise that she needed to let go of all the negativity and early struggles, and just live in the moment.

“Dealing with horses really taught me that I had to deal with my stuff and that I had some unpacking to do, instead of keeping it all boarded up,” she reveals. “I just needed to leave it alone and move on. Go forward.”  Her new life mantra was to no longer look back: “If you want to accomplish anything with riding, you have to move forward. You don’t achieve anything by looking back.”

Moving Forward

Now Marlise and her daughter share a leased horse together. It’s wasn’t long before Marlise was learning about more than just counting strides between jumps, but other horsemanship skills. With each stall she mucked, each hoof picked, each horse groomed and fed, she discovered more of the beauty and the strength that radiated from horses.   “

One of my favorite charges, Chance, would give me big hugs and nibble my back pockets whenever I picked his feet,” she says. “And with every perceived show of affection, or evidence of trust earned, another little piece of me would fall back into place. My time at the barn was the joy of my life.”

Marlise has also learned that life, like jumping, is about making adjustments as best you can as you go. Some days you ace it and other days not so much, but tomorrow, you tack up again, take a deep breath and try all over. It’s enlightened her and given her a new lease on life, a life without any more depression medication or extra weight. While her depression isn’t totally in the rearview mirror, she continues to manage it with exercise, riding, and therapy when needed. She attributes it all to her time spent in the saddle and in the barn, looking up and moving forward.

Marlise enjoying competing at her first three-day event with a fellow adult rider in 2015.

Marlise enjoying competing at her first three-day event with a fellow adult rider in 2015.

“I do think there is something to be said about riding and being around horses. That has really, really helped me,” says Marlise. “For me, at the barn it’s all about being in the moment—you focus on just you and your horse. There’s always something you need to focus on when you’re at the barn, and because you’re focusing on these little things while you’re riding, you shut out everything else going on. For that time, I am not a mother, I am not a wife, I don’t have responsibilities … all I have to worry about is in that barn—me and my horse.

“For that time, I can just be me, I can just be that young girl that has always wanted to ride, but never had that opportunity. For that time I can be living my dream. It’s like the only real selfish time that I have, and I’m really, truly selfish with it—I don’t care about anyone else, I don’t think about anyone else, it’s just me and my horse and riding, and our connection.”

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Dear Aubrey – 9 Months

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Dear Aubrey, 

You are getting so grown up! You are now 9-months-old and probably at least once a day I say I can’t believe you were the same tiny baby, whose eyes never opened (because you slept the whole time) and we thought we’d never get to grow.

You’re still such a happy girl. You love everyone, but especially your family. Mornings are so nice because we spend quiet time together reading while you have a bottle, then you play for a little bit before breakfast and the craziness of the day begins. You still do daily trips to the barn with momma, most times in your Lile Baby Carrier (on the back), but sometimes in your stroller as well. You’re still enjoying swim class, and every week you get better and better, even starting to swim towards momma!

Remember when you were tiny, and you maybe made the 15th percentile in weight? Well, at your 9-month doctor’s appointment, you’ve blown those small numbers out of the water!

Height: 29.5 inches (97th percentile)
Weight: 20 lbs 6 ounces (82nd percentile)
Head: 44.5 cm (68th percentile)

You got to decorate your first pumpkin for your first Halloween! We decided it’d be best if you painted instead of us carving, so I made some finger paint that would be alright if you tried to eat it (which you did). You had fun getting your pumpkin, and yourself, all colorful.

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Your Uncle Jerry finally found a swing so you have a swing at home, and you love it! We try to go out everyday to swing, even if just for a few minutes, because momma believes the fresh air is good for the soul, and you just have a good time. I’ll push you while we play tennie with the dogs–you love watching them play and bark all the time.

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Speaking of play, you’re finally starting to get the hang of your play dates with Claire. We try to go over to Brooke’s house once a week so you and Claire can play with each other, and momma and Brooke can chat.

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October has been a pretty quiet month, as far as events and things. Daddy’s been home more, which you’re enjoying (and so is mom). We’re getting into the holiday season, so we’re already trying to figure out how to decorate while you’re getting more and more mobile (you’re so close to crawling!). But I can’t wait to share the holidays with you.

You’re saying “Mom-mom” and sometimes “ba-ba” for words, and you understand the sign language when I ask if you want a “ba-ba” when you start to get fussy. You’re eating solid food now–anything and everything! You like to feed yourself, so it’s hard to feed you anything unless you can grab the spoon and “help” us feed you. But that’s OK. You seem to still love your sweet potatoes and green beans, plus chicken and scrambled eggs and blueberries. Mandarin oranges are a new fave, as are roasted red bell peppers.

It’s been so fun watching you grow and learn. I know I say that every month. But I can’t wait for the next few months with you!

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