My whole life I’ve wanted to be involved with horses. I actually was in school to be a riding instructor and horse trainer but due to my mental illness, I had to put that aside.
I was an antisocial child and very withdrawn. I just didn’t want to do anything with anyone else. I went to high school and college and that was another stress point because nobody thought I’d be able to make it through high school let alone make it into college.
I didn’t understand why I was different, why people were picking on me. Without the horse I don’t think I would have survived going through school. It was just a very important stage of my life to start riding.
Being with the horse helps with my bipolar and Asperger’s because I learned to use the body language of the horse. It’s a great method to learn social skills. I have to be connected with her and I have to turn off all the emotions that are within me. It helps to control my anger, my frustration, my anxiety.
When I’m on a horse, my anxiety level drops. My brain can shut off from the whole world around me and I can just tune into the horse. That helps me to recover in the world around me.
When I was a child, it was very difficult for my mom and dad to understand my mental illness. My family treated me like my little sister because I was the oldest and I was expected to be like anybody else.
My mom was told by her friend one day when we were going through the difficulty of figuring out if they wanted to put me on medication, she says to her, “Sherry, if Stephanie had diabetes, would you not put her on insulin?” That was the beginning of the acceptance for my parents.
I believe that I can recover a lot faster than I would have had my family not been there and taught me the importance of being a person first and not let the illness get in the way.
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I’ve been working with NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, for over four years now. I’ve been working as an office assistant and a little bit of IT work. NAMI has been a godsend for me. The people there are very understanding of my mental illness of course because it’s a family oriented organization. We just recently had our walk, our big fundraiser for the year. We had about 2,000 people come to the walk. This year I was actually apart of the committee doing the publicity of the walk. It got a little difficult.
For me, working and recovery go hand in hand. At work, I get different inputs from different people and I can learn how to handle things.
Every month, Stephanie shares her story of recovery through NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” presentations.
Being an “In Our Own Voice” presenter with NAMI has made me more assertive because I go out there and say, “I’m in recovery, I can do this and so can you.”
My acceptance for my mental illness came when I was in the hospital and I realized I need to be better for myself to help myself, my family. I’ve had difficult days but pushing through them is really important. I want to push myself to get out there and do more.
My hopes and dreams for the future for myself are to finally be out of the house, on my own, hopefully be married. I hope the stigma of mental illness is busted. Pushing through what I have has made me feel really, really good and I can do whatever I think I can do. I just have to grab the bull by the horns and go do it.
A note from the director of this video, Bud Clayman:
Directing films for the OC87 Recovery Diaries website has been fantastic because I’ve met many great individuals who were willing to share their personal stories of recovery. Stephanie Sikora is one of them. She has come a long way in her journey through life in such a short period of time.
We share a lot in common. In particular, we both have Asperger’s Syndrome. The difference is that Stephanie has amazingly coped with her disorder through her love of horseback riding. Her trust in horses has allowed her to trust in people. She is a truly unique and courageous person.