PTSD and Sudden Triggers…

PTSD and Sudden Triggers…

I guess I should write about this as it’s affected deeply me for weeks. I was sailing along doing well as far as my PTSD. The severe flooding I experienced in 2012 after being fired from my job for reporting workplace violations seemed to have resolved. It was a good thing because I still haven’t found a new therapist. I had one and hit it off well but my insurance won’t cover her. Something about she has the wrong type of accreditation; she’s an LCPC as opposed to a LCSW. In the Western Mountains of Maine there aren’t many choices unless one wants to drive an hour to see a therapist. I’ve found my insurance company reasonable in the past so intend to ask them for a reconsideration. I was just so busy between getting my German Shepherd’s blog up (BTW that’s not her picture up there), traveling for her weekly treatments and grad school beginning at the end of July with a required (10) day stay at one of their campuses.

Then out of the blue an email crossed my path about mid August. The story was so horrific that I was triggered immediately.  I mean, I could literally feel it  spread through my body ~ both cold and warm at the same time. The abuse this 4 year old girl suffered was very similar to what I had endured. Although I never thought my name was Idiot, I had been called it many times. In the past if I was triggered that intensely I withdrew for a while until I could get my emotions in check. However because of my dog’s medical issues I had veterinarian appointments so hiding out at home wasn’t an option. Dogs are very important to me as I never really knew unconditional love, no make that love in any form, until I emancipated myself and adopted my first shelter dog. It’s been a dog that’s gotten me through some of the worst times of my life so not keeping her appointments wasn’t  an option. Then in the past when I’ve been emotionally fragile due to triggers I’ve found solace in the Catholic church but this summer I’ve taken, for lack of a better word, a sabbatical from it  for several reasons. It’s a small parish where everyone knows your name (like Cheers ) yet they are mean, spiteful and unkind. So much so that the previous priest asked to be reassigned. He was replaced with a granola priest who I’m convinced will have the parishioners out there planting a church garden next spring. Plus he stares at the ceiling and speaks in a dull monotone (he’s only 40). Yet the parishioners fawn over him like  high schoolers at a prom. I was in the departing line one time and heard the couple in front of me telling him how wonderful it was to have a priest that, “Is one of us”. They were referring to him being a native of Maine whereas the previous priest was, God forbid, a transplant (like me). Then next up our diocese settled a sexual abuse case from many years ago and it came out that they would have settled earlier but  wanted the victims to sign a confidentiality agreement to never discuss the abuse which the now adult victims vehemently refused to do. If anyone has read some of my past posts, then you know I had a similar situation where I wouldn’t sign that type of agreement. I was flabbergasted as it was my understanding that the church was no longer “covering” up sexual abuse by priests. Guess I was wrong and it left me very unsettled.  So seeking comfort in the church wasn’t an option either.

Instead I’ve thrown myself into writing Sasha’s blog, sometimes for 8 hours straight.  It had originally been a Facebook page where she had over 200 followers but Facebook is simply not the venue for me so I deactivated my account. Since Sasha’s medical journey began in March 2016 that’s where I started the blog. Yet, when I’m not taking her to the vet I ignore people and stay home. I don’t have a lot of friends. Strike that. I have one good friend and some acquaintances. I haven’t talked to my good friend since I read about this abused child. I just don’t feel like engaging in banal conversation. Perhaps that makes me sound terrible but I’m trying to focus on what’s best for me for once instead of doing what other people expect of me. I never liked making small talk anyway but especially when I’m upset.

I don’t know if anyone has read the article about this poor child but here’s a link  to the horror she was subjected to.

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. I still haven’t figured out how to put a share widget on this page for my dog’s blog but when WordPress Live Chat comes to life again on September 26 I’ll try and remember to initiate a chat before 7pm ET. I usually forget about it till long after that. Or, maybe I’ll just order one of these books. Seriously I’m a fan of the “Dummy” books.

I am going out on a no-dog related adventure next week. My iPhone 5S must have known Apple was launching a new one because it died ~ as in deader than a doornail. I’m a visual person so want to see the size difference between the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The only thing I DO know is that if you opt for monthly payments through Apple you get Apple Care free. Verizon has a similar deal. Whereas if you buy it outright you get nothing, nada, zilch.

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No significance to this cat picture other than I like it so much I used it as my screensaver at most of my jobs.

