Working On Us Prompt: Pets and Emotional Support Animals for Mental Health

This week’s Working On Us prompt is all about pets and emotional support animals. There are several questions to answer as a prompt or you can write a narrative. I am going to go with the latter, but also incorporate the questions into my post.

I have never had a formal emotional support animal. I do hope to get a guide dog for the blind somedday that will hopefully be in some ways capable of supporting me emotionally too. I know of several people with guide dogs who feel their dogs serve them a purpose related to their mental health too.

For now, I have a cat. His name is Barry and he’s a six-year-old European shorthair (the “standard” breed for Dutch cats). We adopted him from the animal shelter my mother-in-law and sister-in-law work for in 2014. At the time, we had another cat too named Harry, but Harry was extremely hyperactive. We hoped that a companion for him would help him let out his hyperness in a healthy way. Barry however couldn’t handle it, so eventually we rehomed Harry to my sister-in-law.

I never quite bonded with Harry. I was always worried he’d shove my Braille display or other expensive equipment off my desk if he got the chance. At the time, I still resided in the mental hospital so only got home on week-ends. I really didn’t like Harry to be honest.

With Barry, I initially didn’t bond well either. Barry was very shy and reserved to begin with. I remember clearly when Barry first came to me for a cuddle.

Now that I live with my husband, I am Barry’s main feeder, so he’s taken more to me. As a result, he definitely supports me emotionally. He sometimes lies next to me in bed when I’m sleeping off a depressive state. His care also provides me with some much-needed structure. Barry isn’t an emotional support animal officially, but having him around definitely helps me sometimes.

In my opinion, any animal that can be kept as a pet can be an emotional support animal. So can farm animals. In 2005, I went cow-cuddling with the blindness rehabilitation center. I didn’t like it at the time, because I didn’t see the purpose. Now I would love to go cow-cuddling again.

Similarly, horses are definitely useful as therapy or support animals. As regular readers of my blog know, I go horseback riding at an adaptive riding school once a week. Though it isn’t officially therapeutic, it definitely helps my mood and overall mental health.

I also have experience caring for horses that I didn’t ride. In 2012, I went to a horse stable as part of my day activities. I had a horse there named Flame, a Shetlander, whom I often brushed, went for walks with or just cuddled. Flame could’ve been my emotional support animal.

Loss #WotW

This was truly a mixed week. I wanted to write a gratitude list for it, and maybe I will do so tonight, but right now I don’t feel like it.

On Monday, I attended day activities as usual. A fellow client, an older man, attended too as usual, but he was very unwell. He had been ill for a long time and the staff had feared for his life on a few prior occasions. I attended day activities during the morning only and I worried in the afternoon that he’d die soon.

On Tuesday, the man wasn’t at day activities. I heard the staff talk about his group home staff having had a scare in the morning, but he was still alive. In the afternoon, I heard them talking about palliative care. By late afternoon, when us clients werre ready to leave, I heard that he’d passed. For those who don’t know, my day activities group is for people with severe intellectual disabilities, so i’m the only one who understands the conversations staff have among themselves basically.

On Wednesday, the other clients were told that this man had died. Most still don’t fully understand, but some have made beautiful drawings in his memory that will be given to his family on Monday. Near the center’s front door is a table with (electric) candles, a picture of the man and all the drawings. I decided to make a butterfly soap for it. I made it on Wednesday afternoon with my support coordinator. It turned out great, a beautiful lavender blue with lavender fragrance oil.

On Thursday, I was off from day activities and I spent the morning in bed. It didn’t really feel good, but I had nothing planned for the day except for horseback riding at 4:30PM. That was a great experience. I rode Aagje, a fjord horse with long hair (which is unusual for this breed).

Today, I showed my day activities staff the butterfly soap I’d made and placed it on the client’s remembrance table. We tried to do day activities as usual as much as possible. We walked to the marketplace in the morning. In the afternoon, when I went for a short walk with the day activities coordinator, I told her I wanted to ask a rude question. I wanted to ask whether, now that this other client had died, I could take his place at day activities on Thursdays. I still feel pretty awkward having asked this, but she understood that, if I waited a while, they might’ve gotten a new application. I E-mailed my support coordinator on this issue too.

Early this week, I got an E-mail from my support coordinator forwarding the termination letter from the Center for Consultation and Expertise. I didn’t understand this, as the consultant had offered to be my contact for the long-term care funding agency. Apparently, she still is somehow. I really hope I hear from that agency soon. My support coordinator did E-mail the local authority’s social consultant, who is in charge of my community care funding, to extend my funding for two months as we wait for long-term care to kick in.

