When your ESA has PTSD.

I think I wrote in one of my post that my new dog, Moo, who is my Emotional Support Animal (ESA) has issues. When first got him, I was living by myself since we where in the process of moving and my parents had already moved into the condo. So it was just the two of us. He loved me – I’d just saved him from shelter living and I liked him. I can’t say I loved him at that time because I was still grieving my old dog’s death, but he was something I could hold on to.

A little background on him so you get why I say he has PTSD. He was born on the IMG_0173streets of the Bahamas, one of thousands of dogs the run wild there. At three – four weeks old someone poisoned food and left it out for the wild dogs (instead of getting their pets fixed this is how people deal with the wild dogs in the islands). Moo’s mom got ahold of some of the poisoned food, and died. At this point he had to fend for himself or die too. For two or three weeks after his mom died he and this two siblings were on the streets alone. People chasing them, either to scare them off or to catch them, before he was caught. Then he went through being shipped to the USA, going through quarantine, going to the vet for things like shots, microchips, and getting fixed. He was paraded out weekly for adoption shows where it was loud, and people were passing him around, at which point it just got too traumatic for him. Then I found him at one of those shows and he sat in my lap so quietly I took him home thinking he was the “ONE” for me.

Then I started picking up on things. First, he followed me EVERYWHERE, I couldn’t move without Moo being right there. Which led to me tripping over him. Which is a problem because I’m already proned to accidents and falling. While we were still in the house he’d crawl into my lap whenever someone was in the house. If it was a man he’d try digging so he could get behind my back to hide. The only one who could touch him was me and my nieces when they’d visit. Any one over three foot tall that wasn’t me, he’d freak out, run away, hid, pee himself or play dead, somethimes all of them at once. Once we moved to the condo, Moo started hiding under my bed. Anytime he heard or saw someone that wasn’t  me, off he’d go, and he wouldn’t come out unless it was just him and I, and the door was closed. I actually had to move things around so he had a place to hide. Otherwise he’d get stuck under there and I couldn’t get him out. 

The condo move was already stressful for me, and now I  was dealing with a freaked out puppy/dog on top of it. I hate to say this and I never would have even thought it before, but I was close to returning him to the shelter. Up until this time I believed that once you take on a dog that dog is your responsibility for life – either theirs or yours, but I started wonder if our parting wouldn’t be better for both of us since he was driving my anxiety levels over-the-top big time. There was just one problem – by the time his PTSD became really noticeable we’d had three months of just him and I time in the house before we sold it, and I was attached plus I was still grieving the loss of one dog and didn’t want to loss anther.

So I had to come up with ways of treating his PTSD so he’d stop triggering mine. Yes, as crazy a this may sound I wanted to keep the dog that was triggering my PTSD. The first step was realizing that he had problems. The next was finding a way to work on his problems that not only helped him but didn’t trigger me. His biggest problem was people, guess what, so is mine.  I found out that he loves being around other dogs though, so where could he be around both dogs and people? Pet stores were out cause I can’t take them – to crowded and closed in, and noises. I then started looking into dog training classes. They were ok for a start but I really only did them because my dog need basic training and he liked them. I on the other hand didn’t like them so much, because well I was stuck inside with people and I felt weird about leaving in the middle of a class when I started getting panicky. The next thing we tried was the off-leash dog park. This worked for both of us. He got to be with, play with dogs, I was outside so I felt less trapped, and I could move or leave whenever I started getting panicky. It took almost six months of two-to-three times a week visits to the park before Moo would even go near another human, another six months before he’d let a woman pet him, we’ve just reached the two year mark and he’s finally going up to people (men and women) and letting them pet him. At home he gotten a lot better too. Most of my extended family he likes and most of my friends. He’s still scared of strangers, especially men, which he growls at before coming to jump on my lap. He still doesn’t bark but I’m ok with that. I still have to watch for signs he’s nervous around someone, usually I let him in my bedroom when that happens, but now he no longer feels the need to hide under the bed.

He has other little things that he still does like he won’t eat from his bowl if you are near him, if you come near him and he’s eat he leaves. So I feed him at night so he can eat while we sleep. If you give him a treat he runs off and hides to eat it. He has to be under the covers in my bed went it rains, thunders or there are fireworks or other loud noise or he cries. It is emotionally painful when he cries. And if I’m gone for longer than four hours he starts looking out the windows and pacing from door to door looking for me. Then when I get home he follows me around again. He has horrible nightmares but so do I so we keep each other company and calm each other down.  

