Friday, October 14, 2005

"How Does Human Depression Affect a PSD?"

Here is Rowena in her free t-shirt and special service bandana, waiting to do the Mental Illness Awareness walk across the bridge from Brewer, Maine to Bangor, Maine and back on the other bridge. In this shot, she is resting after we had finished playing a quick game of frisbee toss. She was on her best behavior playing off-leash (leash dropped) and in a parking lot.

Well, the answer to this question is: I don't really know, but it must affect a PSD... how can it not.
As I come to realize the extent of my depression this year, I come to realize how... though very helpful in keeping me on the psychiatric straight and narrow, Rowena makes it very difficult for me to seek out the help I need when I am in crisis. I know that if I get to the point where someone hospitalizes me, I cannot take her with me. What would I do with her and how well could either one of us do without one another? Would this indeed actually a therapeutic hospitalization for me? I doubt it. Would it affect Rowena to be separated from me (and even my husband) for any length of time? It certainly would. My best bet would be to get in at the crisis unit because I could take Rowena with me, but they have a time limit and have a limited tolerance to exactly how much crisis they will accept at the crisis place. For example, I have recently begun the long and painful process of a med change. If during this process I need extra support, will the crisis unit be able to keep me long enough? (Usually a 5-7 day limit on crises).
Another aspect of my level of depression as of late is my lack of energy. Rowena, being a young Border Collie is full of life thus full of energy. She wants to go out and just play play play... and only with me! She is very patient letting me sleep in late and does her very best to restrain herself, just ringing the bell to go out more frequently than usual. I am trying to build a little agility practice set for her, so I let her out on the deck with me, but for an intelligent dog, she is not totally satisfied unless I am playing with her continuously. We try to take her out to the field or the forest for a long free run or game of frisbee (or ball) at least on weekends. Often at the end of the day we are too tired to run around too much. We have had so much rain, it has made playing outside for any period of time rather unpleasant. Last week, I went out back to build a small drainage ditch as the water was gathering in the middle of the yard. I brought Rowena with me and she got totally covered with mud, and so did I. We came inside and I brought her directly to the shower to wash off. She seemed satisfied though, even if I did not play directly with her.
As a service animal, she is taught to "Lap up" and check me out when I seem upset or am crying. Perhaps if she grows restless from an extended period of depression, she might get to distracted to do her work appropriately. I know that she has a tendency to be a bit more unruly when she doesn't get enough play time... and I see that in her inability to remain still when another dog is present. Luckily she is still young and is not yet a full fledged Service Dog.
So in the midst of a really crappy night, rain falling and I am out for a "poop time" and walk to call the help line, I get a busy message and go to the police station to ask: "so what else can I do?" I am crying my head off and Rowena, doing her job, comes over and leaps up on me. I feel so bad, like I am letting her down, am the worst dog owner around. Standing there in the pouring rain, Ro's leash hangs as my hand droops down. Her leaping up is not working to her satisfaction so then she begins grabbing her leash and yanking on it. (She knows this is a "No-No" normally). Not only does she yank on it, she is growling. She is looking at me... frisky like, pulling and yanking her leash back and forth... GGRRR...GRRrrr! Well she knows she's not supposed to do this. However, in my tears, I can't help but begin laughing at her. This is not routine misbehaviour happening here. This is her alert system working at "code Yellow." Instead of falling on my knees and curling up into a little ball outside the police station at three in the morning, I am able to regain enough of my composure to look at Rowena and think to myself "I can't give up!" If this is the only type of alerting that Rowena ever did for me, she has earned her service dog title. Had I not had her at all, I certainly would have given up and slid down to a point where I would have required more professional help than what I sought out that night (morning).
I owe Rowena all the time she wants for all the time "outside" of hospitals I have had since I have been with her. It often feels like hell to stay out of the hospital for this long when I feel so miserable, but most of the time I feel the quality of my life is still better at home with Rowena and hibernating than it would be in a hospital with out Rowena. People (the MH providers) often say: "Oh that's great... you've stayed out of the hospital for so long!" What is not considered by these misguided providers is the quality of that outpatient time and the overall state of my mental health while I am out. What makes it worth it? I'd say Rowena does.

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