 

Does Time Heal? … Part 2

Does Time Heal? … Part 2

This has been my most difficult post to date. I actually wrote it a week ago but whenever I tried to post  I simply couldn’t get my finger to scroll the touchpad to the Publish widget. Even tonight the  simple task of  proof reading has taken on a life of its own ~ so I’m just doing it…

I’ve pondered my own question since I initially posted it on  June 22 and think that in my case it’s safe to say it doesn’t. Life will be going along at a steady happy pace then out of the blue something happens and you’re transported back to a place you thought was long gone. A place, a time, or even a state of mind that you thought was buried with time yet here it is, front and center, reducing you to a bundle of spiraling emotions and tense nerve endings. You actually experience a physiological state called fight or fight.
The other night I wanted to escape all the horror in the world; the attack in France, assassination of police in Dallas, the civil unrest brewing in America and the ongoing terrorism in other parts of the world. I wanted to forget about my drive to spread the plight of K9s dying in hot police cars throughout social media. I wanted a night away from researching my dog Sasha’s complex and ever-changing medical needs so I turned to an ongoing and numerous subject ~ my hair. Blogged about my efforts over the years to have Pantene like hair and failing. I went to bed that night without a weight on my shoulders and it was truly wonderful. The next morning I was home alone with the dogs when it sounded like a knock on the front door. The dogs went ballistic because a knock on my door is truly a rarity. We live off the beaten path and our driveway is akin to a steep, dirt logging road disappearing up through trees. The only person that comes here with any regularity is the UPS delivery driver because I buy through Amazon frequently.

 

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I don’t even have politicians soliciting my vote during election years. Complete solitude but instead of welcoming a knock on the door I went into a full-blown panic mode of almost epic proportions. Regressing a minute, panic induced because a knock on the door terrified me until I was about 23. It was approximately 14 years since the original life changing trauma, I was a mother and I NEEDED to lock it away because intellectually I knew I was safe. I knew my fear was irrational and I could not allow it to define me any longer, especially with small children who depended on me. I put the traumatic memory in a compartment within the deepest recesses of my mind and sealed it shut. I did the same with each horrible memory, one by one. I could not be the kind of mother my children needed, the kind of mother I ached for as a child as long as those memories were floating loose in my head. Once I completed the compartmentalizing and sealing process, I actually felt  better. I won’t lie and say my psyche wasn’t in turmoil and chaos from time to time but I couldn’t afford to be so I suppressed it. I had an image of the storage area in my mind; it was a dark room with columns of boxes which not only appeared welded shut but each with a chain and padlock. For the most part they stayed safely locked away until 2012. Then came my rude awakening ~ that traumatic memories which have not been properly addressed and processed can never truly be left behind. Instead they lurk below the surface, ready to trigger you at any given moment and often without a precipitous factor. When an employer accused me of theft in retaliation for reporting activity to a state agency which I was ethically and morally bound to do, I knew I was risking my job but it never entered my mind that the repercussions would be so costly to my mental health. Of all the ways they could choose to retaliate they inadvertently stumbled on the ONE thing that most assuredly wold drop me to my knees ~ an unjustified accusation of theft. The very thing that caused so many of my childhood beatings. Of lying on the floor crying that I didn’t steal this or that but not being believed. Of being beat with a leather belt, kicked with feet or being pulled by the hair. All by the parent I loved and at the bidding of a truly demented woman. Even worse, there were no relatives to intervene, no teachers expressed concern about my frequent bruises and cuts, no social service agency reports nor police involvement. As I previously wrote when I tried to describe that day, all the individual compartments within my mind, relics of past abuse and terror, flew open and I was flooded like I never knew was possible. It was as if EVERY incident, EVERY beating, EVERY lie, EVERY emotion was front and center in my car, accosting me from the dashboard. I remember at one point suddenly pulling over, getting out and shaking my head hoping  that would bring me back to the present, as if standing for a minute in the bright sun of a summer day would erase the horrors on the dashboard. It didn’t and even now, four years later I don’t know how I drove home. I have a deep-rooted fear of the police because they removed me from my childhood home before I was even ten years old. Not because I was a physically abused child, not because I was sexually assaulted the summer before kindergarten. It was because my crazy stepmother called them. My father came home later than usual that day and smelled of beer. I had the impression for several years that he wasn’t allowed to go to the bar unless he took me with him, a practice that began the summer before I started kindergarten. My mother would have conversations with herself during the day while sitting in the living room with a tissue tightly clenched in her hand. She wore a pained expression at times and an expression of smug superiority at other times. Superiority was the look she had as she showed me her dresses that she said were cheap substitutes of her expensive ones, switched by the nameless faceless people I was terrified of for many years. She radiated smugness as she proclaimed “They can’t fool me. I’m too smart”. That was the same expression she alternated with the pained look of a victim during the conversations she had sitting alone in the chair. I knew from listening by the door to her talking with herself that women were chasing my father in the bar; that they were trying to take him away. So began my ritual of going to the bar with my father. He had to come directly home from work, eat dinner (or not) then he and I left for the bar. I remember hour upon hour of sitting on the bar stool as he played pool with his friends. I had an endless supply of cheese puffs and orange soda from my fathers drunken friends. I would sit on the barstool staring at large jars of pickled eggs, pickled pigs feet, and just pickles that graced a section of the wooden bar near the beer taps. To this day I despise orange soda, cheese puffs and anything that’s pickled in any way, shape or form. I don’t drink alcohol, never went to a bar/club, play pool and so far haven’t had a conversation with either myself or a tissue.

