Another Dog … Another Failure

Photo by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash

A couple of months ago I got a dog to train up to be my mobility helper.

He was terrified of men. So he was rehomed, and now lives the life of luxury, sleeping on beds and being spoiled. I had to seek outside confirmation that I couldn’t have made it work with him, because he was such a sweet dog, and he was the first one I had tried. But, ultimately, I cannot work with a dog who is terrified of men.

Last week I got another dog, also to train up to be my mobility helper. This time I took it slow. I went out and met him, I took my friend with me to assess his temperament, and then went home and had a long talk about him. I picked him up, and he was anxious, but he never put a foot wrong. He didn’t put a foot wrong the entire week I had him. He was sweet, lovely, willing, and just adapted to every situation thrown at him.

But he had some health quirks that could have been indicative of serious problems, and he smeared saliva everywhere. My amazing human isn’t able to cope with dog saliva, so we agreed he would not be joining us permanently.

I know it’s a process, I know the right dog is one-in-a-million, but I am feeling disheartened by this. It’s hard work to meet the dog, check them over, take them on for a bit, and then figure out how to explain to the old owner why their beautiful, lovely, fantastic, and genuinely amazing dog failed, because that’s what it feels like to them. The last owner didn’t understand, and was very upset by it, and I think that, more than anything, has led to me feeling so bad this time around.

I haven’t given up finding the right dog. Or rather, I have flights of fancy that I don’t need the extra help, that I’ll be able to figure out a way around all of this so I don’t need a dog, and life will continue on as it always has. But they are brief, and generally beaten over the head with a mallet with my leg doesn’t want to hold my weight, or when I have a dizzy spell.

But for now I am going to sit back and relax and rest up. The stress of the last few weeks is finally catching up with me.

An Injury Is Never Just An Injury

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When you have fibromyalgia, or trigeminal neuralgia, an injury is never “just” an injury.

Three weeks ago a door viciously attacked my little toe.  It was … well it wasn’t broken, and that’s the only positive thing I can say about it!  So the next day my fibromyalgia goes “HAH, PETTY TOE, LET ME SHOW YOU THE TRUE MEANING OF PAIN” and everything from my waist down felt swollen and heavy and on fire.  My joints all the way up to my hips were stiff.  I lay in bed and read trashy fanfiction to distract myself from the pain.  The day after that the burning heavy stiff sensation was only in the leg with the bung toe, and after that it went away completely.

So fibromyalgia is a real asshole when you get hurt.  But to top that off, whenever my fibromyalgia does a flareup, my trigeminal neuralgia does a flare up!

Well today, while sorting rams, I got smacked in the nose.  Fortunately by a hand and not a ram, but still, it was a good thwack.  I went and put cold water on it (the best we could do out on farm) and promptly had a meltdown.

The injury is on my face.  The injury is, specifically, on my nose.  The inflammation will put pressure on the second branch of both trigeminal nerves, and that’s likely to set off my trigeminal neuralgia which I had only just settled down after a volcano pimple on my jaw decided to set the whole thing off (why, oh why, does my face do this to me?).

So I had an anxiety attack, which is kind of understandable.  I don’t want my fibromyalgia to flare up.  I don’t want my trigeminal neuralgia to flare up.  I don’t want to be in pain.

But I don’t really get much of an option, and not doing the things that I love to keep myself safe from injury is also not an option … so I have to be kind to myself when I am injured.  And reduce inflammation as much as possible!

For now it is definitely setting off both trigeminal nerves, but it’s only set off the third branch of one side and mildly set off all three branches on the other.  Here’s hoping fibro doesn’t kick in tomorrow and make all the joints in my upper body stiff and achy!  I’ve got stuff to do!

Your Feelings Are Not More Important Than My Disability

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I am a people pleaser.  Always have been, probably always will be to at least some extent.  Other people’s feelings are simply more important than my own needs, and I will go out of my way to avoid doing what I think might hurt someone else’s feelings (even if it’s unlikely to actually hurt their feelings).

I also have a warped sense of what will hurt someone else’s feelings, but that’s for another time, and probably a lot of alcohol.

