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 47 With Dora

I took her out for a walk to exercise and potty. It was fine, but I started thinking about my grandmother, whom I saw this weekend. I don’t like visiting her for a few reasons:

  1. She’s a hoarder, and she keeps buying me items that I often do not want and forcing me to take them. I have watched the living space in her house dwindle through my lifetime, and I really, really don’t want to live like that.
  2. Many of these items are 1950s housewife essentials, and I’m not a vintage fan nor a traditional gender roles supporter, so I don’t want them. (Last item is some weird oversized chalice type bowl for holding tiny fruits.)
  3. She keeps asking me questions like “Do I know my neighbors yet?” when most people around here are pretty private. There aren’t welcome wagons. We might wave (usually dog people who like Dora), but almost no one talks to each other. And I’m an introvert, so I prefer to have a few deep relationships instead of many shallow ones. And I have social anxiety flare ups. So no. Still not imposing on my neighbors.
  4. She showed up at my house uninvited in August to ‘see if she could find it,’ and then told me that ‘she would come back sometime and spend more time here.’ Meanwhile, I was frozen on my porch like a deer in the headlights, angry with myself for having chosen that specific moment to take the trash can to the curb.


On the walk, Dora found an abandoned Air Kong toy, which she rescued. We finished our business at hand, I slipped down a wet hill and fell (which ending up being funny, rather than stressful or painful), and we headed home. As we approached the driveway, I saw it: a car slowly turning around in the cul de sac and heading our way.

I panicked. Gave Dora the command to come inside. Climbed the porch stair. Fumbled with my key. *engine noises as it grows closer to my driveway*

If it’s her, I won’t be able to pretend that I’m not here. She will know that I’m inside and that I’m not answering the door. Or my phone. Come oncomeon…

Unlocked the door. Call Dora inside. She’s looking at the world or sniffing the air or talking to a unicorn for all I know. But she’s not listening. “Dora! Dora! Inside! Dora! Inside!”

I pull. She comes. Inside. Take keys. Shut door. Deadbolt. Breathe.

That car passed my house while I was outside fumbling around and trying to get Dora to come in. I knew it then, but it didn’t register.

Now I’m inside and the door is locked, and that’s not my grandmother, but I still want to close all the blinds and curtains again, like I did back in August. (Every day for at least a week. Maybe two. I just didn’t feel safe here.)

But we should eat soon, and I need to breathe. 
I don’t like panic attacks.

Day 10 With Dora

I called a family meeting last night for my parents and siblings. We’re all adults now, but we’re still fairly close, and I wanted to know that they had my back. Or if they had it, I suppose. I wanted to make them believe that my depression and anxiety are severe enough to count as a disability; that I need this dog for part of my treatment; and that… that it’s all real, I guess.

So we all get there and I start into everything, actually leading with my fear and telling them that I’m scared that they might not believe that I have a disability, and they’re like “yeah, we know.” It was profoundly odd.

First, because I was so scared I was nauseous for a lot of yesterday. Second, because I thought I had succeeded in hiding a lot of it. Third, because I perceive myself as being in a fairly high-functioning state right now (read: I get up every morning, get dressed every day, eat normal meals, tend to my hygiene, AND complete tasks that I set out to do).

They knew. They believed me from square one, which is actually why I led with the fear: if they didn’t believe me, I would need to follow up with evidence, and if they did, I would need to improvise. In my head, I could only imagine the bad outcome, so I didn’t prepare. 

I don’t want to run through all of it, but suffice it to say that I was able to be very honest about current responses that I want to eventually train Dora to monitor and respond to, about current struggles, and about the way that some of their interactions with me can really hurt, even if it’s unintentional. It was a very good conversation for me. I did really well.

We came home to the mess that I mentioned in my last post, and I took that well. Today, we bought parts to repair the damaged bits and it’s nearly resolved. Just like that. It’s really good.

Game Therapy: Dragon Age II, Part 3

In “Game Therapy” posts, I’m going to unpack some of my thoughts and interactions with the games. Despite the fact that some games I discuss have been out for a while already, I will include spoiler warnings for those who need them.

This entry contains spoilers for Dragon Age II, from the prologue through the end of Act 2 and Dragon Age: Origins’ human noble opening.


When I played Dragon Age 2 for the first time, I was really saddened by my family’s fate. My father died before the game began. My sibling died in the beginning. My other sibling died in the Deep Roads because I brought the wrong party. My mother was decapitated by some sick necromancer so her head could be cobbled into his flesh golem/undead wife. I was alone.

With my backstory, both of my parents died by my hands: I killed my father’s empty husk after his soul was torn from his body and I killed my mother’s mind after her head and spirit were forged into an empty husk. I know that the cut scene for mother’s death shows her slowly fading in Hawke’s arms, but I was so horrified by the zombie bride when I first saw it that I knew my character would have killed that thing as quickly as possible.

I felt so, so alone.

I remember Aveline being very comforting at the time. I loved that she gave me permission to grieve for as long as I needed to and in whatever manner I needed to. She was so kind.

But this time…

On this playthrough, I have hated my mother. My lazy, selfish mother who won’t lift a finger to defend one of us. Who makes demands of me (“Leave your sister here, please! I can’t stand the thought of losing both of you!”) and then blames me for her inaction and inability (“If you had been here, they never would have taken Bethany away!”).

Bethany would have been safe with me, you know. I would have done what I could to keep her safe. But mother? No. Mother didn’t do anything to help protect Bethany. Or me. Or any of us.

You could argue that ‘she’s just an old lady, blah blah blah,’ but I don’t buy it. When my Warden was a Cousland, a member of a noble house, and our home was attacked, my mother and I met up in the hallway in full armor, with our weapons drawn. She took action to protect us all, and I was so proud to be part of that family. My sister-in-law came from the ‘helpless beauty’ school of femininity, so she died in the attack. 

Women are not inherently weak. It is a choice. But this woman, Hawke’s mother, she let others protect her as a noblewoman. And she let her husband protect her once they went on the run. And she let her children protect her in her old age.

I tried to protect my family. I sacrificed my childhood, my happiness, my needs, my friendships, my chance for love… Everything for my family. But it wasn’t enough. Never enough. And to top it all off, this willingly helpless woman kept blaming me for all of our hardships. 

No. Not this time. For some reason, this playthrough, I just won’t accept it any more. So as I fleshed out Abigail’s life, I knew that she didn’t spend much time at home. That she resented her mother’s plans to pick a spouse for her. That she just wanted to stop running for once, to have friends, to belong, and maybe to fall in love.

I mentioned above that Hawke sacrificed friendships and relationships for her family. I always believe that once we hit Act 2 of the game, Hawke has now lived in Kirkwall for longer than she’s lived anywhere else. Four years without running. So a part of that lifestyle, of moving at a moment’s notice to protect the family’s mages, is leaving all of your friends behind without being able to say goodbye. Which means not being able to fall in love, because you know that you’ll have to leave again, and you can’t expect anyone to join your family of well-armed vagrants.

At the end of the day, this family only works if Abigail, Bethany, & Carver are all willing to be miserable indefinitely. None of us really got to be children.

I guess that the main things I see here are these:

  1. New expectations for parents
  2. Belief that my suffering enables other people’s happiness

As always, I’ll talk about these in future posts. Thanks for reading. The image of Hawke’s mother is from the Dragon Age wiki.