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PS: I snapped the header photo last week with an iPhone in Bethel  ~ home to one of the several ski resorts in Maine.  I drive there every week for Sasha’s acupuncture. 

 

The World’s In Turmoil So Let’s Talk Hair!!!

The World’s In Turmoil So  Let’s Talk Hair!!!

Hair. Let’s talk about something we can relate to in one way or another. We all have it as well as the accompanying emotions that seem to cause us endless angst. We have straight hair but long for curls. Natural redhead but would prefer being deep brunette. Or those who struggle to stay ahead of graying locks and when the battle is lost, struggle to stay ahead of the gray roots. I’ve always said, if I worried about my body the way I do my hair I’d look like Madonna  back in the 90’s but minus the cone bras.

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Look at her pecs!

Let me tell you about my hair. It is extremely thick and I can honestly say every stylist who has ever worked on it “claim” they’ve never seen such thick hair (which somehow I doubt). In my late teens I allowed a stylist to thin it out with thinning shears ~  never again. Because my hair is also course (especially the top) when it was thinned I had pieces sticking out all over my head that literally resembled corkscrews . I’ve had stylists subtly ask if I was biracial because of the texture of my hair ~ the horsehair part that is. I’ve been tempted to say that I’m only biracial on the top of my head but haven’t. Biracial isn’t a bad thing but I’m 100% Irish with extremely pale skin and dark hair. Adopted by a Polish couple and later lived in Little Italy. Some diversity right?

 

I’m now nearing 50 so have undergone quite a few hair transitions over the years. Frosting in early 20’s which was torturous because they used THOSE caps. For me it was like they were pulling my brains out because of the thickness but did I have it done again? Of course! In hindsight I think I must have been going through a masochistic phase but didn’t realize it.

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Man did that hurt!!!
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What was I thinking???

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a natural dark brunette with red undercurrents that keep coming through. But I have something different in that I have a Mallen Streak . I was born with one in the area of my upper right hairline. As a child my adoptive step-mother (who knew one kid could have so many mothers?) would take me into a room and have me look at a photo of Shirley Temple and berate me for not looking like her. “Look at Shirley’s beautiful curls Bunny. Why can’t you look like her?” or “Shirley doesn’t have that horrible white spot on HER hair”. I had no idea who Shirley Temple was but I knew I didn’t like her because I was constantly being compared to her. At home I was ridiculed for my white patch as well as for my “birds nest” ~ a term they used to describe the particularly course, thick hair on the top of my head.

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Sorry Shirley ~ you had cute dimples!

At school I was called Skunky, Lily Munster, Bride of Frankenstein or Pepé Le Pew. Seriously? Ridiculed and beat at home and taunted at school. The name calling continued throughout high school but seemed more like a harmless joke then as opposed to the cruel way grade school children inflict pain with their words. I think I began honing the fine art of sarcastic retorts during my time in high school because I’ve got quite an impressive collection.

 

 

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True Fact: Boris Karloff’s daughter Sara has a Mallen Streak…

Once I gained my freedom, one of the first things I wanted to do was have my white streak colored but was told it was impossible. I eventually discovered (pre Google folks) that the hair lacks pigment). Looking back I think that’s what steered me in the direction of the masochistic frosting cap.

In my late 20’s and into early 30’s I had that section bleached then highlighted. I had the chunky highlight going on before it became vogue. But alas by late 30’s I was tired of it. Salons had found a way to color Mallen Streaks so I was on that like white on rice. I turned my dark brown hair with the auburn highlights into dark brown with burgundy highlights. I thought it looked fabulous but in reality I probably resembled an eggplant from the neck up.

