Day 293 With Dora

Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like I’m making any progress at all. I want to just drop everything, get back on meds, and throw my hands up in surrender. I can’t learn life skills- are you kidding me?! I’m too weak and dumb and useless to change anything!

But sometimes, I manage to do something with ease, and I think that’s where the growth is. 

Today, my husband asked me to make a phone call, and I did. No panic attack. No anxiety from just considering it. I just called them, asked for what I needed, listened, scheduled an appointment, and then asked about (and scheduled) the appointment I’ve been too afraid to schedule for the last few weeks.

And I’m still ok. And my husband said thank you when he saw the event show up on our calendar. And that’s it!

And I think that these small events are where the progress happens, but I don’t notice them every time, because they are manageable now. I’ll try to catch more of them as they happen; I need that hope so I can keep going.

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Collateral Damage

One of the worst things about having my cocktail of mental illness/being me is that I can’t control when I hurt people. I mean, I suppose that’s probably true for everyone, but this morning, it wasn’t a matter of me being careless and saying something cruel. Instead, I got thrown off, and started melting down within the first 20 minutes of being awake.

Two impossible situations stood before me and I needed to merge them but couldn’t. Time passed. I was stressing out and hurting The Flutenist, and I knew it, and I got more angry at myself and more ashamed of being caught in this struggle at all, and I got more paralyzed and more frantic and…

It was bad.

Sometimes, stress can empower us- give us extra energy (more blood flow), extra clarity (more oxygen to the brain), and more motivation (tension fuels action). For me, there are days when all of those processes work, but I can’t find an outlet. The energy and tension funnel inwards, my body shuts down, and my mind just becomes a whirlpool of rapid, frantic thoughts. 

Nothing gets done. I know I’m stuck but I don’t know how to get out. Or if I can.

But it’s internal; no one but me can affect it or communicate that it’s happening. But I don’t know what to do!

So I almost made him late to work today and I sent him an email while he was at work, explaining everything that had been running through my mind. (I usually regain writing before speech, so it’s my go to response.) I wanted him to know that I knew that I was hurting him and making things worse for him and that I took that seriously. I don’t know why. 

It’s been a few hours and I can’t see how that could have helped anything.

I’m so stupid.

Yeah- today has been very bad in terms of self-talk. I’m back-sliding and I hate it but I don’t know what to do. I just!

Argh!

I wish I were normal.

Or that I could tell where my depression stops and where I start.

Or that I knew what I was capable of.

Everything, every tiny thing, is this epic struggle between being too hard on myself and not pushing myself to grow. I never know whether I’m doing it right or not.

Day 166 With Dora- A Two Way Bond

Last night, I ran out to the store quickly to get some last minute items for a surprise house guest. I left The Flutenist with Dora and our guest and set out to the store. Success! Got the stuff! A few hurdles along the way, but I cleared them fine! Hurray!

I got home and found out that Dora had not been herself while I was gone. She was sad and listless. “She kind of wandered around,” they said. After I returned, she stayed right with me, often laying her head on my lap or snuggling close, for almost an hour.

She’s been doing this when I leave her inside for 45 minutes to mow our grass. (Dog + lawnmower = trouble, I think. 🤔) I finish up and come in and then she naps on my leg for more than 30 minutes. If I get up, she looks at me carefully to be sure I’m not leaving again. I just thought it was separation anxiety; she is a rescued dog, after all. But now?

It looks like affection to me. Given a choice, Dora would rather be with me than on her own. Me- the person who was a toxin passively killing those around her. Me- whose death would not have been remembered or noticed by anyone. Me.

(Depression and being actively suicidal create some horrible thoughts. I am not saying I believe them, but I need them here to show the contrast.)


Here, Dora is waiting outside the bathroom for me to finish brushing my teeth. She chose to do this, instead of playing with her toys.

Over and over, Dora chooses me. Me. I hope that one day, I’ll understand why.

Day 161 With Dora

We’re almost at the end of Dora’s formal training, although we will probably continue her private training for several months. Once she reaches the level we want her to stay at, we’ll need to keep practicing skills so she stays sharp.

I’m looking forward to be done with all the driving and the evenings we have to schedule around. I’m looking forward to being able to rest a bit, but I don’t know what it will look like.

It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest. Transitions always are.

Day 129 With Dora

My family, extended family especially, is not on board with my service dog. “You’re invited over, but Dora isn’t.” “I can’t believe you’re making me choose between seeing you and having a dog in my house.”

I just…

I expected this to come. I really didn’t think these people who have been selfish and distant for years, who have caused me pain and never tried to reach out to get to know me, they were never going to take it well. 

I just didn’t think it would hurt so much.

Day 125 With Dora


It’s a bit of up and down at this point. Here’s an overview of the highs and lows:

Highs

  • Basic life tasks are getting easier. Lately, I have been able to go to the UPS store and the gas station by myself. I have also both made calls to schedule appointments or talk to people and received incoming calls without panic attacks. I didn’t need someone to come with me, and I didn’t go into the other room to hide from my ringing phone. Progress.
  • Dora is a natural with some tasks. She instinctively responds to both my crying and my stressed hyperventilating by coming to me, nuzzling her face under my hands (which I cup over my face), and licking me. This disrupts the emotion enough to keep it from escalating into something severe: for example, uninterrupted crying may grow into self loathing, which can produce despair and then suicidal ideation. Having a companion here to tell me that it’s ok (if I’m stressed) or that I am loved (if I’m depressed) is very helpful. It’s ok that Dora can’t speak.
  • I am growing a bit more stable overall. I know it may not be obvious to others, because I’m still being stressed by things, but it seems like the number of stressors I respond to is going down, at least. I feel more capable than I used to.

Lows

    • We have reached the psychiatric task phase of training, and it is hard. Imagine teaching your dog to sit: you can see them sit on their own, say “sit,” and praise their spots off. Eventually, you say “sit” and they do. Now imagine trying to teach your dog to notice that you can’t move or talk anymore, and you want them to come to you and interact with you until you start petting them. For me, it’s been challenging so far.
    • This training is also emotionally draining. I have to walk a very fine line between pretending to have my worst symptoms for training Dora and accidentally triggering my worst symptoms in the process. I pretended to have an overloaded shutdown experience for the lead trainer a week ago, and I wasn’t able to focus my eyes on anything or walk with full balance for at least an hour afterwards, because I actually produced the shutdown state. Hopefully I’ll get better at only producing the physical symptoms in the future.