Let’s Talk

Gemma Correll has inspired me to talk about something that is a heavy topic for most people: mental health (how amazing are these images she drew up for Mental Health America?). Just this morning I had a panic attack which includes an endless cycle of “I have so much to do” and “why even bother, nothing I do is good enough.” I often have these all-or-nothing thoughts and it’s extremely difficult to break this repeating cycle. In planning my upcoming wedding, I have been overwhelmed with self-loathing thoughts: “no one will want to come” and “no one cares enough about me to be by my side,” but the truth is I do have wonderful people on my side. It may not be one-hundred, fifty, or even twenty people there to support me, but the people who are there, are the ones I WANT there. Those who love me unconditionally and understand my struggle with physical and mental illness and YET (yes, yet) still WANT to be involved in my crazy life; Those who are in my court through not only my ups, but my overwhelming lows.

I have struggled with major depressive disorder, anxiety, social phobia, and PTSD for years now and so many times I have felt ashamed, that I must hide these mental illnesses from society. [I think that] They will judge me, thinking “that girl is crazy”, “I don’t want to be around her”, or “she may snap at any moment”. The fact is: loads of people suffer with these issues of feeling inadequate at what they do. We are told not to express these emotions because we will appear weak and vulnerable, but holding on to them is what makes us weak and vulnerable in the first place!

I will honestly say that my anxiety is becoming unmanageable. I have tried so many different medications in order to feel more relaxed, but the ones that work are too sedative and/or they don’t last long enough; because of this, it is time for me to go to the next measure: a service dog. It was suggested to me in 2015 that I should obtain a dog for support (whether it be a service dog or a ESA) by my psychologist; I have always responded well to animals and grew up with a full house of five main animals (and some of them had various litters!). My pets have always gotten me through the struggles through the years: I grew up in not so favorable situations. I was abused as a child and the victim of severe bullying (this went on for over six years). I often spent my days hiding inside when I wasn’t forced (I begged to be homeschooled) to go to a school (and take the bus which was just as horrible if not worse) where I was constantly harassed. My only safe place was in the comfort of my own bedroom with my furry friends and dolls; even then I was tormented by my older brother and cyber stalked (even after I moved away from the hell of Newport, North Carolina) by the same cruel people I went to school with. These cruel girls thought it would be so “cool” for them to go to my social media platforms and save my photos so that they could go back and forth on Photobucket saying how ugly I was and that I was just a fat poser. I never understood the cruelty I received. I was brought up in a Christian household and taught to treat people like you want to be treated. I truly believe I have upheld this moral and proceeded through life with honest and compassionate intentions. I never bullied anyone, not even those who bullied me. I put my faith that God would lead me to a successful life, rich in love, which I have now obtained.

I got Mavis in March of 2016. After years of wanting a pug and a dog of my own, I finally received the gift of a lifetime in the form of this spunky, curly-tailed girl. I began training her at 3 months as a service dog, but with the stress of finishing my last semester and my first hard break-up, I took a [much too long] hiatus from the weekly training. Now that I somehow managed to graduate from Texas Tech and my heart is mended and found love, I am ready to get back on track! I want to use Service Dog Express to train Mave and get her into tip-top shape for her aiding in my life and the public access test (the test Service Dogs must pass before being deemed certified). I know anxiety will continue to play a big role in my life (although I wish it wouldn’t) and I’m tired of being afraid to go into public alone. I truly believe that I may have a shot of living a healthier life with her by my side. If you would like to get involved with our campaign, YouCaring is donating $500 to a fundraiser: It’s completely free, quick, and easy to do:

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Here is an example done by the wonderful Caleb (aka my fiancé) and my darling girl, Mave. This took five minutes to draw and take, so it’s super easy and affective. #SignedwithLove & @youcaring is all you need to include on your post! The opportunity to help will pass soon as it ends on JUNE 14TH.

or if pictures aren’t your style…

You can purchase one of the many cute clothing options available featuring “Mave Saves” on our Bonfire. The sales remain until JUNE 29TH.

Don’t want a hoodie or tee?…

The last option is to make a donation! You can do this through our Youcaring with a no end date or through our Paypal!

Here is our links: YouCaring, Bonfire, Paypal, & Facebook Page.

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Struggling getting through the day? Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you need someone to talk to. We’re here for you, 24/7. 💚📲

Never give up ladies and gentlemen.

You are so much more than your illnesses and we need to fight together to end the stigma!

xo,

Cass & Mave

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pain.