Right now I feel… numb? I was a bit dissociated this afternoon, as my day activities staff were discusing clients’ severe challenging behaviors (not current fellow clients of mine). I remembered my time on the locked psychiatric unit, where I was often threatened with seclusion for problem behaviors and was in fact secluded or restrained a few times. It felt good disclosing this to my staff, but I did feel a bit awkward.

Now I’m waiting for my husband to get home from work. He’s going to bring French fries and snacks. I look forward to that.

I am linking up with Word of the Week. I choose “loss” as my word of the week in my fellow client’s memory.

Gratitude List (November 23, 2018) #TToT

It’s been forever since I last shared a gratitude list. Since yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States, I felt it’d be about time again that I post one. Here goes. As usual, I’m linking up with #TToT.

1. An extra afternoon at day activities. In fact, I started writingg this post while there. As of last week, I go to day activities each Tuesday and Friday for the whole day (and Monday and Wednesday mornings). I am loving it.

2. Horseback riding. I had to shift my riding lessons to another day to be able to go to day activities for the whole day on Friday. The only day off I now still have is Thursday. The riding instructor didn’t have a volunteer then to help me, but my support worker offered to help me. Yesterday was the first time I went riding on a Thursday. It was great!

3. A long walk with my support coordinator. Normally, we walk to the ferry at the end of my road and back. This is about 2.5km total. On Wednesday, I asked her to walk in the other direction. We walked all the way to the next village and back. This totals over 3km.

4. Chinese takeaway. On Sunday, my father-in-law came to our house to watch soccer and other men’s programs (that I secretly do like) with my husband. Usually, he “cooks” for us on these days and this time, it was Chinese. I loved it. I did suffer bowel cramps and bloating for several days after it, but who cares?

5. French fries for lunch. To continue on the food track, we had French fries for lunch at day activities on Wednesday. The reason was they still had some money that needed to be spent by the end of the year. The staff were initially worried that we wouldn’t have a full meal, but we definitely did! It was so tasty! I was a little scared that my husband would be angry because of my weight gain, but he wasn’t.

6. My new stuffed bear. I already got it two weeks ago, but am still so grateful for it. My mother-in-law won it at an event she went to for the animal shelter she works for. I’m calling it Little Bear, because my husband has a big bear too. That one is a little damaged and the littles not-so-secretly want another one, so that we have both little and big bear for ourselves.

7. Swimming. I went swimming with day activities again on Tuesday. This time, I swam a record 52 pool lengths.

8. Getting my hair done. On Friday, the support coordinator at my day activities group braided my hair. I didn’t even know I had long enough hair for that, but apparently I do. On Tuesday, a staff at another group made an even more beautiful braid.

9. New books to read. Last week, I moved all my eBooks and Bookshare books from my computer to my iPhone, because I could no longer read them on my computer. I have since been greatly enjoying reading. I haven’t bought any new books as of yet, but I did download several books off Bookshare.

10. My mood still being pretty good. I can’t say it’s great, but it’s not bad either.

What have you been thankful for in the past week?

Gratitude List (October 26, 2018) #TToT

Man, I really am falling into a writing rut. I don’t even know why. I’m still not feeling too well, but I wouldn’t say I’m seriously depressed either. For a bit in early October, I did feel extremely low, bu I picked up the pieces again reasonalby soon.

Today, to get myself motivated for writing again, I’m participating once again in #TToT. It’s not a weekly gratitude list anymore and I may be sharing some things I’ve been grateful for over the past few weeks.

1. A skirt-wearing day in October! This was already a few weeks ago, but I’m still so thankful for it. About two weeks ago, the temperature rose to 26 degrees Celsius and I loved it!

Generally speaking, the weather has been extremely mild here with hardly any rain. We got some rain only over the last few days and that wasn’t a lot. Today is one of the first days it’s really rather cold.

2. Sleep. Like I said above, fall weather came late this year but it well and truly came. I am very sensitive to cold, so I’ve been complaining for a few days that it’s cold already. This means that nothng’s cozier than crawling under the covers against my husband or with my sensory cat. The sensory cat is a soft toy that can be put in the microwave and then gives off heat and a lavender scent.

