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. 🙂


Farther Then I Thought I’d Come

I had my friend (the one with a similar background in abuse as me) over the other day. Usually it’s me that needs to talk and Stepping stoneshave someone listen and help. This is something that I feel guiltily about because I don’t want our relationship to be one-sided with me doing all the taking and her doing all the giving. But on this day, she was the one that was in need of help, and for once I got to be there for her.

Without going into a lot of detail, since this is not my story to tell, both her and her child needed a helping hand. And I was able to help her by giving her some of my collected information on the following things:

Talking to a family member who hasn’t been abused and doesn’t always get what is going on with you. Someone who thinks if you just try harder you can do more without realizing that what you are doing now in the very best you can do. I read to her some of my post “Letter to My Family“. I recommended the book Shock Waves: A Practical Guide to Living with a Loved One’s PTSD”, because let’s face it when you’ve gone through what we’ve been through you most likely have PTSD. It really helps when those around you have a guide to living with the fall out of it. It also helps if they know where you are coming from. I know we all wish and want them to be about to look at us and read our minds and know exactly what to say or do. But they aren’t mind readers, they have no special powers, they won’t know unless we tell them. Sometimes this requires repeating ourselves. Just like when you get poison ivy you have to repeatedly apply calamine lotion for relief, sometimes you have to reapply what you need the other person to hear. That’s why I’m a big fan of the letter. It doesn’t have to be confrontational that way. You can just print it up and leave it for the other person to read and think about.

Suicide was other thing we discussed. I have personal experience with the driving need to end it all. I have a couple of plans on how I do it and everything. I know what it feels like to think that it wouldn’t matter to anything or anyone if you did it. I’ve written a couple of post on it for my “Legacy of Child Abuse” series. I highly recommended the Boggle the Owl site, since reading some of the posts there have gotten me through the bad times. Sometimes something as little as an anonymous person telling you that they care and that it’s going to be ok care help. Sometimes you just need to hear those words even if you are only reading them to yourself.

Then we talk about my all time favor topic (being ironic here) panic attacks and anxiety, and how to deal. I got out my therapy binder, where I keep all the printouts that my therapist gives me. The one that works best for me is “Overcoming Anxiety: 5 Quick Ways to Relieve Anxiety“.

1. Making yourself comfort, and reminding yourself this will pass.
2. Use calming self talk.
3. Acknowledge and accept
4. Distract yourself
5. Use relaxation techniques

Lastly I talked to her about accepting and acknowledge my “others”. Till you do that they can really make you feel insane. I showed her my dress up drawings that each of my others did. And how they had their own Pinterest account where they each had boards and expressed the need to not get angry when they express themselves in ways that we normally would think is weird, insane, shameful, etc. I also showed her my post-it with the rules for living in my body (or house, as my therapist and I call it).

– No one makes the rules except “A”
– There are no other rules but the ones “I” make
– No one can bring harm to anyone else in the house.
– If you don’t take care of the house or you try to harm it you don’t get to come out.
– If you don’t follow the rules you don’t get to come out.
– You can’t make changes to the house (ex. Haircut, color, etc.) without a majority ruling in favor of the change.
– All decision made by the house have to have a 75% in favor ruling to be done.

When we’d finished talking, and she left; I got to thinking about all I’d said and the wisdom I’d passed on. And it hit me. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this; I wouldn’t have been able to help this way, because I hadn’t done the work. In the last three years, I have been slowly but surely doing the work and learning what I needed to do this. And while most of the time I feel like I haven’t gone anywhere, that I’m exactly where I was when I started. That’s not true. I’ve posted over 200 post on my blog. Each of them are stepping stones. They maybe baby steps . I have been taking baby steps to getting better. This day helped me to remember how far I’ve come.


