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Back To The Future

When you go into a psychiatric hospital, life seems to pause.  The hospital presents a whole new reality.  The day is more structured: wake up, eat breakfast, take your meds, go to group therapy, see your psychiatrist, etc.  Distractions are also removed.  There are no cell phones or computers, no iPods or Netflix.  Instead there might be books in a small library, a television in the day room, some playing cards, or a coloring book.  The social opportunities also become very small.  Outside of visitors or people that call during phone hours, the only people to talk to are nurses, therapists, doctors, and other patients.  The world inside the hospital is a complete break away from the outside world that is bustling along at a high speed with all the sensory overload and stresses of everyday life.

I spent the first 5 days of July in the hospital.  I didn’t necessarily have a psychotic episode this time, rather I was losing the ability to cope.  Problems concerning my relationship with my mom festered into intense stress that led to suicidal thoughts.  One afternoon everything reached a breaking point and I found myself struggling to think of anything but killing myself.  I got that knot in my stomach that tells me, it is time to go to the hospital.  However I was hallucinating for the first time since December 2012.  I had surgery in June and as soon as I woke up in recovery I was hallucinating.

While in the hospital, my medications were changed some.  At first they increased my Thorazine to 400mgs.  However, I experienced extrapyramidal side effects (stiffening of muscles, dystonia) that caused my doctor to put me back on 300mgs.  I was also placed on an antidepressant with the hope that this would increase my ability to handle stress.

Because the relationship problems with my mom were a central part of the stress that brought me to the hospital, this was a frequently discussed topic between my therapist and I.  She suggested a family session and I naively agreed.  Naively because no family session with my mom has ever gone well…but I suppose that time I thought would be different.

It was not.

My mom decided to tell me that she no longer wanted me to live at home.  I was not meeting her expectations and this was causing her stress.  I had to admit, she was also not meeting my expectations which also caused me stress.  We mutually agreed that it was time for me to move on in life.

Getting out of the hospital is a jolt to reality.  It feels like going “back to the future” because life was on pause in the hospital and suddenly you are thrown back into the outside world…which never stopped its fast paced chaos while you were gone.  I often try to change my environment when returning home.  I would go to Memphis and eat out with friends or watch a really long movie in the theater.  Something that was not quite the normal routine in an attempt to jump start my acclimation into the outside world.

Leaving home was and was not the jump start that I planned.

For a few months prior to the hospitalization, I had been applying to jobs in Memphis and Little Rock.  I felt the need to get some extra independence away from my parents but I was hesitant to just jump into the world.  I’d never done it before.  Now, I had no choice but to find another place to live.

I began calling a friend that I knew was looking for a roommate, but her plans had changed.  She suggested another friend…my best friend to be exact.  I hadn’t considered this friend because she is married but I was running out of options.  I called her and by the end of the day it was decided that I would come live with her.

Two weeks ago, I moved to Kentucky.  Already, life has gotten easier.  My relationship with my mom is no longer a source of stress.  I only talk to her a couple times a week.  I am happier here.  The scenery is beautiful since I am up in the Appalachian Foothills.  I have close friends to support me.  I’m enjoying the opportunity of learning more about myself, my expectations of myself, and my potential for growth.  I’ve learned how to make bread.  I’m taking pictures of barns and waterfalls.  Today I even got a new pet: a crested gecko named Noah (anyone remember the significance I personally place on the name Noah?).

I really have gone back to the future…my future.  I am presented with opportunities that make it likely that I will live in Kentucky for a long time.  The doors of the future are open to me and only I can place limits on what I accomplish.  I look forwards to providing you guys with stories of life in Kentucky.

Oh, in case you were concerned, I still have Sheriff and he is enjoying exploring the nearby towns with me.