3. Swimming. At day activities, we go swimming every other Tuesday. Two weeks ago, I was a bit sick, so didn’t go. This week I did though. It was lovely. My Fitbit activity tracker says I swam 1200m total, which I can’t believe but oh well.

4. A full day at day activities. Three weeks ago, I got permission to come to day activities one full day a week in addition to the three other mornings. I now go on Tuesdays for a full day and Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the morning. I am still settling in a bit but so far I love it.

5. Making smoothies. I really, really need to get into a healthier eating habit again. I haven’t been on the scale in months and I’ve probably gained lots of weight. To get myself motivated, I bought a lot of frozen fruit and a can of soy milk last Monday. Bananas were sold out, so my husband bought those on Tuesday. Yesterday, we made a banana-strawberry-soy milk smoothe and it was delicious!

6. Horseback riding again. Some of my fellow clients at day activities go horseback riding at my riding school on Friday afternoons. I go on Friday afternoons too, but usally the class after theirs. Today, one of these other clients was on vacation, so my staff offered to ask whether I could come in her place and I could. My assigned support worker from day activities walked beside my horse. It was a lot of fun!

7. My very accommodating staff. My support coordinator and home support worker are going out of their way to help me. So are my day activities staff. Particularly, they offered me to come to day activities two full days on December 27 and 28, since the other days of that week, the center is closed for Christmas. They’ll have room for me even on that Thursday, which is normally my day off. I’m so grateful for this!

8. Accessible games on the iPhone. I never took much of an interest in accessible computer games, because I believed most would be very boring. Now this week I decided to take a look at the AppleVis directory of iOS apps in the Games category. Of course, most games that are really popular with sighted people, are totally inaccessible. However, some accessible games are pretty cool after all. I so far downloaded Dice World, which is a collection of six dice games, and Alter Ego.

Alter Ego was originally created as a fully text-based game in 1986 but was adapted for use on the smartphone. It is a game in which the scenario is that you’re born and will eventually die. The life you lead in between will depend on your answers to a lot of multiple-choice questions. On my first round playing, I chose to be a very angry, rebellious baby and ended up with burns from an iron in infancy and killed by a kidnapper in childhood.

9. Twister fries! I have no idea whether twister fries exist in other parts of the world and, if so, whether they’re really called twister fries. They are my favorite type of fries, but they had apparently been taken off the menu at my local cafeteria. Last week at his once-a-week round to the cafeteria, my husband informed me that he had a nice surprise for me and it turned out they were back. I enjoyed them both last week and this week. I also love love love the African-style burger they have on the menu.

10. My mood being slightly better. Like I said, I had a really low few days earlier this month. Over the past two weeks or so, my mood seems to have been slowly but steadily improving. I cannot say I feel good, but I don’t feel that bad either.

What I’m Excited About for the Coming Week

Today, DM over at Pointless Overthinking asks what excites you about the future. This is a really timely question, in a kind of ironc way. You see, I was pretty badly depressed most of the day and found looking even an hour ahead hard. Now that I have gotten some more clarity of mind, I am going to make a list of things that excite me at least a little bit about the upcoming week.

1. My support coordinator coming over tomorrow. I texted her this afternoon to let her know I’m not feeling that well. She had just come back from vacation this morning, so I felt pretty guilty for having texted her, but the feeling of despair was stronger. At around 6PM, she called me back. She would originally only visit me on Thursday, but she offered to see if she could come tomorrow too. I said I’d much appreciate that. At 4PM, she’ll be here.

2. The good weather forecast. It’s said to be sunny and around 27 degrees Celsius here tomorrow.

3. Celebrating my seventh wedding anniversary on Wednesday. My husband already announced that he’s going to take pizza home after work then. I love pizza, particularly from American-style pizza chains like Domino’s and New York Pizza.

4. Horseback riding on Friday. Do I need to say more? Oh, I love Angie!

This isn’t all that much, but I’m still a little bit more cheerful now that I’ve written these things down. It isn’t that I’m magically no longer depressed. However, like gratitude for the things that happened in the past, excitement for things that are going to happen in the future, may help some.

Weekly Gratitude List (September 7, 2018) #TToT

I’m extremely tired and don’t feel like writing. I’m also falling into the trap that killed my other blog, taking it too seriously. That is, I can’t keep from comparing myself to “influencers”, which I am not and will never be. It’s a sad truth, but to be truly influential these days you need to be able to create visual content, which I, being blind, can’t do.

As a result of all this, I’m feeling a bit sad today. This makes me even more unmotivated to look at the bright side and create a gratitude list, but I’m going to try anyway. Here, hence, is my weekly gratitude list.

