Category Archives: Independence

avoiding treatment withe the help of my parents

So this spring I had a lapse/relapse. I mentioned it  in a previous blog entry that it started a few weeks earlier in August. Looking back I see signs way earlier than that. Back to spring and winter but it took times for the thoughts and feelings to turn into full blown behaviors and when they did as my pattern is I sunk downward quickly. There were immediately talks of sending me back to treatment possibly to a transitional IOP program but I resisted this strongly. I have done a total of sixteen months of inpatient and residential and I couldn’t imagine putting my life on hold, leaving Gus and adopting that sick identity one again. So that left one option and that was to let my parents help me.

Now there is a type of treatment for adolescents called Family Based Treatment where the parents take control of the teen/child’s food and are responsible for their recovery (I’m simplifying here). The assumption is that parents know how to feed their child and achieving wellness can be done at home instead of in a treatment center. Now having been to treatment and in treatment with girls who “failed” Maudsley (aka Family Based Treatment – FBT) I was horrified to realize that my family would essentially be doing something like this. I had heard horror story after horror story about how awful it was to give your control of food to your evil parents. I believe in therapy I wailed something like “I am twenty-five years old I will NOT do Mausldey. How pathetic is that? Also, it’s evil” – paraphrasing.

But if I didn’t wish to return to treatment it was my only option so with pressure from my treatment team I begrudgingly allowed my parents to begin to take control of my food. This meant that they fed me three meals and two snacks. We met with my dietician and agreed how we would tackle fear foods. We all compromised and my voice was heard which was very important as an adult. We did a ladder system (starting with easy foods and working up towards harder ones). My mother was to pick meals and snacks – I could portion myself at dinner but she would watch me and tell me to add more if needed. Snacks she portioned. I also did not eat alone. My parents showed up every morning to eat breakfast with me and then again at noon to eat lunch (dinner was always a meal I ate at my parents). This has gone on from August until now. I am at a point where I am eating independently again but not portioning all of my food. I get my own breakfast but my mother  sends a packed lunch and snack with me. I eat dinner with my parents and she feeds me evening snack. Next week I meet with my dietitian and I expect to either be able to portion snacks myself or receive full control of my lunch.

How do I feel about all of this now? Honestly, it’s a relief. I’m so glad I didn’t go to treatment and leave everything here. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to give up my control around food but I’m glad I had my parents step in. At the time my malnourished brain wasn’t thinking correctly and loosing weight (aka relapse) seemed like a great idea. But it was presented firmly to me that this would not be allowed to happen. My therapist and parents made it impossible. I resented that. And at twenty-five I still think that I should be able to control this myself (not because I resent their help but because I am an adult who should be independent). But now I am so grateful for their help. It wasn’t easy for my parents. It took time away from work and their schedules. And I wasn’t always the most fun person to eat with. I’m also sure it was scary to hear the same talk coming out of my mouth that they heard five years ago when I plunged into the deepest parts of my illness. I’m also thankful to my brother who put up with a lot of moodiness and pouting as I ate (not proud of that).

Not everyone has the resources to be able to turn it around outpatient but  I’m thankful I could. I also have a sense of security now that no one is going to allow me to get as sick as I was in 2009. The thought of that truly does scare me when I’m thinking correctly. I have been promised that intervention will be taken before then. And this was proven to me here. And as for FBT being evil (or at least my parents and mine modified version) being evil I need to take back some words…

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Filed under coping skills, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, Independence, Recovery

#whyistayed

There is a movement going around mainly on twitter with the hashtag #whyistayed. This is referring to women who stayed in abusive relationships. The movement started after Ray Rice, a NFL football player was caught on tape beating his wife. The media began criticizing and shaming the woman for not leaving him. And so they hashtag #whyistayed was born and thousands of women joined in by sharing the reasons why they stayed in an abusive relationship. And so here is Why I Stayed…

#whyistayed:  because he threatened to commit suicide if I left him.

#whyistayed:  because he told me and I believed him that no one else would ever love me like he did.