Positive vs. Negative vs. Sheriff

I often talk about the “positive symptoms” of schizophrenia on this blog, even if you don’t yet know what that term means.  The Positive symptoms of schizophrenia include hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions.  Symptoms I have experienced since I was 17 years old.  These symptoms are called “positive” not because they are good but because they are an addition to the thoughts/experiences of  the neurotypical.

“Negative symptoms” are symptoms such as the inability to display emotion through facial expressions or body language (flat affect), difficulty or inability to initiate goal directed behavior (avolition), lack of motivation, lack of interest in activities that used to be of interest, and more.  These are called “negative” symptoms not because they are bad but because they are behaviors that are missing from the behaviors that the neurotypical display.

I give you this information because I was inspired by my team leader to recall times when I did have a lot of negative symptoms, and, additionally, how my recovery has made such symptoms nearly disappear. more…

I Broke A Record

I hesitated to write this blog; only now do I find it possible.  At first it felt like a failure…but thinking in a more healthy, positive light helped me to realize that it was a success. more…

Animal Planet-Beyond Human Help-Me!

Yesterday, Friday, I was part of a “preview episode” of a show called Beyond Human Help that aired on Animal Planet.  Until Wednesday, the fact that I was going to be on this show was a huge secret that was really hard to keep.

In July 2011 and October 2011, some producers came and spent a weekend each time filming and interviewing me, my therapist, my mom, my best friend, my ex, Sheriff’s trainer, and I think that is it?  Even before that, I had to do interviews with them on Skype and just the phone when Skype really wouldn’t work on my computer.  But it all led up to the filming then seeing the show last night.

What aired last night included three people (including me) that are disabled by a mental illness.  One man has Bipolar with Psychotic features, a woman with Trichotillomania, and me.  The woman has a service dog, obviously I have a service dog, and the man had a service parrot (I know I know…not covered by the ADA).  Next year, 2013, there will be hour long shows that just feature one person and their service dog.  That is why this was a preview episode.

It was an emotional roller coaster seeing myself on television.  In my little 15 minute slot, they included some of the most intense parts of some of the interviews…including a scene in which I was explaining how Equinox likes to tell me to kill myself.  Back when they filmed, she would tell me this especially when I handled my bottle of Xanax because in my suicide attempts, that is what I have overdosed on.  There was a point in which filming while holding the bottle really started to overwhelm me…and watching that made me start to really tear up.  Of course there were the happier moments with Sheriff and he looked great on television. Seeing my mom, best friend, and trainer’s interviews (not everyone made it into this segment) was really cool and also made me cry a bit…but all good tears.

Since the show aired, I have found two qualities of the people who watched it.  Some have been really supportive.  People I haven’t talked to seen in years have contacted me to say they saw me on television, had no idea what I have gone through, and want me to know that they care about me and are here for me.  I swear, my support system has ballooned since the show last night!  Other people have been very critical and in some cases mean.  There was an error in my segment in which it said that Sheriff was only trained for 2 months.  Ick.  No.  He was trained for 16 months in total.  A year of obedience and proofing of obedience…at that point simply because I was a dog trainer and he was a shelter dog with a traumatic history.  Training him then was not in preparation for being a service dog because I didn’t know that I would get sick and need one.  Once I did need a service dog, it was about 4 months of task training and public access proofing/training.  So I got quite a bashing about that error.  Then there were a few people that I guess the producers talked with but didn’t follow through with filming their stories.  These are the people that have been quite mean…I assume because they are jealous.  But I have been respectful with such people because I do not know their situations and I have no reason to return their ill, misguided feelings with words that are as mean as their own.

I also had an article in the local paper, The Jonesboro Sun.  I did a telephone interview with them, and they used some of the information from a front page article about be from fall 2009.  There were several mistakes in the article…they said that Sheriff’s name is “Personal Sheriff.”  Lol, that is kind of silly.  They also said I was diagnosed at the age of 17.  No, at that age I was trying to keep all my symptoms a secret because I was scared and ashamed.  The other mistakes were really minor…those are the two that stand out.

