Guilt and Obligation

I don’t know what to say, but I’m freezing up, so I need to do something.

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Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

There’s going to be a baby shower in my family soon. It’s being held in a private residence, and the people who live there don’t mind if Dora comes, but the people that they’re renting the house from won’t allow it. It’s private space, so the ADA is a bit grey here, and if in doubt, I try to respect private space and the people involved. Access to public space is the intent of the law, after all, and I want to respect people’s choices about their own homes. It’s the decent thing to do.

So there’s some drama there because my cousin, who’s scheduling it, is like bending over backwards trying to find a way to make this work, and I appreciate that. She’s being really kind.

I also feel like I have to go, because I’ve never really been given a choice about these events. From childhood, I have been forced to attend every bridal and baby shower to which I’ve been invited, because, you know, I’m a girl. If I’m honest, really honest with myself, going to these parties has caused me more damage than I care to admit.

For years, I’ve been broken-hearted about my lack of a meaningful love life, and both weddings and bridal showers just served to reinforce my worthlessness. But I had to go, so I went.

And baby showers?

Do any of you remember my old entry called “Diagnosis”? Well, the lady in the painting is me. I received the diagnosis in… 2004, I think. It still hurts. Honestly, that’s mostly because I was basically like ‘nope. into the pain box you go. not dealing with you. nope. nope. nope. you’re just too big and complex and i don’t want to be honest with myself about this topic and no. bye!’

I say that, but at the same time, I got an onslaught of really horrible thoughts dumped into my head about how I was so fundamentally flawed, I couldn’t even be a woman right. Like, somehow the fact that I have glands and organs that just decided to stop working is a sign of how truly flawed I am as a person, since 99% of the females on the planet do not fail in even this basic way.

Add in the fact that my grandmother who is a dangerous, passive-aggressive lady may well be there, and perhaps you can see why my husband suggested that attending the event without Dora might be a bad idea.

So I told my cousin not to worry about it, that I was sorry that I was changing the answer that I gave her just last night, that I would figure something out. But now, she feels bad about the whole thing, and so does her grandmother (a kind lady who smiles easily). And I don’t want her to feel bad, so I should go without Dora.

But I don’t want to hurt myself any more because I already have mountains of pain and lies to dig through and process, so maybe I shouldn’t go at all. If I choose not to go, for my wellbeing, then everything with the location and the invitations she’s already ordered just sorts itself out nicely.

But I’m making people upset by not going, and I don’t know how to communicate ‘it’s ok; i didn’t want to go anyway because i hate baby showers,‘ without sounding rude or… whatever characteristic is associated with disliking things that I am supposed to like.

Yes! I know that I am supposed to be able to experience other people’s happiness with them instead of ‘making everything about myself.’ I have been told already. Thanks. I don’t know how to do that when the events in question are both bound up in unhealed traumas that I never get to make progress on because every time they surface, people essentially tell me that I shouldn’t have them in the first place, so I have to bury them again.

I just… ARGH!

Why? Just why?

I can already tell that I shouldn’t go to this. The healthiest choice I can possibly make is to avoid being hurt any further, whether that makes sense to anyone else or not. The only alternative I have is to go, sit silently, pretend that I’m having a decent time, and just marinate in my pain… like I always have, because it makes people happy to think that I am happy about the same things that they are.


I am so jealous of my husband and brothers for not being invited, not being put in this situation, and not being expected to enjoy this type of thing. It’s just difficult sometimes.

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Self Care & Guilt

Right now, I just feel scared. Tense. Like someone is going to yell at me. I did so many things right today.

  1. I woke up on time to get my husband to work and keep the car.
  2. I got the car to the repair shop early and managed Dora in the crowded lobby.
  3. I went to the car rental place, answered the questions I could, completed the process, and brought the car home.
  4. I bought the yarn I’ve been meaning to get so that I can make a gift for a friend.
  5. I went to the post office at my husband’s request to pick up a package; it wasn’t there.
  6. I exercised for 40 minutes today, when I really haven’t put forth any effort since the winter started. (For me, <20 degrees Fahrenheit is too intense. I don’t have winter gear that’s actually good at preventing frostbite, and I have bad circulation all year round, so winters are tough enough without feeling my skin change texture after 5 minutes.)
  7. I went to the post office again, waited in line, showed them the tracking number, and asked them to check on it for me.  (They found it!)
  8. I picked up my husband on time and we made it home safely.

