0

Blinded by depression

I’ve been sapped into a huge depressive black hole.

The depression has consumed me for the past few weeks, and it shows no sign of abating. There are a few little chunks over in this post on my other blog, if anybody is interested.

A lot of Spoonies have been sharing these to try end stigma and fight the shame. Here is mine.

I’m sharing some colouring from the past year. No words needed.

0

One day

I had one day feeling good. One day in a sea of shit.

Now the depression is back, and it’s brought with it the hopelessness, the worthlessness and the despair. Hello suicidal thoughts, I sure did miss you yesterday… đŸ˜„

I don’t want to do this anymore. How can anybody call this a life? And I’ve been dealing with this shit for 13 years.

I had a panic attack today, haven’t had one of those in a while, and I’ve been crying for hours. I’m going to need to drink a bath tub of water to rehydrate after this.

Please no ‘it will get better’ messages. It never gets better, it only ever gets worse.

 

0

It’s fine UK, there’s no need for ESA or PSD…

I’ve moaned many times how disgusting I think it is in regards to assistance dogs and psychiatric illnesses in the UK.

From anyone outside of the UK, especially those in America, let me explain:

  • In the UK you CANNOT get Emotional Support Animals, that is animals who are classed as being comforting to their owners, and are allowed in ‘no pet’ housing, and usually on planes. We don’t get that in the UK, ESAs don’t exist here.
  • On top of that the UK does not allow psychiatric service dogs (/psychiatric assistance dogs). Physical disabilities mean you can qualify for an assistance dog – which is the same as a service dog in that it is trained do tasks to help the handler, and can also legally access anywhere; cinemas, restaurants, shops etc – but there is nothing in place for people with mental illnesses to have a service dog.

I’ve talked before about the various ways a dog could help people with a mental illness. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Body blocking; sitting in front of handler to prevent people getting close
  • Circling; as above but the dog moves around the handler
  • Interrupting behaviours, be they alerting to anxiety (eg. trembling, jittery legs) or interrupting self-harming behaviours
  • Comfort and DPT
  • Bringing items – medications, mobile phone etc
  • Retrieving help from other people in the house, if handler is in crisis

And of course a dog’s presence out in the world and in the home can be very helpful to someone suffering from a psychiatric illness too.

That’s just a very brief list of a few ways that a dog can help, off the top of my head.

Quite frankly it is absolutely ridiculous that the UK does not acknowledge the fact that there is a need for assistance dogs for those with mental illness, and that sufferers could benefit hugely from this.

I’m writing about this because our recently adopted dog, a Chihuahua x Dachshund who had been abused the first 7 months of her life, has completely changed my life.

She started off as a trembling wreck, and it was weeks before she would come to us for contact and we could stroke her. It was months before we could walk her other than to just take her to the toilet, and weeks after that before she stopped trembling when people walked on the opposite side of the road to us.

Watching her grow in confidence has been a beautiful experience, but she has brought so much love into my life…she’s my little shadow!

And thanks to her, for the first time in months, I am able to go out on my own, to walk her.

True I don’t go far from home, I’m only ever out for about forty minutes…but for me that is HUGE! I have found training her phenomenal – it motivates me, it makes me feel useful, and it gets me thinking. Focusing on her during our walks is extremely helpful; it means I don’t give into the paranoia / psychosis regarding other people we see out and about, and when she reacts to noises or people, it shows me they are real.

I now take her most times I leave the house. She walks with us and, when it’s too busy for her (because she’s nowhere near bombproof, she’s still learning to trust the world) I have a dog bag that I can carry her in, and that’s wonderful too as the physical contact is very calming.

With her I have walked through town four times (it was something I hadn’t been able to do in months), I’ve ridden a bus, AND walked around a supermarket carpark as my partner went inside to buy things. We walked about and did training, and there was such little anxiety on my part…the supermarket used to be such a huge trigger for panic attacks!!!

Case in point, I’ve just come back to this blog several hours after beginning to write it, and it’s been an awful several hours. I was sat here crying, and my dog comes and sits on my lap, and I stroke her and cuddle her and s-l-o-w-l-y start to feel just a little better.

So here’s what I’m doing.

I, and a small minority of other people in the UK with psychiatric disabilities, are training our own dogs to perform tasks and help us both out in public and at home. Now obviously these dogs, stupidly, won’t have the same rights as service dogs – but they will help us.

We need to buy vests and patches, that state our dogs are working and are not to be disturbed, because just like registered assistance dogs, our pups need to focus. It’s critical they aren’t distracted by people trying to pet them, because they are doing an important job and they are saving their handlers’ life everyday.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with my dog, Pixie. We are at the very, *very* beginning of our journey. We are working on heel and focus, sit stay, down stay, watch me, settle on me, interrupt behaviours, under (go under my legs as I’m sitting on a chair) and her starting in the right position.

farmfields20

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of training.

