Asking for Help

Last August and September, when the physical effects from my second bout of pneumonia in less than a year would not cease and desist and this current episode of Major Depressive Disorder was well underway, I became unable to do many of the things that I count on being able to do to be me and run my home.

Ruger’s got me

What happens when a disabled person can no longer care for themselves and their home? Asking for help seems simple, perhaps, for those who’ve never had to, but for those of us who are used to doing for ourselves, it is quite complex.

The first part of the process was as simple as checking a box when I reapplied for assistance with food and paying my Medicare premiums. I checked the “Home Health Care” box on September 2, 2018, with much trepidation. I wasn’t sure what to expect next.

The screen has changed slightly since I applied six months ago

When I hadn’t heard about the “Food Stamp” part of my application by the end of the week, I went to the office. I was told since I had checked the home health care box, my application had been transferred to a neighboring county. I was perplexed.

After some bureaucratic shuffling, my food and medical parts of the application were transferred BACK to my home county for expedient processing. I was granted Food Stamps and assistance paying my Medicare premiums. Then I waited to hear about the other box.

In late September I received a phone call from a woman around 6:20 at night, who identified herself as a Case Worker for the Lewis-Mason-Thurston office of Washington’s whatever office… I did not recognize the acronym she specified. I was already discombobulated by receiving such a call after 5pm (what can I say, I take off my headset at 5, figuring I am done with “business calls”… sigh), and I answered in a manner that reflected such.

 

Now I was astonished. It had taken three weeks for this phone call, responding to what I considered a “scream for help” to have it considered by the ONE PERSON who actually received it as ‘a mistake.’

She asked, “Did you check the “Home Health Care” box by accident?”

The tip of a wooden cane on the floor

“No, it was not a mistake,” I answered. “I need help desperately. I have not been able to recover from this pneumonia and I need help. I am having trouble bathing and dressing myself and I’m even missing church in spite of having a Dial-a-Lift ride set up.”

She answered in the affirmative and continued with my application. My home assessment for my application was scheduled for early October, about a month after I ‘cried for help.’

The evaluator was pleasant. I easily forgave him for indicating that my canine service companions were “gigantic dogs” on the assessment when he did accurately indicate the services they perform for me (in spite of being, technically a “medium” and “large” dog respectively). Mr. Evaluator had my evaluation (that indicated I was barely functioning with assistance from church friends and relatives) input into the system by late October.

Dog toy between the wheels of a wheelchair on the floor

I continued to wait.

My physician was angry it was taking so long. In mid-November, she ordered a different sort of Home Health Care. I had been unaware there was more than one type. It was so nice to finally have a bath-aide come in and help with some of the most difficult parts of being disabled.

Ironically, on the date of my first major fall (not just “ping-ponging” my way into the walls on the way to the bathroom), a device was delivered to notify my doctor’s office when I fell. They delivered it an hour after the fall that jammed and froze my shoulder. My doctor then prescribed a power chair.

When it was discovered that I leave my home for church and medical appointments, I was deemed “non-homebound” and the device was demanded back. The bath aids and physical therapist who were coming in every week for three weeks ceased. I was not eligible for THAT type of care.

I was offered my first caregiver, a person who had never held such a position, in late December. She had retrained after having worked as a bartender. She worked for 6 days before she called (14 hours before her next shift) to say she couldn’t come back to work because she couldn’t afford the gas to make the journey from the coast where she lived.

I spent Christmas and New Years without assistance. I spent a lot of time in light housecoats, being cold. My heating bill is skyrocketing.

In mid-January, a new caregiver started. Unfortunately, she did not work out. Yelling at me during a bath just adds to my menu of triggers. Yeah… Nope.

The next caregiver presented herself as having experience with mental health issues, then proceeded to gaslight me. Then, I spent an inordinate amount of time in my therapist’s office wondering if having a caregiver was worth it. I almost wish it wasn’t.

Face it, we ALL want to live long enough to become disabled, but NONE of us wants it to happen to us when we are still “with it.”

I succumb to the assessment that I am “hard to handle.” My mother and my first husband made a point of saying for years that “no one could handle [me].” Now that is getting in the way of “me” being “me.”