So that is just a summary of the show and how things are going that are related to the show.  I’m sorry I didn’t announce on here that it would air.  I did on the Facebook Fan Page (same name as the blog).  I’ll try to do better next time!

It Hurts To Let Go

I’m writing this post because the one I posted a few days ago with a lie of omission.  Yes, I was struggling to deal with Equinox and I found the similarities between her and mythology to be quite interesting.  But there is so much more that has happened in the past month.  Much of it I was trying to ignore or bottle up so that I didn’t have to deal with the emotions.  However, one of the goals of this blog is to detail my life as a schizophrenic in an attempt to decrease stigma.  If I’m not being honest in what I write, I’m not meeting that goal.  So this is a more honest post. more…

Service Dog Month

September is National Service Dog Month.  Please forgive me for not posting about this at the beginning of the month.

Last night, I went to a restaurant with two friends.  Before we were seated, the (assumption) manager approached and asked if Sheriff is a Seeing-Eye Dog.  (Technically Seeing-Eye Dogs are guide dogs who come from the guide dog school called Seeing Eye)  I stated that Sheriff is a service dog.  The man asked for clarification and I told him that Sheriff assists me with my medical condition.  This was enough to satisfy the man.  Once we were settled and Sheriff was under the booth, the man approached with a large bucket filled with water.  He wanted to know if Sheriff was thirsty.  I declined and thanked him very much for being so considerate.  On principle I don’t allow Sheriff to drink  from bowls that aren’t his.  Also, Sheriff has a “beard” that soaks up water and then drips every where.  Dripping water all over a restaurant floor is something I really don’t want Sheriff to do.  As we continued eating, the man returned and stated that he was very impressed with Sheriff and that he must be a very well trained dog (well duh!).  Other employees complimented him also.  This was probably the most positive experience I’ve ever had at a restaurant before.  Not only were they welcoming when it was established that he was a service dog, but the man only asked what he was legally allowed to ask.

Most businesses won’t do this because they are afraid of being accused of not allowing a service dog into the business.  Most businesses see the vest and assume the dog is legitimate.  Some restaurants I’ve been to try actually do attempt to refuse access because they think that health codes mean no animals at all for any reason.  However, when I explain that Sheriff is a service dog and give them a card that explains where service dog teams must be allowed (per ADA), they allow Sheriff into the restaurant.After eating dinner, we went to the fair.  No one confronted me about having a service dog at the fair.  However, one man did approach and asked, “is that really a service dog?”  I’ve never been asked that before.  I quickly told the man that I would never bring a dog into public unless it was my service dog.  The man simply replied, “well of course.”  more…

Loud

When I was a teenager, I played my CD player so loud that everyone in our two-story house could hear it.  Furthermore, I did this at night when everyone, including me, was trying to sleep. more…

Washing Your Feet In My Tears

I come to you again in tears.  I’m having suicidal thoughts…but no intentions.  Don’t worry, I am still in a safe spot.  I just need extra support and I am currently getting it.  I’ve simply regressed back to the point where suicidal thoughts become a coping skill.  It used to be, that when I went through a rough spot…psychotic or simply emotionally vulnerable, I would go straight to suicidal thoughts.  The escape, though permanent, helped me feel more in control.  If I control whether or when I die…then ultimately I control how long I am in a tough spot.  I can either find a way to get out of it (which usually involved hospitalization) or I can let go of life completely.   I haven’t felt the need to have that coping skill in several months. more…

A Moment of Weakness

I usually don’t post when I am emotional.  I try to swallow any negative emotions up so that I can write a cohesive article that makes the point I aim at making.  But this blog does not exist just for objective education.  That doesn’t reflect life with schizophrenia.

In all honestly, I am writing through tears and wracking sobs.  I’ve had a panic attack.  I am trembling with pain and sadness. more…

Anniversary

Yesterday was my 3 year anniversary of being diagnosed with schizophrenia. more…