Rather then post a news article, I’m opting to get a little personal and share some of my recent struggles, but in addition to my struggles, I wanted to share what I’m doing to work through them in hope that others might get ideas of things they can try if they are struggling as well.
Here’s some of the highlights of what has happened with me.
- During the last week of July 2013 I made the tough decision to Retire my Service Dog, “Tippy” I saw she was developing cataracts, and she has battled a chronic skin condition for about 5 years, on top of developing bladder stones over the past year. Initially I thought maybe I could retire her, she could stay with me as a pet and I would just not work her, but I quickly found that going places without her, even those places that I am comfortable being, were extremely difficult to go to.
- The first week of August 2013 I broke the news that I was retiring Tippy to my friends and family
- By the end of the 2nd week of August, I realized without a doubt I needed to replace Tippy so I got in contact with the organization I got Tippy from to see if they had any dogs that were close to being ready to be placed, or had washed out of the program because of a refusal to retrieve or something along those lines that wouldn’t be a problem for me with the type of work I needed Tippy’s replacement to do.
- Things progressed and on September 11, 2013, I dropped off Tippy with the organization, and came home with “Ora” who later got renamed to “Orca” because even though I really like the name “Ora” I kept calling her “Oreo” which is my cat’s name, so for my sanity I added a letter to her name and made it “Orca” which has been simpler for me.
- September 18, 2013 I had spent the day with my Mom getting some items for Orca, and enjoying a nice meal out in a resteraunt, we had an awesome day. I got home that evening, and was checking my email since I’d been gone all day, and the first email I spotted was one from a friend telling me that Rachel Freund had passed away that morning after battling cancer for some time. I was devastated by this news
Since early July 2013, I have been on an emotional roller coaster to put it mildly. Retiring Tippy has been very difficult, but I feel like it is the right decision, Orca has helped to fill that void but she has lots to learn, so training with her has helped me to keep my sanity on some level. Losing Rachel, while on some level I’m not surprised, because of the severity of her cancer, I feel a huge sense of loss because she was one of us, she was a mental health consumer, and advocate not only for herself, but for many others, and the world lost one of the most awesome people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. She inspired me to develop an interest in politics and I was one who when I met her really didn’t want anything to do with the political realm. I still have a lot to learn where politics are involved, but Rachel gave me a good foundation to build on.
So, with all the struggles I’ve had since probably June when I started noticing Tippy’s health was deteriorating and retirement was likely going to need to happen, what have I been doing to help keep myself from sinking too deep into depression or otherwise getting overwhelmed by circumstances?
Well, here’s a list of things I’ve done, maybe it will give others ideas of things they can try as well.
- Bought a mountain bike
- I have loved riding a bike since I was a kid, but hadn’t rode in about 10 years. Retiring Tippy was a seemingly odd motivator to get the bike, but my idea in getting it was that it would not only help with my weight loss goals, but also would allow me to be a little more independent and need to rely less on others at least during the times when the roads aren’t icy. In addition to being transportation and exercise, it is also something that has proven to be awesome for helping me to manage the stress I’ve been under
- Training Orca
- I would be doing this even if I wasn’t stressed, but training with her has helped to keep me from getting stuck inside my head by keeping at least some of my focus outside of myself and on her needs
- Gaming has been a HUGE help through everything, there was a period where text just wasn’t making sense to me, so I wasn’t able to do any blogging, but I found that not only YouTube videos that were educational in nature were helpful, but also gaming was as well. I’ve been playing World of Warcraft and The Sims 3 for years, and over the past couple years have played SimCity, Skyrim, Defiance, and recently started toying with Warframe. When I was angry or frustrated I seemed to gravitate to Defiance, Warframe, Skyrim and WoW. When I was feeling empty, hollow or like my head was mush, I found that Sims 3, SimCity and World of Warcraft were helpful. They let me step back from my struggles and take a break from my emotions for a bit so I could regroup.
- This one has been tricky, some days I want to be around people while other days there doesn’t seem to be enough distance between me and other humans, but a few select people who I’ve been able to keep close to me through all of this, they have made me smile, been supportive, allowed me to cry and vent to them, while at the same time allowing me to have a sounding board to bounce my thoughts or ideas off of. Sometimes we hung out and would joke around, while other times were more serious in nature, but regardless of the tone of our gathering, these folks played a huge role in helping me keep things in perspective and to them I am grateful.
- Yes I said that dreaded word …. exercising. I have come to realize that exercise can be anything from doing housework to going for a walk or bike ride. Being physically active has been a huge thing for me as well, it has helped prevent me from staying in bed all day (Orca helps with that as well) I feel better emotionally when I’ve been active, it helps me to clear my head and refocus myself, while at the same time burning calories. I tend to feel more relaxed when I’ve been physically active then I do when I laid around the house doing close to nothing physically active.
- Cleaning my home
- Okay another dreaded thing with that one, but for me I found that doing housework, even though I’m not a huge fan of doing the cleaning, the result of having things look less cluttered and less overwhelming visually helps me with my anxiety and has an added benefit of keeping me physically active.
So I guess you could say that for me I’ve had to focus on balancing my need to process emotions out by countering them with things that keep my mind and body active. I have days that are horribly difficult to keep going and do stuff, but then other days it’s like I can’t wait to go for a walk with Orca and do some training with her. I also found that what works great one day may not work well the next day, so there is a bit of trial and error involved with the things I’ve tried. I think for me the key has been not allowing myself to give up, and balancing emotional overload with positive healthy activities.
Now that I’m able to comprehend what I read once more, blogging and web design are also helping me to not get stuck inside my head, I’ve had a lot happen in a short period, on top of the anniversary of one of the toughest times in my life, which always causes me to struggle in September, since the year that terrorist flew planes into the twin towers. That year, I had lost my job, was on the verge of becoming homeless, and was struggling with some severe mental health issues among which was a conversion disorder that manifested itself as blindness. that fateful morning of 9/11 I was attending a school for the newly blind where I was pretty much learning how to navigate the world around me without the ability to see. Medically my eyes were fine, but my brain was so overloaded with stress that to deal with the overload, it had to shut something down and in my case it was my vision. It was because of the conversion disorder that I had to quit my job, because I wasn’t working I lost my apartment, and at the same time was hospitalized for mental health reasons. I was at a very low point, and even though overall things have been better since that year, I always get kind of moody in September because of the anniversary of the year I nearly lost everything and then had to deal with emotions surrounding the well-known terrorist attack on 9/11. So for me, September is a tough month to begin with, and this one has had both sadness and joy compounding things.
So yeah doing the things I listed above have truly been things that helped me keep my sanity through this tough month. None of them are overly huge, but sometimes small things can make the biggest difference and allow me to succeed.
Thank you to all my readers for being patient with my lack of posts and downtime here on Pennsylvania Mental Health Issues, it means a lot to me that folks would stick around even though I had to step back and stop blogging for a bit. I feel like I’m starting to get my mojo back though with blogging, so hopefully I’ll get back on track again and it will be blogging as usual so to speak 🙂