I have recently interviewed two ladies who I would like to work with me as a team. I pray to my Heavenly Father that the broken pieces of “my MEs” can play nice and allow things to be taken care of. Seriously. I’m tired of being naked and the dishes are piling up.

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A Darkness Within the Light

About a week ago, I asked my therapist how long this particular Major Depressive Episode had been going on. Without a pause, she answered, “Since the summer.” I could have saved a bit of time and checked the publication date of my last blog post — on ALL of my blogs. I have not written except for assignments for school, since summer.

“Since summer,” the words rang in my head.

I thought back to summer. My summer was great! In July three grandmas (including me) took four grandkids on a ferry boat to Vashon Island where I spent some of my teen years. Then, in August, my mom and I trekked to Alberta, Canada to see the area where her mother was born. We also drove back through the forest fires in British Columbia, resulting in my second case of pneumonia within a year. This time I was not to recover nearly as quickly as I had the previous Christmas.

As the infection abated in early September, I found I was not able to physically care for myself. The symptoms I thought were lessening from the Fluoroquinolone toxicity had started again to worsen while we were in Canada and kept getting worse until I could barely lift my left arm. My left shoulder was “frozen.” 

I finally requested help. I had no idea AFTER you humble yourself and ask for help, it can take literally months before help arrives! I applied for home health care through the state process in early September. In November, my physician was fed up with the lack of movement on my case and made her own recommendations and referrals. It was interesting being the subject of “Adult Protection Services” at the mere age of 52. 

“Carrie the Caregiver” and me celebrating “Blue Friday” #GoSeahawks

I sit here now, on December 15, finally having employed a wonderful home health care assistant with the help of my local assistance office. I have left a large part of my privacy and pride far behind as I am venturing into the life of having a “PCA” (Personal Care Assistant). But I am finding that I am also making some great new friends as well as getting my life back.

Another change will be coming soon. After suffering several significant falls (not just saying “hello” to my good friends–my walls), my doctor has suggested that I sit down. The pain, numbness, and weakness in the tendons of my feet and legs have progressed to the point where a powerchair has been prescribed. I will make sure to post with photos when it arrives!

Jaina Anita Ellen Capley Grandchild #4 (Photo by Siobhan Capley – Jaina’s mama)

This holiday season has been a dark one for me, but I am coming back into the light.  This will be the first Christmas for my newest granddaughter, Jaina Anita Ellen Capley, and I plan on enjoying her and the rest of the grandchildren to the fullest!

I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful holiday season. Please don’t let the shadows pull you in. 

A Medical Marijuana Mormon

Although I have talked a bit about the fact that I never wanted to be a “medical marijuana Mormon” or how I didn’t want my Testimony “tainted” green, I have not talked much (except by video) about why I willingly took on the moniker, “Medical Marijuana Mormon” at least in the choice of URL. (You can also reach this site by typing in MedicalMarijuanaMormon.com)wp-1485625896850.jpg

When I made the decision to purchase MedicalMarijuanaMormon.com as well as MaggieSlighte.com last January, I was taking a social media marketing class for writers in my bachelor’s program. I learned many techniques and improved some that I had already been working on developing.

I have been a “medical marijuana Mormon” since the day I was Baptized a Mormon, but it wasn’t until my own trial about the herb when I decided research I had performed might be useful to many other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when making the decisions about using cannabis as a medicine for themselves or a family member.

Two weeks to the day from the date I received my Endowments in the Seattle Washington Temple, I fell profoundly backwards 10 feet from the top of an attic ladder, incurring a compression fracture of my T-11, essentially “breaking my back.” What few people in the church knew about me at that time is that I was a medical marijuana patient. I had been even before I was Baptized.

Before I was even interested in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I knew medical cannabis patients who were Mormon. In fact, the seventh legal patient in Washington State was a Mormon and was a dear friend of mine. From him I first heard the words “The Church says it’s an herb, treat it as such,” meaning that smoking it is discouraged, but ultimately the route of administration is between the patient (member), their physician and God.

