Invisible Choking

It’s one of those days where I feel like I’m drowning. I try to catch my breath, but I just suck in more “water”. I try to calm myself down, but it seems any little thing makes it feel worse. I hear a notification, and it raises my anxiety. My phone rings, I get irritated. I can’t breathe, and any little thing is constricting around my throat tighter. I’m being invisibly choked and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can just sit here and take it.

rain01A client from yesterday told me “Your life sounds so great! You do what you love, make time for yourself everyday, run races, go hiking and hang out with your dogs all day, and you attracted a pretty amazing dude! It’s because you are awesome and have such a great energy! You live the life I want to someday! You worked hard to get here and it shows!” It was kind of great to hear her say that, but it made me think. She’s right, I do have a pretty amazing life. I did work my ass off to get to where I am. And I train everyday (almost), I have an amazing dude and I do get to spend my days with my dogs. I also put myself in the situation where I am now, and I don’t regret a single thing I’ve done because it has gotten me here. Not here in this physical sense, because I’m in a kind of fucked up situation… but more as in I am who I am because of the choices I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned. I know where I want to go, and what I want in my life. I mean, I don’t have all the answers, but I have a general idea of what I want and that’s more than most people.

I hurt today. I feel like my life is pretty damn amazing, but I’m anxious (4) and depressed (7) today. My foot really hurts and can’t hold my weight for very long. If I stand up for too long, it sends shooting intense pain through my whole leg. I buck up, I deal with it, I stretch, ice, rest, etc. I’m doing everything I can be doing… but I want more. I want it to be fixed. I’m inpatient and feeling it hardcore today.

Distractions from my stupid ass feelings help. I had a client session where we went to the park and let the dogs socialize in an appropriate way off leash. This was a goal of my clients’ when they first started doing training. We met this goal with one of their dogs, and now we are working on the other one. Tired dogs are happy dogs, which makes me happy a little. I go home, do dog chores, answer social media, emails, voicemails, etc. And then I feel it again. It’s like a looming shadow over me today.

I feel like I’m suffocating from this poisoned cloud of negativity. And I can’t seem to find the positive thoughts anymore. I kept trying all day, but I’m done, I’m exhausted. I’m trying to even find the energy to finish this post, and it’s taken me way longer than it should have because I can’t even find the words. Fade to black because I’m being invisibly choked. Who cares I can’t finish with an actual good conclusive ending paragraph, I’m done.

Perspective

I have started to take a step back from life and gain perspective. Sometimes, this is the only way you can gain clarity. Being involved in the drama, the heartache, relationships…being IN IT is sometimes blinding. So, I have decided to observe a little more and be open to letting things go as well as allowing things to happen naturally. This seems counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Let me explain.

I have started to listen to other people and focus on their story instead of my own. Not necessarily fix their problems, but see if I can help them with clarity. Or just listen. My goal is not to guide them into choosing one side or the other, but to help them take a step back and look at their situation as a whole. Slowing everything down and helping them understand why they are in the situation they are in, what to do about it now, but also look towards the future without “getting stuck” on any particular part of those areas. This can be applied to absolutely everything in a person’s life.

loveI have also started to let go of stress and things that are out of my control. First – I cannot control other people’s actions or their feelings. As much as I want to help, understand, or shake someone and force them to make the “right” choice (or what I believe is the right choice), I have let this go. I can control me, my emotions, my actions, and my life. I am in control of my life. Second-I cannot control acts of God or nature or series’ of events that cause me to end up in a certain situation. If I can’t control it, I’m not stressing over it. I do the best I can, and I make the best decision in the most as I see fit.

I am in control. Say it. This is so empowering. I have the right to make my own decisions and my own boundaries. I have the right to say no. I have the right to ask for what I want. I have the right to control my stand in a relationship. I have the right to stand up for what I believe in. I have the right to control where my life goes. Feels good, doesn’t it. I put myself into the situations that have hurt me, and I’m not allowing people to do that to me anymore. That doesn’t mean I’m shutting people out, but I will no longer allow another person to have that much control over my emotion. I can enjoy being with people in many different ways, and that doesn’t mean I need to be a hermit. I’m finding the happy medium.

