Friday, September 28, 2012

I Really Wished I Had My Service Dog Yesterday

Yesterday I went to the library.  When I went to the desk to check out, I discovered I owed a fine.  Apparently I was a couple days late returning some DVD's.  Crap.

I didn't have any cash with me so I asked if I could pay the fine by credit card.  The librarian said she couldn't take the payment by credit card, but pointed to a computer across the room and said I could log on to the library's website and pay it by credit card there.  She was going to give me a paper with some instructions on it but couldn't find the paper, so she said she would write it down for me.  But all she wrote down was the website address.  She told me to log in, put in my PIN (I have no clue what my PIN even is, but she said the website would allow me to change it to a new PIN when I got online).

Well, I went over to that computer and I could not even figure out how to get online.  The library's catalog was open and I could not find a way to close it.  There was nothing I could see to click on to open an internet browser and no place to type in an internet address.

I started getting really, really anxious.  I couldn't figure out how to get to the library's website, let alone how to pay my fine from there.  I ended up just leaving the library in a panic.  I made it to my car before I started to cry.  Then I called Mike on my cell phone, wanting him to talk me down or something.  Unfortunately, he was at work and was very busy and didn't have time to talk to me right then.

I drove home, still crying.  I felt like an idiot and was angry at myself, not only for not being able to figure it out, but for having such an extreme reaction to something I knew in my head was not that big a deal.  But this happens to me with my depression and PTSD.  Relatively minor things feel huge.  Knowing that I'm overreacting doesn't stop the overreaction.  If anything, it just adds to the frustration.

Mike finally called me back, reminded me to take my anxiety medication, and told me to lie down and take a nap.  I did, and I felt marginally better when I woke up, but all in all the rest of the day was not very good.  I hate it that something so small can ruin a whole day.

How would things have been different if I'd had my service dog?  Well, Isaac would have picked up on the fact that I was getting anxious.  He would have gotten my medication out of my bag and told me to take it.  I probably would have needed to go out to my car to take it, since I need something to drink with the medicine and I had a drink out in the car, although I could have gotten a drink at the water fountain inside the library lobby.  Isaac would have directed me to a quiet place, anyway, like the car, so I could sit down and calm down a bit.  He would have put his head in my lap, asking me to pet him.  I would have focused on petting him and that would have helped me get my breathing under control and helped me relax a bit.

I'm not just imagining what I would like to happen when I have my service dog.  I mean, I'm imagining what I think my response to Isaac's actions will be, but these are tasks he will be trained to perform.  These are things he will do for me and the likelihood is high that I'll respond in this way to him when he does these things.

If I'd had Isaac with me yesterday, it's possible that I would have been able to go back into the library and ask the librarian for assistance paying the fine after I'd had a few moments to myself to calm down.  Or I might have been able to drive to an ATM machine and withdraw some cash, then gone back to the library and paid the fine that way.  Even if I'd been unable to take care of the fine yesterday, I would have been in better shape by the time I'd gotten home.  I would have had my medication in a timely manner.  I would have been able to function better the rest of the day.  Because I would not have been so anxious and depressed the rest of the day, I would have slept better last night.  I would not have been so tired and irritable when I got up this morning.

This is a real life, everyday example of how a trained service dog will help me and significantly improve my quality of life.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

And Thank You Lexington Presbyterian Church Women's Association!

I know I just posted a fundraising update a couple hours ago, but then I received another donation.  Thank you so much to the Lexington Presbyterian Church Women's Association for their generosity.  This brings the total to date to $2,545.

Fundraising Update

So far I’ve raised $2,345 toward the $6,000 I need for my service dog!  Thanks to all that have donated, included those that have donated time and energy to assist with fundraising efforts as well as those that have donated money.  And if anyone else is able to help, either with funds or with fundraising efforts, please contact me.  Even a few dollars will help!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Treatment Resistant Depression

A friend sent me a link to an interesting but frightening article on treatment resistant depression.  Here it is if you want to check it out.

Depression is generally considered treatment resistant if a person doesn't improve after two full trials of antidepressant medications.  Unfortunately, it can take two to four months to do a full trial of one antidepressant drug, because with many antidepressants, the dose must be increased gradually, and then full results are not expected until the dose has been at a therapeutic level for about four weeks.  That means by the time someone is diagnosed with treatment resistant depression, they've probably been suffering for at least four to eight months.