IMG_20120915_194030Contrary to many beliefs, there are many and varied reasons that a physician may direct a patient to inhale their medication. Although “vaping” or vaporizing is preferred to smoking or combusting cannabis in the administration of the medication, inhalation can be useful when attempting to bypass competing digestive liver enzymes. The simple fact is that when inhaled, the liver is not involved in the absorption and for many reasons this can be helpful. But I digress.  I will be including information about this in the book I am currently working on, Medical Marijuana for Mormons: Cannabis sans combustion. Topicals are a great option for patients needing to avoid the liver-involved administration as well! In fact, topicals are the least-used and most effective forms of cannabis medication!

When I broke my back, my cannabis use came “out of the closet” during an interview between myself, my husband and our Bishop. When the Bishop offered to help find a program to assist with the costs of my prescriptions, he soon realized that wouldn’t be possible. I had been in recovery, off the opioid medications Fentanyl, Percocet and Vicodin which I had been prescribed for over 7 years between 2002-2009, for five years. My physicians all agreed: I couldn’t take opioids even for the back pain. I was recommended a strong preparation of cannabis oil and given muscle relaxers as well.

My Bishop was new to this country and to the cannabis laws. My state had recently legalized “recreational cannabis” and that seemed to confuse things with the Bishops even more. He referred the matter to our Stake President. The Stake President in the Centralia area had been in place for over a decade. His politics were not liberal in the least. He had NO love for cannabis.

My Bishop was directed by the Stake President to take my Temple Recommend.

I was devastated.

As the Bishop took the Recommend from my hand, I saw the tears in my eyes echoed in his own. Neither of us felt The Spirit in the action, but we would both be obedient. He obediently took my Recommend, I obediently gave it.img_20151001_100743

An interjected third person in the equation was my non-Priesthood holding husband of the time. He was offended and he was loud about it. He made a point to tell anyone who would listen that we were forced to kill our plants and shop from the local dispensaries instead of growing our own which was a much more affordable option available to us legally in our state as patients.

It didn’t matter how patient I attempted to be while I healed from my back injury, the scenes that my husband made at church became embarrassing. His actions did NOT echo my feelings. I knew it would be resolved in God’s time. But the husband I was married to then didn’t believe in waiting for God for much of anything.

Late in August, after being without my Temple Recommend for about a month, Stake Conference was held in Centralia, Washington. I invited a good friend of mine who is “fifth-generation LDS,” and was thankful for his perceptions. Elder L. Tom Perry had celebrated his 92nd birthday that week. We didn’t know that would be his last birthday on this side of the veil.

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Elder L. Tom Perry from LDS.org

Elder Perry was a giant of a man standing at the podium I peeked in from the door at the side of the chapel. I stayed in the foyer contained within my steel cage of a back brace with the walker that I still depended upon. I was happy with my viewpoint as the Stake appeared to receive a rebuke. He gave us a lesson in who reports to whom in the Priesthood offices. He tested the Priesthood holders in their knowledge of their duties and charges. He taught us all with an abundance of love. Elder Perry taught us about obedience. Then he replaced the Stake President, informing us of Brother Smith’s call to the Stake Presidency. President Smith’s day job was an FBI agent. He worked for the Federal Government.

I can’t remember if it was the next Sunday or the Sunday thereafter when my Bishop called me to his office and joyfully handed me my Temple Recommend back. We had both survived the trial.

I learned a lot during that trial. I received a Priesthood blessing when I fell. That blessing, given by the Elders of the Centralia Ward in late May 2014 on my mother’s front lawn while I lay on a gurney ready to be loaded up into the ambulance that awaited, specified that I needed to follow my physician’s advice and I would be healed. I followed the advice of my doctors and I endured a trial of my faith, and I healed. I learned to walk again and I live to this day with about the same amount of “able-ness” as I had previous to breaking my back.IMG_20120927_205912

I was left with the feeling much of the research I have performed in my own health-information-gathering could be very useful to others. I was also left thinking about the number of children who are finding relief from severe epilepsy and violent forms of autism with cannabis medications. I decided at that point to write a book called Medical Marijuana for Mormons: Cannabis sans combustion, both to educate other Latter-Day Saints about the herbal medication but also to help those who were in the process of a trial or making the decision to move to an area where the herb is legal for medical use.

I have completed the outline and a few of the chapters. Research for the book is ongoing due to the fact that new studies are coming to light daily about the botanical medication.

