Days 110 & 111 With DoraΒ 

Things are starting to go well. Yesterday, I was able to run two errands without The Flutenist along, for the first time in years. I had Dora with me and she filled the confidence boosting role. Now, keep in mind that these are things I am physically able to do, have done by myself before, and completely understand. I was just scared. Scared of going alone, of being outside, of being visible to others, of doing something stupid, etc. What did we do?

We took recycling to the collection dumpsters and ill-fitting clothes to a thrift store. That’s it.

I can’t really tell you why having her with me made it better/possible, but I cried yesterday because it was so sad that I hadn’t been able to do these things alone for such a long time. Often, when I make breakthroughs, the revelation of a new and healthier path is followed by me grieving over all the years I spent on my old, self-harming one. πŸ˜”

I also suggested a course of action AND took action on it within the same day.

And I made a phone call without needing 15-45 minutes to psych myself up for it this morning.

It’s… it’s really good. I’m actually starting to hope for things to be better.I haven’t had hope in along time. 😏 I don’t think there’s an emoji for sad smiles… one that means “Yes I know how bad that sounded and it really is that bad but all I can do is smile about how bad my life is because if I don’t I will break and I need to keep going.” 

Maybe one day.

(Note: Dora is still in training, but in my state, she is allowed to wear a vest and start practicing with public access at this time. The law is written this way so that dogs can be socialized to new experiences, people, environments, sights, smells, sounds, etc. before their handler takes custody of them. This allows trainers to work through any fear, disruptiveness, or other issues with a service dog trainee and for disabled people to receive dogs that are used to behaving well in restaurants, concerts, stores, parks, gas stations, public events, etc.)


Day 44 With Dora

It’s still pretty early, but I’m doing alright. Dora is doing well too.

I recovered ok once my brother arrived, which was surprising. I usually have my depressed/anxious/meltdown episodes by myself. I mean, I spent the bulk of the day carrying around my giant stuffed frog, for crying out loud.

When I’m in a really bad state, it helps to have something to hold on to and to feel pressure against my torso. I usually hug pillows, because they’re more ubiquitous, but I was at home, so I had more options. I may have started this as a child, wanting to be held in my distress, but knowing that no one was going to hold me. Regardless, when something works and calms me out of a panic, I don’t care if it looks weird or childish. I need that chance to regain control, and I do what it takes to get it.

Man, I really am broken, aren’t I? One phone call did this to me. One phone call was enough to start a major panic.

But, to be fair, I’m not scared of the phone. Well, I am, but in this case, I’m scared of the door to having a service dog being slammed in my face. I’m scared that someone else will tell me that the way I feel is my fault and my responsibility, so I just need to choose to be normal.


If it was that easy, don’t you think I would have done it?! Do you actually think I want to feel like this all the time?! What sort of sicko are you?


So I’m scared that the door will slam shut and all of my progress will be for nothing, since if Dora can’t be trained for public access, I’m just going to be even more homebound than I have been for the last year. You guys go have dinner; I’m going to stay with my dog.

I hope it works out. There’s nothing I can do either way, but I hope it works out.

Day 42 With Dora

I’m scared. We received the application from our chosen service dog training organization, and I need to submit proof of my disability. I understand this, rationally. It makes sense, and of course it’s part of the process. That’s fine.

But I’m panicking.

This is so dumb. 

At my core, I still don’t believe that I deserve help. I’ve been told so many times that it’s my fault that I sleep through class, my fault that I have no motivation, my fault that I can’t focus, my fault that I don’t feel better, my fault that I can’t just let go of the past, my fault that I’m overwhelmed, my fault that I’m not choosing better reactions, my fault, my fault, my fault.

I have tried, guys. I have run myself ragged, used all the energy that I had for classes, poured out everything trying to succeed. At the lowest, I wasn’t eating, wasn’t talking to anyone, wasn’t a thing, wasn’t washing my clothes, wasn’t brushing my teeth, wasn’t spending any time on hobbies, and I still failed.