So, I’m going out and I’m doing it. One minute at a time. I have a long term goal, I have short term goals. And they involve me. As awesome as company is when there are fun things to do, I am focusing on me and I can have fun by myself. If I think ‘Oh, that sounds fun.’ I will do it, instead of thinking about doing it. Everything costs money, but what’s money? Just a thing you need to get what you want. I’m making it happen. Priorities.

I want land. I want a horse and chickens, and a bigger place to run my company. Why? To feel fulfilled. To feel important. To be needed. To be happy. That’s my livelihood goal. I want to go see places and learn how to do new amazing things. I want a lifestyle that will support the type of life I want. I thought I had big dreams. My livelihood goal being a big dream, I mean. It is.. But I’m dreaming bigger than that. I want days off, I want vacations, I want ‘getaways’. I want a self sustaining company. I’m paying my dues to make that happen. I see a future, and I’m putting in the time to make it into what I know it can be.

However, I am also seeing the now. I make choices that make me enjoy life today as well. Little things like coffee at the cafe while browsing the internet and listening to music, curled up on the couch in front of the fire reading a book, snowboarding in the gorgeous mountains with people who I enjoy their company, walking my dogs on trail and enjoying just being outside, swimming in a lake throwing a ball for my dog while listening to the birds chirp, hiking and drinking in the beauty of a waterfall, enjoying a meal while watching people in the city, dancing at a club feeling the music, I want it all. I have plans for a few trips this year and I’m doing them for me. I won’t say no if someone wants to join me, but I am going regardless if anyone does.

I am learning to stop worrying about other people. What they are thinking, doing, that’s their business. Worrying about it causes stress and anxiety, and I’m letting it go. It doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t benefit me in the slightest. I live for me. At the end of the day, I want to say I did something with my life. Big things. I lived and experienced. I also want to say I know how to ‘relax’, ‘take it easy’, ‘recharge’. To do this, I’m taking a step back from all the drama and just learning to be.

What’re your goals? How’re you applying this to your daily life?

What’s the point?

All those times of I said my life was getting better, I was manic. Feeling great. The higher they go, the harder I fall. I want to die now. I want to rip my heart of my chest and throw it in the garbage disposal. It hurts. Everything hurts. I hate my heart. I hate the way it makes me feel. It tricks me. I don’t know what to feel anymore.  I’m so stupid to get caught in the same traps over and over again. It’s the same shit it always is.

The 15 cognitive distortions, and their definitions. The links below also talk more about each disorder. When dealing with a mental illness. I do all of them, but the ones I seem to always fall back on are:

Emotional reasoning
Mind Reading
Mental Filter
All or Nothing Thinking

I’ve talked about Emma before, and I’ve recently seen her again. A lot lately.

I hurt so much. It seems like no one understands what this is like. I can’t talk to ANYONE who understands. I want to scream and self mutilate. I want to cut and bleed and feel real pain. I want to feel something other than emotional pain. Physical pain is a release. Death is a blessing.

I hate it. I hate feeling. Drug me or kill me. I can’t do it anymore. Once again, I can’t do it anymore.  I would rather be dead than feel the way I feel.

I put on the face. I pretend. I smile, it’s fake. “You ok?” “Sure. Yeah. I’m fine.” I play the part, I do my job the best I can. When I’m alone, I cry and panic and think about cutting and dying and ending the pain.

But somehow I don’t do it, and I get up in a huge mess and do it all over again. I torture myself by being alive. What’s the fucking point?! What is the end goal? Do I even have one? No. I don’t have an end goal. Because the end is to die. What is the point?Strong

The Return of Emma

Heather Hamilton Rose Panic Attacks anxiety bipolarEventually, the everyday stressors add up and you start to make mountains out of molehills. The tiniest little inconvenience sets off the balance of the day. These little things start to wake Emma up over time. She starts to take over the cognitive thinking. She turns every thought into something negative. She starts to think things and feel things that are not my own.

Then it’s a war between Heather and Emma. And eventually, one of them has to give up. I always want to just curl up in a ball and die. I want to find a release to the pain I feel. Death is such a sweet release, but I won’t do it. I won’t let Emma win. That’s her game. To get me to give up. She is part of the demons I face.

She is the one who wants me to take the magic pill. She’s the one who wants me to cut. The one who starts to put things into my head. She is the one who makes me feel worthless. I’m an adult. I treat Emma like the child she is. I don’t let her control me. But she makes me weak. Sometimes, she wears me down to the point where I give in to the tricks and the lies. She makes me emotional and makes me feel stupid.