For me, my repressed pain, which is triggered by my repressed memories, is something that I can only express privately or more to the point, I use every method I can to distract myself so as not to feel this repressed pain. I’ve spent so many years in denial of what happened toDenial-England me, first because I couldn’t handle it than because I didn’t know how to handle it. In my family Denial is our way of life. If we had a family crest with a motto on it; it would say “Deny, deny than deny some more”.  Nowhere in our family are the words “You shall know that truth and the truth shall set you free.” This is kind of funny since the saying about truth comes for the Bible and my family eat, sleeps and breathes the Bible.  But for them, and thus for me because that is how I grew up it has been “If you deny it happen then it really didn’t happen and so you don’t have to face the reality of the abuse. Deny, deny, deny – Deny that my grandfather was a pedophile, deny that my grandmother was enabling my grandfather to abuse child, deny that my mother had split-personalities and that she was physically abusive and neglectful in turns,  and deny that you knew about any of it so that you would have to deal with what these statements mean.”

To live in this state of complete denial, I’ve had to repress my pain and the memories that went with them. Now that the pain keeps bubbling to the surface I have to face the facts that I have use a lot of different things to keep them repressed. The most noticeable of them is not letting one moment of quiet to permeate my life. The TV, music or a book on tape is almost always playing in the background. Even when I worked in the corporate world, I almost always had my IPod with me.  It helped me to work better and to drown out the voices and memories in my head. Now I can’t go anywhere without my IPod, I don’t sleep at night without the TV on, I can’t drive without some kind of background noise (music or a book on tape).  I can’t allow even one moment of quiet or the fear, pain and loneliness of my childhood finds its way in.

The repressed memories are the hardest to work with because at first you think you are going absolutely crazy. For me, it was “Why do these horrifying flashes of abuse keep popping into my head? What do they mean? Are they real!?!” Once I got past the point of thinking that I was going crazy for having these horrific flashbacks and I came to a place of acceptance that they were real and not just my twisted, sick mind. Then other questions started coming up “Who was doing these things to me? Where was I? How old was I? Where were my parents since I was pretty sure it wasn’t them abusing me?” But I think the biggest questions for me were “Why had I forgotten the abuse?” and “Why was I remembering it now?”

The answer to my first big question was pretty easy for me – I’d forgotten them because they were horrific and my child’s mind just wasn’t able or ready to deal with them. It was a safety mechanism to keep me from actually going insane, it was the only way my child’s mind could handle it. As for the second question – it’s true I started remembering things when I was 16-17 but none of these memories were really clear. I didn’t get the clear memories until after my grandfather died. I think that my mind knew that I could not handle them until he was gone, otherwise I might have snapped and killed him, but at the same time I think I remembered just enough as a teenager so that I no longer had to put myself in situations where I had to deal with him.

Nervous As Can Be…

Tomorrow I go to court to try to appeal my Social Sercurity Disability descision. It has been a couple of nerve-wracking weeks since getting the letter about the hearing of waiting, proparing and dealing with my lawyers, doctors, etc on this. I was told that  it helped to write down each of your medical problems and what they were like in your own words to take with you so that you could have them in cause of nerves, so here is what I have for tomorrow, I hope that it will be enough:

Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia – This is really two different things that are linked to each other, first the agoraphobia. I don’t like to leave my house sometimes I don’t like to even leave my room. It is the only place that I feel safe. I know the people that are around me and I can even lock myself into my room if the fear becomes too uncontrollable. It is the only place that I can semi let my guard down (more on this when I talk about my PTSD). I can’t be in elevators with more than 2 people in them and only if it’s fast. When I do have to leave my home for things like doctors visits or shopping for food I usually experience the other part of this diagnosis – the panic disorder or Panic attacks. When I have a panic attack it feels like all the oxygen is being sucked from the room and the walls are closing in on me. I feel like I’m suddenly surrounded by hundreds of people all pushing, pulling, getting in my space and breathing my air (when in truth there may not be anyone within 10 feet of me.) I can’t breathe, I hyperventilate and either starts sobbing or screaming. Then the crawling feeling starts, if feels like some has pore an ant farm with thousands of little ant all over my skin, to counteract this feeling I start scratching my arms, not even aware that I’m doing it, till I make myself bleed. Sometimes I can forestall these attack at least for a little while (30 min on a good day) if I have my IPod with the right music playing, I practice my deep-breathing and close my eyes, and pretend I’m somewhere else.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Having PTSD is like being a time bomb but not knowing when you are going to go off (be triggered). Because of this I have to be in control at all times. I need to know where the exits are, I usually sit in corners so no one can come up behind me and I am always on the watch.  I never know what is going to trigger a flashback – there are a couple of different kinds of flashbacks that I experience. The first kind is the nightmares – the dreams that are so terrifyingly real that I wake in a sweat, sobbing, shaking, and unable to breathe or relax. The second of the kind where you lose track of reality and are sent back to the trauma the cause the PTSD in the first place, so that you have to experience it all again. The third kind I experience are what are called body memories, it is where your body goes through the feelings of an old memory while you stay aware of where you are. To me these are the worst because your body is feeling everything that happened.

With the flashbacks come angry, depression, crying and all kinds of other heightened emotions, which are sometime hard to explain to yourself let alone those around you. It’s like you’re going crazy and you know its happening but there is nothing you can do to stop it. These emotions can lead to you lashing out at those around for no other reason but that there are there.

Major Depressive Disorder – Depression – I feel sadness, worthlessness, lonely and futility ALL the time! I feel as though no matter what happens that this is always going to be my life and some days I find getting out of bed more then I can handle. All I want is for the world to go away and leave me in peace. I find no joy in any of the things that use to make me happy – family, work, and friends. I’ve even gotten to the point that my dog (the one thing I love the most in my life) has become something I look at as a burden instead of something that I love dearly.

Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS) – This mental disorder is like living in hell and being surrounded by your own personal little demons. They all have their own names, personalities and opinions.  While it is not as bad as Dissociative Identity Disorder in that I don’t lost awareness of who I am when one of them takes over. I do have 8 alters that take control and put me in the back seat whenever they feel like I (“A” – the host part of me) can’t deal with something. In a way it’s like letting someone else driving so you can take a break except that instead of a car they are driving your life.

Fibromyalgia – I feel like I have the flu 24×7 365 days a year. Which makes my body achy, run down and all I want to do is sleep.  I experience pain all the time – sometime it can be likened to having a throbbing toothache “all over your entire body”, sometimes it feels like someone is electrocuting you and the shock is running everywhere, and sometimes it feels like someone has a burning hot poker and is stabbing you all over with it. On really bad days it feels like all three are happening at once. Most days I have to walk hunched over because the pain in my lower back is so insufferable that standing straight is impossible.

I have this overwhelming, complete and total Exhaustion which makes taking a shower and getting dressed a BIG accomplishment. Of course be the time I do, all I can do is crawl back in bed because my body has been sabbed of all its energy. Of course, I can’t get sleep that my body so desperately needs because insomnia is one of its symptoms. There is nothing like – wanting, needing, desperately seeking sleep, only to have it elude you…

Then I have the “Fibro Fog”. It’s just what it sounds like – Fibromyalgia puts my mind in this deep, dark, dense fog that makes remembering even the simplest things difficult. I have problems completing sentence. Sometimes I can’t remember what I’m doing from one minute to the next. You have no idea how frustrating it is to walk from one room to the next and forget why you did. This isn’t something that happens every once in a while this is something that happens day in day out, sometimes 10 or 50 times a day. It makes getting things done difficult and complicated.

If this isn’t enough – added to this is my stomach. So days eating is like a chore – I know I have to eat but then I have to worry about the consciences of eating. Am I going to have heartburn and acid reflux all day? Am I going to throw up what I ate? Or is it going to go right through me and am I going to spend the next hour on the toilet? Then there is always the really atrocious days when I throw up, sit on the toilet and then when there is nothing else left; I have heartburn.