Regardless, I put other people’s feelings above my own needs.  And I do that now, even when my needs are great.

I use a cane to get around.  I’m fine getting around home, but if I’m walking around places like university, or the mall, I need a cane.  It hurts to take little itty bitty steps.  My happy walking is huge swinging steps where I can really stretch out my hips and swing them.  I still need a cane for that, because to do it best I need to keep my hips nice and loose, which negatively affects my balance, but I can do it for a lot longer and it’s a lot less painful.

But yeah, I need a cane to get around.  I have to be careful how I get up off chairs, sofas, and the like, because I have balance problems.  I often have to catch myself with my cane to make sure I don’t fall over.  It relieves a lot of pressure on my hips.

I’m looking into getting an Assistance Dog.  Well, a dog that I can train up to help me with my mobility issues and in the future become certified as an assistance dog when a spot becomes available to do so.  Except for one, big, problem.

My amazing human dislikes dogs.  He does not want me to get another dog.  He gets the pinchy face and says he could not cope with another dog.

Now under normal circumstances that’s understandable.  But these aren’t normal circumstances.  This is a dog that will help me with the mobility and balance issues I have now, and will help me with any fluctuations of my mobility and balance issues (i.e. what I consider to be my inevitable decline).  This is not a pet dog.  This is a working dog.  A service dog.  A dog that provides a measurable benefit to my wellbeing.

I had to say, very explicitly, that it hurt that he could not see past his own feelings to support me in something that will benefit my life and wellbeing, both now and in the future.

Now some people (like my mother) will see that as a very selfish thing, and yes, it is.  Because it’s more than just his feelings – I will also be imposing on his time, he will need to develop a solid working relationship with the dog, he will need one on one training to change his current habits, and he will need to continue to work with the dog.  I’ve suggested agility as suitable work for them both, as it involves issuing commands and having them followed while requiring no contact between the two.

Except that it’s a small imposition to him for a huge benefit to me.  I am disabled.  I will likely always be disabled.  I will likely get worse.

No one is going to stay around with me and help me get up from the sofa, or stay home and cuddle me on the couch when I’m having a flare up day.  No one is going to follow me around uni making sure I don’t fall over, or help me up the stairs.  No one is going to be there when I need help getting out of a chair, or getting up from the ground.

I have to fight to do these things.  I have to fight my own body, I have to fight gravity (damn you and your apples!), awkward chairs and even more awkward canes.

But a dog can alleviate some of that.  A dog may be able to alleviate enough of that that I have more energy to spend on other things.  There comes a point where feelings are overruled by benefit to self.

This is that point.

He’s allowed to dislike dogs.  He can continue to dislike dogs.  I am still getting an assistance dog, and he can either work through his feelings about dogs to be fully onboard and work with me and the dog, or he can go.

Because at the end of the day, my disability is more important than his feelings, and if he cannot work past his own feelings to support something that will improve my disability, then he is not right for me.

Money Matters

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I just received news that the long awaited inheritance is now not far off – and that it is likely to be more than originally anticipated.

I freaked out.  Total meltdown.  Still am.  My brain is frazzled, I’m bouncing all over the show, and not all of it is delight.  A lot of it is anxiety.

While hand combing out knotted fur and rambling (surprisingly therapeutic) I realised that my anxiety with money and the lack thereof didn’t actually begin, as I thought, with Him, my narcissistic ex, but rather in my childhood.

I grew up lower middle class in a family of five – two siblings.  We were fed, we were clothed, we had school books and that adhesive sparkly wrap to make them more interesting than just exercise books.  We had healthy lunches.

We would walk to school, rain or shine, typically a 30 minute walk at a good clip.  Mum would walk to the green grocer to pick up veggies for our lunches, and to the butcher to get meats for our sandwiches.  She tried her hand at growing vegetables, but with her severe depression when I was growing up, it was difficult.  She would trawl op shops for clothing for us.  Once in a while I would get a new top or a new pair of pants, which were always from the cheaper shops.

hated growing because it would mean new shoes, so I would wear the same shoes until my toes were curled in and it was too painful to wear the shoes.  We would drive for 30 minutes to the cheaper shoe shop and Mum would always be fussing over the price of things.  I would always pick the cheapest pair I could walk in.