I have a hard time explaining to people that I will not get better. This is only going to get progressively worse, if anything, and I am in pain everyday. Most of the students I go to school with only worry about making it to Friday, so they can party on the weekend. They complain about having to study, while here I am not sure if I am going to make it through class because the pain is too bad. I write this from my couch, heat pad on high on my back, neck brace on with my Real Time Pain Relief MAXX ointment lathered on my neck and back praying that this pain will pass quickly. I am on methocarbamol, a muscle relaxer, and am trying my best to only take one tramadol a day. I have lidocaine patches that I wear 12 hours on (although they don’t ever stay on that long!), 12 hours off on my lower back. I take tylenol and advil daily in addition to these other medications to try to alleviate anything. The pain is the worse thing having to deal with, but I also have weekly allergic reactions. Last Wednesday I had a horrible reaction that left me wheezing, covered in red splotches, and horrible gastrointestinal discomfort. I try my best to push forward and to see the best, which I have so much to be thankful for, but sometimes it’s hard to stay focused. I also suffer with depression and anxiety. The brain’s way of processing pain is similar to depression, so it definitely can have an impact on my mental health. I have had to take a year off in total from college to deal with this and it’s something I’ll have to fight everyday for the rest of my life. I am so incredibly blessed to have a partner willing to stick it out with me and be not only my best friend and husband, but my caretaker too for days that I can’t get by or nights that I come home with tears.

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I want to create a safe place for people suffering, not only with chronic illnesses, but with mental health as well. We are in this together. Please feel free to comment if you need help or want to discuss your challenges.

Xo,

Cass

Originality

Some of my past readers may have noticed that I “revamped” my blog and change a few thing around, but that doesn’t change the fact that this my personal blog and I use it to talk about my struggles with severe depression and anxiety, my Chiari Malformation diagnosis. I think most people are terrified that they are alone and so if this can give my readers a sense of unification or understanding, then my job is done.

So many things have occurred since I last chimed in. First of all, I have a “new” position at the same job as a dog bather. I basically wash and deshed (which is a number of hair removing techniques),  brush teeth, clean ears, brush out, remove mats, and give pawdicures to lovely (mostly, although some are plain assholes) little and HUGE doggies. I like this position better because I don’t have to put as much stress on my neck and back as I did as a playroom attendant. I also feel like my job does have purpose. I got to make an adoptee Dalmatian mix all pretty in hopes of getting adopted and a freshly adopted Chow mix a deshed and brush after being severely neglected. My shift hours are also amazing for my chronic pain. I work 10 am – 3:30/4pm, which gives me enough time to sleep in and prepare myself for the shift and also allows me to have time to relax and unwind when I get home. I usually come home and lay on my heat pad for a couple hours. I work Monday-Friday, which is great, as well, because I get the weekend off to spend with my mom, but also having a schedule is good for my depression and anxiety.

I have slacked off a bit in Mav’s training, but we have come LEAPS and BOUNDS since my last post. I had a severe major depression episode and was completely upset after having some really hard personal news hit. I was shaking and wishing that I was not here. I finally let Mavis out and she immediately came over and laid on my upper arm by my face and just stayed still. I didn’t teach this to her at all, but she knew that her mom needed her help. She did so amazing and I felt like all my training had been justified. I also took her with me to a psychologist appointment and she did wonderful! She remembered her blanket commands and sat on her blanket and ignored the door opening! She had little slip ups in the hour long appointment: barking at a plant, falling asleep, and being a little restless. She tooted and snored in the room and my therapist couldn’t help but laugh.

I’ve been trying to cope recently with my chronic pain and anxiety. Today was very difficult in terms of pain. The back of my head had a weird pressure feeling right where my cerebral tonsils are (where my surgical incision is). I also had bad neck and back pain and weird muscle cramping. I thought about asking to go home early, but stuck it out. I got home and used my heat pad for about two hours straight. Tomorrow I am heading to Lubbock for my cousin’s wedding and will be taking my best little pug with me. She won’t be going to the actual wedding because she isn’t that ready to be in public. I get very anxious around event like these. A lot of people make me extremely anxious and then also being judged around family is a worrisome of mine. Hopefully all goes well.

Thanks for staying with us!

xo,

Cass & Mav

Training with Mavis

Week 2

This week my little Mavis will be 14 weeks and will have been living with us for 8 weeks! She’s been in training for 2 weeks using Training Your Own Service Dog by  Lelah Sullivan and AKA Shana Cohen. For those who don’t know, Mave is my service dog in training and she is doing incredibly well for her age. After we complete Sullivan’s and Cohen’s book, we will be using a training manual from Service Dog Express. Hopefully once both guides are finished, Mave will be in tip top shape. If not, I have local training organizations willing to help out with basic obedience training. Service Dog Express can also provide further training and instruction via webcam. SDE (located in San Antonio) can evaluate Mavis with a final walk through, after her training, to see if she is ready for the Public Access Test and become a Service Dog! I wanted to start a series of posts dedicated to my tiny terror’s (oh the wonderful puppy stages!) training progress. I’m hoping to help others in their journey to training a service dog of their own and how to go about getting started and what options they can choose.

First of all, I am not a liscensed trainer, but I consider myself a dog expert. I have lived with multiple dogs my entire life, worked in the veterinary field for about two years, and continue to work as a dog behavior analyst as a doggy daycare attendant (which is much more hands on then you’d think). Anyways, I know quite a bit about dog behavior and health which has set me up with the perfect platform to training my dog. I have looked into the alternatives of having a service dog pre-trained and ready, but the cons (for me personally) outweighed the pros. First of all the wait is up to a year or more to be matched with a service dog. Furthermore, the price of a trained service dog is anywhere from $1,200-2,000 and upwards. Another reason I didn’t choose this option is because you really have to be hands on when training a psychiatric service dog because they need to get you and your moods. Your ups, your downs, your triggers. This, in itself, takes persistence, time, and a close bond.

