Anxiety

 

Anxiety FearsOf all of the part of Bipolar disorder, by far the worst is anxiety. Mine tend to be localized to a few different categories. Generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and panic. When I am stressed, I experience it all the time. It is uncontrollable, unpredictable, untamable, and overpowering. It’s almost always irrational, and I can’t explain it. Stress makes it infinitely worse. I have noticed lately my heart rate is always above 100, even when I’m resting, reading a book. Recently, my stress levels have been very high, and I always think something horrible is going to happen soon. I have images and thoughts going through my head that my loved ones are going to get hurt or disappear, my dogs will run away or die, or that someone spreads negative rumors about me and people stare at me. When people look at me, I assume they are thinking bad thoughts or judging me. This has been a constant for the last few weeks. Anxiety attacks and nightmares are becoming ever more common. I have gone back to therapy to get some help.

I gauge my levels based off a system a friend had for her son. I thought it was a great idea to rate my levels to know ‘how bad’ it was on any given day. The way the system works is simple. I rate where I think my levels are based on my experiences in the past, as well as listing my ‘symptoms’. I rate my stress, my depression, and my anxiety levels. There is a pattern, so I can usually pinpoint it and change it. Right now, it’s stress. I’m so incredibly burned out, and there are a lot of big things happening in my life.

My levels right now:
Stress: 10
Anxiety: 10
Depression: 3
Symptoms: Contact stomach ache, negative thoughts, panic attacks, aggressive behavior , no motivation, muscle soreness, TMJ acting up, OCD thought patterns, insomnia, high heart rate, frustration, anger

Sometimes, I can feel it building up, and I wait for the attack. It has happened while I’ve been driving, in public places, or at when I’m trying to relax and can’t seem to shake the anxiety. Sometimes, it comes on so fast, without warning, and it’s terrifying. Especially when it happens in a public place..an otherwise quiet place… like a bank. The feeling of that happening in a public place makes it feel like there is no way out, no escape. No help, no support system to help. The only words I can use to describe this is desperation without any hope. Utterly and literally alone while the fear, convulsions, and feeling of dying wracks through your body. And then, when you start to calm down, the fear returns again that it will continue in front of everyone. Some people stare, some try to touch to help (omg please don’t touch me), some try to get people to back up and give me ‘breathing room’.

And then, “You ok?”

“…Yeah, I’m totally fine, this happens all the time… Anyway, I need to make a deposit…”

Because what else do you do? Walk out and cause a bigger scene? I’m comical, let’s try to play this off as it’s totally normal. People didn’t look at me anymore. They avoided looking at me like I was some deformed monster of a person. Of course they did. I have no idea what it is like to see myself having a panic attack, but I’m sure it’s hard to watch. I’ve seen other people have them, and all I do is ignore it, and pretend like it didn’t happen.

Anxiety Worry Depression

There is a way to stop all this. To control the anxiety, I mean. And the nightmares, and OCD tendencies. There is a medical way. And when these things happen, there is reason for me to want to take the magic pill and float away. Here’s the thing. I don’t want it. Why? Because I’m stubborn. Because I’m afraid of all the horrible things that could happen. I could end up a shell of a person with no way to feel emotion. I wouldn’t feel happiness or joy. I wouldn’t feel sadness or anger. I wouldn’t feel. Sometimes, that’s what I want. But the feeling of overwhelming joy I feel…I want that. I want to feel that happy. Living in the manic isn’t healthy either, but I’m afraid I’ll lose the joy. I’m also afraid I’ll lose the ‘touch’ to work with animals. They know when you aren’t all there; You smell different, your energy is different, you move different. I can’t jeopardize the training the dogs get when they come to me. I have worked so hard to help them and their owners find a balance in their lives, I have to find a balance in mine without resorting to drugs to straighten me out. I feel responsible, and I’m scared I’ll lose what I have worked so hard to achieve. I’m also nervous about the fact it takes weeks/months/years to find the right dosage on the right drug, and the right cocktail with anti-depression, anxiety, psychosis, and bipolar meds. I don’t want to spend that time feeling cloudy or like a shell of a person. So, I have chosen more natural remedies.

Meditation, breathing techniques, a service animal, journaling, and essential oils are some of the things I have tried. Not that they don’t work, but when I feel this anxious, I think one thought, and then 10 more flood me with awful thoughts. I have to really try to block them out and pick out some positive ones. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting. So I’m exhausted all the time. When I’m too tired to do that anymore, I resort back to the symptom list. Especially aggressive behavior. I pick fights, I’m angry and frustrated. If I sleep in that mindset, I have nightmares. Vivid, realistic nightmares. And I wake up thinking they were real. Like it was really happening. Constant fear, sleep deprivation, stress, and anxiety make up my moods lately.

It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t stop. I’m trapped on this ride and can’t get off. I’m nauseous a lot and my stomach hurts. I feel empty, but force myself to keep going. Which means the ride keeps going faster and faster. I find some things to distract me from the living nightmare, but it never ends. I don’t know what makes it stop.

Doggie Sitting Checkers

Well, I said this blog was coming, and I meant it.  The story of the Pointer I was watching for a few days.

My friend adopted a German Short-Haired Pointer a few weeks ago from a very high kill shelter. They had him for 3 days before they asked me to babysit. They wanted me to doggie-sit (while I had the cute little border collie puppy as well) from Sunday to Wednesday night. I thought this was a great opportunity to get experience with another breed, and work with a shelter dog. I knew this was going to be a pretty significant challenge, especially because this boy was in the shelter for whopping 2 weeks!!

If you work with rescue or shelter dogs, you know how much work they can be, even after being in the shelter for a few days! I was completely unprepared! This boy was a full time job!