IMG_20120915_213049Being a “Medical Marijuana Mormon” doesn’t mean my testimony of Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit is any less. My testimony is strong. I know my Heavenly Father knows and loves me and created me exactly the way He wanted me. He is the reason I want to share what I have learned about this herb He created. I know His love is in the compassion that people who are in pain feel from this plant. I know it is a gift from Him. It is my job to do my utmost to educate myself and others through publishing this book.

Thank you for your interest and your time. I will continue to post progress notes on the Facebook page Medical Marijuana for Mormons: Cannabis sans combustion as well as on this site!
 

 

 

Continuing My Education

For the last six months I struggled with the decision whether to continue into a graduate program or to be satisfied with the Bachelor of Arts that I will be finishing at the beginning of September 2017. Although I LOVE writing, without a best-seller (sometimes even WITH), it is difficult to support oneself writing books let alone to have the funds to support my dreams of helping others. In the middle of the night a few days ago, I felt a light and an idea: Master of Arts: Health Communications.

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After that late-night epiphany, many things came together quickly. I applied, submitted my writing sample (an edited version of “Making Our Mark” without the run-on sentences) and statement of purpose…and waited.

 

Today I received the news: I have been accepted to Southern New Hampshire University’s Master of Arts Communication – Health Communication program!!!!

For years my physical and mental disabilities combined with my lack of higher education have stagnated my growth. I resigned myself to collecting a disability pension even though the lack of being able to help others was frustrating to no end.

As long as I can remember, I have wanted to help people improve their health. As a child I was more focused on their pets and livestock, being enthralled with James Harriott and his novels. As I grew, I dreamed of being a surgeon for humans. However, difficult choices after foolish ones when I became a parent at 17 caused me to rethink that path.

IMG_20170623_133610I first trained as a medical assistant and worked in that profession to support my young family. When my first disabling injury made me unable to work in the medical field, I was devastated.

Even after I left healthcare as a profession, as a mother, wife and disabled person, I found myself constantly performing research into medical subjects. My writing talents have enabled me to share the information gathered with others on my blogs as an attempt to assist them in their own struggles.

Continuing my education with a Masters in Communication focusing on healthcare communication will add authority and legitimacy to this passion I have for helping others. It will enable me to assist more people to take charge of their own health and heal.

My first book, currently in the works, is titled “Medical Marijuana for Mormons” and it addresses cannabis treatment in a population consisting of many who would not normally pick up a book on this subject. As more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are searching for alternative healthcare answers, my book will be there to help guide them.

My dream is to open disability/addiction recovery centers across the nation focusing on a holistic approach to chronic pain and disability that assists patients in recovering from the destructive influence opioid medication has had on their lives. The focus will be on re-educating patients in every aspect of daily life. Teaching them how to grow their own food and herbal medicine and helping bring them out of their sick beds and back into a life they want to live. An advanced communications degree focusing on healthcare will assist me in making my dream come true.IMG_20170623_133224

I have enjoyed immensely the Southern New Hampshire University community and the support I have received during my undergraduate program and would not feel nearly as “at home” in any other school. I am excited to continue in my education with SNHU and look forward to being able to help many people with the knowledge I will obtain there.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life!!!

Making Our Mark

In North Carolina, I was met with the proof of a fact that I had no way of knowing when I began my journey towards graduating from Southern New Hampshire University. Having come from very intelligent parents and grandparents, yet knowing that none of them had attained what my daughter and I were obtaining in our educations; I had

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Solomon Richardson’s mark when he took a marriage bond to marry my 4th great-grandmother in 1822

never doubted that my family “had always” been literate. When I read the words, “his mark” surrounding the “x” that made Solomon Richardson’s mark, I was taken aback with the proof in front of me that my fourth great-grandfather, born in North Carolina in 1800, had been unable to read and write: He was illiterate.

My own education, in retrospect, would appear to those not intimately involved, to be a series of “fits and starts.” I remember when I became pregnant at the age of 16 (after being told due to female health problems that would be impossible) I was unsatisfied to take the GED tests, choosing rather to enroll in an alternative school that was based on the format of the local Evergreen State College and allowed me to set my own curriculum with the guidance of teachers and a counselor become friend. It was imperative to me that I actually graduate high school. I did so with one child on my lap and one on the way.