#whyistayed: because I felt like the only way to atone for my “sins” (they were his but he made them mine) was to marry him one day.

#whyistayed:  because I was alone on a college campus where I knew no one and had no support for the first part of our relationship and then it was too late.

#whyistayed: because I had been taught my by male peers in high school that this was what I was to expect out of men.

#whyistayed: because I didn’t know if I could handle how I would feel leaving him.

#whyistayed:  because my world was about his world. I had no true identity.

#whyistayed: I was scared.

And this is why I left…

#whyileft: I had wonderful roommates who encouraged me to do so.

#whyileft: He took things one step too far and I was finally able to see something wasn’t right.

#whyileft:  I found some courage I didn’t know I had.

#whyileft: I was exhausted.

#whyileft: I didn’t want his version of the future anymore

#whyileft: I finally was able to see past the deception, the lies and tight control he had threaded around me for just long enough to make the decision to break up with him and then have friends hold me accountable.

People tell me I’m a smart person. Yet, I fell prey to an abuser. One who charmed most people he met and had no idea what went on in our relationship. And couldn’t believe it even when they heard bits and pieces of it. And I couldn’t leave. It’s not so simple as breaking up with a person or packing your bags and moving out. There is so much more to an abusive relationship than that. Remember it is a relationship. A malfunctioning one but one. And there are good moments as well as bad. And sometimes it’s easy to tell yourself the good outweighs the bad. It also takes time and sometimes outside support to find the courage to leave.

So don’t judge. Unless you have been in a toxic relationship you cannot understand. You can try, you can listen, you can emphasize but do not judge those women and men who did not leave after the first blow was thrown or the first signs of abuse. It is not that simple.

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Filed under abuse, abuser, culture, feminism, Identity, Independence

stopping a relapse with support

I’ve been absent (again) on my blog. For awhile it was touch and go with things related to my eating disorder. I’m back on a more level playing field but I wouldn’t call it stable ground yet. I began to struggle a few weeks ago. For numerous reasons that would take a lot of time to go into here and honestly I’m not quite ready to share. Anyways, after a lot of days of little nutrition, negotiations with parents and treatment team I’m at a place where I’m eating again with supervision and my safe foods. We are doing a step by step approach to add on scarier foods each week but this week was safe foods. 

I’m eating because I’m supervised but I do have a choice. I could sit in front of my parents and say “nope. not going to eat that” but I haven’t. I guess it’s because I didn’t go totally downhill. I didn’t loose enough weight for my mind to become crazy and everything rational to be gone. I could still think and what I thought about was Gus. If I had had to return to treatment (which at several points was looking likely as the amount of food I was consuming was not acceptable at all) Gus would not have been allowed to go with me. At this point in our relationship and his training it would be hugely detrimental. We would loose all of our progress and he could potentially not become a service dog. I know this because I’ve done it before.  

In August of 2010, I had adopted a young pup from the shelter. I named her Shona which is the name of the native language my friend from Zimbabwe speaks. I was just back from Laureate’s eating disorder program and was in a fast relapse after being home a month. I loved Shona deeply from the first time I saw her but a month after adopting her I was off to Utah to The Center for Change for another 5 1/2 months of treatment. While I was gone Shona had a great life, living with my parents but it wasn’t the same. They purposely didn’t try to bond with her so she would know she was my dog when I returned and she did but important time was lost. Shona was never meant to be a service dog at that time but those early months of her first year where she would have learned basic obedience and manners were lost and we never quite regained that ground. Shona never quite developed the level of obedience I wished until she was much older. And I believe this was due to my leaving her at a young age. 

If I left Gus now at 8 1/2 months of age when he is so impressionable and our bonding is so important not to mention his service dog training and obedience training I truly believe we could never make it up. We would never become a service dog team. The idea terrifies me. I love this dog more than most things in my world right now and to be without him seems unbearable. So I was close to going back to some sort of treatment be it full inpatient or a partial program with boarding but I managed to create structure with my parents and treatment team where we created our own sort of partial program where I am basically receiving the same support I would had I gone to a partial program. I have meal support and we have defiantly upped the therapy time and amount of time I’m spending with my dietician. 