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How I thought my hair looked…
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How it REALLY looked!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That phase ended in a few years and I stuck with dark brown for my streak, stripe or chunk. In between I went through a braid phase  (and occasionally still do especially for hiking) and actually am somewhat adept at a variety of braids. I used to put my toddler granddaughter’s hair in cornrows just to annoy her mother (my son’s now ex-wife). In 2011 I had my hair chemically straightened and can say with all honesty that was my favorite hair phase. When I returned a year later to the same stylist to have it done again, I had major breakage and I really do think it was “operator error” as the whole process was somewhat different from the first time so despite a love of all things three, won’t go for a trifecta.

 

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Look Mama! Cornrows!

Since I discovered Argon and Macadamia oils my hair is much more manageable and I’ve come to love it. During the winter I do add a bit of EVO to the shampoo just before I slap it on my wet head because it gets dry easily if I don’t stay one step ahead of it. After towel drying I use a spray leave in conditioner. I can’t find the one by Nexxus that I used for years but recently discovered It’s A 10 Silk Express Leave In  that’s quite nice. Then I follow that with either one of the oils and I’m good to go.

The texture is such that I essentially wash and go as I despise blow drying (makes it frizz uncontrollably). I rarely use a comb instead opting for fingers and until last winter I kept it pretty long. When my dog Callie died in November I hopped on what I eventually began to refer to as the “Crazy Train of Grief” and a week later went into the bathroom and cut inches off. Then a few days later I cut some more. And because I like the #3, I went back one more time and tried to layer it. Yeah, not a pretty picture. A return of the corkscrews from my late 20s only cut by Edward Scissorhands before he honed his craft.

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Never cut your hair by watching a You Tube tutorial!

During my train ride I also didn’t worry about the Mallen ~ until the day I decided to self color my entire head with a dark brown. It came out nearly black! Because I used a permanent one as opposed to semi-permanent, my choices were live with it or lift it. Therein was the problem because I didn’t want my hair bleached or stripped simply because of its course dry texture. I scoured the internet and found an interesting concoction that received great reviews on Makeup Alley (my go to site because every woman who lives in the willy whacks up a densely wooded mountain simply must know the latest fads). It’s a mixture of crushed Vitamin C tablets combined with shampoo to make a paste which you apply to wet hair.  To be honest my family thought I’d been on the train too long as they heard me use a meat mallet to pulverize the Vitamin C tabs inside a zip lock bag.  However it worked and I had my normal dark brown back plus the streak. At that point I decided on a different approach; I’d “embrace” my white streak. It’s visible from mid winter in my Gravatar picture. I still liked it then. I liked it for nearly six months. Now however I’ve decided (depending on the day of course) that it’s served it’s purpose and must go back into hiding. I mentioned this to my hairdresser when I ran into her recently and she babbled about all the coloring ideas she had for my streak; lavender grey, plum, copper, or a sparkly silver. I just looked at her, laughed and said “Hell No”.  I have an appointment this Wednesday and she booked me for enough time in case I change my mind. Somehow I doubt it but then, never say never.After all, I don’t drink, smoke or go anywhere (except of course the veterinarian) because I hate driving 5 miles one way to shop so I guess you could say hair is my hobby…

 

Welcome to my hair! In a way it’s therapy…

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Holding Onto Anger Is Like Drinking Poison…