Checkers1First thing I noticed: very high energy. This makes it very difficult because I have a high energy dog as well, so managing 2 high strung dogs was the most exhausting thing I have done so far! Boy, what did I get myself into? Well, to make matters even more challenging, he had some aggression towards Napoleon. Nothing I couldn’t handle, it wasn’t severe, and it wasn’t like ‘I’m going to kill you’ aggression. It was because he is un-socialized, and I don’t think he had been around many other dogs before.

Now, I can pick out rude behaviors now [some of them, I’m learning], and immediately saw that Checkers was challenging Napoleon for rank, challenging him to a fight. Napoleon, just ignored him, being the submissive dog he was. Well, Checkers didn’t back down, making Napoleon’s hackles rise up. I also noticed his ears went back, head up, and the lip raising started. That’s when I separated them.

Checkers, again, not being socialized, didn’t care that we were done with the introduction. He was jumping like a maniac, and started snarling at Napoleon. So, I fitted him with a basket muzzle I had on hand. I’m glad I had one! I don’t handle aggression in my training, and this dog has absolutely nothing to do with my business or my training. He was a friend’s dog, and I was asked to watch him for a few days. Just want that to be clearly written here.

Anyway, now that the boys had a chance to be nice, and failed, we left Napoleon outside, and I decided it was time for Checkers to come inside. Just from the first few minutes of being inside, I realized again – un-socialized and has never been inside a house. Out of control jumping on furniture, bolting around the house, and jumping all over the walls. So, on a tether the entire time he was with us.

PetConvincer

My fault. This is what happens when I left something in reach of him getting to it. He completely tore it apart. I’m glad he didn’t get the CO2 container!

Even on the tether, we had to watch him 24/7. He dug at the carpets, chewed on the drywall, baseboards, couches, wired crate, and dug inside the plastic crate while chewing through the holes on the sides. I couldn’t go upstairs for 5 minutes without him. Also, not potty trained. So, again- reason to tether and keep him watched all the time.

Oh, crate training. Yeah – NOT crate trained, and suffers from severe separation anxiety to the point of self-mutilation. He chewed his feet, and chewed the bars until his teeth hurt. So, I switched him to a heavy duty plastic crate instead of a wired crate. This curbed the high pitched whining and constant barking. We had use soft music, a blanket over the crate (which he destroyed), and essential oils just to get him to calm down. We fed meals in the crate, and eventually, I would close the door to my office, and let him roam. He would go in the kennel willingly to rest. Total time of active training to get this achievement: 30 hours. The family says he is accepting the crate very well now, which is awesome. I’m glad I was able to work on this with him.

Is he neutered, you ask? Of course not-the shelter doesn’t do that before they adopt them out. Well, high kill shelters, at least! We also believe he was around 2 years old, meaning he was in his ‘prime’ and was mounting everything. Couches, beds, Napoleon, me, the wall, the air, etc.

Corrections: He did not respond well to any corrections using the Halti. Absolutely no regard for personal space, and would knock you over to get where he wanted to go. He would jump over Napoleon or a couch to get to where he wanted to go. Also, another reason to keep him on a lead. He didn’t ever slow down. Took 4 full days of training, but I curbed the jumping on furniture as well as jumping on people. I used the Pet Convincer, as well as verbal corrections, and he caught on fairly quickly. The Pet Convincer was incredibly effective for correcting him, and eventually I didn’t need to use it anymore, and just used verbal corrections. I think the total amount of active training hours spent was around 8.

Checkers2He was incredibly noise sensitive, and would hide underneath our end table. Not extra loud noises even, like a motorcycle, but things like the TV, washing machine, dish washer, doorbell, garage door, toilet flushing, etc. He got plenty of exposure to this, as I had to stay home with him for a few days because he was so self-destructive while I was gone.

How did he do with my cats? No go. Nada. Neit. Not even close to being ok. Incredibly high prey drive. With his energy level, and the level of aggression he had towards a dog twice his size, I just didn’t even bother with doing introductions for my cats. I was also worried because he chased a bird in the back yard and scaled my fence! Yes, he scaled my 7 foot fence, and went into my neighbor’s yard where he scared and scared the shit out of my neighbor’s small little dogs. Ok, so now he has to be tethered when he is outside in the backyard. Can’t let him off the leash ever. What a handful!

So, of the 4 days we had him, I think it was frustrating but successful. I didn’t plan on doing any training, but it turns out I had to, since he was just completely out of control in my house.

My personal accomplishments with this boy:

-Learned that sometimes, all it takes is switching something in the environment (wire crate to plastic crate)
-Reinforced the age-old comment of ‘Not all dogs are the same’
-Learned more about shelter dogs and un-socialized behavior
-Gained practice in really paying attention to canine behavior while in the presence of another dog
-Learned what ‘Board and Train’ means when I finally decide to do that (years away right now)
-Curbed jumping on furniture and people within 4 days.
-Started crate training
-By the time he left my house, I believe he was fully potty trained. Only one accident, and then he went to the door on his own afterwards…if I gave him the chance. Normally he was tethered.
-Started working on chewing on inappropriate objects with some success
-Successfully introduced Napoleon and Checkers after quite a lot of patience and small introductions. Video below is them playing in an acceptable manner.
-Met a dog who doesn’t respond to the Halti. A prong collar might have been better for this boy. But, I didn’t have one, so I couldn’t try.

Due to my level of experience, and how much time I have available currently to work with a dog like this, I have recommend another trainer take this case. I already have my hands full with another boy, who is making tremendous progress after 6 months of training. Updates on my boy, soon to come!

Here is a video of them finally achieving calm[er] play.