I hate Emma. But she’s a part of me. I hate part of myself. When she starts to wear me down enough, I start to feel trapped. I’m claustrophobic. I can’t breathe. I can’t think. The air to my lungs becomes thin and I need to inhale faster to get more air. It keeps constricting, and it gets harder to breathe. I give up an panic. I’m suffocating. I feel like my insides are being crushed. Like I can’t take any more pressure or I’ll die. And then, that’s all I want. For this pain to end. And I feel cold, but I’m sweating. I’m hyperventilating and choking while I want to scream for the pain to end. For it to kill me. It hurts. Everything hurts.

Once it seems I’m dead, Emma is laughing. Making me feel stupid for feeling. Stupid girl. She won. Another little piece she takes. How many pieces of me does she need before she stops? And what game does she play to keep wanting to take more from me? She is the game master and makes up the rules. She changes them at her will, and punishes with disasters when things aren’t chaotic enough for her.

I live at an 8. How bad is it? Depression is 7, anxiety is 10. Emma is thriving. Heather is drowning. Emma 1, Heather 0.

This Feeling

This feeling. I hate this feeling. I hate how much hurt I have to feel. I wish my wounds weren’t so deep.

Feeling of loss. The last 10 months have been so incredibly hard for me. It feels like I have lost so much.

Heartache.

My insides being ripped apart. They clench and tense, it hurts. Every muscle hurts.

I can’t think. I can’t focus.

It hurts to breathe. It literally hurts to be alive.

This feeling of wanting to shrink into the floor. I know people would miss me if I died.. but sometimes, I still don’t feel I deserve to exist. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to be. Sometimes. Like now.

Panic. Pain. Tears. Screaming.

I wish I could ‘snap out of it’ or ‘just smile’ or whatever else people say. ‘Just be happy’ they say. Oh, ok. Thanks. I’ll do that now.

It doesn’t work like that. It hurts to be alive. It hurts to breathe

Wanting to shrivel up into a dead husk. No one misses a dead husk. Lack of self worth. I’m not anything. Logically, I know that’s not true. I have these feelings sometimes anyway. There’s my second self telling me I’m nothing. That’s telling me every single hurtful thing anyone has ever said. Then there’s me. Telling me it’s not true. And then there’s everyone else. And they are telling me it’s not true. I believe them…but for a second, I believe I’m nothing. In that moment, I’m nothing.

IT’S SO FRUSTRATING! Sometimes, I have anxiety attacks because I can’t change this. I hate it so much. I can’t stop them, I can’t stop this feeling. It comes whenever there is a trauma or a trigger. I don’t want comfort or sympathy. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I can do for myself to fix this.

I’m scared to sleep. Scared to dream. Scared to wake up to this reality. Scared to see the demons again.

I want to reset. I want to rest my tired body. Every muscle aches. But I can’t.

I don’t know what I want. I don’t want to sleep, but I don’t want to be. If I sleep, I cease to exist for a while.

I am so strong, and then I’m so weak. Feelings make me weak. Rip them out. Dope me up. Drug me. Stop the feelings.

I hurt so much. It’s like it will never end. I hate my world half the time.

Rapid Cycling

We all make mistakes. We all sometimes feel stupid. We all sometimes keep doing things we know we shouldn’t. And eventually, it comes crashing down. Occasionally, this crash is life altering. We feel like we will never be the same. For me, this is a trigger. It triggers rapid cycling.

Rapid Cycling

Rapid cycling. What is this? Well, in my own terms, rapid cycling means I am swinging from one mood to the next with little to no warning. Manic hyperactivity, lack of impulse control, crazy happy, I can CLEAN THE WORLD attitude. That’s the fun part. Rapid cycling also includes incredible lows. This means lack of self worth, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, panic attacks. Let’s not forget the toll this takes on the body. The physical pain of being up and down so often. I get horrible stomach cramps, knots, I sometimes vomit, sore or tight muscles, irritability, and fatigue.

I’m experiencing all that pain now. Sore neck, sore back, tight shoulders, cramps, irritability, fatigue, knots from anxiety, can’t focus… I’m trying to just concentrate and get through it. But this part sucks.

Whenever I go through a trauma, immense stress, or a big decision, it triggers a cycle. I know I have one coming on when I can’t sleep very well, or when I have knots in my stomach. It also seems like my triggers come all at once. Not just one big event, but multiple.