We started the intensive training on April 14th, 2016 and have learned Focus (keeping her eyes on me all the time), Touch (hoping that she’ll use this to alert), and are now working on Blanket (having her lie down on a blanket) commands. Technically it was recommended that the Service Dog Express manual begin at 6 months of age, but we are getting a jump start with Sullivan’s and Cohen’s training guide to prepare us.

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Locations We Have ‘Worked’ At:

Different locations will allow you to bring a service dog in training (SDiT) into their locations if you ask, but it is your liability should anything happen (potty accidents, etc.). On request if someone asked me to leave a location, I would gladly do so because it is their right, since Mave is not a service dog (yet). These locations I we visited had no problem with me bringing in Mavis, but I only worked on training commands in outer locations since she is so tiny and not completely potty trained yet. Documentation is important! So lots of photos, videos, and a log should be written down, in the case your service dog is questioned or legal action is brought against you.

As we perfect our commands and learn new ones, we hope you will follow our journey.

Xo,

Cass & Mavis

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Chronic Pain Confessions

If you haven’t visited Amanda’s blog: Everything Hurts, you definitely should. Her latest post has to do with her confessions dealing with chronic pain. I decided to follow suit using her amazing crafted and perfect icons to lead the way.

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I have struggled most of my life with emotional pain, but I didn’t have to deal with constant physical pain until I began showing symptoms of Chiari. I try my absolute best to pretend I’m completely healthy and put together, but I am fighting every day. Today I had severe back pain. I was at work doing my best to make sure it wasn’t noticible that I was in pain. I kept counting down the hours until I got off. Every time I bent down (when working with dogs, that is very often) I felt a jolt down my back. When standing, I felt a constant almost “buzzing” pain that feels like when you sit on your foot too long and it falls asleep, but you continue trying to walk on it mixed with a Charlie horse cramp. I finally closed the playroom down and put all the dogs in their crates for nap time. I looked at the clock, so eager to head out, but I had an hour left. I was assigned to take the grooming dogs out to potty. Every time I made it outside, I leaned against the wall crouched down with deep breathing (like a pregnant lady in labor), while the pups did their business.

I hide my pain. I don’t like telling my parents because I’m afraid they’ll discredit it. They have supported me through everything, but they also think that this surgery is an instant cure all solution and I am afraid to disappoint them.

I’m tired of saying I don’t feel well or my neck is killing me and then having to hear the “maybe it’s the insert some common bug/virus” or “muscle strains suck.”

I’m tired of feeling depressed. I try my best to do the right thing for my mental health, but I get anxious about how others perceive me. Do they think I look fat? Do they think I’m dressed sloppily? Do I look happy?  I have a chemical imbalance and no medication I have taken has made things bearable for a continued period. Getting more exercise, eating gluten free, or trying said homeopathic solution isn’t going to work for me (that’s not to say it won’t work for others).

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I have a very physical job. I am constantly moving. I feel like it is enough for me, but I want to do more. I want to be that fit BBG girl that looks super cute and they love to work out (or make it look like that) and that it’s super easy. Or that cool yoga chick that has trendy workout gear they actually work out and not just to lounge in.

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I’ve had five surgeries since birth, but all my scars are hidden and people can’t see the pain I have had to endure. Every single day is different. Some days I miraculously don’t have any physical pain. Then there are days which I call “spoon days,” like today, where I wake up in pain. My back jolts, my neck aches, my muscles hurt, and no I didn’t exercise the day before. Most days are in between these two. I’m excited to have Mavis trained as a service dog, but am nervous about how people will perceive me. Will they think I am a sham trying to pass off a cute pooch as a service dog just so I can take her into places? (Hello anxiety, dear old demon).

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I always have used food as a coping mechanism, which is why I was so overweight (obese, actually) as a child and in my teens. It will most likely always be a love/hate relationship because now I have IBS (although not confirmed and I don’t think it is, I think it’s just MCAD) and MCAD to deal with, which makes foods scary for me. Foods that I have never had a reaction too, suddenly make my mast cells react for no reason. I can eat that same food and have nothing wrong the next time. I have “plumbing” issues and often get sick from eating different foods. Yet, I have my junk food weaknesses, like most people do. (SourPunch Straws and Sonic are my guilty pleasures) Why do I feel Diet Coke is a necessity (I cannot have high sugar amounts because I get deathly ill, no I don’t know why, but 30g of sugar is my limit, so Diet is the only soda I can have, yes I know the “real” soda might as well be better, but soda is bad regardless, and here I go again, thinking too much of what other people think about my habits)?

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This post wasn’t an easy one to write, but I’m glad I did. Working towards self love and a happy or manageable lifestyle.

If anybody who reads this has good tips on managing anxiety, let me know. I’m willing to try anything: like blogging for example, getting my thoughts out via the world wide web. Only a handful of people will most likely read this and I’m good with that.

xo,

Cass

(image and icons from Amanda Vinci, everythinghurts.me)