I continued my education immediately after high school, enrolling in South Puget Sound Community College’s medical assisting program. Looking back, I don’t think I would have had the guts to do so if it weren’t for my mom’s employment there. She was an integral and vibrant part of the college’s support system. Throughout my preteen and teen years, she had invited my brother and myself to the campus, introducing us to faculty members and support staff, making the school feel for us like a second home and its staff our extended family.

Having loved writing all of my life, I found myself drawn to the school’s newspaper. Although I was a very busy young woman with two very active toddlers, I would spend any free moment from my grueling curriculum in the Student Center. I learned the now archaic Apple computer with a manual on my lap and my hands on the keyboard in the room that doubled as the school’s newspaper office. I assisted with getting a paper we would call “Sounds” off the ground and was asked to step in as a Vice President of the Student Body of South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) when the student election had gone awry.

With more than six months to go in my program, financial aid not going far enough to cover my expenses and in the midst of a personal mental health crisis, I resigned my position with the student body. I left my writing gig at the student newspaper and got a job as a Medical Assistant/Back-Office Nurse when the need to support my tiny family overwhelmed my desire to actually finish my degree. This was 1988.

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At our reception

In 1989, I married my husband Bruce after we used the idea of us being engaged to prank the student government we both worked for. He knew my mother before he met me, she was an integral part of the social sciences department where he had found a passion. The campus was still my family, our wedding reception was held in the Student Center where we met and became best friends.

Our daughter, Siobhan, was born in February 1990. She was the product of our college education, although neither of us finished any degree at SPSCC. Siobhan graduated with her Associates in Arts 18 years later. It was on the same campus where her parents had met the day before her high school graduation. She embodied the epitome of our desire for our children to take education seriously.

My own education continued when Siobhan was only three. I had returned to the campus I called home to retrain when the strain of the birth of my daughter caused my first disabling condition no longer allowing me to work in the medical profession.

With Siobhan in the daycare that I helped to build while I was Vice President of the student body, I retrained in the computer field. A year and a half after I began, I once again was forced to call my education to a halt before any degree was attained. My husband Bruce was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and his overwhelming symptoms made it difficult to maintain his employment. I quit my program and went to work for The State of Washington as a computer programmer to support our family. My dreams of finishing my education seemed to dim in the everyday chores of raising a family.

A couple of years before the blessed event of my daughter’s dual graduations, my body and brain conspired to make continuing to work at my position as a computer programmer impossible. Once again disabled, I conceded to draw a pension and concentrate on my health and the matters of domesticity. My daughter struggled through the stress of her parents losing their home and gradually losing their relationship with one another as the overwhelming stress of being disabled mentally and physically changed the shape of what she knew as “family.”

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Me, Siobhan and my mom, her grandma Joan

Her Grandma Joan was a beacon for Siobhan. The community college where her parents had met and celebrated their marriage became a home for her as well. She was welcomed in the position as a math tutor, just as one of her older brothers had been. Tutoring people twice and three times her age, they adored her amazing intelligence and beauty.  When she graduated with honors, no one was one bit surprised, but we were all amazed.

I was living in the middle of 37 undeveloped acres of land in a 5th wheel trailer with my new husband of 18 months in October 2015 when I felt impressed by God to ask Siobhan about this University where she and her husband had chosen to finish their degrees.  She had left the University of Washington’s engineering program after being the first in our family to ever be admitted to a four-year college when her dad and I had finally divorced. The event had not only put me without a home but had shattered her very idea of stability. She went on to find that stability with her new husband and they rapidly went about supporting each other in the pursuit of their dreams, making and achieving goal after goal together. In this same spirit, they had researched online education extensively and had chosen Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to be the best college to meet their needs with programs and credentials that they found exemplary.  When Siobhan posted online about a place called “the writing center,” I replied that sounded like a dreamy place. She encouraged me to apply and see if SNHU could do anything with my 130 community college credits. I made the call.

IMG_20151021_093242703Although I had no practical way of living to most people, the lack of basics such as electricity, water or even a place to use the toilet did not deter me from what it seemed that God was calling me to do. Where there is a will, there is a way? Perhaps, but it seemed that God was guiding me to start school where many would only find impossibility. My first term back was highlighted by a blown head gasket in our truck which would strand me 5 miles away from a paved road with a partially collapsed lung. The installation of the satellite internet that student loans helped to pay for was delayed by the company so long that although I tried to complete my classes on the disposable phone from Walmart that my husband and I shared; I failed my first term back at school.

