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Friday, April 27, 2012

Facing Myself

Disclaimer for close family and friends. This piece describes difficulties I have faced, please know that I am doing better now. I have always felt the best way to deal with emotion was to face it head on, analyze them, and try to understand them, Carla has informed me that this is abnormal, but healthy. It's intention is not to upset but to serve as information as to how Gopher has helped me, and how our therapy work has served to help in healing.


Working with a therapy dog, and one as gifted as Gopher has been a saving grace for me. I have spoken before about how much I benefit from the interaction, seeing my boy work with patients are among the most awarding times of my life. In doing this I have found strength, confidence, and purpose. Everyone in their own lives suffers from trials and tribulations, some may seem great and some may seem minor, but no one person’s trials should be disregarded. My sister goes with the mantra, ‘It could always be worse.’ I understand its intent, and purpose and the truthfulness, but it does not work for me. This mantra seems to belittle my own trials. ‘You are not alone in this.’ Also another powerful mantra that some find helpful, but due to my own psyche makes me feel selfish for feeling as I do. 

Over the course of the last few years on many days I want nothing more than to crawl into a hole, a place of safety where no element of the outside world can touch me. Inside I still want nothing more than to pull the covers over my head, that impenetrable shield that protected you from the monsters when you were a child. I am not alone; many people are facing the same trials.  In addition I have a wonderful community of friends, a loving and doting family, and an adoring partner; by nearly every measure I have had great success in my life. My own psyche and anxieties, allows me to see this but not be as comforted by it as I probably should.  My family loves me deeply and I know this and I feel it and it is a great comfort, but at the same time my own trials make me feel as if I have failed them, not lived up to their expectations, hopes and desire for me as a person. No amount of action and words on their part, of which there have been many, can make me feel any different, it is a part of my psyche and it is a part of who I am.

The ongoing fight, manufactured by my psyche and not unlike others is as follows. My parents and family give their love and support, and although parents always worry about their children the result of my own inadequacies has put undue stress in their lives, they deserve better. My in-laws gave their blessing to our marriage, and while their daughter has lived up to her end of the partnership, I have failed in living up to my end, and they worry, and they deserve better than this. My wife deserves better from me, she has assured me many times that she is happy, and takes the good with the bad, and I am lucky, but I still know she deserves better, not the fortunes of the world mind you although it would be nice, but the ability to live with more comfort and less stress. My community of friends who have shown me nothing but love, support and encouragement, deserve better from me. They all deserve better, not only for any stress that I may have caused any of the parties above, but because of my own psyche, I have to fight every day not to push them away, they don’t know this, but I want to go to my own hole where no one can find me, the perfect impenetrable blanket. I want to run and hide, this should not be how I feel, the loved ones in my life want nothing more than to help and they deserve better.

It is a vicious circle created in my head. Gopher and our work has been the life preserver I needed. Because of him I have the motivation to pull back the blankets stand up and face the day. This may seem off to you, or may not since you do spend some of your days reading about us and our work, but he has. This should not devalue any of my human relationships as it is not that they are not reason enough to move forward, it is just that due to how my psyche manufactures things I see my wife, and I feel disappointed in not being able to do better, the same with family the same with friends, their eyes show me nothing but love and caring, but in my head reflect back to me the disappointment I have in myself, my fears, may anxieties, and any burdens I have put on them real or perceived.

Gopher and I started our journey, I had to get up as patients were relying on Gopher to be there, not me, him and I am his chauffeur. So the work became a crutch, the rope I have grabbed onto, since I knew my mind was deceiving me, the strength I needed to face the day.  That was step one. Then as we continued with more and more visits, the smiles and laughter of the people we visited bouncing around my head fighting off my own demons. Some of them I have shared with you, others I may someday as well. I always thanked Gopher for his work that day and still do, and late in the night, when the house is quiet and I can’t sleep I talk to him. I open up about my fears, my anxieties he seems to know and does not look at me so I don’t see a reflection of disappointment I manufacture in the eyes of family and friends; he just rests his head with his ears drawn toward my voice. He does not offer assurances or mantras which although meant to be helpful, don’t help me because of how my psyche processes them. We went on more visits, and the since of purpose it gave me allowed me to attempt to face the battle in my head. I worked hard at hosting game nights, and events at my home to escape the feelings of needing to run from the people who care about me. I still needed to do this in my home as I still needed a place of comfort, my impenetrable blanket, with a few people allowed underneath in there with me as well. Still too scared to face the outside world without that comfort, and Gopher and I continued our sessions late in the night when no one was listening.  No mantras, no looks, just ears pinned towards my voice, my therapy dog.

Over the next few months I began to notice something else a confidence I have never felt in my life to this point and as a direct result of the work we were doing, and that was I was not afraid to speak, an item I discussed extensively here: Gopher's Biggest Fan. That new confidence, combined with a sense of purpose and my late night therapy sessions allowed me to face more of my own fears and anxieties. It allowed me to feel more comfortable, to be able to look at my friends, family and my wife and not see disappointment all the time. I felt more able to go out of my fortress (our little house) and be more sociable, more like I used to be. I know that even today I am not better and I still face the anxieties and fear every day, and the reflections of disappointment still glimmer, but it is now more in check and I can function.  

Thank you for reading and sharing these experiences with me, I will continue to write about them. I hope this gives you more insight in to how I have often mentioned that I am not sure who benefits more from this work, me or the patient.  The events in my life that turned a part of my psyche that had always been there into a seemingly insurmountable wall have not changed much, every day I still fight, and when they resolve it will probably be some time before they are put away to the darker recesses of my mind. Today, yesterday, and the day before are better, I feel like I can face my own demons and it is thanks in a large part to Gopher and our patients that allowed me to face and rationalize my thoughts and gave me the strength to put one foot in front of another.

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