Without meal support would I be eating? I wish I could say yes, but I can’t. Not right now. My eating disorder is really strong and the grip it has on me seems to be unbreakable. But I’m learning that this can’t matter. I do what I need to do anyways just with help right now. I don’t give myself a chance to skip meals or restrict my intake because I have a support team around me. 

So am I in a relapse? The answer would be yes – if left to my own devices as I was a few weeks ago. Now I’ve been pulled out by other people. I’m letting them do the work right now while I comply and follow directions. I’m letting myself go on autopilot for awhile. I don’t have the motivation for complete recovery. I do have the motivation to allow others to help me. And this is the first time I’ve gotten to this place and allowed others to break into the dark, isolated world that my eating disorder has created. Progress. 

And so I’m going along. Still living and existing. Starting school. Beginning a pet sitting business. Working with Gus both on obedience and service dog skills. Teaching him to swim. It’s nice to keep these things going and not have to loose them all while I go sit somewhere and relearn how to eat in an artificial environment. I am hugely grateful that my family has made it possible for me to remain in my world and still receive the help that I need. Hugely grateful. And so thank you family. Thank you for allowing me to stay home and remain with my Gus. 

 

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Filed under dog training, dogs, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, Gus, Hope, Independence, psychiatric service dog, Recovery, service dog, Shona

School anxiety

I’m preparing to go back to school. Or rather I’m trying to prepare to go back to school. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to hack the anxiety just leading up to the first day much less the anxiety that will come with classes.

I’ve tried school twice before since leaving treatment. Once after laureate and once after Cfc. Both times I ended up having to withdraw. I don’t want to have to repeat that scenario for a third time.

But I want to move on with my life. I’ve been focusing exclusively on healing for two full years. It’s time to do more. I want to do more. But I’m scared that this anxiety that is looming now is only a sign of things to come.

And it’s not simple anxiety. It’s anxiety that’s making me question my body, alter my mood and tonight prevented me from going to the store.

I want to go to school so badly but am I being naive in thinking this could possibly work? There are other obstacles to. We’re trying to find someone to drive me since my dissociation has made it
unsafe for me to drive long distances. We’re not having any luck.

I’m going to try to make this work. I’m going to so everything in my power but I just fear that won’t be enough.

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Filed under anxiety, Independence, life events, Recovery, school

i relate to this in so very many ways

I recently read this blog from momastery.com. I haven’t talked much in detail about my brief college years on here and I will one day but for now I wanted to share this blog because in many, many ways it sums up what I felt during that time and what I feel now looking back. There are some distinct differences (I had a net – a net that ultimately saved me) but also many frightening similarities. So please take a look at:

“I Have No Idea What to Title This. I’m Not Even Sure you Should READ it. Nets. We’ll call it NETs”. 

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Filed under coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, friends, Identity, Independence, life events, Life Story, New Life, PTSD, quotes, Recovery, school, survivor, the past

welcome back to work, Benny

In May of this year I announced that my psychiatric service dog, Ben, would be retiring. At that point I didn’t know if it would be temporary or permeant. In the meantime I was very blessed to have another dog (Shona) to step in and fill his duties. In five months since then Shona has become a great service dog in training who has learned, grown and proved to be a great partner. Our bond has grown and she has proved that she is meant to be a service dog. However, in the last month or so Ben began to indicate a desire to work again. I was cautious for many reasons. Ben was retired due to some fairly serious problems but at the time I also wasn’t completely convinced it would be a permeant retirement due to the adolescent period labs go through, our relatively new partnership and a variety of other factors. So when he began to show interest I cautiously began introducing Ben to non-stressful working environments around the beginning of September.

