Coping Strategy: Emotional Support Animals

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs): Definitions

ADA covers service animals, not emotional support animals. Use the link to FAQs for more information.

The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) offers this summary about their view of service, emotional support, and therapy animals. This post explains their definition of Emotional Support Animals.

This article is a resource guide defining ADA guidelines and handler responsibilities for working with service, emotional support, and other types of therapy animals.

Why share this now?

Gale.

Plain and simple. Gale is my emotional support cat. I worked with my medical and mental health providers to prepare for and be ready to care for a pet who would also be my emotional support animal for many years. The mental health counselor and I agreed on a timeline. Then she wrote the letter prescribing or supporting my decision.

I shared that with building management and informed the adoption agency too. The agency didn’t require a copy of the letter, so I did not provide it for them. But they were extra careful in helping me select a cat for adoption. They answered as many questions as possible and offered resources for me to find answers on my own too. No pressure to adopt; in fact they said that they prefer I not adopt Gale if I felt in any way uncomfortable during our meeting.

Gale's letting me cover her up
I don’t understand why she does this, but my human likes swaddling me in blankets as I nap.

As for the rest of it, I’m still learning to cope with the challenges of interacting people and making myself understood with cat/pet world terminology. It’s scary and rewarding at the same time.

Last time I tried this, I was not as prepared to face the unexpected challenges of having to communicate and interact with so many different kinds of people. This time I am up for the challenge. And Gale is helping with that too.

I am not going to encourage or discourage you if you decide to adopt or purchase an animal for therapeutic reasons.

I will ask you to read the literature provided in the links and also check in with yourself. Consider your lifestyle, current challenges, financial situation, support system, current goals and successes too. Then start talking about this with important people in your life. Get opinions and feedback from their perspective; listen, use what’s useful, and put the rest away for now.

Because taking responsibility for another living being is a big challenge and a bigger change.

Positive Changes

Gale has me moving more than ever. I even started a regular routine of moving meditation, stretching and light exercise 2x a day thanks to her. She’s so funny and does cat stretches with me sometimes. Other time she watches me from a comfy seated position or distracts me with a tail slap and head butt.

We eat regular meals together. And I’m learning that talking to people is not as scary as I thought. Neither is asking for help. I own my anxiety and how that interferes with communication, so make sure the people I talk with understand that as much as they can too.

Gale in her bed
Hmm…this bed isn’t so scary and evil after all. And I get to keep my new blanket

And sleep! Amazing how a furry friend can help with sleep. I’m not talking about cuddles or hugs – Gale didn’t start accepting or asking for cuddles until a few days ago – but having a welcoming/comforting presence in my space. She likes to sleep on my feet at night. And once in a while we sit together and watch tv or read.

But I also feel safer living in my apartment with her. Gale is an excellent guard cat. She hears things I miss or ignore and watches the door when people get too close outside. And she notices when my neighbors upstairs make noise or do annoying things before I do so I can prepare for whatever they do.

Her best quality, though, is being able to read environmental and emotional changes; then cope with them without too much stress. Gale has met almost all of my alters and doesn’t get upset with the switching as much. Instead, she walks away, changes position, or vocalizes to let me know a change occurred.

Last time I tried working with a puppy. That didn’t work because of my physical limitations. This time, with a cat and 8 years perspective, we are learning to get along and live together with lots of fun and shenanigans.

I’m looking forward to having Gale around for at least 10 more years 🙂 and hope she feels the same way about me.

One Month (almost) Anniversary

Gale took over my chair
This chair is mine now. Maybe, if you give me enough head and cheek scratches, I’ll share.
  • September 21, 2020 is our first month anniversary living together. I’m excited because we’ve been through a lot in our one month tougher.
  • Fire alarm that required me to put her in a carrier a week into living together.
  • 2 long trips out of the house; having to trust Gale not to destroy the apartment while I was out.
  • Mild panic attacks my side as I got used to her food/living/sleeping/litter box requirements, worked, and did chores.
  • Lots of stress on Gale’s side having to cope with being stuffed into a carrier and then outside in the dark/cold night with flashing lights and strangers after a few days living together.
  • Gale getting scared of all the strange noises in the new apartment.
  • Gale running and hiding every time her human makes a sound or body language/hand gesture that scares her.
  • Gale feeling torn between curiosity and distrust in her new environment and with her new human.
  • Gale testing her human by clawing at furniture and then looking to see what she will do.
  • Gale’s confusion when her human doesn’t do more than yell, make a loud sound or spray water at her.
  • Both of us adjusting to living and working together.

Honestly, I’m surprised we survived all that without anyone (my alters and I) getting bitten or clawed.

Do you have animals in your life? Are they grounding and comforting too? Or something else? Share stories in the comments if you like.

Thanks for reading.

