This week, partly because my CBT is beginning, I’ve had homicidal PMS rage (which is still better than sobbing uncontrollably) and my therapy is ending, I’m trying to chill out.
Seriously, I find Sherlock really relaxing. I’m sure the decaff mocha helps. Also running into friends by accident, especially when one of them is the most-beloved Bramble, giver of unconditional love and hugs, really does give you perspective. Sometimes serendipity is awesome. As is the chance to run the dogs on Eaton Park, somewhere I’m coming to love more each time we visit.
Ditto having a good long chat with my guide dog instructor about medication issues relating to Uni’s long-term health problems and having my frustration validated. I like validation because it reminds me that I can actually be right about things, especially when it comes to Uni/the cats and my own life. I’m all for improving my self-worth, though that does mean being around other people (loneliness isn’t helping my anxiety, indeed it appears to be fuel for the fire). The dog days of summer, however, are all about taking things a little easier, especially in 26°C heat.
Speaking of dog days ….
She suits the bandana, yes?
I’m actually quite pleased with myself, while I’m yet to get my head into Stranger Things, I have been listening to books and writing. I sent off “Washed Up Upon the Shore” to my crit group this morning and I’m hoping to submit it to a specific market next week if they’re still open. The story is stronger now though still imperfect (and this is like draft five) but there’s something in it which I still love. But I have high hopes and that’s something, especially as it’s been a while since I sent a story out into the wild.
On The Broken World front, I’m getting words down. Mostly it’s key scenes but this is draft one and so I’m trying not to care too much, just get the words on the page. Order can come later and that’s actually helping; stressing out over things I should need to control is a big trigger for me and I’m tried of panicking. This book is is no hurry, it’ll be born when it’s born. End of.
And, in truth, I’m loving writing it. Jaada is a big part of me, without being autobiographical, and she’s such a fun character to write. She knows she’s a part of a story but everyone has roles to play and hers, well, it’s a doozy.
This fortnight has not been great. It sounds silly but it’s only when Uni goes her on much-deserved hols (and the cats take over again, as is their right as Rulers of the Earth), that I realise how much I rely on her emotionally. After all she’s a crap guard dog but she does, to her credit, growl menacingly now and again and, at least, tries to eat the Waitrose delivery man as he carries my groceries in.
We’ve established a firm ‘eat them after the food has been unpacked’ rule.
She can do scary when she needs to and that’s all that’s important, especially as she’s as protective of her territory as I am. I protect her from potential dogs which might hurt her (aka any small/yappy dogs that she thinks might even me slightly suspicious) and she protects/consoles me.
Now if she could just get people’s credit card numbers and sort codes when she’s being fussed for the other 98% of that time … but, ah well.
Yesterday morning she got to catch up with Bramble (I got hugs, which helped given the 10mg of Valium I’d just taken post-panic attack). That makes, like, my fifth in two weeks and I am not a fan. Drinking is normally my way out of this (oddly I don’t want to get addicted to Valium) but I’ve made a conscious switch to a very nice Normandy apple juice with fizz in it from M&S. It look like cider, tastes like cider and, for the price of four cans of cheaper hooch, I can get two bottles which will last me a couple of days.
If it helps me with my alcohol … issue, I’m all for it. Failing those, I’m cutting back on coffee and going for a cheaper option, these nice Innocent lemon/lime/apple drinks. Now the weather is sort of warming up, there are mornings when I want a cold drink not a mocha. Plus my meds are making me stupidly thirsty so I’m drinking water like a fish anyway.
But yeah, the anxiety is not good and it’s the most random things: loud noises like the doorbell unexpectedly going off and the Oven of Doom at Starbucks (it sounds like something counting down in a Bond movie), the kids playing outside who find the need to commentate every time Uni goes out to pee, my phone ringing, Uni’s toileting habits (though she’s under the weather today so I couldn’t pick up even if I tried). Uni crossing paths with D and shaking as she sits at the bottom of the stairs. Oh and people.
Oh and people.
Not having Uni and it being a little harder to get off my estate due to electric works, it meant I stayed in a lot more. That, in itself, didn’t make me anxious, in fact it was almost comforting. I was able to settle and focus on finishing Ash Seeketh Ember (it’s nearly 30k, with one chapter left for me to write). Normally focus is a huge problem because Uni needs to go out every four hours or so and, if we’re out, she’s distracted by other people, many of whom she knows.