Holding Onto Anger Is Like Drinking Poison…

Happy Birthday Daddy

My mind is scattered of late, trying to stay atop a myriad of appointments, medical needs and life in general. I didn’t realize until late last night that today is July 13th ~ your birthday. I’m amazed that you were born 106 years ago. I’m even more amazed that I don’t hate you and in all honesty, probably never have. As I became old enough to understand, I marveled how you, as a young boy, travelled alone to the United States from Poland on a ship. Then that you returned to Europe a year later only to make the trip back to the US once again. All before the age of 15! At the time I remember thinking how brave you were. When I asked why you only had two fingers on one hand, you told me about the accident in the silk mill where you worked; how the machine malfunctioned and grabbed your hand. I remember being horrified and sitting on my own hands as you talked. You said the company paid the medical bills and saved the job for you. You said they were “Good to do that”. As a child I thought that you were lucky. What did I know? You were in your 20’s when you lost your fingers, long before employers took responsibility for accidents and definitely before OSHA. I would listen at the door as you and friends who’d also immigrated talked of life back in your homeland. I remember being fascinated by the stories of war-torn Poland, trying to picture it in my mind. Always marveling at your strength for traveling four times on a ship alone, your intelligence for being able to find a job at the silk mill while still very young and your strength for what you’d endured. You never knew I listened in but it gave me a glimpse into your life. You were normally very quiet at home, sitting at the kitchen table for hours playing solitaire – a habit I not only picked up from you but passed on to one of my daughters. I yearned to feel as if I was a part of your life but you weren’t demonstrative or talkative unless you were drinking. When you first began drinking with your friends you seemed happy because you laughed, something you rarely did. You would talk and play polka music. But the more you drank the different you became. It was if you were consumed by an intense anger and despite lashing out, couldn’t slay the invisible enemy. I feared you when you were “drunk” because all it took were a few words from Mommy and you would beat me. I can remember you dragging me by the hair along the floor so that you could beat me in front of her as she insisted on witnessing it. I thought pulling me by the hair would “scalp” me much like the Indians scalped people in the television you sometimes watched. I always tried to speak of my innocence but you were so enraged I doubt you heard me. Like the time she told you I had stolen your razor from the medicine cabinet. I kept crying and pleading with you to listen to me ~ that I was too short to ever get to that cabinet and besides “Mommy keeps that door locked”. Yet you never once listened to me did you? Whatever that paranoid schizophrenic said you did. If you were sober you obeyed her meekly. If intoxicated you obeyed in rage. Looking back, the one time I thought you would beat me because I deserved it you shocked me by being kind. We had returned from the grocery store and I asked if I could carry the watermelon into the house; you said yes. I was almost to the kitchen table when I lost my grip and dropped it causing it to break. I ran into the living room and hid behind a chair for I was sure I would be beaten. Instead you found me and told me it was ok because it was an accident. I realize now that I was probably only spared because you hadn’t been drinking but nonetheless I cherish that day. I screwed up and wasn’t punished; an event forever etched in my mind.
I could go on and on but somehow it doesn’t seem right to excoriate your name on your birthday. Instead I need to tell you that I forgive you and have no hate in my heart for you. For many years I was conflicted about how I felt about you. Then came the day in 1998 when that idiotic surgeon gave me a wrong diagnosis and the first thought to enter my head? “Well I’ll see Daddy again.” My conflict was suddenly resolved and I had the answer.

I believe you were the product of a different culture and generation, where parents used beatings to enforce rules or punish those who dared break them. I don’t think you were ever “really happy” but rather, you existed. You were submissive with Mommy despite the role she projected as helpless victim. Whatever she said, no matter how implausible or insane (strangers coming into the house and substituting identical but inferior quality clothing for her expensive things comes to mind) you agreed with her. It was as if you wanted to be left alone but when she insisted you acquiesced to avoid conflict. Hence you drank, to escape whatever demons haunted you. Like most drunks, you became different. For you it was being bolder, meaner and violent. Because we both know how capable of inflicting REAL harm you were. I am often tormented by what happened in the parking lot of the bar the summer before I began kindergarten. Nope ~ I’m not going there. Instead I’m going to think of you today as the happier, kinder person you became following her death. I will always cherish the time we spent together and the impact you had on my family. I was truly happy that my children were able to experience having a grandfather because its important that we have a sense of family, a sense of identity. It was something I longed for my entire life but never felt until the birth of my first child. Yet strangely enough immediately after your death I felt like an orphan. I walked around saying “No one will ever call me Bunny again”. My husband thought he could help me so started calling me Bunny. Gotta tell you Daddy it didn’t work and I nipped it in the bud. Bunny was the child, she was a long time ago. You were the last link to that child, the last person who knew her before she became an adult, graduated college, married and started a family. And now you were gone. I’m just terribly sorry that my young daughter was the one to discover you sitting lifeless on the sofa. No child should have to be in that situation. I take comfort however in knowing that your death was swift as your nebulizer was still running. I’m also comforted in knowing that you really enjoyed what was to be your final outing, your grandsons wedding. I’m happy that my father was there to see my son get married. I love you and always will.

