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.

Anger: I wrote a post, forgot to save it, and lost it…

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.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

I wrote a post about anger, triggers, racism, people-pleasing, and boundaries. But I forgot to save it as I wrote and lost all the content. No photos other than the main photo because this isn’t the type of post where I can find appropriate ones.

So instead of re-doing all that, I’m going to keep this as concise as possible.

My boundaries have been constantly violated this past few weeks by people who connected with me over social media to be “friends”. They pushed and pushed until I finally put my foot down and ended the “friendship”. And yes I have quotes around that word because their idea of friendship did not meet mine.

Each of these challenges had me constantly wondering what life lesson my spiritual guardians were teaching me. It kept me up a couple nights this week. It stressed me out so I have been off my diet lately – by diet I mean forgetting to eat or not feeling hungry and doing something about that. And it made me extremely aware of the changes in my body.

Positive changes, but still changes.

So then I realized this was a boundary challenge and a lesson about social interaction. I am not a social person. My interaction is mostly limited to my parents (daily), work (frequent, but not often), and other people once or twice a month. Email and text are the preferred communication tools, but phone calls and video happen too.

My interactions with these people felt overwhelming and frustrating. They texted multiple times a day every day for over a week using the social media messengers. At first, they agreed to friendship. But then they wrote comments that seemed outside of friendship and into the realm of intimate relationships. And they refused to give me personal space when I asked for it.

But I felt confused because my experience with this kind of social interaction and communication is almost zero. So I asked myself what is really bothering me about all these communications? Is it that I started an account with another social media app to chat with this person outside of LinkedIn safely? Is it that I felt let down that I gave in to peer pressure and shared outside contact info with two people who were strangers?

And was I letting myself down by ending potential friendships with these people when I was trying to “put myself out there more”?

That final question was the biggest and most challenging to answer.

But in the end, I valued my personal and emotional safety more than making and keeping friends. These people, with their constant need for communication, disrespect of my personal boundaries, and triggering comments/emojis made me feel exposed, triggered, and unsafe to the point where I had trouble sleeping and eating again.

Between them and the big racism issues popping up everywhere, I felt like I was falling down the rabbit hole again. Nightmares, dreams, you name it I experienced it all week long.

The lesson I learned?

I am enough as I am. I am putting myself out there and trying new things. Sometimes, the “new things” don’t work, so it’s okay to stop and move on.

Being solitary suits me so there is no need to try and form outside friendships or continue friendships that feel unsafe. Next time I start to feel this way, remember Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss and his reclusive, yet successful and happy lifestyle choices.

So yes I am angry. I feel residual past anger and present anger. The challenge now is to climb out of the rabbit hole.

Thanks for reading.

Self Care Challenge: 1/20/2020 – Aromatherapy Inhaler for Emotional Support & Panic Attacks — Scent Reflections LLC

Action: Smell essential oil blend in the aromatherapy inhaler when I felt triggered, overwhelmed, or distracted at work.

Intention: Use the essential oil blend to bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered or stressed out.

Reflection: Some people call it a “power pause”. Others call it “mindfulness”. I personally call it a sensory grounding strategy that provides emotional support + cold/flu/allergy prevention by engaging my senses – smell and vision.

Self Care Challenge: 1/20/2020 – Aromatherapy Inhaler for Emotional Support & Panic Attacks — Scent Reflections LLC

I’m doing a Self Care Challenge this week. Come join me at Scent Reflections!

Thanks for reading.

AlterXpressions

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: Slowing Down my life

Slowing down has been an ongoing theme this year.  Here are some concrete reasons for my choices.

I/we want to spend time exploring our memories and experimenting with different hobbies, activities, experiences to find joy again.

joy = pleasure = happy = content = relaxed

Feeling joy in our mind is different from experiencing the sensation of joy in our body and spirit too.  All parts of me want to experience joy in mind/body/spirit together and AT THE SAME TIME without falling into triggers or panic attacks.

We’d like to experience this joy alone (amongst ourselves) and with other people too.

That means slowing down our current lifestyle to make space for big, scary changes.

choices decision doors doorway
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  • The blog stays at 1x a week.
  • Goodbye to Facebook for the final time. Pinterest & LinkedIn stay for professional and practical reasons
  • More paper books, less ebooks
  • Knitting, cooking, sewing fun
  • More activities & experiences = more built-in exercise and play time
  • Sleep, meditate, relax, and go to related meetups
  • Limit internet & computer use for existing tasks and work/job searching

I tried living in the darkness and shadows with minimal technology and a lot of “old-fashioned” methods of getting things done.  The best part about that lifestyle was learning how to “do” things without depending on machines.

I tried living in the “modern” world with its technology and emphasis on moving fast all the time.  The best part of this lifestyle was learning how to utilize technology to help me achieve my goals without depending on others to take care of me.

Now it’s time for me to find the sweet spot of lifestyle that makes me happy and continues to support my internal healing/recovery journey.  

More big changes are happening whether I want them to or not.

I can make choices now to put support systems in place and flow with the changes.  Or I can fight them until my face turns blue and I give in anyways.  Which seems better to you?

So maybe this isn’t for you.  And maybe it is.  Either way, I hope you find ways to bring more joy into your life.

Thanks for reading.