Promo Post: Grants 4 Plants Video Application — Scent Reflections LLC

Disclaimer: I am not an expert by any means. Not a therapist, medical or mental health professional. I do not diagnose, treat, or tell people what to do. The main purpose of this website and blog is education and support. If you are unsure how the suggestions and resources here may affect you, please discuss……

Promo Post: Grants 4 Plants Video Application — Scent Reflections LLC

This will be quick. I’ve been working on a grant application that required a video proposal to be shared on social media. Here is what it’s about:

I can’t use pain meds without getting physically ill. If you are a long time reader, then you know that coping strategies work sometimes, but not all the time. And the more strategies you have in your tool box, the more options you have to find solutions in the moment.

Some people can’t use conventional methods because of addiction. Others because the cost is too high/low/out of reach in some way. Or because the options are not easily accessible where they are.

I found an aromatherapy blend that works for my physical and emotional pain – when it manifests in my body and nothing else helps – and am working to find an herbal infused oil as the carrier.

You can learn more by watching the video in the link above.

Thanks for reading.

Aromatherapy: Refresh My Space All-Purpose Cleaner — Scent Reflections LLC

Spring reminds me of fresh starts, new beginnings, and growing things. Plants wake up and start blooming. The air changes. Earth smells fresh. Temperatures (hopefully) start to warm up. People open windows and doors to let fresh air in. And many people feel the urge to start Spring Cleaning. Or may want to clean, but feel anxious about it. Perhaps use cleaning as a coping strategy for anxiety or anxious feelings. Still other people feel the opposite and do everything possible to avoid house cleaning. No matter what emotions or thoughts the spring season brings for you, I hope the following information and recipe help you with your cleaning goals. Anxiety and Cleaning I don’t know about you, but cleaning house does not always feel easy or safe to do. For me, cleaning can be a physical and energetic challenge. The physical actions and smells bring flashbacks and body memories from childhood and adolescence. My muscles lock up and stop working. Or send sharp, stabbing pains in unusual places that send panic attack signals to the rest of me. … Whether you use cleaning to manage your anxiety, avoid cleaning to manage anxiety or fall somewhere in the middle, there are ways to keep your space as clean as you deserve on your terms. Plant based cleaners and DIY recipes are two options.

Aromatherapy: Refresh My Space All-Purpose Cleaner — Scent Reflections LLC

Cleaning as a Coping Strategy or a Coping Challenge?

On Scent Reflections, I shared some of my struggles around housekeeping and house cleaning – and an easy DIY recipe.

For many people, cleaning is enjoyable and something that keeps our home feeling safe. It’s a way to remove dirt, dust, germs, or clutter while also providing movement and exercise. Believe me, if you do it right, cleaning is exercise.

And cleaning is an effective coping strategy to combat anxiety, stress, or anxious feelings. It’s a safe way to release energy, offers an immediate reward and feeling of success when the task if finished, and keeps them busy.

For other people, cleaning is a coping challenge that does the opposite of what I described in the previous two paragraphs.

Or maybe (like me) people fall somewhere in the middle of those extremes. Some parts of cleaning are less stressful/anxiety-provoking while others are more.

In the blog post I share two effective coping strategies from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy technique and a favorite cleaning recipe. Maybe they can help you with a similar challenge…or maybe not.

Thanks for reading

Coping Strategy: Self-Aware = Self Empowered

Coping Strategy: Recognize, Identify, Separate my (feelings, beliefs...) from others' (feelings, beliefs)...

Self Aware = Self Empowered

Today’s Photo

This week I’ve experienced symptoms that have not occurred in 3-5 years, maybe longer.

It felt scary on many levels because I couldn’t remember what strategies and techniques I used to cope with these symptoms in the past. Plus my current tools did not help or offer much relief.

Or…the coping strategies and techniques I did remember are not ones I wanted to use in the present.

This mean many phone calls to the BARCC hotline – one of my bridge strategies – and conversations with volunteers who talk me through my mental blocks  to remember/discover/find other strategies and techniques hidden in the maze that is  my mind.

One recurring theme came up in each of the many (7?) conversations this past week: being self-aware helps me get perspective and understand when I need to reach out for help.

aka empowers me to recognize I have a problem or am struggling and ask for outside help to get through the moment

Self Awareness – like compassion, empathy, perspective, resilience, and other topics I’ve written about in the past – whether directed at the self or others is difficult to learn and apply to one’s own life.

After 15 years in counseling and therapy…that is 15 years into my recovery and healing journey…I still struggle to learn the lessons and apply them in all aspects of my life. I probably will struggle with  this strategy or concept for the rest of my life because I am human and not perfect.

And like those other topics I mentioned above, Self Awareness is an herb that adds spice to the recipe of my life. Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, yet always beneficial when looking back on my life experiences.

But, like I said at the beginning, this is not easy to learn and apply to life…especially for people with a trauma history.

*If you decide to try incorporating Self-Awareness into your life, please be careful and make sure you have safety plans, coping strategies in your tool box, safety nets and a support network in place for when the triggers and symptoms visit*

because the triggers and symptoms will visit

May Anniversaries

Today is Mother’s Day. This past week and into next week, my family is celebrating about 5 birthdays…maybe more or less?