That was all good. All of it. Moreover, Dora was in public, on duty, five different times today. That’s five places where strangers can:

  • Talk to her instead of me while she’s supposed to be focusing
  • Try to pet her
  • Tell me that “it’s fine” when I ask them not to pet her
  • Look at me strangely when I body block them and move her behind me so they can’t pet her when they try again after I’ve already told them no
  • Ask me who I’m training her for
  • Ask me if I know when I have to give her to the disabled person
  • Ask me if she’s a therapy dog when her vest says “service dog” and we are in a place where therapy dogs don’t work (restaurants, repair shops, gas stations, banks, etc.)
  • Ask me what she’s trained to do (which is simultaneously asking me to explain my disability to them despite us never having met before)
  • Try to talk to me while I’m clearly talking to someone else, like the cashier or the government employee
  • Continue trying to talk to me after I ignore their first comment (because I’m just trying to move things along for me, the paid employee in front of me, and everyone in line behind me)
  • Tell me that I’m going to rip her throat open with her collar if I’m not careful (yeah, that was a fun day)
  • Ask me if she’s necessary for a medical purpose and then keep hounding me when I say “yes” because they totally think I’m lying
  • Make an offhanded remark about how ‘they should have put up a sign’ (which will presumably say “No service animals allowed here. Go ahead and sue us. We dare you.”)
  • Backtrack when they finally understand that she’s a service dog and that’s what I meant when I said that I need her for a medical reason

… I’m sure there’s more, but honestly, I’m tired of thinking up things that have happened to me in the last calendar year. For someone who already had social anxiety, believed she was a toxin that drained life from those around her, believed she was invisible, etc., it’s really been overwhelming.

So… what do I feel guilty about?

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Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Staying home tonight, taking a bubble bath, and trying to relax. I chose to do that because I realized that I was staring blankly into space and once my eyes stop focusing, things only go downhill. Going out in public (again) may have pushed me into a meltdown. Better to take care of myself, right?

So why do I feel so guilty for NOT GOING? No one is blaming me! Why won’t my muscles release? Why can’t I breathe normally or just believe that I’m done for the day? I’m so tired. 

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.

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 144 With Dora

Social anxiety has never been fun, per se. It’s quite a handful, and I can’t predict its rhythm. The last 16 days, however, have been awful.

Sixteen days ago, I was at the grocery store, with Dora in her vest, sitting on a bench, talking to my brother, who I met by chance. The Flutenist was getting our car, and I was minding my own business. Some random stranger, an old man with white hair a brown duster and- I kid you not- some sort of badge on his buttoned white shirt, says to me “Pretty dog you have there.”

Never mind that he’s a stranger. Never mind that he cut off my conversation midsentence. Never mind that he doesn’t look like law enforcement but is actually wearing a brass badge.

As a disabled person, strangers now expect to be able to interrupt me at any time in order to talk about my dog. On a date with my husband? Who cares?! Reading a book in a park? Not important! Trying to juggle six other things at a cash register? Not their problem.

Whatever. So he compliments Dora, I say “thank you,” and my mind starts loading up the relevant info. Her breed. Her name. Her age. She’s a rescue. Etc.

“Be careful with that collar. One good lunge and you’ll rip her throats out.” Drops mic. Turns and loads his groceries into his car in one of the handicapped parking spots. Drives away.

Dora wears a prong collar when she walks. It is properly sized, has rubber tips, and we have walked well over 100 miles since she got it. We both know each other’s walking speeds, distractions, expectations, needs, etc. 95% of the time, she stays right with me. 5% of the time there is a gust of wind or a new dog or a running child, and Dora gets excited, but she has never once hurt herself with this collar. I have not hurt her either. 

Dora chooses to stand politely next to me because she doesn’t want to be poked in the neck. I appreciate her not requiring the use of both arms and all the muscles in my torso in order to walk her. It is working for us. Neither of us is in danger.

What is wrong with this retired Texas Ranger wannabe?! Why does he like going up to disabled people and talking about their dogs dying in graphic language? Doesn’t he know that our dogs start to feel like an extension of ourselves? That after a few months together, we are closer to them than to any humans we know. Every good day, bad day, sick day, adventurous day- Dora is with me each step of the way. And I am with her when she is sick or scared, excited or happy. We are a team.

I love her.


Long story short: I’m scared to go in public now, because of this one selfish jerk who cares more about himself and his ego than reality. He didn’t ask any questions; he didn’t want to know about how Dora and I interact; he was just certain that he knew best, even though he knew next to nothing. All he could possibly have known about us is this:

  1. Dora is a medium sized black dog in an orange service dog vest, striped flat collar, and prong collar.
  2. I am an adult woman who is apparently not deaf, since I acknowledged hearing him.
  3. Dora was sitting politely at my feet without pulling at all.
  4. I was polite enough to drop everything and interact with him despite him rudely interrupting my visit with my brother.

That’s it. That’s all that he could know about us.

😩😡

And now, I get panic attacks in public, just by walking into stores. Why?! Wasn’t it already hard enough for me? Did I really need more burdens?! And most importantly: why can’t I just ignore him and move on when I know that’s what I need to do?!

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.