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Last Sunday, a violent storm blew in. It was the third destructive weather system to hit Scotland since Christmas, and the second time that all the power went out. We at HorseBack battened down the hatches, along with the rest of our community, and waited for the turmoil to pass.

What struck us, after the winds died and we checked the horses and beat the bounds, looking for damage, was how differently people react to such upheavals in nature.

There is absolutely the thing of different stories. The story you tell yourself about an event will change how you experience it. So, one person might see beyond the storm, and get frantic about the changing of the climate. Another might be furious that they can’t eat hot food or have a bath. (These small things matter, when they are suddenly taken away.) Yet another might see it as a welcome break from the rushing nature of modern life – you can escape from the internet and the shouting matches on social media and read a book or play scrabble by candlelight or pick up your neglected guitar.

Being aware of which story you tell yourself can help you to navigate literal and metaphorical storms. That awareness is a vital arrow in your mental health quiver.

But then there is something bigger than your own tale, and it’s where empathy is required: the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes. For a vulnerable old person, no power, no mobile signal, no heat or light can be properly frightening. For someone who has experienced trauma, the sound of a gale battering at the window can bring back vivid memories of gunfire or explosions. The word ‘triggering’ is often over-used, these days, but it is real, and it can feel overwhelming. You can’t just say to that person, ‘Oh, well, try looking at it in a different way.’ Their brain circuitry got scrambled by some life-changing event, and they can’t simply fix that with a snap of their fingers. What is just a storm for you might feel like the end of the world to them.

That’s what we have learnt by working with veterans who have Post-Traumatic Stress and all its attendant symptoms. What means nothing to you is catastrophic for them. Their reality is on another level.

The empathy – the understanding of that difference – is the first step. The second step, when the storms come, is to know that you can’t fix the person with a few cheering words and some Mary Poppins spit-spot. What those people need is a hand to hold, a listening ear, a kind, open heart. So the action, in that case, is to reach out, to check in, to be there. You don’t need to be a doctor or a psychotherapist. Often, the best thing you can do is be present. You can get in the car and drive to a vulnerable neighbour or friend and let them know they are not alone.

Showing up, mentally, emotionally and physically, can make all the difference. Everyone goes through storms in their life, whether it is a howling wind from the west, or the loss of a loved one. If we humans stick together through the tempests, we can make it out the other side.

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We do not rely on government funding so any donations will greatly assist with the running of our charity.

We do not rely on government funding so any donations will greatly assist with the running of our charity.