I have to watch everything I do – stress make it worse, too much or too hard of exercise makes it worse. Being around someone that is sick makes it worse, plus guarantees that I’m going to get what they have; lack of sleep makes it worse. All the foods I enjoy AKA spicy or Italian make it worse. This disease takes all the fun out of life and leaves you nothing else.

To make matters even worse you add family and friends who just don’t get what you are going through. I’ve heard comments like “you don’t look sick”, “it’s all in your head”, “you just have a low tolerance to pain”, “you’d feel better if you exercised more”, and so on. These comments don’t help, in fact they make me more depressed then I already am.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

I don’t usually do this here, usually save my movie reviewing for my Hugpages, but my movie review on this deserves to be mentioned here as well.

I HATED this movie, and I don’t often say this about movies. I may not like a movie but Hate is a big would that I don’t usually use for movies.

Spoiler Alert!!! for those who haven’t seen this, yet, and are planning too.

Reasons I hated this movie:

  1. It’s incredibly sad and depressing. I watch movies so that I’m not sad and depressed, not to become even more so. If I had been alone I won’t have mad it through the first ten minutes of this movie before turning it off. The problem was is that my mom say this movie at the theather and keep telling me to come back and watch it even though I keep walking away.
  2. If you have a panic disorder this will really trigger it. The child’s anxiety issues are shown in a way that make us understand what he’s feeling. If you already exhibit those feelings, it magnifies it a hundred times. I need to take extra Klonipin (anxiety meds) about 30 minutes in.
  3. Through the whole thing I keep thinking this child is in pain. He needs help. Why the hell hasn’t someone gotten this kid into grief counseling or something like that, especially after he showed his grandfather the bruises and sores that he had self-inflected. Which of course triggered my issues with the adults in my life not noticing the pain I was in.
  4. I found all the adults, except his father, who was died, to be so self-absorbed. Here this child is in crisis mode and they’re too busy dealing with the own stuff to notice. (Yes, I know, again it sounds like my family). Even the grandfather who at first was helpful walked away because his grief was so great that the kid’s didn’t matter. I think it is shameful that for over one year and 3 months the child was carrying around this great burden of pain and the only person that would listen to him was a complete stranger.
  5. What mother in their right mind, even a grieving one, would let their child go all over New York City all by themselves talking to complete strangers? This is New York City, the crime rate is horrible. I don’t care if she went to all the strangers before hand to tell them he was coming. What if one of them was a pervert or a pedophile. Also if she felt that she had to let him do it, why wasn’t she following his every step making sure he was safe instead of waiting at home for him?
  6. The whole movie infuriated me. I felt like the only person that loved that child died on 9/11. Not even the great acting talents of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock could save this movie for me. After all they had about a combine scene time of 20 minutes.

Of course my mother loved this movie but what was even more maddening was the fact that she couldn’t see that the way the kid felt is the way I feel all the time. I sure wish I had gone with my gut and walked at the beginning of the movie because now I’m sad, depressed and angry. Angry because my mom can feel something and understand the child in the movie but she can’t use that to understand any of what I go through.

For more on this movie see my review: http://phoenixjournal.hubpages.com

The Shadow And A Voice

*******TRIGGER WARNING*******

I have a seventh part coming out of hiding, only this one isn’t like my other parts. This part has been crawling around in the back of my mind, slithering in and out of its hiding places. It’s my cutter, my obsessive toThe Shadow the point of doing harm to myself part. It’s the part that tears everything that I do that is good down. It’s the part that will give me no peace. I can hear it whispering always in the back of my mind. “You are worthless. You are dirty. You are no good. Nothing you do will ever be good enough. If you’d just listen to me this could be over already.” This part has no face, it has no name, it’s just a shadow and a voice.  To make this part easier to keep track of I’m just going to call it the Shadow. I realized last week in therapy that this part was really showing its self. I started my session very proud of my accomplishments with the wedding cake and flowers I had done for my friends’ wedding, from there I went to they were a nice job considering, to they would do, to while at least they had something. The further into the session I got the more my shadowy voice came out, the more what I had done became worthless and horrible.

