Archives for June, 2010
As a writer, I know there's nothing "scientific" about language. It's all subtle shadings and interpretations. Meaning making. Not exactly the neuroscience that dominates modern psychiatry. Both Dr. Bob and Dr. Ronald Pies are eclectic in their approach to their patients. Both agree that the causes of mental illnesses are still largely unknown, mysterious and could have any number of causes from trauma, genetics, biology, psychology, environment, in-utero...the list is endless. Both physicians are grounded in a more analytic approach to psychotherapy though they draw on all the latest therapeutic developments ~ long term and short term. Both prescribe medication, but cautiously and only with meticulous monitoring in combination with psychotherapy. Both believe that medication alone is a very limited way to approach psychiatry.
A number of years ago, my psychiatrist Dr. Bob bought a large painting at a local art college show and hung it on a prominent wall in his office. It's quite startling. All rich and lustrous purples and blacks and greys ~ many shades of grey ~ it features huge silver lettering that says in script ~ "I need you." He and I often discuss the meaning of that painting, although not until recently did I begin to really understand it. Here's what Dr. Bob and I have concluded, thus far. When you begin psychotherapy, most often it's because you feel you need it. Or someone suggests you need it. But, as time goes on, as you evolve, gain insights and the layers of your onion begin to peel away, eventually, often, you begin to want your psychotherapy. Thrive on it. I know I do. I look forward to my sessions with Dr. Bob and I'm not the only of his very long term patients.
Two weeks later, Murphy stopped eating. The next day, his gums started to bleed. I rushed him to the vet. She said he was suffering and it was time. That was Murphy's last day. The following morning, I woke up aching for another dog. I called Mike Macbeth. Again she listened as I cried more than I talked. "You're not ready for another dog. You have to grieve for Murphy." She explained how vital the grieving process is to the future of any dog who may come into my life. If you don't grieve your recently departed dog, your next dog will sense it. Bonding will be more difficult. "You need time," she stressed. Four months later, we met our Dandie Dinmont puppy... Riley was 13-weeks old when we brought him home. It was mid-February. He loved running around in the snow and proved to be playful and mischievous. A true terrier. He's also the sweetest, most attentive little dog I've ever known. Pictures of Murphy are all over our house. I always feel a tinge of tenderness looking at them. He was my first dog and he will always be special to me, always with me.
Curiously, I find writing about my dogs as calming as holding them and caring for them. So, this morning, I'm going to continue from where I left you last week when I introduced you to my dogs and told you about Murphy, My First Therapy Dog. When he died, I left you hanging, promising to tell you how I learned about the grave importance of grieving for your pet. Leigh Pretnar Cousins in her endlessly captivating blog here at Psych Central, Always Learning, recently explored this theme when writing about grieving for her cat Luna. Losing a pet, a member of the family, is emotionally shattering. No matter how many pets you have had or what type of animal your pet is. The animal-human bond is like no other. When you lose an animal you've loved and with whom you are interdependent ~ it's psychically traumatic. Don't let anyone ever minimize that.
Just call me Peter Pan. I've been sleepless and so maniacally busy this week, I haven't had a second to sit down and seriously reflect and post to you about anything. I'm in a bit of a tizzy. You've been on my mind. Constantly. I've written three drafts of various posts, none of which, when I look back at them, feel right for you or for me. So, I'm trashing them. I've been hijacked to Never Neverland... Between "Tales of my terriers" and Other Dog Stories... and my story about Murphy, My First Therapy Dog... and his death in 2003, I left you hanging. There's more to tell about how I acquired my two Dandie Dinmont Terriers, Riley and Lucy, a rare breed I'm positively passionate about. Between all this and so much more, I feel I've been hijacked to Never Neverland. I lose track of time, of which day it is. Please forgive me. Starting today, I'm going to catch you up. It's all this moving house that's throwing me off my game. I'm a bit discombobulated. It's 1:45 a.m. and I've not even taken my pills. Not good, for a kidney transplant patient. Or my Tegretol. No wonder I can't concentrate.