Most physically disabled handlers that have assistance dogs have a lot of help training them. I have nothing. Thankfully I’m fairly experienced with dog training thanks to my other dogs, and I know about behaviour, clicker training, shaping, luring etc. I’m at an advantage but it’s still a looooong road.

And after all the training, and after all she helps me, we still won’t have any more rights than your average untrained pet dog :/

But worse of all is being called a faker.

There seems to be articles published weekly about ‘fake service dogs’ (that is, service / assistance dogs that aren’t registered), and how disgusting their owners are, sticking a vest on their untrained unruly dog just so they can get them into places and can take their dog with them wherever they go!

Hatred comes from newspapers and handlers of service dogs alike, and I can understand how incredibly annoying it must be and how damaging fake service dogs can be when they are out of control – they must give businesses a really bad impression! – but not all unofficial service dogs are out of control, and their handlers aren’t always doing it for malicious reasons.

My dog really helps me. She means I can leave the house and go to busier places without suffering a panic attack or triggering an episode. She helps me when I’m at my worst. I am not calling her an assistance dog because I ‘want to take her places’, I’m calling her an assistance dog because SHE IS ONE, I just can’t register her!!

With most assistance dogs, the handlers get lots of help training them – in fact in many cases the dog is completely task trained before given to the handler.

Obviously when I don’t qualify as having a disability that could benefit from an assistance dog, I’m not going to get a pre-trained dog! So alongside the difficulty of everyday living, I also have this huge task ahead of me training my dog. From scratch.

In addition to basic obedience (sit, down, stay, recall, loose lead walking) there are so many extras we need to work on to the point where nothing could distract us:

  • Be able to walk past any person/s without showing any interest
  • Be able to walk past any dogs without losing focus
  • Be able to be calm and focused around all other animals – cats, squirrels, sheep, rabbits, at zoos, farms etc
  • Be able to remain calm in any shop (pet shop, shops selling food at ground level, shops full of shopping trolleys and screaming out of control kids etc etc)
  • Not only be able to remain calm in that environment, but to focus on tasks too
  • Ride on public transport whilst remaining calm and on point; this involves things such as…
  • Ignoring people
  • Getting used to the noise and motion of transport
  • Learning tuck / under (sit out the way) and other positioning
  • Be able to hold a down stay the entire journey, no matter the distractions
  • Be able to ignore all the utter morons who try stroke service dogs, pet them, call to them, bark at them etc
  • Be able to cope with automatic doors, elevators, shopping trolleys, check outs, intercom messages, ignore dropped food etc
  • Learn all the behaviours you want your dog to be able to perform – DPT, interrupting various actions, blocking by positioning body in way of other people, circling, fetching items etc etc etc

It feels VERY overwhelming.

Most service dogs trained by professionals have 12-24 months training, who knows how long it will take us?!

I’ve really enjoyed our training so far and I’m so incredibly impressed with my pup. I have this awful tendency to expect too much from my dog, and get frustrated with her when she ignores something I’m asking – even though 99.9% of the time it’s MY fault, because I’m expecting too much too soon!

In the 3 months we have had this dog she has changed my life so much. Now that I take her almost every time I leave the house, my anxiety has fallen right down, and even when I’m struggling with my mood or psychosis, I’m better able to cope. In the house I’ve had a lot of panic attacks, moments of intense sadness, crying etc – and every time she has helped me, and calmed me down, and got me back on track.

I can only imagine how much she will help in the long run.

This has been a really long, jumbled, messy post. My head’s quite messy at the moment and I’ve been writing this post for the past two days, so it’s all…weird. And it’s 5.30am in the morning, I can’t sleep, so obviously that’s a great time to edit and post it XD

0

Our own language

Quite often, and for long periods of time, I go mute.

I’ve been doing this since I was a young teen. I’d go days without really talking. My friends knew I wouldn’t respond to them verbally, my teachers knew I wouldn’t / couldn’t answer the register in class, and I just wouldn’t talk. I was quiet at the best of times, in class especially, but out of this selective mutism I was noisy and fun-loving with my friends.

Depression would change that, drastically and often, and people accepted this.

The silence has clung with me over the past decade, and even with my partner there will be periods of hours or days where I’ll say barely a word.

Being silent feels wonderful. It feels like hiding under a duvet from the world.

It’s not that I don’t want to communicate with people, especially my partner who I love and trust…it’s more that it’s too much effort, I don’t have the strength, and I worry about every little thing I say. Depression hits me that way.