Little things like that, well it has a bigger effect on me than it does her.
For starters people move out the way of a person with a dog. I’ve spent several days walking bang into people without them either moving or, instead, suddenly stopping dead for no reason. With a dog, I’m basically Moses doing the Red Sea trick. Dogs are more adaptive and Uni, barring small dog alerts, can help me move much more fluidly.
At the same time, I’m a lot faster with my cane simply because it’s just me. There are no loo breaks, no need to snuffle at that nice bit of grass or endure people going ‘Aw a dog! Can I pet her?’. That said I’m also getting a lot more assertive by saying no because she’s lying down and it’s taken me five minutes to settle her. This is thanks to Mhairi who’s almost been giving me an advanced course on dealing with people without swearing at them (I’m not actually allowed to tell someone to F off, as much as I would dearly like too nigh on daily’).
Uni’s tartness, it’s a part of her character and I wouldn’t change that for a second. She’s my dog and they all come with their own individual characters, the closer we come to the end of her working life, the more I value her. She’s a curious creature but, at the same time, she’s always looking for me when people pet her, not for permission but to make sure I don’t run off. That’s love right there.
I had a phone call from the Wellbeing Service (I got passed over to them a month ago, right before everything kind of went to shit) and they politely explained I’m going to have to wait for therapy (mainly talking/CBT) which is fine by me. I waited a year for my Asperger’s diagnoses, I waited three for my bipolar 2 and over a decade before I was formally registered as blind. I can do waiting, I just hate that every phone call seems to come at the tail ends of intense periods of anxiety and stress.
So my plan for this week is short story revisions, getting Ash done and proofed and watching as much YouTube as possible. It’s the little things that help, right?
I pride myself on having three cats and a guide dog, an unlikely collective who get on with each other. Until this week anyway. Dion is being a little shit, he’s neutered but there are so many undone females wandering around and he is Mighty (aka he fights with the other local felines). He’s been bitey for the last few months, over-stimulated.
On Monday he attacked Uni.
I don’t mean this in a playful way. I mean he did something to Uni that has scared the living shit out of her, to the extent that she won’t come into the house or climb the stairs if she thinks he’s in the house. Ceri is confused because she and Uni have always been so chummy. She sleeps on Uni’s bed and meets us at the edge of the estate; she has no idea why Uni is now giving her a wide berth.
I caught D trying his second go at Uni on Monday. She was back-pedalling, he had one paw out in a very offensive manner then she went to the front door and begged to be let out, refusing to come in (mid-Storm Katie). Since then she’s been much happier out and refuses to go anywhere D, he’s calmed down but it leaves me in a very horrible place. I spent yesterday (thanks period-emotions) crying on the phone to my instructor, convinced this was the final nail in the coffin while Mhairi and Bramble tried to console me.
There’s a reason Mhairi is my BFF.
Lovely Instructor reminded me that if I retire Uni (something which has been on my mind of late due to her preference for fuss over work) I’m probably going to be dogless for the rest of the year. I don’t want to retire my hound but her age—she’s 7 next week—has been on my mind. Mhairi is helping; she takes no shit from anyone’s guide dog and Uni respects her enough to do as she’s told. I can’t, due to my Asperger’s, always get the tone right and am so easily stressed out that minor things become major.
My natural cycles, albeit suppressed by the implant in my arm, mean I periodically crash, hard. I’m sure this is connected to my bipolar, the emotions I’d usually have cranked up to 11. I’ve always been much more emotional and I tend to want to scream at people or cry. Yesterday I wanted to do both and, of course, you only ever notice AFTER the fact. This point makes me practically homicidal, especially as I’m normally a lot more submissive, even though people seem to want to shout at me for misdemeanours rather than be useful and help.
This picture shows how close Ceri and Uni will get, though when in harness she happily allowed Ceri to greet us when we came home yesterday in that ‘can’t you see I’m working’ manner my beloved dog has. I’m trying to help where I can by shifting Uni/Dion so Uni can see I’m here to protect her. All I can do at this point is reassure her and hope she’ll calm down, eventually twigging that neither Ceri not Isis, at least, are a threat.