One scary thing is the fact that, once you've suffered one episode of depression, the likelihood of suffering another increases greatly.  Only 16% of people suffer an episode of clinical depression in their lifetime.  However, once you've suffered one episode of depression, there is a 50% chance you'll suffer another.  Once you've suffered two episodes of depression, there is a 75% chance you'll suffer another.  I guess since I've suffered about a million episodes of depression, there is probably a 175% chance I'll suffer another.  It's great to have something to look forward to.

Another scary thing is the fact that 15% of people with treatment resistant depression end up committing suicide.  I think that makes it the second most deadly mental illness.  20% of people with anorexia die from their condition; it's the most deadly form of mental illness.  15% of people with treatment resistant depression die from their illness.  That really frightens me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How Disabled Do You Have to Be?

I've been asked a number of times how disabled you have to be in order to qualify for a service dog.  Is it enough to have been diagnosed with a disability like a visual impairment, a seizure disorder, multiple sclerosis, or depression?  Is it enough to have been approved for Social Security disability benefits?

To qualify for a service dog, you have to be disabled according to the definition provided in the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Americans with Disabilities Act says that you must have substantial limitations with regard to one or more major life activities.  Major life activities include things like seeing, hearing, walking, thinking, and communicating.

Your limitations must be substantial, so the fact that I wear glasses doesn't mean I'm disabled under the ADA definition.  While I don't see very well without my glasses, with them I see well enough to read books, drive a car, and do all the basic things I need to do every day.  My poor eyesight is not a disability.

Likewise, I have a friend that has been diagnosed with depression.  He takes medication for it and some days he doesn't have much energy and feels really down.  However, he is able to hold down a job, take care of his home, take care of his pets, shop for groceries and prepare meals for himself, bathe and dress himself, remember to take his medication every day as prescribed, etc.  His depression doesn't prevent him from seeing, hearing, walking, thinking, or communicating.  He is not disabled under the ADA definition.

It's possible to qualify for Social Security disability benefits but still not qualify for a service dog.  If you have questions about whether or not you are disabled under the ADA definition, talk with your physician and other health care professionals.  Of course, you can also consult an attorney.

Monday, September 17, 2012


The last few days, I've had a lot of nightmares.  Nightmares is a common symptom of PTSD.  I've had nightmares for years and years; sometimes I go for up to several weeks without one, sometimes I have them almost every night.  The nightmares usually seem to get worse whenever there is a lot of stress going on in my life, but sometimes they get worse for no reason that I can determine.

I used to wake up screaming from nightmares a lot.  Sometimes the screaming would wake me up.  Sometimes I would scream but I guess I was still asleep.  In the morning, Mike would tell me I had been screaming during the night.  When I lived in an apartment, I used to wonder what my upstairs neighbors thought about all the screaming in the middle of the night.  I don't wake up screaming very often anymore, so I guess that's an improvement.

Sometimes the nightmares are about things that happened to me as a child, the things that caused the PTSD.  Sometimes they are about other things, but I think the feelings are still related to the PTSD. 

One of the things I am really hoping my service dog can help with are the nightmares.  When I wake up from a nightmare, my dog will be able to turn on a light for me.  That's supposing the lights are off to begin with, that is; it's actually been a while since I've been able to fall asleep with the lights off.  But if needed, my dog can turn on a light for me.  And I'm hoping that just the presence of the dog will be comforting and reassuring and help me feel safe.  And the dog will be trained to get my anxiety medication for me, if I need it, and to distract me if I'm getting too far withdrawn into myself.

I don't think having a service dog will keep me from having nightmares.  I'm just hoping the dog will make it easier to deal with them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Medications for Anxiety and Depression

I've been treated for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and related issues for many, many years.  I was 17 years old when I was first prescribed medication for psychiatric problems.  Over the past 23 years, I've been on more than 30 different drugs, in various doses and combinations.

I have taken:


And there may be a few I am forgetting.

It was not easy to put this list together.  It's hard to remember medications I took 20 years ago when I was lost in a grey fog of depression and despair.