It took me years before I finally asked to get a bra, and then it was only one.  Once I grew out of that, I would only ever have two bras, and I would wear them until they broke, because I hated shopping with Mum.  We would only ever go to the cheap stores when they were having really good sales.

I understand these are all sensible things to do, but to my growing brain, it was ‘you can’t get money spent on you, we don’t have enough’.  This has been emphasised over and over again in my life by people of great import.  If it weren’t for one of my oldest friends, I wouldn’t have a healthy relationship with money or spending at all.

Compound that with the last 13 years of being in debt with no savings to speak of and barely solvent, as well as, at some stages, barely having enough money to feed myself let alone my animals (they always came first), I have no fucking clue how to be a person with financial security and it scares the shit out of me.

I was gifted with a relatively significant sum when I was with Him from a family member passing.  I paid off my debt, and he insisted on going on holiday overseas and all these expensive things that of course he couldn’t pay for and I had the money so I should pay for them.  It was gone within two months.

I know it’s not going to happen this time, for one thing, I’m not with Him, and for another thing, it’s considerably more, but the fear is still there all the same.  Any sum of money I receive disappears.  POOF!  All gone, with nought but memories and a sour taste in my mouth.  And while intellectually I know it’s not going to happen this time, there is still the overwhelming terror of it all just disappearing.

And of the unknown, this mythical financial security thing that, at 33, I have never felt like I have had.  Even the idea of it is scary.  What do I do with myself?  How to I live without the looming fear of debt, the worry over whether or not I can afford to buy cat food this week?  How do I live if not paycheck to paycheck?

This is entirely new and terrifying territory.  Because I know I am overwhelmed and can’t process this information myself, I will book an appointment with my counsellor for the extra help.  There’s a lot going on here, and this should be an amazing and exciting thing, but it’s not.

How to Survive the Festive Season with Chronic Illness

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Now that I am through the festive season, I would like to extend my best wishes to all readers – whether you be transient or regular – for the holiday season, and my heartiest congratulations for coming out the other end.

If you could hear my hysterical laughter you’d understand that ‘surviving’ is about the only thing I can lay claim to for this past holiday season.  I managed to not yell at anyone.  I did politely snap a couple of times – when mum told me not to do a thing with the laptop that had to be done (I do know what I’m doing), and when my amazing human got salty about where we had coffee because we could have had coffee at the coffee place up the road (yes we could have, but we are not, because we are having coffee here, because you said you didn’t care where three times before as we went past cafes and I shoved us all into this one because you were getting grumpy).  But overall I managed.

Which is a fucking feat of perseverance if I ever did see one.  I went into it burnt out from the impromtu therapy session with mum wherein I was the therapist and helped her unpick and reframe a narrative that has been with her since she was two.  The good news is, she’s looking a lot happier, and she’s going to start looking into a therapist.  The bad news is it took so much out of me.

Throw me straight into two very long drives back-to-back (only one of which I had to do), my amazing human’s family arriving for two weeks, and the act of ‘running interference’ to ensure my amazing human doesn’t become overwhelmed by his parents, and you have a very stressed out and exhausted lady at the end of it all.

I rarely had time to myself to plug in my headphones and listen to anything.  I didn’t have time to do any of my self soothing routines.  I was out and about constantly, pushing myself to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible.  I was mediator, decider, herder of cats, support … the works.  My role in my family has always been as mediator and keeper of the peace.  My role in my amazing human’s family is apparently the same, with making decisions (because no one else does) and herding cats on top of that.

I failed miserably at implementing any kind of self care over the holiday period.  It’s hard to say ‘no’ when you’re trying to keep everyone else happy – and that’s a holdover from my childhood.  If I keep everyone else happy, no one will be grumpy, and I won’t be grumped at.  Well it only partly worked.  I still got grumped at.

But, in my rambling way, I survived.  I made it through.  The only incident was the dog eating a part-empty tube of cat laxative and having to clean that off the carpet (she’s fine).

And next year hopefully we won’t have two families combining over the holiday period.