But it doesn’t make me feel any better. I know the end is coming, if not right now then eventually and that scares me. I never imagined a day when I’d have to give Uni up and I’ll be damned if it’s because of one of my more idiotic cats being an arsehole.
This weekend has been all about my PTSD. Normally I can keep it locked down because I know my triggers and actively try to avoid them to the extent of all others. Control is everything, as if the medication I carry on my person and the friends who know why certain things have such a devastating effect on my mental state.
I was anticipating a nice weekend of lie ins and writing, chilling out with Netflix and just trying to get over the last of my chest infection.
On Saturday afternoon, a disturbing period in my past got raked up and then I had to endure the annual Mother’s Day hell of ‘be nice to your parent because society/family say you have to be’. It was never going to be a positive mix.
And my ability to write went up in smoke.
Then I bought some alcohol because it tastes better than Valium which put paid to my editing.
I don’t drink and edit, so I didn’t edit and I couldn’t write either.
To summarise: while I was training with Uni, I endured a slew of abuse from my instructor. He started, innocently enough, by enquiring why I thought it was okay to use a disabled loo (erm … well I am disabled; also I had extensive gastric surgery which has left me incontinent and without a gallbladder). To deflect, I asked him if he’d ever tried getting a dog into a stall in the ladies but I was mortified he thought it was okay to enquire about something so personal.
Then I qualified and got really sick; to the point where quick visits to Norwich and safe places were the only way I could rebuild my stamina. Especially as I had, technically, qualified. He thought otherwise.
In the end, it was so bad I refused to work with him, actually ringing his boss and demanding someone else. Our relationship ended when he spent fifteen minutes screaming at me in the street outside a shopping complex. People walked passed, no one came to my aid and he actually thought it was okay to shout at a mentally fragile (which he was well aware of) blind woman who was coming to the end a stressful period of training. Also getting a guide dog is mentally and physically hard as hell, there’s so much to learn and I qualified in just twelve days, as opposed to the ‘usual’ three weeks.
Then, after leaving me for half an hour to sob into my dog’s fur (which felt like a punishment in itself, being left on the naughty step), he took me into the shopping mall to do some final training and ended up leaving me in an unfamiliar corner of the mall. He just lost his temper and stalked off without so much as a by your leave.
Oh and he threw some paperwork at me before stalking off. That was, thankfully, the last I ever saw of him.
This event was the final trigger event for my post-traumatic stress disorder. I kept an eye on this person’s career, dismayed to see them rise in the ranks after my abuse was effectively ignored by Guide Dogs themselves. I now have a much lovelier trainer who I trust and did so much to repair my confidence, he’s a tremendous improvement in his predecessor and has always been there for me, from Uni being attacked to our more recent middle-of-summer-and-hottest-day-of-the-year catch up. This guy even cleaned up Uni’s heat-induced vomit for me … twice.
But back to the weekend. A fellow GDO told me my original trainer had resigned and it all came flooding back. Especially when I was directed to a public, assessable by anyone who knows this person’s name, Facebook group in which he detailed how his treatment of me and other GDO’s I know was tantamount to abuse. He apologies to me, personally, but he has no idea I’ve changed my name and did so in a place where I never would have seen it, except for someone telling me about it.
Oh and Guide Dogs apparently know about this group, he’s certainly told them and appears to be trying to create a place where GDO’s can be disillusioned together. I admit, I’m not enamoured with Guide Dogs, they’re far from perfect and dealing with many aspects of their day-to-day stuff (mainly relating to food and Uni’s vital medication) are a pain in the arse. That said my instruction from New GDMI and the office staff have never been anything but helpful and lovely.
If I’m disillusioned by the charity then it’s all because of my original instructor.
It transcended into ‘trigger territory’ a couple of hours after I discovered the group when he tried to justify his treatment of us by informing the assembled Guide Dog Owners he’d invited to the group—many of whom were singing his praises in a way which made me feel physically sick—that said treatment was unofficial Guide Dog policy. Oh and yes, it was also abusive.