Until we meet again…6 7/8

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Taking The Plunge…

Taking The Plunge…

I started this blog to chronicle my AT hike which I realize now was just an attempt to escape PTSD ~ something I had under control until 2012. I’ve made a few posts about my abusive childhood but like so many of us, life got in the way. The death of my “heart” dog Callie Ann, a beloved friend’s suicide and the multiple medical problems of my beautiful German Shepherd Sasha. In the process I found it necessary to end a somewhat long relationship with my therapist, a LCSW. I found another one I liked only to learn my insurance won’t cover her fees because she’s a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) as opposed to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Insurance companies and even states vary I’ve learned so in my downtime I might write an appeal to my health insurance company. Until then, I’m just going to dive in; get it out of my head. For me words are a catharsis. I use words to give shape to my experiences. Words help me “see” who I am, what I’ve done, where I’ve been, where I’m going. Words help me understand. They are a coping mechanism of sorts, a means of expression through which I can separate the good in my life from the not so good.

Initially I thought it best to blog in chronological order but upon reflection have reconsidered. It would be intensely painful and some days my stress management ability is in overdrive and other days ~ not so much. Instead I’m going to write random entries; if a memory comes to mind I’ll write about it and see where it leads.

Just going to plunge in  because essentially I’ve had:

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I know, I know ~ not related but its a German Shepherd!

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Then God said, “Let there be light”

Then God said, “Let there be light”

I wrote most of the following entry on June 27, 2016 on our way home from a progress exam with Sasha’s internist. Decided I would leave it as  is. I posted part of it on Sasha’s FB page but omitted personal details…

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We are almost home (Sasha’s internist is a 5 hr RT). The AC in our Honda Ridgeline simply stopped working, we’re hitting construction everywhere, and I’m starving. However none of it’s annoying me for I’m still ecstatic because Sasha’s pupils are beginning to react to light (PRL). Being realistic, today’s discovery is a baby step but nonetheless it’s progress.Sasha woke up blind on April 7. Since she was in the process of preparing for stem cell therapy, I initially had the veterinary neurosurgeon perform diagnostics to uncover the cause.  I did the gamut; MRI imaging of her head to rule out an organic disturbance, a spinal tap to rule out neurological infection, a plethora of lab tests especially the ones that would indicate a tick borne illness however everything was normal. My next step was having Sasha evaluated  by a veterinarian ophthalmologist which included more tests and an ERG ( electroretinogram) which is a test to evaluate retinal function. Think of it as an EKG monitor that we see hooked to a hospitalized patient on a medical drama. When the patient’s heart stops, the EKG makes a noise and the camera zooms in on the flat line shown on the monitor. When an ERG  performed on a dog shows a “flat line” it indicates total destruction of the visual cell layer (the rods and cones) of the retina with subsequent blindness.  The diagnosis is Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS), you are told there is no treatment and given handouts on “Dealing with a Blind Dog”. Nearly 5k in diagnostics only to be told to help Sasha adapt to blindness as she’ll never see again. “You can’t help her”.

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Sasha’s ERG ~ April 22, 2016 (not exactly flat lined)

 

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One of the many tests by the opthalmologist
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More tests

Somehow it didn’t “feel right” to me and since my mantra is “Can’t is a fellow that never tried” I didn’t accept it. Not because I didn’t want the burden of a blind dog but rather, I wouldn’t have accepted that diagnosis for a human family member so why would I for Sasha? If there was a chance to regain either full or partial vision I wanted her to have it. She’s had so many atypical medical issues yet always landed on her feet. After the FCE in 2011, I accepted that she wouldn’t reach the last Schutzhund level or scale a 6′ fence – who cares? But I wanted to be able to watch her face as her eyes followed a tossed snowball or a chirping band of tree hopping squirrels. And if there were no options, I would have accepted that too; but I owed it to her to explore.

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Sasha ~ In Schutzhund class one month before the FCE

As a young child I was not allowed to touch, play, talk to, or interact with the family dog on ANY level. Her name was Beauty; jet black fur with a slight wave to it and long lovely ears. Looking back I think she was some type of spaniel. To be honest I don’t know where she came from as she simply appeared inside our house one day when I returned from kindergarten (just as she mysteriously appeared, a few years later she was gone). I also don’t know where she was most evenings and on weekends as I would only catch fleeting glimpses of her. I asked my father one night (when he wasn’t drinking) why I couldn’t play with Beauty. He said “Mommy told me she caught you sticking pins in Beauty’s ears”. I can still feel the hurt and shame that enveloped me that night because I knew I had never, ever done anything to hurt Beauty but from living with a mother that lied, I inherently knew to protest or deny her accusations was futile. I can also remember the rare times I would see Beauty in the living room while my parents watched the evening news. My father would be stroking her and my mother alternating between giving me her famous smug smirk or looking at me in horror and making motions with her arms as if to protect Beauty from the me ~ the resident demon. She would do it when my father was engrossed in the current new story so that he wouldn’t see her. I always felt like she was a like a taunting schoolyard bully instead of a mother. Gotta tell you, it was a real joy being 5 years old in that house! So as usual I immersed myself in books, many which were about dogs. Our home had an abundance of older books, many of which I still have today. We seemed to have many by Albert Payson Terhune, a native of NJ. He wrote about his beloved collies and while I couldn’t read many of the words in his books,  I still enjoyed them.