I wept. I felt utterly dejected and discouraged. My Visiting Teacher, Amy, through the local Branch of my church, was encouraging. She was a retired lawyer choosing to create her dream of a farm in the middle of nowhere.  We shared a commonality in our mental

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Amy at Snowflake Temple

illnesses. In spite of an increasingly abusive marriage, I found a friend and support in Amy that would enable me to continue. I was faced with overwhelming adversity, but a glimmer of hope each week in Amy’s and my weekly visits to the Snowflake Temple made the impossible to most, seem achievable to me.

This year when my second divorce was finally finished, I headed to the east: My daughter was to be graduating summa cum laude from SNHU in Mathematics on Mother’s Day. Every mechanic that looked at the little Volvo which was my only return from my second marriage of three years deemed it impossible. Every time I prayed, and every Priesthood Blessing I received said it could be done. I persevered in the face of impending doom and followed every impression on the journey. Just days before Easter, I arrived in New Hampshire and toured the “brick and mortar” campus of SNHU: It was real. I made it.

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My first-year adviser, Lauren with me

Through the intense assistance of my first-year adviser, Lauren, and then her follow-up, my “senior adviser,” Liz, I recovered from that disastrous first term. When my credits began accumulating quickly, we realized I may also be eligible to graduate this May. I was frustrated when life and the college schedule extended my classes out through August but was thrilled when the university stated that I could walk with the class of 2017 in spite of the fact I was finishing up in the summer. My daughter and I would be walking for graduation the same weekend.

This Mother’s Day weekend was fabulous. Dreams that I never thought I could dream have come true. By pursuing her education, Siobhan became the first in her father’s family and my family to achieve her Bachelor’s degree after also being the first in both our families to earn her Associate’s. She has made me so proud and she has now made education more possible and inviting for generations of our family yet to come.

We both have learned to “make our mark,” after coming from those who could do no

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Siobhan and me Mother’s Day weekend 2017

more than to sign with an “x.” I know that our ancestors worked hard and traveled to distances trying to make a better life for their children. The pioneers of our families did all they could while imagining more significant opportunities for future generations. As I traveled across the country to receive the honor of my degree and watch my daughter receive hers, I realized that we are the product of those hopes and dreams. I thank God for relatives that reached across the veil to help me to understand that.

Watch: A video from backstage at the SNHU Arena

 

A Woman’s Best Friends

Over seven years ago, I met a Staffordshire Terrier who changed my opinion about dogs. I had been afraid of large dogs (for no reason I can remember….but that isn’t new to me!) for as long as I knew. Barkley was different. A HUGE “pitbull” type breed, he was loyal to no end. Not only to his family, but when I stayed in the house he was protecting, he buddied up to me in a manner I had not experienced. I fell in love with him.

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Ruger Sr., Athena’s father

Then I met a pitbull named “Ruger.” A blue nosed beautiful blockhead, he and his mate Brandy (a chocolate lab) belonged to friends of mine and I rapidly fell for him too. Both Ruger and Brandy would sit on or near my feet when I was in pain, demanding me to pet them. When I would pet them for a little while, the pain got much less intense. Sometimes I even forgot about the pain. Since I could easily deal with daily pain that reached levels of 8-9 (on a scale of 1-10); the idea that a dog could lessen that pain was astounding! I had never heard of such a thing, but I wanted more!

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Brandy, Athena’s Mother

These dogs also showed me in person, what I later learned through reading: Canines have the capability to change a human’s mood as well as ability-level.

When I was crying my eyes out, both of them would lay next to me and encourage (quite forcibly) me to pet them and give them attention. As I was to learn, the very action of petting a dog releases the same hormone, oxytocin, as is released in nursing moms & babies. It is known as the “comforting hormone”. Better than any anti-anxiety drug I know!

God answered my prayers. I stayed with my friends Robin, David and Katie for a month in the spring. As I was getting ready to move on they realized that in spite of being separately kenneled, Brandy had gotten pregnant with Ruger’s litter.