On top of that there are days where I’m disassociating, days where my psychosis has my tongue tied and unable to get what I want to say from my brain and out my mouth. Most times I can write or type, so we’ve often used that as a way to communicate, but outside is tough.

Over the last year we’ve kind of invented our own language, our own sign language.

We have dozens of words and phrases; two different ways of saying I love you!

We can’t talk easily or quickly, but I can answer questions, ask for things, say yes and no, or tell him I need help.

Not only does this REALLY help me in terms of depression, when I’m just feeling the need to be quiet, or if my brain-to-mouth is befuddled, but it’s great for my paranoia too. I tend to talk in codes when we’re out in public, and my partner often gets confused about what the hell I’m talking about…

I get frustrated at the time because I think I’m being so obvious, and I’m so anxious someone will hear what I’m saying if I don’t make it code. With sign language, we can talk about a lot of things without me worrying, even in public.

And the really great thing is that, as some of the signs are subtle or very hard to interpret, I can make them around other people, family members or friends. Even in the company of others I can tell my partner I don’t feel good or I need help.

Very handy 🙂

2

Living the dream!

For the past five years I’ve had short hair. No matter how hard I tried to grow it long, I couldn’t, because when I was manic I’d shear it all off.

My partner could watch me 24/7 to try and prevent it (and I’d ask him to when I wasn’t manic because I really wanted long hair!) but manic me would always find a way to chop it off – when he was in the shower, sleeping or even on the loo!

I want to grow my hair so desperately because I love wearing it in different styles, brushing it and tying it up. I love dying it bright colours and wearing plain clothes so it seems even brighter.

It was annoying having me ruin my plans over and over again!

In more recent times I shaved all my hair off due to psychosis, as short and close-to-bald as you can get. And I haven’t been able to grow it back…too much mania, too much psychosis. So I was stuck with really, really short hair!

I don’t know what made me think it, but I recently thought I could try wigs.

I don’t mind having short hair at all, I quite like it, but I hate going out in public with my head uncovered because you get a lot of stares, shouts of ‘are you a girl or a boy’ etc.

Now I know I don’t hardly ever post photos of mysel, but I ordered two wigs recently, both very brightly coloured, and one arrived today. I LOVE it! 🙂

I feel much more confident and comfortable in my own skin now ^__^

It was a really cheap fancy dress wig, because I wanted to see if I would be comfortable wearing a wig, and if there was even any point trying to wear a wig. Because it’s so cheap you do have to wear a headband or hat with it if the hair is tied back (otherwise the netting shows through the hair) but I have no problem with that…I really love it 🙂

colour

I hate this photo but you can see all the colours 🙂

So not only can I actually have hair, but I can take it off when my psychosis is causing issues and wear lots of different hair styles, lengths and colours!

colour3

4

Today’s a struggle

Everything is weighing me down.

My mood, psychosis…just when I think I’m doing so good, the *tiniest* amount of stress tips me over the edge.

Today I was bobbing between ‘just about coping’ and ‘struggling significantly’, then I started trying to work out what to do about my dogs’ harness…and even though it shouldn’t have been stressful, even though it wouldn’t have been stressful in the slightest to most people, I hit the end of my tether.

I’m tired, tearful, and hallucinating…as ever. I’m feeling very panicky and pretty sure I’m starting to dissociate. And I’m on my own…lucky our foster pup is with me, just keep her close, it’s all fine.

I wish things were a little easier.

0

I’m a mess…oh wait, I feel okay

This mish mash of symptoms is driving me crazy. Literally I guess.

I’m dealing with so many bloody fluctuations a day I can’t cope. What one hour might seem like a good day the next seems like the utter worst.

This isn’t down to Bipolar symptoms entirely, as my Bipolar mood swings tend to last weeks or months. It’s a combination of Bipolar mood swings, psychosis, anxiety, sleep and medication side-effects.

At the moment I think my Bipolar mood is tilting towards hypomania, which means I’m antsy, bored and wanting to spend more. It also adds towards my irritability.

My psychosis leaves me on edge, but at its’ worst it can make me entirely zone out and become unresponsive or leave me too panicked and terrified to talk. I also struggle to concentrate and can get antsy because my brain’s fried and trying to do too much at once.

Anxiety obviously always makes things ten times harder, but thankfully this hasn’t been *too* much of an issue recently.

Lack of sleep leaves me in a variety of states, ranging from utterly exhausted and unable to do anything, to pissed off and hating the world, or manic. The worst thing is, because I’m so bad at sleeping, catching up on sleep takes a long time and napping is impossible.

And then we have medication side-effects. A weird out-of-touch woozy head (dissociation), often tinted with a far away rage and inability to calm myself.

Ah, joy.

All this spinning around madly inside me, fluctuating by the hour. It must be so nice to be able to react normally to things and know who you are as a person…