letting people in and accepting the reality

Well, the second week of school is done. My anxiety has significantly lessened from the first week thanks to time and Ben. I made it my goal for this past week to go to the involvement fair and I did and found a group called “Feministis On Campus Uniting Students” aka FOCUS. I attended their meeting on Thursday and really enjoyed it. It was a stretch to make myself go. I ended up staying on campus instead of leaving b/c I knew if I left I wouldn’t return. But this group is passionate about things that I am passionate about such as women’s rights in a variety of settings. It’s a small group which is perfect as I am not quite ready for large groups of people .

It’s been weird trying to decide how to socialize at school. How much to share. How to answer questions about Ben. What to tell professors and how to handle the fact that now on the outside I do look like I have a disability. I don’t like the term disability. It feels scary and real. I have such a hard time admitting that my life has been so limited b/c of my eating disorder, anxiety, PTSD etc. that I do fall under the category of disabled. I don’t want to be disabled. I don’t want any of the things that happened to have happened but they did and now I’m facing the very real challenge of acceptance and navigating my life.

Darcie (the trainer from Heeling Allies) warned me that it would hit me that by having Ben I am admitting to myself and the world that I am disabled. I don’t look disabled from the outside (it’s called an invisible disability) and before Ben no one would have known. Well except for the fact that i had a lot of panic attacks, flashbacks and had a tendency to fall down….However, by having Ben with me I am in some sense broadcasting to the world that something is wrong with me.

Some people ask. And depending on the situation I give a variety of answers. In one of my classes I was going to share that Ben was a mental health dog but the teacher went on a ten minute lecture about how she was stalked by a mentally ill person. The lecture was completely unnecessary and very demeaning towards anyone with a mental illness so needless to say I did not share that Ben was a mental health dog. I am afraid I would have been judged as crazy as that is what she was implying during her story/lecture time. So in situations like that I tell people that Ben is an alert dog. And he is. He alerts me to when my anxiety is high, is learning how to tell me to take my medication and does a variety of other alerting actions that alert me to my own emotions.

I have shared a few times that he is a mental health dog. In these, situations I explain that he is for my severe anxiety. I don’t mention PTSD or the eating disorder but instead focus on my panic attacks. And surprisingly people respond to this. They almost always have a story about a friend who has struggled or their own struggles. This has made me think that perhaps it is time to simply tell people the whole truth about Ben. Mental illness has such stigmas attached to it. I want to fight these and perhaps by being open I can.

I realize that as I write this blog that I am in a sense exposing everything about me. But I made a pledge before school started that I wasn’t going to censor my blog. It’s important to me and as I accept facebook requests from people at WSU (two this week) I am very aware that I am potentially opening up my life for others to know way more than I would normally share.  I’m selective about what friend requests I accept but I really believe I must continue blogging in order to let go of my shame. My past is my past and I have nothing at all to be ashamed of. I don’t believe this yet but this is where my blog comes in. Opposite action (for you DBT people out there). Someday, I’ll be glad I shared my story and I can look back at this time as a time of growth, change, transition and healing.

 

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10 Comments

Filed under coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, friends, Hope, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, trauma

10 responses to “letting people in and accepting the reality

  1. Blessings on your journey. We’re going to try to launch a very casual worship service Friday’s at 1pm. Would love to have you be a part of shaping it. Katie Vorderstrasse (another SC transfer) is spearheading the effort. I think I’ve also mentioned the silent meditation / contemplative prayer “group” that Issac Dennis and I will be doing Mondays and Wednesdays at 11:30am.

  2. Pamela Alida

    I cannot love this enough. I am so proud of you. You are wonderful ❤

  3. Naomi

    Good luck with Ben sounds like you guys are doing great. By the way I find a simple heads up at the beginning of classes for the professor is really good. Just a simple “this is my service dog, specifically trained for me and he shouldn’t cause any trouble during class”. Something along those lines. I also like to ask people if it’s okay if we sit next to them, just in case they are scared of dogs or have allergies; definitely love sitting next to dog lovers it’s so nice

    • Thanks so much for the advice. I love hearing from people who have been moving about in the world with their service dogs longer than I have. I feel like I have so much to learn and every little piece of advice helps.

  4. Mary

    This is AWESOME!!!! You are a strong, brave, woman who is going to change the lives of others because you care enough to share your struggles. I believe in you!

  5. Pingback: August 27th – September 2nd – Patience and Prejudice « With Ben

  6. I am loving reading about your new life with Ben. 🙂 I blogged about something similar a while back (http://adogforkatherine.blogspot.com/2012/06/d-word.html). My own interpretation of what it means to be a person with a disability and my thoughts on calling my self a PWD. I lived with this for 6 years before I began to use the word “disability”; it is only in the last year or so that I can say it without feeling embarrassed.

    That being said; I am planning on saying Quincy is a “mobility assist dog” and that he helps with a “neurological condition that causes mobility and balance problems” (which TS is…), but I totally understand not wanting to name everything. Of course my dog will be a mental health dog as well; but I already know based on how people react to my having Tourette’s that I would rather steer clear from that conversation all together. I have, what is technically an “invisible disability”, but when I start ticcing it is suddenly very visible. I understand the stigma though, as people who have never seen the severity of my tics often don’t understand why I consider myself a PWD.

    My professors have a different attitude though. Part of my accommodations include having to email my professors my official letter at the start of the term, and they were contacted about my service dog during the summertime (just informing them they would have a dog in the classroom). Now, after we have had to delay team-training, they keep asking me “When is that dog coming??” 🙂

  7. Hooray for opposite action! (Oh, DBT.) I am so glad you have the courage to tell at least some of the truth about Ben, even part of the time. I think you are wonderful and kind and giving and not at all the sort of person who would stalk someone for 10 minutes in a parking lot or whatever (seriously. what is wrong with your professor?). I think as more of us come out with our stories and show that we’re just REAL PEOPLE like everyone else, some of the stigma of mental illness can begin to change. I’m proud of you for taking that first step.

    P.S. Another random, non-CFC connection between the two of us. The head basketball coach at your college used to be the head basketball coach at my alma mater!! Small world, right?

    • Oh yes – DBT and Marsha. I hope you had an opportunity to watch some of those lovely tapes at CFC. I really think they should be on Saturday Night Live. And yes, my teacher is crazy. And thank you. It means a lot that you think that.

      As for the basketball coach that’s funny. I love that we have connected and now not only have blogs but CFC in common.

  8. Oh yes – DBT and Marsha. I hope you had an opportunity to watch some of those lovely tapes at CFC. I really think they should be on Saturday Night Live. And yes, my teacher is crazy. And thank you. It means a lot that you think that.

    As for the basketball coach that’s funny. I love that we have connected and now not only have blogs but CFC in common. 🙂

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