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Albert Peyson Terhune & his collies of Sunnybank

Until I became a mother the only happiness and unconditional love I’d ever had was from the dogs I was blessed to have in my life. Their wagging tails and sloppy kisses kept me going when I wanted to literally give up. They lay by my side as I cried uncontrollably. They entertained me with their hilarious antics on lonely nights and weekends. An introvert my nature, I sat on the floor with them and enjoyed a Saturday night party of treats and tracking. They were usually the only ones who were openly happy to see me. Somehow because of them I felt validated as a person. All the hateful venom hurled my way as a child didn’t matter because in the eyes of my dogs, I saw love and acceptance and that was enough to sustain me. As we do with our loved ones, I put their veterinary needs before my own the same way I later put my children’s needs before my own. That’s just what we do in life. I won’t deceive or gild it though; keeping up with Sasha’s medical costs has been one of the biggest financial challenges of my life, especially since I wasn’t working and involved in a legal matter. It pained me deeply that I had to turn to asking people to lend me money but it all goes back to what mattered more; my pride or Sasha’s well-being. Definitely a no-brainer!

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Sasha May 2016

So yes, today I am excited, blessed, thrilled and confident. Tomorrow something may crop up in her care that changes that but I know that whatever obstacles she encounters will be stepping-stones. I believe Sasha knows how very loved she is. I also think she senses that her internist, Dr. Sarah Noble, truly cares about her. You can see Sasha perk up and radiate contentment whenever Dr. Noble enters the room. Her other hero is Dr. Plechner who ironically is located on the West Coast while we are on the East. Opposite ends of the country yet he has been there every step of Sasha’s SARDS journey. Dr. Noble collaborated with him for Sasha’s treatment by using a protocol that he researched and developed. Many in his profession believe he is too controversial but I say this; it was the controversial pioneers that gave us many of the gold medical standards (both human and animal) in today’s world. Bottom line, Dr. Plechner’s theories made sense. They fit together like pieces of a puzzle. As a healthcare professional I researched SARDS, his protocol for treating it, spoke with owners of dogs whose vision returned after using his treatment plan. At the end of the day I knew it was an opportunity I wanted to give Sasha but accepted that, like anything in life, no guarantees. Both Drs. Noble and Plechner care about their patients, viewing them as a sentient beings as opposed to Patient #936. With heroes like that in her corner along with the beautiful thoughts and prayers from all of her followers on Sasha’s Journey , Sasha has a sure-fire recipe for success. Most of all, she is loved and that will never change ~

 

 

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Sasha Smiles

I Sat in Your Chair Today

I Sat in Your Chair Today

Technically it’s mine but you always chose it when we went to the river.

Seven weeks ago you stood on your lawn with police and rescue personnel present, and in the shadow of the setting sun, put a gun to your head and pulled the trigger. The last words you said were more in the form of a question. “What? I can’t hear you”.