Since then Ben has shown that he is truly ready to be a service dog. He is a different dog than he was four or five months ago. He is now a focused, secure dog that shows little to no signs of stress when out. Of course he still retains that goofy temperament that makes Benny, Benny but it is tempered by the attitude of a (mostly) mature dog. A very, very different Benjamin than who he was back in May.  I contribute this to several factors. Benny and I hadn’t even begin together for a year when he began to show signs of needing at least a temporary retirement. We loved each other but really we were still getting to know each other. It’s understandable that he and I needed time to bond and learn to trust each other without the stress working in a public situations brings. Taking time to play, snuggle and spend time together without worrying about going out was so beneficial to both of us. Benny is now my constant shadow. Even more so than when he first arrived. He is more intuitive to my needs (although not quite as much as Shona) and I believe as time goes by he will continue to be.

In addition, I began comprehensive obedience work. I am very confident in this situation. I have shown in obedience since I was seven years old and the structure is comforting to me and familiar. This is a direct contrast to public situations. So this gave Benny a time to trust me. To follow my lead and for me to demonstrate that I was the leader in our relationship. He could relax and follow my lead and he loved it! In addition, the extra training and commands helped Benny to focus his scattered mind and keep him sharp as he took a break.

Finally, the break allowed Benny time to just be a dog and I really think he needed this. He played. He ran with my dogs. He wrestled. He soaked up attention from my grandmother. He was able to be petted whenever he wanted. He was in heaven. But then one day he suddenly wasn’t. He wasn’t okay when I left. He started asking to have his vest put on. And so I put it on him. I took him for a short outing to a low stress place that we could leave at once if things didn’t go well. But they did. And so we went again. And then to a different place and gradually we’ve kept going and I’ve been really proud of him. He’s learning new things (a “where’s the car” command and a “lead out” command where he finds the exit as well as leading me to my parents in the store). And so far he’s been great.

I’m not pushing things though. I don’t work him too much or in stressful situations. I switch him out with Shona and Shona does a lot of the more stimulating and stressful situations (she does well with them). I think Benny will always work part time or quarter time and Shona will fill in the gaps and I’ll never hesitate to retire again and permanently if he needs it but honestly? I think Benny is ready to work. I think he wants to work. He’s happy. I’m happy.

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Filed under Ben, dog training, dogs, Independence, life events, psychiatric service dog, PTSD, Recovery, service dog, Shona

my experience with mental health coverage

If you’re living in the United States you had to have been living under a rock not to have heard at least a little of the health care debate over these past few weeks and the ensuing shut down of the government. I’ve stayed out of the facebook comments, the name-calling, the blaming etc. I really dislike those posts. I hate the hate that they breed. I don’t understand it. But what I do understand is how insurance has effected my life. And this is what I want to share with you.

Currently I am on my parent’s insurance, which I will remain on until 26 years of age. This extended age period is due to Obama-Care and is one of the few points both political parties agree on. Without this extended age I would be off my parents insurance which would be terrifying and leave me with little to no coverage (at least before the Insurance marketplace opened up this month). Even with my parents insurance I have experienced first hand the problems with our health system.

Mental health is misunderstood. I think that is clear to anyone who has been in the mental health system.  In 2008, The Health Parity and  Addiction Equality Act added onto the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. The 2008 act:

 mandates that insurers define and make available specific criteria for medical necessity when it comes to mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits. In addition, MHPAEA also requires that insurers provide specific information and reasons in the event that reimbursement or payment for treatment is denied.

Okay, so this gave some required coverage to mental health. For me it came none too soon. I was hospitalized in September 2009. Less than a year from when this act was passed. Without it I never would have been able to have received treatment including outpatient therapy visits. However, even with this coverage what I needed was still not given to me. The insurance is still in control and even when my doctors advocated for me till they were blue in the face my insurance always cut out before I was ready or stable. Yes, they provided their specific reasons they denied but quite honestly they were bullshit. How can an insurance company claim to know more than my doctors? How can they who have never met me rule that I was in no danger of suicide, self-harm or relapse? How can an insurance claim to know my ideal weight or know what vitals are stable for me? And how can they know what exactly how my PTSD effects on a daily basis? They can’t. Yet every time I have been in some sort of treatment the insurance company does claim to know these things. And according to the law that’s quite alright as long as they provide proper documentation of why they are denying me further coverage.