When I look at this list, sometimes I feel amazed at all I've come through, but mostly I just feel sad.  I remember some of the horrible side effects I experienced due to some of these drugs, and I am aware that some of them are very rarely used these days due to the severity of side effects and concerns about safety, and I think about what all this "treatment" has done to my body, never mind my soul.

I still take medication for depression and anxiety today.  Today I am on Effexor, an antidepressant, and Buspar, which is for both anxiety and depression.  I take Doxepin for sleep, although I rarely take it because I don't like the hungover feeling it leaves me with in the morning.  I also take Visteril as needed for anxiety attacks, usually two or three times a week.  The side effects from my current medications are minimal.  My mouth is very dry and I am thirsty all the time.  I get dizzy sometimes if I stand up too fast.  I'm tired in the morning if I take the Doxepin at night.  Those are all things I can live with, though.

If all these drugs fixed my depression, maybe I'd feel differently.  As it is, the current medications make it barely tolerable.  And this is as good as it seems it's going to get with meds.

I don't think a service dog is a substitute for medication.  I'll still be on meds after I get my dog.  In fact, one of the tasks my dog will do for me is to bring me my Visteril when I have an anxiety attack.  But there are things a service dog can do that medication can't, and I'm really looking forward to that.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fundraising Update

I just thought I'd post a little update about how the fundraising is going.

So far I've received $1,150 if donations/pledges for donations.  A few very kind people have also generously volunteered their time to help with fundraising activities.

I'm feeling pretty good about things right now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Doesn't He Look Relaxed?

Here's a picture of Larry, passed out in the sun.  Does he look relaxed or what? 

I wish I could relax like that!

Cayenne is lying across my arms right now, which makes it hard to type.  Apparently she does not think I am doing anything important and thinks I should just sit here and pet her instead.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Approach to Fundraising

On the advice of a friend, I'm changing my approach to fundraising a bit.  Instead of asking churches to donate money, I'm going to ask them to pledge money.  The difference is, they won't be expected to actually hand over any cash until the entire $6,000 has been raised or at least pledged.  The reason for this change is because, as my friend pointed out, some churches may be hesitant to donate money because they aren't sure I will raise the full amount, in which case they don't know what I would be doing with their money.  They want to make sure the money is being used for my service dog and that I will be able to get the dog. 

So that's the new plan.  I'm still getting some donations from friends and acquaintances, and I'm still saving money myself, of course.  I've gone over my budget carefully and I should be able to save $100 to $150 every month to put toward the cost of my service dog.  Yes, that's a challenge on a limited income.  I'm doing all kinds of things to save money.  I'm making my own laundry detergent (costs me about two cents to do a load of laundry now, plus it's environmentally friendly), I'm using cloth instead of many disposable paper products (cloth napkins, cloth rags instead of paper towels, cloth menstrual pads, etc.), I'm making my own cleaning supplies.  OK, I'm also doing those things because they are good for the environment.  But they do save money, a lot of money.

I'm still feeling a little overwhelmed, but I feel less discouraged.  I want to thank everyone that's contacted me about donating or volunteering to help with fundraising.  All the support makes me feel much more hopeful.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Looking for Volunteers to Help with Fundraising

Like I said in my last post, all this fundraising stuff is a lot of work and it's hard to do it all by myself, especially when I'm severely depressed.  Mike helps some but to be honest, he's too busy with his job to help as much as I'd like.  So I'm looking for volunteers.

You don't need to donate money.  You can donate a little time and energy and that would be a big help, too.

Volunteers can help do things like stuff and address envelopes, make change jars to collect donations, talk to local businesses about placing a change jar for donations on their counter, things like that.  You could volunteer a lot of time or a little.  Email me at poet_kelly at yahoo dot com if you'd like to volunteer to help!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Feeling Very Discouraged

A local church had told me they would donate $1,000 toward the cost of my service dog.  I was elated to hear the news.  They requested documentation from my physician proving I am disabled and in need of a service dog, which seemed very reasonable to me.  So I got that and sent it to them.

Today I learned that they will only provide the $1,000 after I've raised the other $5,000.  Now, I know they are still offering to help and it's not like they owe me anything, they are doing me a huge favor by offering to help at all.  But I feel like I am almost back at square one because now I don't have $1,000 that I thought I had.  And it suddenly feels like it's going to be impossible to raise the money.