With Murphy, I started walking a dog every day. Two or three times a day. Year-round. I had no choice. He had his own trainer. A young fellow who made weekly visits and trained "us" according to the Barbara Woodhouse dog training method. There's a peculiarly entrancing chemistry in walking your dog... Walking for us became "Walkies" and I fell in love with the peculiar chemistry of walking a dog while engaging with the great outdoors. (Our nearby park and the quiet dead-end streets of suburban Toronto's north end.) I discovered that walking your dog is nothing like walking by yourself or with friends. It's an adventure to see the world with a dog's eye view. Emotionally, spiritually and mentally affecting ~ uniquely fulfilling ~ when it's just you and your dog. Murphy became my entrée into the neighbourhood. I never knew I had such lovely neighbours, until I started walking him. We met dozens of people and befriended their dogs. I always remembered the dogs' names and shamefully forgot the names of the owners. We were all alike in this. It became a joke. We'd engage in "dog-talk" at parties. Sharing stories. It was never-ending. I found a new identity. I became the "dog" specialist at The Toronto Sun, writing intriguing dog-focused features.
In five weeks, we're moving to a condominium townhouse that is 25% smaller than this house with no fenced in backyard. I confess, my Dandies are like children to me... That means I'll be walking my two Dandie Dinmont Terriers at least three or four times a day. For the last five years, since I acquired my second Dandie, our two dogs have happily cavorted with each other in the backyard and rough-housed around indoors, as is the nature of this rare and endangered breed. I've never had children, so Riley and Lucy are my substitutes. I don't anthropomorphize them, really. I simply adore them. And I spoil them. I confess this unabashedly. Without embarrassment. With pride. Furthermore, they're the best tonic in the world for my mood stability and overall mental health. They're magically soothing. More than any medication ~ even my psychotherapy with Dr. Bob. With him, I gain insights. With them, I find serenity ~ and the odd adventure.
I started keeping diaries ~ I guess you could call it journaling ~ from the time I was able to manipulate a pen or pencil on paper and print or write. Some of my earliest diaries still occupy a special place in my library. They're filled with horrid little stick drawings, charts and snippets of conversation. Direct quotes from real interactions or little playlets of my own creation. What I loved was that I'd never lose my feelings. I locked them up so no one was ever privy to them... I captured them at a specific moment in time. Each entry was dated, sometimes even timed, in little red leather bound and lined volumes with tiny gold keys that locked up my thoughts and feelings so no one else was be privy to them. Read Lily Koppel's The Red Leather Diary, Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal, based on her New York Times feature, Speak, Memory. Oh, how it resonated with me.
I didn't intend to write so much about my life when I started blogging for Psych Central. I never did before, but my life wasn't as eventful, either. I'm sick of being so self-indulgent. After all, why should you care? You barely know me. Old dogs can indeed learn new tricks... On the other hand, learning to cope with dramatic change ~ chaotic change ~ can be very instructive, inspiring. Even life-changing. An adventure. Changes and personal chaos of the magnitude I've faced during the last two months are among the toughest you face in life ~ short of debilitating illness and/or death. Losing someone desperately close and beloved. A child, a spouse, a parent, a sibling or an intimate, longtime friend. Suddenly. Or following an agonizing and painful illness. Right now, you may be coping with psychically soul-destroying chaos... Simultaneous job loss. Financial ruin. Selling your dream house and drastically downsizing. Now. You may be coping with this right now. Too many people are. How do you override depression? Despair? See the possibilities through this maze of adversity?
So, where have I been, you may ask? Where to begin. It all seems like a dream. Or, if I wasn't such a "half glass full kind a gal" ~ a nightmare... Since my last post five days ago, here's what I've been up to ... Preparing, lesson planning, marking, and inspiring 20 students in my Seneca College "Leadership in Society" classes Polishing and cleaning every stainless steel surface, scouring every window sill and burnishing every inch of marble and glass in the kitchen and bathrooms of our house ~ so everything looks "picture perfect" Putting the finishing touches on the gardens and deck of our front and backyards Packing up, labeling and storing in our basement all the clutter we wish to keep Discarding, recycling and disposing of all the clutter we don't ~ liberating ourselves of a garage-full of "stuff" Driving our beloved Dandie Dinmonts, Lucy and Riley, three hours north to Haliburton to be loved and cared for by "The Granddandies" of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of Canada Not sleeping ~ averaging just two hours per night for the last three nights ~ sleep deprivation* Speaking with my banker, my financial planner, my mortgage broker and my real estate agent Staying sane while residing in Stress City...