In addition, my insurance doesn’t over me complete benefits. I have inpatient benefits meaning I can be hospitalized till I am medically stable but have no residential benefits. Residential is a level of care that provides a transition from inpatient to daily life. It is imperative in eating disorder treatment. It allows time for more therapy instead of just nutrition and weight gain. Residential allows the real “meat of therapy” to begin which can’t until nutrition is stabilized. By just leaving me hospitalized until I have gained some arbitrary number of pounds does nothing to aid in my recovery.

I am so blessed that my parents were able to pay out of pocket for residential treatment at CFC. But it came at a high cost to my family. Without this extra time I would not be able to be in recovery today. However, the insurance did not see it that way. They gave me two weeks. The center said I needed five and a half months. And over those five and half months I was placed on suicide watch multiple times. What would have happened to me if insurance had had to control my care? I truly do not know.

It doesn’t stop there. But to go further would get more into the politics than I want to and I’ve probably already delved far enough into that. Simply put – my experience with insurance has been one that teaches me that they care little for my health and more for their own profit. They skirt the laws and do the bare minimum. I’ve managed to survive in the system because I have a family that can help me with and that has some resources.   And honestly, I have one of the good policies. My mother has become a pro at navigating the insurance system and I’m lucky my first treatment center  did everything in their power to get me covered for as long as possible.

I don’t know what the answer to the problem of insurance is but to say there is no problem is not correct and is closing your eyes to the experiences of others. Without adequate (actually more than average, I need good mental health coverage) I will have no quality of life. I survive now because of a somewhat decent policies that I can benefit from until I’m 26 but after that? I face a future that before October 1st of this year was very scary. Now it seems somewhat less so.

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Filed under depression, Independence, PTSD, Recovery, social change, society

giving up the eating disordered life – guest post

This post is a guest post written by one of my best friend’s Pam who blogs over at This Tangible Certainty. I highly recommend you check out her blog. She is a fantastic writer who has some great insights into eating disorder recovery and life in general. She’s blogged for me before which you can read here. I first met Pam at The Center for Change. The funny thing was that at the center we really weren’t that close. We existed each in our own separate dissociated world and really didn’t talk much but sometime after we both discharged we became a huge part of each other’s lives. Today we talk almost every day about everything under the sun including the trials and tribulations of recovery from an eating disorder and trauma. The post that follows is a topic we have discussed many times and I am so glad Pam chose to write on it. 

 

Most of my life I identified myself with trying to be the perfect student, the perfect daughter, the perfect athlete. When I entered treatment at 17, that identity was gone. The only thing I had left was this “eating disorder”.

I was humiliated. I had gone from top of my class and a varsity athlete to sitting in a treatment center where I was not even allowed to walk down a flight of stairs. My eating disorder was suddenly the only thing I had left. Treatment felt safe. There were people who took care of everything for me and I really liked that.

It is an easy trap to fall into. My life outside of treatment was chaotic. I was playing volleyball and tennis year-round, I was taking 3 AP classes, involved in clubs at school, and was on the Board of Education. I have a document on my computer entitled “Checklist for Pam” that was sent to me by my parents during my first treatment stay. Here is a screenshot of the first few lines:

 pam'schar 

Is it a surprise that I didn’t want to return to this? I didn’t know how to stop. So when I found myself in treatment where it was completely okay to sleep and color all day, I was in complete culture shock. And then I realized that I liked it. It was comforting and easy. It was like I was a baby… all I did was color, nap and eat. Someone even watched me go to the bathroom.