1. A nice walk with my husband on Sunday. I’ve had trouble sticking to an exercise routine over the past week. In other words, I’ve not been on the elliptical at all. For this reason, I’m extra glad my husband offered to go on a walk with me.

2. The new intern at day activities. She’s nice and seems very competent.

3. A good visit with my in-laws on Tuesday. We had a power outage, so I texted my mother-in-law whether I could stay with them to do some computer work. My husband’s 16-year-old cousin was staying at my in-laws and she was delighted to see me.

4. Nice food. We didn’t have the most high-class meals this past week, but I don’t like those anyway. My husband makes delicious pasta – very simple but so good. I also have been eating a ton of fruit lately.

5. Still another day that the weather was good enough to wear a skirt. I wrote a few weeks ago that we’d probably passed the last day for the year that I could wear a skirt, but Wednesday was a surprisingly warm day. I loved it. Thursday was chilly and rainy, but today has been okay too.

6. My home support and mental health staff. I wasn’t feeling very well yesterday – very tired, confusd and dissociated. My support worker noticed and was trying to help me as much as she could. I rang my mental health team eventually. The on-call nurse didn’t know how to help me, but offered to leave a message with my nurse rpactitioner to call me back. He did and he helped me find ways to snap out of the downward spiral.

7. Eating a delicous macaroon today. Because the weather was still nice and we didn’t know whether it’d stay that way (it didn’t), one of the day activities staff took us to the marketplace early this morning. We bought a delicious cookie for everyone and I chose a macaroon. It was sweet, but oh so delicious!

8. Horseback riding again. The weather was okay again in the afternoon, so we actually went outside. It was so lovely. Angie, my horse, did a very good job and the trotting was so much fun.

9. Books. I bought the new Cathy Glass book yesterday and have been greatly enjoying it. For those not familiar with her, Glass is a UK foster carer and writer of memoirs about the children she’s fostered. This new book is really sad so far, but it’s good.

10. Getting so many things I’m thankful for listed even though I originally wasn’t motivated for it. I just had to write that as a separate item to get to ten things. Not that we’re required to do ten things, but it just looked so cool.

Linking up with Ten Things of Thankful as usual.

Weekly Gratitude List (August 31, 2018) #TToT

It gets boring, but time definitely flies. Tomorrow it’ll be September already. Fortunately, the good weather isn’t fully over yet, as they’re saying Sunday and Monday it’ll be sunny and warm once again. I love that.

Since it’s Friday again, it’s time for my weekly gratitude list. I notice these have become somewhat of a chore, but I hope that by continuing with them, I’ll take care to appreciate the little things in life more.

1. The takeout roti my father-in-law bought for my husband and me on Sunday. Normally, we go for Chinese, which gets boring. This was a lot more delicious.

2. Several nice walks this week. I once again went for the long walk at day activities on Monday and also went for a walk with my support worker on Thursday morning.

3. Being nominated for my first blogging award on this blog. I was nomiated for one on my other blog about a year ago, but like I’ve said, I took that blog too seriously to do blog awards. I genuinely appreciated it this time.

4. Swimming on Tuesday. On MOnday, my staff at day activities decided to invite me to participate in the swimmin group, initially just for that week. It was fabulous! I really hope I can continue to go swimming, but a volunteer already offered to watch me if there are not as many staff people.

5. Being supported by a lot of people in the multiple community. I recently joined a group for those who don’t have full-blown dissociative identity disorder, because they either have alters but minimal amnesia (me) or have amnesia but their alters are not as formed. I don’t like labeling myself that much, but I do it for the sake of finding support. After all, when you’re multiple, it’s either trauma-based or endogenic (natural) and we’re definitely not endogenic. It feels weird to join groups for DID or other dissociative disorders when we don’t have that diagnosis anymore and are not really looking for it either, but we need the support somehow. Thankfully, the people in the dissociation group are very nice.

6. Starting back into adaptive horseback ridiing after the summer break. It was absolutely so relaxing. My horse, Angie, was more obedient and less lazy than she usually is.

7. Eating some fish this afternoon. Usually when my mother-in-law takes me to horseback riding and the pharmacy on every-other-Fridays, we go to the fish stand that’s near the pharmacy. They however were gone for a few weeks. Their fish isn’t great, but this time it was quite tasty and above all it was hot.

As usual, I’m linking up with Ten Things of Thankful.