I like to think I can handle it all the time. I like to think I’m a badass and I don’t need help. I don’t need people, I don’t need to be taken care of. I don’t need support or friends. I’m hardcore and can handle anything by myself.

I’m lying to myself. I do need help sometimes. I need support. When I’m in my ‘downs’ I want to disappear from the world. I want to hide and just wait it out. I also have to admit I enjoy the support. I appreciate it, and really feel loved. I feel guilty a lot when someone supports me, or when someone takes care of me. I should be able to do it by myself. Right? I don’t ever want to be co-dependent. I want to live my life without relying on other people to take care of me. I can do this. Even when I’m in my worst down peaks.. I can do it. I just have to wait it out. Waiting feels like forever. It’s exhausting. And yet… having to wait it out with someone who wants to be there for you makes it so much less daunting.

emotional roller coasterRight now, I’m ‘level’. In between a cycle. I had one of the most severe downs I have ever had… and I’m proud of myself. Yes, I had quite a few thoughts of suicide, but then I immediately thought “ok, stop. Go do something”. Almost a day after that cycle, started the rapid cycling of manic and severe anxiety/panic. After that… it’s always either full blown manic, or deep depression. I hate this part. I just wait for it…because it’s happening. And there isn’t anything I can do about it. Sometimes, my manic cycles are so much worse than my depression. But other times, the depression is suffocating. It’s like I’m getting on a roller coaster, and it’s different every time.

Welcome to the Heather Train.

Reflection of Positivity

Napoleon and I, after a short training session

Napoleon and I, after a short training session

With all of the emotional challenges I have faced recently, I have to keep focusing on the positives. I focus on how much good I do, and I also face the grim truth: We can’t save them all. But, the ones we are able to save will live on with better lives. I have to think positively.

So, this week’s blog is about my successes this year with my business and personal gains. At the beginning of the year, I had set goals.  Goals I had to accomplish in order to make a huge life change. To take a leap of faith, to make the jump. It all comes down to that decision.

My biggest goal was to get my certification. I have been talking to the owner of K9 Lifeline for quite some time (starting over a year ago) about taking her certification course. At the time, it was around $3,000 and 2 weeks long. Well, that means I needed the money, and I also needed 10 days of PTO. It takes a full month for me to earn 1 day. So, that was 10 months of absolutely no sick days, no vacations, and no ½ days for my own personal sanity. I started saving up my time last year around November. I had a few days saved, so if I didn’t take a day off for Christmas or any other holiday, or get sick, or have an emergency, I could take the course in July.

I had the time, but the Difficult Dog Workshop was in June, and I JUST HAD to go. Which cost me 3 days. That’s 3 more months of no sick days or vacation. I can do it, I know I can. That means I can take my certification in October, and to play it safe, let’s plan on November.

Then, I found out the eTouch Workshop was coming in October with another very reputable trainer. Ok, that’s another 2 days. Which means I’m looking at Dec/Jan. Ah man… at this rate, I’ll never get it. And I’ll never take a vacation!

Then I heard from another trainer that the course is a little cheaper, and is only 6 days, instead of 10, but I get the same amount of material. WHAT?!  Really?! I can take it now! So, the plan is in motion, and I hope to get my certification at the end of August! YAY!

Pack Walk 6/28/13

Pack Walk 6/28/13 (Click to enlarge)

I have also started doing my pack walks. This wasn’t a requirement, but it is a success, and I’m proud I have been able to organize this event. Every time I do them, they get a little easier, I gain a little more confidence, and more people show up for them!

I am now offering a nutritional workshop (hopefully twice a year) because so many clients have been interested in what is the best dog food or I’m interested in raw, I’m just feeding chicken, is that ok? I want to educate and help people do what is right for their dog. Wow, another big event, planned. Hook. Line. Sinker.

I have attended a few nutritional workshops, watched online seminars, increased my training network and made some awesome friends as well. I have read so many books, it sometimes feels I’m reading the same things over and over again. But, if I attend a seminar, read a book, or meet with new people at a workshop, and I learn ONE new thing, it was completely worth it. If I learn a lot, that knowledge is invaluable because I will build on that and learn more new things and become an even better trainer.