On the first of April, 2011, I woke up to smells and sounds I had never before experienced. I went downstairs to learn that puppies were being born. Before my friends left for work and school, five puppies were born. When I went back downstairs after my shower, there was a sixth. She was later adopted by me and named “Athena Brooke” for the middle names of two of the strongest young ladies I have ever known.

 

Having never raised a dog from a puppy, I had a lot of learning to do. We hit the road before she was even 8 weeks old. Although I had been planning to re-start my cross country road trip with my new-to-me BMW 525, I hadn’t previously planned to have a brand-new puppy in tow! Fortunately, God had me covered; I had friends across the country whose pets and advice taught both me and Athena.

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There was a time she fit in the “Peace Bag”

Together, Athena and I visited people from Idaho to Florida. She made friends with little and big dogs, kittens and even a few house bunnies. Athena was patient with me, and I learned to get my behind out of bed earlier in the morning or pay for my laziness by
having messes to clean up.

When Athena and I had been traveling and living together for less than a year, she made her true “job” or “service” apparent to me.

As a survivor of multiple traumas, I have certain symptoms that are quite distressing. One of them happens quite unexpectedly: I can lose most sensations below my waist suddenly, making it difficult to walk or stand. When Athena was only 9 months old, she sat at my feet and barked me into the chair behind me. We had not had the economical ability to procure formal service-dog training for her, so I was unsure as to her intent. When I sat down, she stopped, seeming pleased with herself. Within five minutes, sure enough, I lost all feeling in my legs.

wp-1491685091988.jpgAthena has made her place in my life with this skill on many occasions. She has
also calmed me, or separated me from a situation, when my PTSD acts up.
She has learned my triggers, and has learned to give notice to me when I am needing help.

Athena and I had many adventures in the past five years, but unfortunately we both eventually experienced some emotionally traumatic events together. She was left with a habit of barking, making it difficult to socialize her enough to use her as a formal service animal. My own PTSD about medical interventions would cause me to delay in having her “fixed.” Although I toyed with the idea of breeding her, I didn’t have the stability to consider that when Athena took matters into her own paws this last summer.

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Athena spent a lot of time hiding from the litter. Especially right after her c-section

It seemed she really liked the full blooded Golden Labrador (who was so old he was silver) next to a house I was visiting, and the two of them conspired to get through the falling down fence more than once. She had tied with him and there were puppies on the way!

I was blessed to be staying with understanding friends who had a lot of experience with dogs when she came to term. The litter of six had to be delivered by emergency c-section due to their huge sizes, but they were all alive and well. Athena woke up to puppies and being a new mom, was not too impressed with them suckling on her near her incision. It took a while of cajoling and treating her to get her to nurse them. Once she did, she rose well to the challenge of motherhood.

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Baby Ruger Bear (abt 3 weeks)

The only puppy in the litter with Athena’s father’s markings was a little black boy with tiny white toes and a splash of white on his chest. I wanted a male from her, and I named him after his grandfather and the name he appeared to favor with his lab looks, he was a “Ruger Bear.”

The rest of the litter was given to friends. I was fortunate to be able to place 2 of the litter to be trained for service dogs for two veterans suffering from PTSD. One has been accepted into a formal training program. It makes me happy to know we were able to help others with this “mistake.”

The only chocolate male of the litter, named “Kiko” by my grandson on his birthday when he came to see the newborns, was given to David, a member of the family that the original Ruger and Brandy belonged to. They have become inseparable. Brandy and Ruger have been gone for a while, and Kiko found a place where he was needed.

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Ruger Bear, about a month old

All of Athena’s puppies found their places. Athena gained experience that seems to help her be more attentive (and rolls her eyes at the puppy’s behavior with me). She is even better at her job of being my companion with Ruger Bear as an additional companion to train. Perhaps I will actually work on training them both formally when we get settled later this year. I hope so. They deserve it and so do I.  For now, Athena is an excellent member of the family and she is truly my very best friend.

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Ruger Bear is already bigger than mama at 6 months

 

Click here to watch Athena and Ruger Bear run and play!

