Our culture is so fascinated by super heroes—good vs evil. Perhaps it’s because these caped, brave men and women perform good deeds and make great sacrifices on behalf of others.
Perhaps they inspire us when they can perform great deeds with power and might that we simply could not fathom doing. Or maybe, it’s because they lead a life of immense courage and victory over their enemies. Whatever it is, we are hooked.
As millions of people tune in to step out of their mundane lives, and live vicariously through those who clean up the streets and throw bad guys into other solar systems, we have real living, breathing super heroes among us every day that fight the good fight of good vs evil, sacrificing daily to bring a little more peace, loyalty, bravery, strength of character, cleverness and goodness to our lives.
Reigning Grace Ranch was privileged to host our 2nd Annual First Responders Wellness Day. We served over 200 men and women who selflessly serve in the area of fire and law enforcement in the greater Phoenix area. These, my friends, ARE our real super heroes.
A 2018 study found not only are first responders more likely to die by suicide than on duty, but rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders among firefighters have been found to be as much as five-times higher than that of the general population.”
One of the things you don’t see in the movies is the very real trauma that comes along with being courageous and “life” saving. According to The Centre For Suicide Prevention, First Responders — Paramedics, Firefighters, Police — are considered to be at greater risk for Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than most other occupations. This is because during their everyday duties they routinely encounter “traumatic stressors.” Every single day, they face a myriad of situations and events that all create more traumatic stressors and day after day, they compound. All the while choosing this career because these brave men and women choose to make a difference in our communities.
That afternoon I was honored to “hold space” with many of these real-life super heroes. It was an opportunity to be present with them, without the judgment that the rest of the world might harbor toward them. To give them undivided attention, with listening ears and an understanding heart, without asking anything in return. It is truly humbling to listen to their stories, and share empathy and compassion with those struggling with unresolved trauma.
Even the Most Super of Heroes Face Life’s Challenges
I spoke to a female parole officer who shared with me her experience of having to make visits with men and women who had recently gotten out of prison. Her job required that she would follow up and check in with these folks weekly for months or even years, to make sure they were following correct protocol in the new freedom they were navigating. Some of these were in prison for violent crimes and sexual assault. She said most people don’t realize the trauma that parole officers face daily by having to set aside their personal feelings regarding the crime which this person has committed, and not take what they’ve done personally.
I spoke with a 911 dispatcher who said often times when they receive a traumatic phone call, once it has been dispatched to fire or police, they will never know the outcome. In many ways for a 911 dispatcher, they only hear the horrible story unfolding and not the resolution. The incident is left unresolved for them — and that creates stress and trauma.
In the round pen, a fire chief gently groomed Sunshine. As I watched him take meticulous care and attention to every stroke with the brush on her coat, his eyes welled up with tears and he looked up at me and said, “I wish I would have known about this place just two months ago, we could have saved a life.” After some time of silence, he said that he never knew that horses were so powerful as an anchor to hold space for someone’s hurt and pain.
Then after a few moments he said, “suicide for our guys is a real thing. But now that I know about this place, we are going to get them here.”
According to the Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance and Kelly Powers of the Daily Times, a 2018 study found not only are first responders more likely to die by suicide than on duty, but rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorders among firefighters have been found to be as much as five-times higher than that of the general population. The study found firefighters die by suicide at a higher rate than their police counterparts, as well as the public — at 18 for every 100,000, versus 11-17 for every 100,000 police and 13 in the general population.
I was inspired and moved that day. My heart felt a deep connection to a group of real super heroes that I realized were even cooler than I had ever imagined. They had raw, honest emotions that they have learned to suppress when putting on their uniform to fight the good fight. Next time you see a service man or woman, thank them. The sacrifices they have chosen to make, to make our communities a better place to live are immeasurable. Unlike bigger-than-life super heroes in the movies, their wounds and scars aren’t healed by a magic power or a bionic body part.
Four-Legged Super Heroes Who Help Heal the Hurting
Horses have an incredible ability to hold space for the many issues that humans bring forth that they need to be healed from. Persistent fear is just one of the many emotions that many of our clients don’t even realize they have. It can sometimes be referred to as anxiety. Often times clients feel constantly worried without knowing why. The inability to identify the trigger prevents us from being able to remove ourselves, or the actual threat, from the situation. Horse’s help our clients to recognize what is happening in a real moment by moment, non-threatening safe environment. The horse does not judge, it does not care about a person’s past, profession or class. They only expect one thing; honesty and transparency.
When we hide behind walls that we have built to protect ourselves, the horse sees that as motive or intent to hurt because they are prey animals. When this is present in a client, the horse will respond as such. They are incredible readers and mirrors of our souls. Over time, work with the horse will teach our clients to transfer these lessons to real life situations. At Reigning Grace Ranch, our clients work with the horses on the ground, there is no previous horse experience needed; just a willingness to be honest and open to experience the full journey of healing facilitated by the horse.