When I learned of your death my universe was suddenly a very vast place and I was extremely alone. I guess I was selfish because I always counted on you being there. You were my sounding board, my go to person. I knew you suffered from depression and had made a suicide attempt many years ago. I knew because of the unwarranted termination of your job of 20 years, you were without healthcare coverage thus you weren’t able to continue either your therapy sessions or afford the antidepressant you’d taken for years. I wish I could have helped you! I begged you to use your VA benefits, apply for assistance through the local healthcare system, visit a labor lawyer – but you refused. I couldn’t understand why but finally stopped harping. Was I wrong? Should I have kept after you? What could I have done differently my dearest friend? I was always there for you but it was difficult to reach you because of your damn unreliable ISP and finicky computer. You never knew that I was planning on buying you a laptop. I tried to talk you into a cell phone off my plan but as usual you declined using the idiotic excuse “I don’t like all the noises cell phones make”. You and your damn independent streak. Looking at my words I realized that I’ve just described myself. It’s amazing we melded so well despite our arguments, like a married couple. Hence I introduced you as husband #2. I smile as I recall the expression on your face the first time I introduced my “two husbands” to the very Catholic women at the Parish Hall. They took my humor rather well I thought.
You had that quirky little smile when I said or did something outrageous or just plain dumb. Like getting stuck in your snowy driveway not once but twice the same day. Hell within the same hour. I miss that smile. I miss your wit and listening to your antigovernment theories while desperately trying to keep a straight face. I miss your hesitation when I hugged you goodbye. You lived such a solitary life that you had difficulty with human touch.
My four years of hell have reached an apex. The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster unlike anything I’ve ever experienced since those horrific childhood years. Every morning I wake up and within five minutes I’m a wreck because I realize I’m one day closer to being in a courtroom. The mere thought of it terrifies me, a residual effect of standing alone in front of a judge when I was just a child. Of being sentenced to a reform school for being incorrigible at an age when little girls still play with dolls. No – I’m not going there today. I refuse. I’m trying to think of the courtroom as just another room in a big building. Like a large room in a museum or a restaurant except with a different decor and theme. I tell myself that at the end of the day I’m free to walk out of the courtroom just as I would any other large room or venue. I’m trying to reprogram my mind. As frightening as it is to enter a court room, I have to tell myself it’s not, it’s a piece of cake, I can do it, it’s only a room, and I’m in rooms all the time, every day of my life. At my house, at the store, it’s just a room with walls and strangers in it, no different from any building I go to each week – post office, bank, grocery store, it’s just another building and I’ll be in a room like any other store I frequent, but at a different address and without shopping privileges! Somehow it’s not working for me though; my innate terror is simply too great. So I’ve vacillated whether I should settle out of court. It’s easier on so many levels. No emotional “courtroom” appearance, no testimony, not having my character and very essence attacked by a bitch desperately to rise in the law firm. I’ve met her type so many times before – driven and ambitious. Society often thinks it’s only men that ruthlessly climb the corporate ladder. They’ve obviously never met a woman who’s determined to move up the company food chain. They epitomize the word cutthroat . Settling would resolve nearly all my angst. A nice tidy business arrangement. I’d sign a confidentiality agreement and they’d give me a check. However therein lies my problem. This whole fiasco has never been about money. It’s never been about revenge. It was about the right to patient privacy, something they’re entitled to plus guaranteed under HIPAA. It’s about an employer who, instead of rectifying a problem, chose to retaliate against a nurse who was only doing her job. I’m not naive. I know many people enter the field at a young age because of the money, the ability to work the hours or amount of days they want, and the fact that no matter where they move they can usually find a job. Then there’s the people like me who are in a completely different profession but because of a life experience or circumstance find their calling is nursing. We go back to school (again) and armed with our degree jump headfirst into our new career. Of course it’s a nice paycheck but for me the greatest satisfaction was helping my patients. A nurse doesn’t just address physical needs such as wound care or pain relief. We are duty bound to protect their rights. Patients have a right to privacy which means you cannot discuss them by name when you’re off duty. It also means that if you see their privacy being violated you are obligated to address it.

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Yet here I am, four years later ~ drained of our savings, penalized and taxed for cashing in pensions, and dreading the day I have to appear in court. All because I reported a facility that failed to address the problem I reported several times.
Having said that, I’ve rejected a settlement offer. I know it’s crazy and I’m a glutton for punishment but I keep thinking about you. About the day that young woman fired you in front of everyone. I think about my termination and what it’s cost me. I think about all the other people who are unfairly terminated by an employer just because they’d been there so long that they are at the top of the pay scale. Or terminated because they called attention to safety violations. Or maybe because the manager simply didn’t like them. If you aren’t protected by a union your job is fair game.
Employers have to be made to realize that their employees are real people. With a life outside of work, perhaps a family or a dependent parent. They have bills to pay, obligations to meet. If they’re fired through no fault of their own they struggle financially and emotionally. And that’s where my problem is. I’m not naive in that I know I can’t change the world but by going to trial, speaking out, I can change one employer and that’s good enough for me. If I quietly accept a check and sign a confidentiality agreement, the employer is in essence buying my silence. They are free to continue caring more about insurance reimbursement than patient rights. What will the past four years of struggle have been about if I allow myself to be bought? As much as I fear the courtroom, I could not live with myself if I compromise my ethics. And in a small way, I’ve decided to see this through for you as well. While not the same company, a victory will give me a certain amount of satisfaction.
You’re still with me in so many ways just as I know you’ll be with me in court. That’s good enough for me. Let’s kick some ass…

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My friend loved his cats!