Monday, January 13, 2014

My Dog and I Cured Me

My new puppy!  November 11, 2004!  There is nothing like the glow in the face of a new puppy owner.
Around the time I got my puppy that I was going to train as a service dog, I had been out of the psychiatric hospital for about a year.  I had only been out of the medical hospital (which I was in for psychiatric medical reasons) for about 2 months.  When my puppy was born, I had just come home.  Mentally, I was somewhere between locking myself up in the security of a psych ward and staying home to attempt to tough it out and see if I could do it.  My life was in the balance.

The past year had been a struggle, but I had stayed out of the psych unit for months.  The Doctor of the psych unit might say "it was my unscrupulous treatment of her that made her stay out of the hospital.  I broke her."  The caseworkers were saying, "It is because we deemed her 'not disabled enough' to continue with case management and discharged her from the team that she was able to stay out."  I will not be giving them credit for what they claim they did for the sake of "treatment", because all they did was abandon me when I needed someone to be there and take me seriously.  What I needed was a way to get out, a way to recover without being scolded all the time.  I was not getting any pleasure from reliving a trauma over and over again and I certainly wasn't getting treatment from a doctor whose approach to care for me was to make my stay as miserable as possible to the point where I willingly took those mind-numbing meds that did nothing more than knock me out.  I certainly didn't want to be conscious.

For several years I had been learning about emotional support dogs, therapy dogs and service dogs for psychiatric disabilities.  I knew a bit about it.  It was one thing I had not tried yet.  Soon after my discharge from the medical hospital, my (community-based) psychiatrist wrote me a script for a service dog.  I can't even remember what we talked about.  I can't remember at what point in my search for a puppy I was in when we began discussing it.  I know the note was written the week I was to get my new puppy, which we had found an ad for in the newspaper.  Knowing how uncommon it is to see border collie puppies advertised in the local paper, I know God must have been helping out with this one.
Posing for a winter photo
Raising a puppy that first 6 months was the best therapy I could have ever had.  Not only did it give me something new to work on, it seemed to meet a need.  It seemed to quiet something that had fought so hard before.  And at 6 months, she began alerting to rising anxiety.  She began learning a task that would make her a service dog one day soon.

The way the human aspect of the Mental Health treatment had hurt me was inexcusable, and unjust.  If anything, it was downright re-traumatizing.  In fact, I have nightmares about being in the hospital (psych unit). This was a system that was supposed to help people, not leave traumatized people with more traumas to struggle with in life.
A day at Camp Capella in Lucerne, Maine
WHO got me to where I am today, having been out of a psychiatric hospital (and medical hospital) for about 8 years or so?  WHO has weaned me away from the harm of the mental health system?  I give credit to few individuals:  Rowena, my service dog, and myself.  I give thanks to few, but I recognize 2 outpatient psychiatrists, Deborah Ryan, MD and Pakkam Rajasekaran, MD for their faith in service dogs (especially mine) and their faith in me.  So many other "Helpers" have only succeeded in leaving me feeling hurt and like I'd been stabbed in the back.  So few had faith in me.  None of them had done away with the scolding to actually listen to me.

You can not shame and blame a person back to mental health.  You cannot shame and blame a dog to do your bidding.
I'd like to purchase this please?

I blame myself for the need to write this piece as I watched a movie the other night, a "horror" flick.  It took place in a psych ward of a big old fashion Institition, probably the same age as the one I spent many nights in many years ago.  I don't know if the people who created the film had any clue that their horror film is so much like the many "hospital" dreams I have. The confusion, and surprise endings are nothing too different from the real feelings I have had.  And then that so confusing feeling of escape from the outside world.  THAT is why I have these dreams to begin with.  So much stress.  So much so that I fall asleep and dream of being locked up away from the outside world.  However, I do not meet the criteria so I must stay out with my faithful service dog and continue to try to make myself stronger in this harsh world we live in...  even when I'd rather be in seclusion in a drug induced fog.
Participating in a fund raising walk to raise money for the local animal shelter
Everyday I stay out, I am hopefully that much stronger.  And my best friend is not about to scold me for feeling weak.

Photographing life in the bog, one of my favorite pastimes.
Photographing one of my favorite subjects, my service dog Rowena (while at the bog).

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