For the first time in many years, I sent out Mother’s Day and birthday cards.

Why? When I might not get acknowledgement for sending them?

3 reasons:

  1. Intuition supported my feeling of wanting to acknowledge family special days to create positive memories that replace negative ones
  2. I send cards and gifts to people because I like giving gifts to people I care about – nothing is expected in return
  3. It’s part of this year’s gratitude practice to open myself up to giving, receiving, and letting go all that the universe has to offer (positive, neutral, and negative) with an open heart, mind, and spirit

To all fate mom’s who visit here:
I WISH YOU HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY FILLED WIH JOY AND LAUGHTER

 

sheep-family-in-winter-2-picjumbo-com
Family togetherness (sheep) from picjumbo.com

Thanks for reading

Coping Strategy: EMDR Trial 2

Credit to: Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. The information below is for educational and support purposes only. Please discuss any changes you want to make with your provider first.*

BACKGROUND

In past posts, either my alters or I mentioned trying EMDR with different counselors. The results were good in session, but not so great between sessions or in real life. The coping strategies we practiced to help with the side effects of EMDR were sufficient but not enough to quote a past counselor. I couldn’t cope with the side effects of EMDR while living my old life, so put it aside to focus on techniques and strategies that did help.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

So what is EMDR? And why is it helpful (depending on the individual) for PTSD, Trauma, and Anxiety?

You can find an excellent definition and resources here at the EMDR Therapy website

This article defines EMDR

This website is for the EMDR International Association and offers training, education, and resources.

Q&A

Why try EMDR again after so many years?

Short answer:

Different counselor, different approach, different overall living situation

Longer answer:

  • My memories were coming back, and the emotions/sensations/triggers that came with them started interrupted daily life or nightly sleep too often
  • The hyper-vigilance and panic attacks kept increasing because of new or more sensitive environmental and internal triggers
  • Increased sensitivity to internal triggers – existing coping strategies and techniques were less helpful than usual; sometimes  made the overwhelming feelings or anxiety worse
  • My current counselor asked me if I was willing to try EMDR again and explained her process. Then showed me different options to use for the bi-lateral stimulation part of the process.
  • Overall, I felt safe, confident, and ready  to try this again

How did the EMDR work this time around?

The EMDR worked well and helped a lot to reduce my sensitivity to certain triggers and feel more confident about my reactions to situations in real life. The memories are just memories now. Any lingering trauma sensations or triggers left with each EMDR session.

Each Session?

Yes, I have had two sessions so far: one earlier this summer and one in October.

Why wait to share?

As mentioned earlier in the post, there are side effects or after effects that linger for a period of time after the EMDR session. The time period for long those effects last differs from person to person.

For me, the effects last about 2-3 months. During this time period, my focus is narrowed to: meet basic needs and self-care as I work with or through the emotional and physical changes brought out by the EMDR.

Will you share tips and suggestions for preparing for an EMDR session?

Yes. I broke the list down into three sections.

Discussing with or finding an experienced counselor

  • Learn as much as you can about EMDR and how it could benefit you because it does not help everyone
  • If you are seeing a counselor, have a conversation about how EMDR could help you
  • If your counselor is trained in EMDR, ask if you can try it in a future session
  • If your counselor is not trained and you want to try EMDR, ask for a referral to work with an EMDR specialist along with regular sessions
  • If you do decide to work with a specialist, make sure you feel safe and comfortable with her or him before you start anything.

*remember it’s important to trust the counselor and feel safe sharing these experiences in order for any kind of therapy or coping technique to be effective*

Before the EMDR session

  • Listen to the counselor’s process: intake questions, building resources, practicing coping strategies so that you remember them even in distress, discussing memories and choosing which one to work on in each session, etc.
  • Work with the counselor to answer questions as honestly as possible; provide enough information to help you both make informed decisions about the session and after care
  • If a coping strategy does not work for you, say so and work with the counselor to find an alternative
  • The counselor may ask you what type of EMDR tool you want to use for the bi-lateral stimulation part. The choice is yours, and it’s okay to ask if you can try out each one before making your choice

After the EMDR session

  • You will feel tired after your session, so it’s best to try scheduling your session after work or on a day with minimal activity
  • You may experience emotions and sensations differently – that makes coping with and reacting to them difficult sometimes
  • Your body may feel different – especially if you experience body memories
  • You could have more memories resurface – not all traumatic – and have to cope with them too
  • If you are like me (aka open about your unique gifts), you might also have some interesting experiences within your environment or during interactions with people. Traditional coping strategies might not work for those experiences, but your spiritual or religious practice could help. My spiritual practice helps me cope with them

Remember, EMDR is not for everyone. These tips are for informational purposes only and based solely on my personal experience. Please discuss with a medical or mental health professional before making any decisions or changes to your current treatment plan.

Thanks for reading.