I still failed. All of my classes but one, and that one was entirely based on 5 essays. No attendance, no exams, no homework.

It is so hard to pass classes when you’re only awake for a few hours a day because your body needs 20 hours of sleep.

It is so hard to succeed when you’re smothered by your shame at struggling, then disappointing others, then failing altogether.

It broke me, guys. I haven’t been the same since then, because I have absolutely everything that I had, without holding back anything for myself, and it still wasn’t enough.

I tried so hard.

Depression is stronger than I am. Bigger and faster and pervasive. I couldn’t beat it. Worse, it feeds into my anxiety, because as depression cripples me, I get stressed about my decreased abilities, which makes me more depressed, then stressed, then meltdown.

No matter how well I may be doing right now, I know that I’m not normal. I know that others don’t have suicide’s shadow lurking behind them, waiting for the light to fade. It’s been so long, my whole life, just drowning under the weight of my existence, that I’m used to it. It’s normal.

This is what it means to still be breathing. Of course I’m constantly afraid. Of course I’m ashamed of myself. Of course I prefer others over myself at every opportunity. Of course I feel alone, and hollow, and disconnected. I’m still alive, so why would those feelings stop?

I’m just functioning with them. It’s still here.

I hate my life. Why can’t anything be easy? Why can’t I ever rest? What does it have to be like this? What did I do wrong? Why?

{Aside: In case I’m worrying any of you, please rest easy. I’m not suicidal, everything is safe. Like I said, this is normal, and I’m used to it. It was simmer back down in a little bit, and I’ll just avoid poking at it. I will be ok.}

The troll is having a rough day too. Dora has been having a fabulous day, which is good. At least she’s happy. 

Day 40 With Dora

She’s finding her voice, and I’m not sure what to do. πŸ€”

Dora was a silent dog when we met her. She didn’t whine, cry, bark, howl, etc.- just watched the world. (Oddly enough, while I was typing this, she just got up from her nap to go bark at the darkness.)

Like I was about to say, Dora has started talking. So far, she barks at: diesel engines, the neighbors, kids playing in the snow, feral cats, flags(?), and… thin air). Yay. πŸ˜‘ I don’t want to yell at her, to scare her into silence, but I also want the guy across the street to be able to change a tire without a 39 bark salute. When applicable, I’ve been breaking her line of sight or access to a room so she will stop. This mostly works.

She also sometimes just comes over and barks straight at me. Great! I want to communicate with you too! But I have no idea what that meant…

Or she will just start making these little whining sounds, usually with squeaky toys. I checked, and the internet says “excitement, especially if you’re talking about a hunting breed.” Labrador retriever- bred for fetching downed ducks and geese from ponds. Pit bull terrier- every terrier I know of exists just to get rid of rats and mice. So… I think Dora is doubly covered there. The whining is fine.

*sigh* The issue is just that while I can’t have her barking at everything, I also don’t want to traumatize her, since I know how long pain caused by someone you trusted can last. Hopefully, we can figure this one out. Somehow.

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… πŸ˜‘)

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.


I think I need to watch The Runaway Bride again soon. Not for the romance or whatever. I hate that type of movie. It’s very boring for me.

No. I think I need to watch the story of a woman who changes herself for everyone around her, over and over. A woman who lets people order her food and choose what she wears. A woman who lives like a blank slate, washing her traits clean and becoming someone new again and again. Until the day she stops.

For me, that movie is about two scenes: the one in which someone can’t believe she doesn’t even know what type of eggs she likes; and the one in which she is surrounded by dozens of plates of eggs. Three scenes, if you count her running up to the other person, shouting out which type she likes most.

She is a chameleon woman, challenged to find her true colors and brace enough to do so. It doesn’t matter if someone wants her to eat, dress, talk, or act a certain way; she chooses to find and live as herself. That is what matters.


And that is what I need to do. Find myself. Be myself. Without playing up similarities or claiming ancient traits. No. I am me. This is what I want. This is what I do. This is what makes me laugh. This music makes me dance. These songs make me sing. This beauty makes me cry.


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.