by Clay Stauffer
My name is Clay Stauffer and this is my blog post for Wings. You may know me as the “Sundays with Clay” guy who posts fun, quippy videos on Instagram and Facebook (something I need to get back to.) This will not be a fun, quippy blog post. But I feel things should be shared. Let me formally introduce myself: my name is Clay Stauffer and I suffer from depression and it’s annoying little brother, anxiety.
When I lived in Florida I had a bad run of years, a really, really bad run of years. I knew depression was out there ready to swallow me up but my mistake was thinking I was on a tightrope walking across an ocean of depression but as long as I stayed on that tightrope,I would be okay. I was wrong: I had already fallen in and was drowning and just didn’t know it.
I can’t speak about depression universally but I can speak about if for me personally and for me, personally, depression is when life knocks you to the ground and every time you try to get back up it just knocks back down that much harder. And then you decide to just stay on the ground, and that suits depression just fine because it is just that much easier to kick you while you are down.
Depression is like a child’s toy left out in the sunlight until all of the color has been washed away and it’s just faded and whitewashed and has no color. No joy.
Depression is just wanting to sleep because every single task, no matter how small, takes an enormous amount of energy. Even sitting on the couch binge watching your favorite shows is too much and you just want to go to bed already but it’s only 5 o’clock in the afternoon.
So where am I going with this? What is my point?
Wing’s motto is “Humans helping horses healing humans” and I am an example of that motto to the fullest. I always feel better leaving the ranch then when I arrived. There are days when I’m working the ranch and it’s brutal cold. There are days when it is so hot that the memory of a cool breeze is more intoxicating than the best booze you can think of.
There are hard days. But hard days are also amazing days. There are days when you are having a rough day and I just hang on to, and hug one of these animals until the hurt goes away a bit (Louise and Nikki are my constants.) There are days when you recognize the hurt in one of the animals and you develop a bond for life (Freeya and Ready are my ones I’ve bonded with over our shared greatest hurt: being left behind.)
But on the good days and the hard days, for me at least, depression isn’t invited. You are so in the moment, so focused on these amazing animals, that you don’t have the headspace and the time for depression to come in and make your life miserable. Being around these animals keeps the past away. A past with all of it’s hurts, it’s ghosts, it’s cheap shots thrown at you years after the painful event.
I get peace here. Yes, sometimes in the winter I think it’s a “oh God warmth and comfort is only a distant memory” kinda of peace but somehow that’s the best kind of peace. The harder the day, the more you are in the moment and the more you keep depression away. Also, horses and donkeys, they can tell. They communicate with feeling and vibes and they can tell when you are off and they know you are there for them and they, in turn, are there for you.
So why write this down in a blog post? Attention? I can see that, in this attention starved society we live in. But no.
I write this for you. You, the person reading this who is drowning in that endless ocean of depression and anxiety. You are not alone. I know where depression and anxiety lead and I know what it’s like and I want you to know you have a safe place at Wings. I personally work there on Sundays so please stop by and say hi. Or schedule to volunteer any other day of the week: we all have big hearts here, and a good number of us have had that big heart broken many times, and we all are here for you. You are not alone.
So know that you are welcome. To me, the biggest secret of Wings is the “Horses healing humans” part and I don’t want that to be a secret anymore. You don’t have to volunteer on a regular basis. You don’t have to donate. Just come by, pet the animals, maybe throw some hay, pick up some poop and give out some treats and get a small moment of rest from depression or anxiety or even just a bad day. We are here for you; the horses, the donkeys, the staff. All of us.
You are not alone.
Laura Weise is a Wings volunteer who lives in Stevensville and will be bringing you stories of life at the barn.