This week my parents’ are out-of-town visiting my sister, leaving me alone with my dog. I was really looking forward to this break from them, but here I am two days in and I can’t wait for them to return. I’m tired and I can’t seem to go off full alert and fall asleep. Last night I turned on a truly boring movie in the hopes of falling to sleep. I can usually fall asleep if the TV is on, but I was still awake at 6 am this morning. I’ve tried complete darkness, leaving a light on, playing music, leaving the TV on. I’m sleeping with a 95lb Rottie, who would tear the arms and legs off anyone that tried to come near me. Still every time I hear a noise I’m on full alert. No sleep means more paranoia, which means less sleep, which means more paranoia. I went to the store today to get some groceries and had a panic attack for the first time in months. This was followed by coming home and I started cutting up the strawberries I had, and I started obsessing on the knife again. The last time this happen was after I spent 3 weeks alone and I started obsessing about the swimming pool, then the knife. I ended up checking myself into the mental hospital because of it. This time I put the knives away out of sight then took and extra dose of Klonopin. So far that’s working, but if not I may have to go stay at a friend’s house.

I can really feel the creeping and crawling of the Shadow in my mind right now. This is why I don’t like being alone. It’s harder to tune out the Shadow.  I need to talk about this with my doctor tomorrow maybe she can prescribe me something that will help.

Letter To My Family – I Want To Be Angry…

This last week I have been finding myself getting more and more angry as everyone around me is NOT LISTENING to me and hearing my needs. Today in therapy I realized I want to be angry. So I have collected my thought for a letter for my family. I have spent so many years denying myself and my feelings and now that I am trying to get in touch with them I get angry when I am continually not listen to or I am being told to deny my feelings. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH. I am tired of walking on egg shells so that I don’t upset my mother because she just feels guilty when my abuse comes up, guess what she should feel guilty. She knew what he was and she still allowed him access to her children. I am tired of the tip-toeing around my sister and her nerves with this up-coming wedding. She has done next to nothing but complain for this wedding. I am tired of allowing my father to stick his head in the sand and ignore everything just because he is working and paying the bills. I HAVE ISSUES AND IT IS TIME THAT THEY ARE HEAR AND DEALT WITH.

1. I am not sleeping at night. I can’t help this. The nighttime is the hardest time for me. When I do sleep I spend the time in dreams of being chased and wake up more tired than when I went to sleep. So if I am sleeping during the day, don’t wake me up and don’t think that allowing Samuel to wake me up is ok. Just because he is only 3 years old doesn’t make it cute or any less annoying.

2. Everything is triggering me. I am hyper-vigilant right now. It is like being set on attack mode 24/7 and having no down time. This means that public places – stores, church, etc. are pretty much out of the question for me. If I do brave them, it can only be for short times and when I say I have to go it means – I HAVE TO GO!!!

3. I can’t make decisions, so quit asking me to. I really don’t care. Right now breathing is taking up all my mental capacity.

4. I am no longer the person that you knew. I am changing, so of the changes you are not going to like but they are what I have to do for my own well-being. Stop expecting me to be the person that mediates, picks up the pieces, or who spend hours listening to you go on about your problems. I can’t do this for you anymore.

It is time that you as my family get that I have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). I can’t control it. And it means that at times my actions and feelings are going to seem weird or different. I’ve found this wonderful link on PSTD called – About my PTSD…To Whom It May Concern by Tom Cloyd, MS, MA  Since you haven’t taken the time to read the book Shock Waves, I figure this is shorter maybe you can get through it.