When I got out of treatment, I didn’t know how to slow down. Slowing down was not acceptable and I thought if I admitted that I couldn’t handle the same workload, I would let everyone know that I was weak and incompetent. I didn’t have the voice to say “I need to slow down” and so relapsing became my substitute for words. My therapist likes to remind me of her conversations with my case manager and how they could not get me to calm down. I don’t think I even knew how burnt out I was. Either that or I was desperately trying to convince myself and everyone else that I could still do everything (and probably also convince them that I wasn’t sick).

I tell my experience because I want everyone to know that it is easy to fall into the treatment trap but it is really hard to get out of it. Treatment was safe and comfortable. I was in a world where it was okay to talk about feelings and fears. Outside of treatment walls, I had to invincible. I felt that in order for me to get my needs met, I had to be in crisis.

The thing with being in crisis is that the real work does not get done. Instead everything becomes about managing the moment. I have spent so much time managing a crisis versus getting into the deeper issues. Up until recently, I did not have the words to express the extent that I was hurting emotionally. I thought that if I was hurting inside, the only way to “prove” that was to relapse.

I have been stable for quite some time now. I am not yet recovered, but for once I can truly say that I am in recovery. In a recent session with my therapist she told me that I was being “weirdly quiet”. When I reminded her that I refused to talk for the first two years of therapy she responded; “Yes, but that was before you had a voice.” In thinking about that comment, she is completely right. I never knew how to articulate what I needed or how I felt. I would spend my sessions memorizing the order of the “How Are You Feeling Today?” poster leaned up against the wall (it has now been removed from her office… oops).

There are still some things that I have a hard time saying. The difference between now and two years ago is that now, instead of using my eating disorder to express them, I work through the difficult stuff with my therapist and she is working on learning how to read my mind (just kidding).

Part of being in recovery is giving up the eating disorder identity. It is not defining your days by how well you stuck to your meal plan or how long you stayed on the treadmill. It is reaching out, talking, and not using behaviors to express what is going on. It is okay to be hurting emotionally yet not take it out on your body. The real work does not begin until you stop trying to “prove” that you are sick enough to deserve help.

Being in a treatment center will never teach you how to live a normal life and a treatment center will never help you achieve full recovery. Treatment centers are great for learning skills, getting stabilized, and starting to do really hard work, but they are not a substitute for real life. Real recovery is about going out into the world, making mistakes, working through them, and realizing that it is okay have a full range of emotions and experiences without using your eating disorder to express them.

It is definitely not easy. Everyday I have to go about my day as a regular 22 year old but I also have to fight negative thoughts and behaviors. It is like living two lives at the same time and having equally demanding responsibilities in both. There was a time where I could not promise you that fighting was worth it. Now, even on my hardest days, the alternative is not what I want for my future. The alternative does not even give me the option of a future.

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Filed under body image, coping skills, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Identity, Independence, Recovery, school, survivor, the past

life moves ever on and on (note the Lord of the Ring reference :D)

Soooo, I haven’t really had anything of interesting to say as of late. My life is moving along of it’s own accord. I’m busy and I’m not overwhelmed with the business nor do I feel on the verge of a breakdown which has occurred every single other time I’ve increased my activity level. It’s weird but really nice. I’m at the Kennel Club four days of the week and am loving the training I am doing with the dogs. Ben is in Rally Obedience and advanced obedience on Wednesdays. Shona is finishing up a basic obedience class and is in agility. I am also taking a dog through basic obedience for someone at the club to help her out and improve my training skills. That started today and I am loving the chance to work with another dog and learn from that experience. Also, the guy is a sweetie.

I also just recently started taking online classes through the Animal Behavior College to become a certified dog trainer. I’ll also take some specialized courses which is the part I’m most excited about including “Training Shelter Dogs”, “The Art and Selling of Private Lessons”, “Pet Sitting and Dog Walking” and the most interesting and unique one (also a growing industry) “Pet Massage”. In addition, I’ll be working with a mentor who is already certified and has experience in the field of dogs and shadowing he or she as they work with clients and also working with shelter dogs in my area. These will be towards the end of my classes (which approximately take a year). After, I graduate  I will begin working towards joining the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. The certification is not required for joining the association but I believe that it will give me confidence and preparation as I venture further into dog training. Therefore, I’ll take the steps to begin joining the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (which really does carry more weight in the long run) after I have completed the school and worked more on my skills, confidence and very basic knowledge base.

