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.