Also, I feel like the church told me one thing and then changed their mind.  When they requested the documentation from my physician, my understanding was that they would donate the money after they received the documentation.  They did not say that if they received the documentation, then they would donate the money after I'd raise the other $5,000.  So I feel like they are not doing what they said they would do.

And again, I realize they don't have to give me any money.  I realize they are doing me a favor and I'm supposed to be grateful.  I am grateful, really, although I realize I don't sound like it right now.

But now I don't know if I can really trust them to come through with the money at all.

Also, I understand how expensive it is to raise and train a service dog.  Most programs that train and place service dogs rely on donations for a large portion of the cost, but most also ask recipients to cover some of the cost because they simply don't receive enough donations to cover everything.  It costs at least $20,000 to raise and train a service dog, so if I only have to pay $6,000 of that, that's a bargain.  These dogs undergo an extensive and expensive medical evaluation.  They are socialized, then trained on a daily basis for about 18 months.  The trainer works with them every single day.  They are fed good food, they get all the routine veterinary care like vaccines and heart worm prevention, they have treadmills so they can exercise when the weather is too poor to exercise outdoors.  Seriously, these dogs have a good life!  But all this good stuff is expensive.

But $6,000 is almost six months income for me.  How many people could afford to pay six months worth of income for something, even if it was a good bargain and something they really needed?

And I have severe, disabling depression.  If I didn't, I wouldn't be on disability and I wouldn't need a service dog.  Well, severe, disabling depression makes it difficult to do all the things I need to do in order to try to raise this money.  Many days, it's all I can do to take a shower, feed myself, feed the cats, take my medication, and maybe do a few dishes or a load of laundry.  I'm sure all the fundraising stuff would not seem so daunting to someone that was not severely depressed.  For someone that is depressed, though, I think it's the equivalent of telling someone with a broken leg that if they can just walk ten miles uphill to the hospital, they can get a cast on their leg and some crutches.  Sure, the person with the broken leg needs medical care and crutches.  But are they really in any shape to hike to the hospital?  Would anyone really expect them to do that?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

His Name Is Isaac

I am so excited!  I just got an email from the director of the service dog program and she's received all my paperwork.  Everything has been approved.

The dog that will be placed with me is a yellow lab named Isaac.  I could change his name, of course, but I think I kind of like Isaac.  I'll have to see if it suits him when I meet him, though.  Isaac is a Hebrew name and means "laughter."  I think it's kind of neat for someone with severe depression to have a dog whose name means "laughter."

I'm not sure how old he is, exactly.  She said he is young and energetic.  I'm guessing that means something like a year or 18 months, but I emailed her back to ask for more information.

I'm not sure when I'll get to meet him.  She is getting ready to go on vacation for a couple of weeks and after that will schedule my home visit and I guess then I'll get to meet Isaac.

She said he should be ready for placement in a few months, so I'm thinking that means by the end of the year.  What a nice Christmas present!  (If anyone wants to know what to get me for Christmas this year, how about a donation to cover the cost of my service dog?  Or some dog toys, food, treats, etc.  Hint, hint!)

I assume I will be starting the part of Isaac's training that involved me fairly soon, if he is to be ready to be placed with me in a few months.  I guess that will start after the home visit.

I'm just so happy to hear this!

What NOT to Do When You Meet Someone with a Service Dog

When you meet someone with a service dog, please do not:

  • Pet the dog without asking.
  • Pet the dog even if the person with the dog says not to.
  • Call to the dog or make weird noises to try to get the dog's attention.
  • Bark at the dog.
  • Meow at the dog.
  • Ask the person with the dog why he or she needs a service dog or what his or her disability is.
  • Tell the person with the dog that they don't look disabled (many disabilities are not easily seen, including seizure disorders, autism, Asperger's, depression, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, traumatic brain injury, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and many others).
  • Tell the person they are lucky that they get to take their dog everywhere.
  • Ask the person how you can get your pet "certified" as a service dog so you can take it everywhere with you (there is no "certification" for service dogs and you can't have a service dog unless you are disabled).
  • Assume the person is blind.
  • Follow the person with the service dog around, staring at them.
  • Allow your children to approach the dog, pet the dog, pull the dog's tail, or otherwise bother the dog.
  • Try to give the dog food.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kids Behaving Badly Around Service Dogs

I've heard plenty of stories from people with service dogs about kids in the community behaving badly around their dogs.  Not all kids, of course, but some.  And in many cases, it really seems to be a matter of parents not supervising their children well or parents not exercising basic good manners.