I know I said early I thought of returning Moo because of his issues but I can truly say that I’m thankful I didn’t. I’m also thankful every day that when I went looking for a new dog, God saw fit to give me Moo. Not only do I understand him better than most people would, but he also helps me understand and be more accepting of myself and my issues, by dealing with and accept his.  And I can say now without a doubt that he enriches my life and I love him. There are a thousand ways he makes my life better, but mostly it’s his cheerfulness I love the most.

*** No, my dog is not named Moo. This is just his alias for this page. I’m not so mean as to name a dog – Moo. 🙂

Wearing What I’m Feeling For All To See

It is once again the Holiday Season. A time most people associate with joy, happiness, peace and family togetherness. The only part of that I associate this time of year with is the family togetherness, only it’s not in the good way most people do. I dread this time of year, because it means flashbacks of my abuse go into overdrive. We use to spend either Thanksgiving break or Christmas break (sometimes both) at my grandparents. If we weren’t there, they were here. Even though there where other times during the year that I was exposed to them, this time of year has the most triggers – commercials of happy families around a dinner table, decoration, Christmas music, etc. If I had my wish I would go to sleep about the middle of October and wake up in the middle of January. This year I forgot that I need to start gearing myself up for the whiplash that is the Holidays, because basically I forgot they were coming. I have been a little busy with having surgery, recovering from that, and dealing with the fact that the only mothering I was likely to get was the mothering I gave myself. October and most of November were gone before I was really able to leave my house, so I missed the early warning signs that the Holidays were on their way. If l hadn’t miss almost two months, I would have been prepared.

Then it happen last Tuesday, just 2 days before Thanksgiving I was in a store getting my prescription fill, when Winter Wonderland started playing on the over head speakers. At first, there was nothing, just me humming to the song, then the thought “Wait!!! It’s TOO early to be playing this song.” Then came the realization that no it wasn’t, and the shaking started. By Wednesday this had become a full blow panic-trigger-obsessive-mess. That’s when Sonja took over. Since this is only the second or third short-haircuttime one of my alters has completely taken over, to the point were I can’t stop them, it’s a little hard to explain what happen. It was like the “A” part of me was thrown out of my body. All I could do was scream and pound on an invisible wall as I watched in horror as Sonja took the electric shaver to my hair. Sonja parted my hair so that the top and sides were pinned up then she shaved everything from my ears down in the back off. It wouldn’t have been so bad except she shaved it to the skin. Then she let down the side and the front and took a pair of scissor to them. The more Sonja cut the more she wanted to cut. I finally broke through the wall that was holding me, “A”, back and got her to put the scissors down, but not before my hair went from shoulder length to barely covering my ears.

When I finally got Sonja to explain the mess she made of my hair, she told “A” that it was in the way. She was just following the example of the Amazon warrior women of myth who she took after, who were said to cut of their breast when it got it the way of them being better. Better fighters, better archers, better warriors, whatever. To Sonja, my hair was a hinderance, it was keeping me from being better.  As a child it allowed me to be caught, easier. It allowed me to be controlled. Sonja cut it off so that couldn’t happen, any more, so I didn’t have to be afraid, so I could get better. It’s crazy but logically in its craziness.

You see I know that Sonja’s “job, reason for being” is to be my protector, my fighter, my avenging angel. I know that she switched on because she felt my fear and my panic. I just wish she hadn’t left me as bald as a baby’s bottom from my ears down. I also wish she would quit popping into my head and trying to take over ever time I’m trying to get ready to go somewhere. I’ve had to put away all the scissors in the house because Sonja isn’t done with my hair yet. She wants it to be even shorter, even though this is the shortest I’ve ever had it.

The length and the fact that the back of my neck is bald up to my ears makes me feel so many feelings but mostly, ashamed. My therapist suggested a wig or extentions but they are not going to stop the fact that Sonja feels an overwhelming need for my hair to be really short. I feel like I have a big, blinking, neon sign pointing to it and thus all my faults. It like a visual sign of everything that is F@(Ked up with me that the whole world can now see. Then there is a part of me that wants to let Sonja finish what she started because I am that F@(Ked up, so why shouldn’t everyone know it. I’ve got Becca cheering in the background, wanting me to let Sonja go with the scissor, because Becca is hoping that if I allow that, I will allow the purple and green highlights she wants.

And my new therapist wonders why I’m starting to fear my alters. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up one day with spiked green and purple hair, striped down to nothing, running around a public place, singing something stupid like “It’s a Small World After All” at the top of my lungs, while someone records it for youtube, and I have no idea how I got there.