I’ve met lots of mobility instructors. Some are lovely, others harsh but never in a malicious way. They do it because you have to start work with a guide dog on a certain step, with them seeing you as head of the pack and dominant. My experience with this person was distinctly sadistic, a power play that hinged on me being in a position where I was beholden to this person because of Uni.
They had to power to giveth or taketh away—and I genuinely believed he was going to punish me by removing my guide dog, just because he could. Plus screaming at a vulnerable woman in public is, in no way, anyone’s unofficial policy. It’s a terrible thing and certainly shouldn’t happen during such a vital time in the establishment of a guide dog/human relationship.
The kicker was his mention of depression. His own mental state apparently trumps the abuse he heaped on me and others, vulnerable visually impaired people that he knowingly abused for kicks. I accept he was in a shit place but where does he think he left me, exactly? My PTSD trumps his depression because he’s a part of the reason I have it.
So yeah, not good. I’ve actually made an appointment with my current instructor because, as well as wanting to talk about some of Uni’s newer quirks, I want to look him in the face and see if my original instructor is spilling bullshit. The whole thing has left me feeling ill, right in the pit of my stomach.
And then a family member started sending me passive-aggressive texts trying to guilt-trip me into someone who directly triggers my PTSD. I’d just taken my sleeping medication so wasn’t actually in a position where I could do much more than text. They always do this because, apparently, I need telling when I’m upfront. I don’t do phone calls, I certainly don’t do birthday/festive/Hallmark holiday phone calls.
I choose not do pay attention to these things because I have a reason. It’s a conscious choice that I made for my own sanity. And my sanity trumps anyone else’s attempt at making me feel like a ten year old who needs to be told things. I will text but I have a hard enough time trying to remember what day it is thanks to the sheer volume of medication I’m on. Literally I rely on my FitBit just to tell me the date, otherwise I simply have no idea.
And Mother’s Day, it’s a really hard day for me (nearly as bad as my birthday). I need to ignore it because otherwise I’ll fall to pieces. Again my sanity tumps everything else because I like being semi-sane.
My PTSD normally manifests as panic attacks or anxiety. This one decided to bubble up as an intense fear and anger due to the guide dog related stuff. Uni picked up on it and her mood changed, even as she plonked herself down right next to me. Even this morning, still dealing with the aftermath of a slew of text messages, she kept nudging me with her nose, her way of going. Uni might be a tart but she is also, very much, mine and almost painfully in tune with my moods, constantly going: ‘Hey, I’m here. It’s okay’.
I am so glad of her.
I have a best friend, and her beautiful guide dog, who are always there for me. I got to explain this morning and receive reassurance, as well as the benefit of someone who has been through the guide dog selection process and so is familiar with it. Both dogs spent this morning with their noses in my lap or snuggled against me. Bramble, in particular, adores me and she’s one of the most loving creatures I’ve ever met; she knew how traumatised I was and did everything in her power to try to help me get out of my funk. Looking at her makes me want to cry, she’s that compassionate and a completely unique treasure of a dog.
But not writing, it stresses me out, not being able to even more. I got into Starbucks at 7, having made it through snow and the pre-dawn cold. Monday is my day to sit with coffee (bad move, number one), check Submission Grinder and Codex and catch up on The Walking Dead. It’s an ingrained ritual which sees me update my diary, review stories, write or do edits while listening to Spotify. I value the quiet, the chatty baristas and, right now, the half price coffees.
Starbucks, first thing in the morning, it’s my sanctuary. My own personal coffee shop. I like it.
But this morning I just couldn’t write. Even Valium didn’t help (aside from to take the edge of my anxiety).
I’m painfully aware that anxiety poisons my muse, it’s not actually the anxiety rather it’s being unable to focus or distracted by whatever is bugging me, which prevents me writing. My Asperger’s doesn’t help, in fact the fixation on problems makes my anxiety worse. Blogging helps because it’s not fiction, it’s fact and I can choose the subject matter (hence the slew of blog posts; this one alone is nearly 2k in length and heavy on the catharsis).
Blogging is still writing so maybe I need to clarify that and insert (fiction).
But I also know tomorrow is another day, the words will return, as will my muse and it’ll be okay. I just have to hold on, take my medication and wait it out.