Today, I heard a story about a woman that went to Walmart with her service dog.  While she was standing in line with her dog to buy a phone card, a small child with a cowboy hat took off his hat and began waving it in her dog's face.  She asked him to please stop.  His mother was standing nearby and she did not say anything when the kid began doing this, but when the woman with the dog asked the child to stop, the mother glared at the women with the dog.

The little boy then wandered away and the dog was lying down, waiting patiently and watching a little girl in the next aisle that was bouncing a ball.  The little boy came back over to the dog and stomped his feet very loudly right next to the dog's paws.  This startled the dog so that he quickly sat up and let out one bark.  The dog's handler immediately told him to be quiet and he did not bark again.

Again, the little boy's mother did not say anything to her son about his behavior, but she glared at the woman with the dog.

Now, why on earth would you allow your child to bother someone's service dog, especially after the dog's handler has already asked your child to stop doing that?  Why would you allow your child to bother anyone, disabled or not, person with a service dog or not?

Apparently, this is not uncommon, however.

Another person told me that she once told a small child that he could not pet her service dog.  It is considered inappropriate, by the way, to pet a service dog without permission, and in general you shouldn't try to pet someone's service dog or expect someone to let you pet his or her service dog, because it distracts the dog from his work.  The child was disappointed at being told he could not pet the service dog and started to throw a tantrum.  The child's mother then began to yell at the service dog's handler, telling her that now her child was going to have a big tantrum and she couldn't control her child's behavior and it was all the disabled person's fault.

Another person told me that she was at McDonald's with her service dog and a preschool-age child came up to her service dog and tried to stuff French fries in the dog's mouth.  The child's parents were standing nearby, watching.  Why on earth would you let your child approach a strange dog and try to stuff food into its mouth?  Do you want your child's fingers to be bitten off?  Yes, a well-trained service dog would not bite your child even if your child sticks her fingers into his mouth, but these parents had no way of knowing how well-trained this service dog was.

So, parents.  What do you do if you and your child see a service dog?

Explain to your child that the dog is doing a job and helping a person that needs extra help.  Tell your child that he or she should never pet a strange dog without asking permission, service dog or not, and should not try to distract the service dog in any way because the dog needs to pay attention to his job.

If your child would like to pet the dog and the person with the dog doesn't seem to be in a big hurry, it is OK to let your child ask if he can pet the dog.  If the dog's handler says no, your child should say OK and leave the dog alone.  Don't be offended or angry if the handler doesn't want your kid to pet her dog.  There may be all kinds of reasons she said no and it doesn't mean she wants to upset your child.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Please Tell Me I Don't Have to Call Social Security Again

I checked my mail today and finally got a letter from Social Security explaining that the state will now be paying my Medicare premium.  That's nice, huh?  Only about a month after that change went into effect.

The letter also stated that I would receive a payment of X amount on or about August 31 for the month of August and that after that, I would receive my payment on the third of every month.  I looked at my bank statement online, and sure enough, I got a payment on August 31.

But here's the thing.  I already got my payment for August, back on August 3, the same day I get my payment every month.  If I get another payment tomorrow, that will mean I've received an extra payment.

Unless for some reason I don't understand, they owe me another payment.  But I don't think so.  I'd love the extra cash, but not if I'm not supposed to get it.  Besides the fact that I don't want more than what I'm entitled to, because I want to be ethical and fair and also because I realize there is a limited amount of money to go around and I want other people to be able to get the benefits they need, too, there is the fact that if they make an error, at some point they will probably want their money back.  Possibly with interest.  I would prefer not to have to deal with that.

Unfortunately, this means that if I get a payment tomorrow, I will have to call Social Security again.  And it was so much fun last time.  It's nice to have things to look forward to, isn't it?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Life Gets in the Way Sometimes

I'm sorry I haven't posted much lately.  I really do try to post regularly but life gets in the way sometimes.  I've been depressed lately and Mike's dad has been very ill, in critical condition in the hospital.  I'm gonna work on getting things back on track, including updating my blog.  Thanks for sticking with me.