Let’s see – other news of my life…my therapist was gone this week so I expected it to be a “take it easy week” but between various errands, two separate trips to Wichita, a Kennel club monthly meeting and various other things it ended up being a much busier week than planned. Shona’s training is progressing well and  I’m proud of what she has accomplished. We still have a very long ways to go but I feel like we are on a good schedule. Benny is adjusting slowly but better than I anticipated although he made it very clear yesterday he needed some individual attention. Shona did move in with Benny and I and that has helped a ton. I feel like I have time to devote to the two of them and also time to devote to service dog training and obedience and rally training as well. We are all happier living together and I feel much less guilty with the changes happening in Benny’s life.

Recovery wise – things are well. I was very stressed at times this week and my body image has suffered but I have kept trucking along. It has amazed me that come August I will have a year without any hospitalizations. This is quite a feat considering last year I was in at least once a month. I have Benny to thank for this. However, lacking he may be in other areas he has kept me hospital free and that in itself is worth so much more than I can express. I love this dog.

That’s about all that is happening in my life. It may not seem busy to you but to me it is. After almost two and a half years of very little to do except trying to keep my head above water living a life of any kind is amazing and wonderful to me.

 

 

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Filed under Ben, dog training, dogs, Hope, Identity, Independence, life events, psychiatric service dog, Recovery, school, service dog

service dog dilemmas – my heart is breaking

Having a service dog is not for the faint of heart. On the outside looking in you see pictures of teams cuddling, working together, smiling and appearing to be put together in public and in private all the time. This is an illusion – not the reality.

The reality is that having a service dog requires a lot of hard work. It requires practicing of tasks, recognizing that your dog cannot always be superdog and is sometimes simply a dog which does mean they will disobey, ignore you or embarrass you in public. I’ve had all this happened believe me.

But what really hit me and was something I wasn’t fully prepared for was the emotions involved with having a service dog. Ben is in the process of retiring. It’s pretty official now. He’s not able to work the way he should and I’m very lucky to have Shona to move into his role little by little. But it brings up a lot of emotions – heartbreak, anger (not at Ben), happiness, confusion, second-guessing myself, disappointment, guilt and so many other emotions.

I love both of my dogs so much. It’s hard to put into words what they mean to me. Ben stepped into my life and completely turned it on it’s head. I’ve been hospital free for almost a year now. Before that I was in almost every month. Ben stopped that cycle, brought me back to life and helped me discover what I think my purpose is. Shona came into my life in one of the darkest, darkest moments. When I was still reeling from my past she created a safety net, a reason to live while in treatment and became the most devoted dog I have ever had.

So how can I work one without feeling like I’m betraying the other? I can’t. Every time I make the stratestric decision which dog is appropriate for what situation I am heartbroken when the other sulks, howls, whines or watches us from the window. Ben shouldn’t have to be retiring so soon but it is the reality of the situation. I didn’t think I would have to face these emotions for at least another six years at the very minimum. But I’m facing them now and it’s hurting me. And it’s hurting him too.

You can’t explain to a dog why they can’t come with you when they are used to going everywhere with you and instead their sibling will be accompanying you on an outing. They don’t understand that a behavior they are exhibiting has led to this decision. They were simply exhibiting a behavior that was brought on by who knows what.

And so as I write this all I can think of it’s not fair. I hurt – they hurt. We are all confused. I’m on a journey with these dogs and I will not give up. No matter which dog is performing the duties of a service dog I will love the other. I have enough room in my heart for both. They are both my heart dogs.

But honestly, right now – I do feel like my heart is breaking.

 

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Filed under Ben, coping skills, dogs, Independence, life events, psychiatric service dog, service dog, Shona