 

(This post was edited from a previous post on SlightelyMaggie authored by myself)

Fighting the Permanent Solution

Every day is a fight. A fight for me against an urge to find a permanent solution for temporary problems. I am NOT alone in this fight. The number of people who struggle with crippling anxiety and depression that leaves you suicidal is STAGGERING.  Today when I woke up with more frustrating situations around me, I was also troubled by the news that Amy Bleuel, Founder of Project Semicolon, had left this earth at the tender age of 31. Method: suicide.

The young woman who had fought, herself, so hard NOT to do it, that she inspired people WORLDWIDE to get the semicolon tattoo representing that they would “go on,” had no longer found the strength within herself to do just that. My heart was broken.

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On the New Book shelf

Today sucked for me. I tried to get some help on a large car repair bill and was denied. Then my puppy ate my denture. My only way to smile. The ONLY thing keeping me from looking like someone people don’t want to talk to: CHEWED. I was despondent. Coming two days after the news that the $900+ check I was expecting was NOT on it’s way and would never be, due to a recalculation in my student benefits.  Suicidal? Perhaps… definitely more than ready to be violent to a certain male dog who’s time with his male parts has expired. But I kept in physical control, choosing the method of “sitting still,” and not acting where I could have done something I would later regret.

I have attempted suicide more times than I can count. It would happen every single year as a teenager and young adult. My suicidal ideations affected my children and my friends. I wasn’t a happy person to be around, and most antidepressants made it worse. I finally found a medication solution when I started using cannabis as my medicine in an eaten form. But my struggles with the moods and the trials continue. I have used methods I have learned from Dr. Low and Recovery International to help manage them.

I’m not the first person in my family to struggle. The Post Traumatic Stress that my grandfather experienced in the war along with a major head injury, lead him to finish himself off when my father was only four. My father, having experienced Post Traumatic Stress from his father’s suicide as a young boy, struggled until he also killed himself on my birthday weekend in 1999. My nephew was the latest, and the youngest, having only reached 18 in 2012 when he succeeded with ending his life. It runs in my family.

I have reached out to friends near and far, my poor daughter more times than I want to admit, and now I reach to God. I find comfort in a quote from Ezra Taft Benson, “There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you.” I think that is true. Another truth is that I have not been actively suicidal since I understood I am a daughter of God. Somehow, killing something that has eternal consequence seems different, worse. I am able to hang on and stay still when I would have previously done something I would regret.

wp-1490992833080.jpgMy thoughts and prayers right now are with Ms. Bleuel’s family and friends, and ALL of those who looked up to her. It’s okay to keep hanging on. Just because she couldn’t, doesn’t mean you can’t. Stay strong, we are ALL children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. Help is around the corner, just ask.

Get Thine A$$ Outta BED!

I have written many Facebook posts that started with the quote, “To Stand UP to LIVE you must first get thine ASS outta BED!” or something similar. Today felt exactly the same way.

On days when starting is like pushing through a bog of mud …this time in my face… I am compelled to wonder if that is why I don’t currently have a bed. I spent nearly seven years in bed. Added a few months here and there over the last three years, and you could say that I wasted nearly a decade in bed. So, now I have lost the privilege to have one, or so it seems on mornings like these.

I know I am not the only person to hide from the world in bed.  The smaller and more advanced technology gets, the easier it it to take to bed with us.  Then those of us introverts who would rather complain about the people around us than to interact with them, hide.  It isn’t just “hiding from the world” that is done in bed…it is also the fact that sometimes a person with chronic pain (like myself) only finds a “comfortable position” in bed. But is life about “comfort?”

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The puppy cuddles me

There are many days that I don’t think I can continue, when everything seems too difficult. This morning, the half-mile drive from the Wal-Mart parking lot where I stayed the night, to the library where I needed to spend today working on my schoolwork and writing, seemed to involve much more cognitive power than I felt I could muster. The dogs were restless, so I walked them. But even the energy to feed them seemed to be escaping my grasp.

So, I prayed. Then I spent some time with Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s words have been a comfort lately. While being bullied online, the words, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” from Matthew 5:44 (KJV) were EXACTLY what I needed.

I found the strength in those words, and a comfort that enveloped my soul, to continue. I may not be the person I once thought I was, but I am much better than I ever imagined I could be. Every day, every hour, out of my bed is an accomplishment. Every time I turn in one more assignment towards completing my goal of finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I am closer to becoming the person I want to be.

Sometimes, I’m thankful to be without a bed.