Day 37 With Dora

Well, I’ve done something that backfired a little. Something we probably all know we shouldn’t do. I compared myself to others. I compared my disability to others’. What is wrong with me? 😞

I started at the service dogs info session. Is my depression and anxiety worse than hers? Do I deserve a service dog as much as he does? Am I faking it? (Yes. After firmly establishing that I have had depression every day of my life since early childhood- I was actively suicidal for 6 months at age 9- I still asked that question.) Should I just suck it up and forget this whole thing? (Again. This is also a dumb question. Sure, I have lived in much, much darker stages. Yes, this is a fairly bright season of life, but even now, I’m still strangled by fear and doubt and… 😑)

I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have tried to measure my paralysis and fear and breakdowns and everything against other people’s issues. I knew better, but I still did it.

And today, I was watching a YouTube video, and someone mentioned “fake service dogs.” For context, I want to make a few things clear:

  1. This person has a traditional disability, one that has used service dogs for many years.
  2. They have been respectful, assertive, and polite in all their videos that I have watched. They honestly seem to want to make the world better by sharing their experience with others and answering questions.
  3. They never ever said what they meant by this term (i.e. that my disability isn’t real because it’s invisible). I’m only reacting because I’m insecure.
  4. They also have acknowledged invisible disabilities in a different video. There is no evidence that they do not believe in mine.
  5. Some people buy vests and put them on their untrained pets. There are fake service dogs out there.

So… I guess you could say that I was set off by their comment, exploding because I’m so scared of people telling me that I’m exaggerating my struggles that my defenses are being triggered by indirect criticism, without any verification steps to determine if it even was criticism.

I’m insecure, so I panic. I’m overwhelmed, so I lash out. 

I feel awful, like I’m screaming inside. 

It’s paint. Just paint. But if you see blood instead, you understand the feeling and intensity of it.


And now, she’s pawing at my hands, trying to convince me to play with her. I suppose I’ll let her win. I need it, after all.

Good girl, Dora. Good girl.


Day 23 With Dora

I’m doing better again. It would be easier to evaluate my emotions if they were more consistent. Or lasted longer. Or if I were better able to recognize their sources.

A few nights ago, I was sitting with my husband and my dog on our couch, and I basically said “I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know why,” and he said “Yeah, I’m tired too,” and everything froze for a second. Wait. Tired. We did all the same errands and tasks today and he is tired. Am… am I tired?

It was weird, because just like I lost touch with my emotions after enough ‘how do I feel? hurt. right.’ checks, I also lost touch with the causes of my emotions after enough ‘why am I hurt? because I’m still breathing. right.’ checks. I just assume that all negative experiences are caused my depression, or my social anxiety, or my depression-fueled anxiety. So many of them have been, after all. So when he said that he was tired, I realized that it was reasonable for me to be tired as well.

So as I complained about my emotions above, please keep in mind that I don’t recognize what it is to be human. All I see is mental illness because I remember when it’s been so suffocating that it was all I could see. Things might be awful. Or they might be ok. I just can’t tell the difference.

Crap. Do you know what this means?

All of my negative-emotion responses are probably all still tuned to max power. Like… like… so, let’s say I get scared in a reasonable situation like a car wreck or something… or a near miss or something. So I feel fear, rational fear, and at the first sign of it, I’m like ‘I know this feeling! Brace for impact!’ and it’s full on panic, quick response mode. Forget everything else. Drop all responsibilities. Run. Survive. I’m bracing for the worst.

And I do that for smaller things. Public speaking. Getting turned around on unfamiliar hiking trails. Some days, needing to go outside when I can see people out there. Some days, when my curtains and blinds are just open. 

No matter what, just panic. I will have to watch myself for it, to see if I’m actually doing this or if it’s just a hypothesis that would account for a few things.

… Right. Dora. We’re ok again. I sing to her. I talk to her. We’re walking together much better than before. It’s going to be ok. Today, I believe that it’s going to be ok.

Day 4 With Dora

“I think we’re going to keep her.” This is my commitment level right now. I should probably explain a bit of the background for context.

  1. My husband and I discussed my current worst case issues (hiding from ringing phones, drawing all the curtains and hiding from potential people outside, disassociation, etc.) and we started researching the possibility of emotional support animals and psychiatric disability dogs. We found a nearby service dog trainer and followed their advice regarding preferred breeds, desired temperaments, and communicating with rescues/breeders/etc.
  2. We talked to the physician who has been treating my depression for several years. My husband and I discussed current issues, perceived benefits, concerns regarding medication shuffling (again), and the applicability of counseling at this point. She decided that an emotional support dog is a good option for us at this time.
  3. Legal, medical, and housing paperwork.
  4. We found several promising candidates and contacted their handlers for information about them and whether or not they might be suited for this type of life.
  5. We were approved for Dora, visited her, were impressed with her demeanor and behavior, and brought her home for evaluation.

So, at this point, she both is and isn’t mine. I mean, we paid for her- I signed the check. We have her vet records, her rabies tag, everything. If I do nothing, she will be mine, and the evaluation period will expire. But she still doesn’t feel like she’s mine, since it isn’t permanent. 

But I’m the one causing the impermanence. And I know it. But it happens anyway. 😑 

I have even said that we should get her dog license and schedule her first vet visit this week. And I’ve found a place that provides two levels of obedience training and carries on clear through Canine Good Citizen testing. (The American Kennel Club uses the CGC and STAR Puppy behavioral standards to certify dogs’ polite behavior in public. It’s the foundation on which more specific training would rest.)

We bought her a harness (we waited until we had a dog to do so). We introduced her to my family. We have done many things that indicate that she’s staying with us.

But I can’t bring myself to say “I am keeping Dora. She is my dog.”

Yesterday (I think), I said “my dog” when referring to her and it knocked me off balance. My husband doesn’t understand why, although he is trying to, but it was such a surreal moment. I checked my systems:

  • Mind says “………”
  • Defense mechanisms say “Don’t get attached! Too soon! You’ll regret it later! Stay back! Let go! Just a dog! Not your dog! Probably be taken away at any moment! (etc.)”
  • Emotions (buried somewhere in my subconscious) say “This is my dog. I like her. She makes me laugh and I feel less alone. I love having a dog. I have a dog. Dora is my dog.”

So with all that going on and my brain staunchly refusing to comment, I just feel numb and shocked, surprised and lost. What did I just say? Why would I say that? I never made that choice! What is going on?!

  • Mind says “…….”

😑 Thank you, overstimulated and overdefended mind. I know you’re trying, but I’m still not getting any results here.

I guess… I think she can do the job. She’s responsive and attentive. She has bonded well to us, particularly me. She already showed a flash of emotional attentiveness, which would be needed for my overload-related tasks. She is calm while I am scared of everything. She is happy while I am hopeless. I think that she has a lot of potential for this job and I…

(Oh crap. What is this?!) 

I want her to do this job. I want Dora to be my emotional support dog and to train with me and to be my psychiatric disability dog. I want Dora to be in my life for the next decade and to help me learn how to trust and to live and to relax and to breathe and to take risks and to thrive. That is what I want.

Well, I’m crying now, even though I feel numb. I think I’m just a bit overwhelmed by all of my systems spontaneously functioning properly and providing me with real feedback. It’s pretty rare. I think I’m done writing for now.