Post from August of 2018
In 2008 after finding a therapist that I felt I could actually talk to and pouring my heart and head out to her, I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD as a result of some things that happened in my childhood. I grew up with an alcoholic mother and an emotionally absent father. Now before anyone makes any split decisions about my parents, let me say they were/are good people, they loved me but their own problems got in the way sometimes.
My mother was a police officer and we have all heard of the stresses that can come from being in the line of duty. From what I have been told, my mother started drinking because of her own depression and started self-medicating from a back injury when I was very young.
She lost her battle with addiction in 2002 when I was 25 years old.
My father a Vietnam Veteran, closed off a lot of his own self, trying to forget the horrors he faced in war. My dad is, by the way, the reason I started training PTSD dogs for others, and why the program I do with the Beck Center, Battle Buddies: Paws for Vets is so very dear to my heart that I have to fight to not cry almost every time I talk about it.
I have very few memories of my childhood before the age of 13. I suffered from sexual abuse as a small child from a family member. My brain’s way of protecting me was just to block it all out. Some of the more traumatic ones have surfaced throughout the years since, and are very vivid. I have been off and on medications for depression and anxiety since I was 16.
There are things I have done in my life that I regret with every ounce of my soul because I was acting out against my mother and the things going on with her addiction. There are still days when my emotions are in control of my life instead of me being in charge of my emotions. This is something that I don’t really talk about but lately, I’ve had a lot of pushback about why some people can’t train their dogs because they just don’t feel up to it.
I try to tell my students that I understand and have been through it. I get this look “of how could you possibly know?” Sometimes, it’s not a look but a comment. When I was first becoming a dog trainer I didn’t have any kids, and only had one dog, and he was glued to me. Training him was easy!!! He went to work with me every day, and I was practicing with him what I was learning from my mentors and in my coursework. During this time, my relationship fell apart and I threw myself headfirst into dog training to escape all the feelings that were trying to surface then. One of the things about children that grow up in an alcoholic home is that we learn it’s safer to stuff our feelings down deep where they can’t get you hurt.
Now I have an almost 4yr old little boy who wants his mommy to do everything, a new business that I am trying to get off the ground and turn into something that I can be proud of. The joy of all the people I get to help, a new house I’m still trying to settle into. Not to mention all the bills that go along with that. I have two dogs and one that my son is uneasy of.
Both of my dogs are herding breeds so when a little boy goes running through the house, there is a ton of barking which by the way sends me into a panic.
There are days when I honestly am not sure I can even get out of bed, but I know that my family, dogs, and bearded dragon included, depend on me to take care of them. This is one of the things that keeps me going when I feel like the world is closing in on me and I’m barely able to keep my head above the waters of anxiety and depression.
Sometimes just making a decision of what to have for dinner can make me want to hide in the closet and cry, however on top of all these feelings, my dogs still need me, and I need them. I need the relaxed feel of my pups loving on me and knowing that no matter what, they are never going to judge me. This is the reason that I started so many years ago with owner training myself with Tazie. He became my PTSD Service dog. He was able to pick up on my moods and triggers. He could stop me from having a panic attack and prevent me from self-mutilating scratching that has left scars on my arms and legs.
My dogs are less than perfect and I’ve always felt that I needed to share that with my training students because it lets them know that I do understand what they are going through. Sometimes, however, trying to explain that I understand the darkness in their minds is harder to do. It’s not something I can say face to face to just anyone. Even writing this post has been very hard but something I felt was needed. Sometimes just going out alone with your dog and a toy and some treats and working with your best friend who puts you on the highest pedestal ever, can be the best treatment to get out of your own head. I think that is something that I need to do a little more often as well.