I have been asked to help during my trainer friend’s Saturday Socials, and I feel I am becoming more and more confident each week.  This was huge for me, because eventually, I want to run these. I have run a small social in my backyard with 11 dogs (specifically picked out who would be able to come) and I was pretty confident (but so nervous too!). I am more confident and assertive when I am by myself because I sometimes feel I am such a baby in this field, so when I am around someone with more experience, I tend to freeze up a little or my heart starts pounding. I have only been ‘on my own’ training for 2 years. I worked at Petsmart and did simple sit/stay training with my dogs in high school, but not like this.  I will someday be as awesome as these trainers. I can do it, and I am well on my way!

Mowgli was here for boarding for a weekend

Mowgli was here for boarding for a weekend

I have started boarding in my own home. This was a scary move, but overall, I really enjoy it. The dogs are kept safe, get plenty of attention and stimulation and are in a loving environment. And I get to experience what handling more dogs feels like in a safe way. I try to only board dogs I know for this reason. Sometimes, I board dogs I haven’t met before, and it can go either way. I had a crazy dog I boarded in the beginning that was a disaster, but right now, I’m boarding 2 that I had never before. Both are sweethearts, and I’m happy to have them! I get to practice some of my own techniques, I get to practice reading dogs I don’t know, and I get to practice walking multiple dogs at the same time. Sometimes this is a huge challenge because I’ll be walking 4 dogs at once, and only one knows how to walk on a leash nicely. So, we take an hour to go around the block. But that’s just it – I get to practice!

I have actually started making money, and even though I won’t show a profit this year (which is actually a good thing for taxes, of course), I will next year. This year, I attended 2 workshops (so far, and plan to attend another) and my certification course, which weren’t cheap. So, I made money, and then spent it all on workshops.

I have plans in the making to get a better ‘dog car’ as mine is really taking a beating with all the dogs coming and going in it. This may not happen next year, but the year after. In the meantime, I need to find a way to keep my seats intact! Even Napoleon’s kennel won’t fit in my backseat.

We have plans about our location for when I get more serious about doing this. Either having a facility on my own lot, or leasing/purchasing a facility in the future. This is WAY in the future, just a dream right now, but it’s something.

The biggest success, if you can call it that, would be the decision the family and I had to make about their dog, Ryder. You can follow his whole story here. He was a very special Merle Great Dane who had an unpredictable streak. He could be loving on you and playing, and then turn and bite someone. Unfortunately, these are some of the hardest dogs to work with because you can’t find a trigger. We thought it was men, hats, uniforms, etc – but, he wouldn’t go after the same person twice, or the same hat, and if you switched the hat with another person, he would be fine. 95% of the time, he was manageable and just needed training. The other 5% of the time, he was unpredictable and could seriously hurt someone. He was hard to adopt out, and we didn’t find the right home. So, we made the decision to euthanize him. We didn’t come to this decision lightly and it was months of talking about options. I won’t get into everything again, but this was the right thing. I cried pretty much the whole week, I was emotionally exhausted, I didn’t want to talk about it anymore, I wanted a miracle to show up on my doorstep and be the perfect place for him, or I wanted Best Friends to take him. Neither happened. But now, I am at peace with this decision and I am still sad of the outcome – it won’t ever be a ‘happy ending’. But, I know he is running free and will be happy now, without having to worry about anything. I had to make this decision and it has made me a better trainer. This was a turning point in my career. I’m sad it had to be him, but I’m happy he is free and healthy now.

Most of all, I can’t ‘count’ how much I have learned this year, but I have really taken an initiative on learning as much as I can, and sacrificing so much to do this. I have also learned so much about myself, and I feel more complete because of what I have accomplished.  I don’t have the constant stress feeling of ‘Am I doing this right?’ or ‘I’m going to fail, what if I fail?’ feelings. If I fail, I get up and try again. If I get bit or kicked in the teeth, I put a band-aid on and try again. I won’t let other trainers, dogs, people, or my mistakes stop me from continuing on. I will learn from them and be a better trainer for them. I’m happy to take constructive criticism and coaching, but please – no need to be an asshat about it. I want to learn, and I can admit I don’t know everything.

I work in the dog industry, a bite is bound to happen. Not that I want it to, but just like working in construction, it’s inevitable. It’s not if, it’s when.

I’m happy, and I see an end to these 100 hour workweeks. I see a light, and I’m excited to see what happens. Scared, but excited.

I can do this.