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.

Anniversaries: Labor Day

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.

Normally, holidays are a source of tension and triggers for me. Labor Day is one that tends to put me to sleep – as in I can’t cope with all the stuff in my mind and body so shut down to sleep it all off.

But this year is different. I have Gale to keep me grounded and busy – kitty shenanigans at 5:30 AM anyone? – work I love, and loved ones to share time with from a safe distance. Plus I really do need the day off.

So, I’m going to keep this short by wishing you all in the US a Happy Labor Day holiday and everyone else a safe and prosperous week filled with interesting experiences.

Here are some Gale photos:

Thanks for reading

Any good practical philosophy must start out with the recognition of our having a body

Alter Post: When Fear Tries To Take Over

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*

This is not an easy post to write. Or share. I struggled with what to put in today’s post and almost did an ADMIN – nothing to write post instead.

But I’m here. And I just finished writing about crystal grids and environmental self protection on the other blog. So I decided to try and give you something more here too.

FEAR

Out of all the emotions I struggle with, fear is in the top 3. Right now, in spite of all the change from COVID-19, I feel joyful. My life has been impacted in subtle ways, not obvious ones. And it’s the subtle changes that scare me.

Now that I don’t have to think about and plan for going out of my apartment, a huge amount of internal energy is being re-directed to improve physical health – i.e. cope with body memories. The “cage” of restrictions brought me freedom from spending 25% or more energy on planning ways to cope with being around people and other beings whenever I leave my apartment.

The benefit is that my “self” continues to heal from the inside out. Internal changes are occurring at a fast pace. Spaces formerly occupied by trauma memories and past experiences are opening up/emptying out. Everything feels different. I move different. My tastes and preferences for food and beverages have changed. Some of my interests have changed.

But my energy levels have not changed much. All parts of me agree that if there wasn’t so much internal healing to do, that energy would be directed outward to more activities and physical movement instead. But since none of us are ready for that, the energy has been directed inside.

And I fear what is filling up those empty spaces that open up way to fast for me to fill them up. Will other triggers move and take over the spaces? If I have too many nightmares and flashbacks, will the past traumas come back and refill the empty spaces; then take over again, leaving me back to what and where I was in the past?

What can I fill those spaces with? Memories? Experiences? Positive energy? Unconditional love? Fear? Anger? Hate? And if I fill them with something temporarily, will that temporary stuff get stuck and turn into something harmful? Will it move out easily once the “right” stuff is found and moved in?

I haven’t remembered more of my past. And I haven’t forgotten anything this year (win for me), but I still struggle with remembering and recognizing people. And that scares me too. What if I never am able to remember people outside of a specific group – and even with them I struggled long and hard to remember specific sensory details and clues associated with each person to recognize them – and go through my life continuously offending people because I can’t remember meeting them and talking with them from one hour or week or class to another?

Yes, trauma changes memory in significant ways. But I never considered that this type of memory loss or challenge could be a permanent side effect of my trauma. How did I learn about this? Well, first I spoke about it out loud with my counselor.

Photo by Tobe Roberts on Pexels.com

Then I was browsing Pinterest for interesting pins about trauma and mental health to put in my board. And came across an interesting graphic explaining how trauma affects the four different types of human memory. Four types of memory. I was aware of 2, and the other two were a complete mystery.

So I pinned the graphic and decided to think more about it before reading the rest of the article. You can find links to my Pinterest boards in the Resources page if you are interested. Before I go off on a tangent with the potential to trigger a shame spiral, I decided to practice an exercise my counselor taught me to help cope with fear.

It starts by writing down what I am afraid of on a blank piece of paper. Then creating a down arrow to the next line.

After the arrow, I say to myself I am afraid of (above fear) because I am afraid of (and write that fear down).

And keep doing that until I drill down to what really scares me.

Then I can reflect on the source of my other fears. aka the BIG FEAR and use other coping strategies to work with it.

Will that work? I don’t know. But I’m trying it out now using the example from our last session.

Thanks for reading.

It is not so much what you believe that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action

Quotes & Affirmations: Thoughts from Lin Yutang

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.

I don’t have much to write about this week. Instead, I decided to let quotes speak for me instead.

Lin Yutang is a Chinese-born writer and philosopher whose work speaks to me deeply. I read The Importance of Living early in my recovery journey and experienced a life-changing moment that continues to positively influence my life now.

Any good practical philosophy must start out with the recognition of our having a body
It is not so much what you believe that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action

Thanks for reading.

I choose to thrive in a world filled with kindness, unconditional love, and acceptance

Life Changing Moments: A little of this, a little of that, quotes, and affirmations too

Dear Guests,

Autumn (or fall) is here. It’s the end of September, and I honestly don’t know where to start. Life took many unexpected turns this year. Some of which I can’t discuss because the stories are not mine to share. Other experiences are related, but not, to what I write here. But I am not sure of their relevance.

That brings me to the first part of the title: this, that, and what else? Work is going well; so many new challenges that it takes a lot of my brain power. I’m still dealing with a difficult living situation, but we’re making slow progress there. Plus 5 months left of living here! And some of those experiences I don’t feel comfortable sharing here, they have to do with the positive evolving relationship between my parents and me.

Yup, I said it. Postive. Evolving. Relationship. Parents. Me.

In fact, they’re coming to visit me next week and will be staying (in a hotel) for a little more than 1 week. Yes, I am excited and happy. Nervous too. But mostly excited.

The other news? I’ve decided to stop allowing comments through a feedback form until I can put in something safe and reliable.

You can comment on posts if you want. But I’m getting so much spam that it’s hard to distinguish guests from trolls. Apologies for that…

And, I will be writing less the rest of this year, as I consider what different direction to take Untangled Connections so it stays relevant to its main purpose. As my recovery changes, my life changes and coping strategies change.

There is so much new information about trauma, recovery, PTSD, and more out there that I can’t keep up and still pursue other interests. That means the topics here will change. The tone will change. And the types of resources/information will change too.

What I’ve written about these last 4 years has to do with Survival Mode and the first years after getting out of the dangerous situation.

Now, I am in a different phase with different challenges. And if you are willing to read about them, I will share that here too.

Here are the FAQs; skip the next section for Affirmations and Quotes 🙂

Q7: How can I write to you? Will you write back to me? What about comments?

7A: At this time, you can comment on blog posts. Most go to SPAM, so there is a chance that your comment does not get a response if I think it is SPAM and does not follow blog rules.

I  tried to offer a comment form, but all comments went directly to the SPAM filter. Since those messages go to my e-mail inbox, I decided that it’s too risky to address those messages because of increased problems with phishing, viruses, malware, etc.

Q8: Where are you? Will you be writing more?

8A: I am taking a writing break. There is a lot going on in my personal life right now, and I’m working on a new direction for Untangled Connections now that my recovery has changed trajectory and the challenges are not the same as before.

365 Days of Affirmations Follow Up

A few times in the past, I shared a personal coping strategy project called “365 Days of Affirmations”.

The point of this project was to change my thinking processes, attitude, and behavior from negative/unhappy/angry all the time to neutral/postive/content/loving instead and apply that to all parts of my life.

The difficult part was figuring out what “positive” meant to me. Because, while I believe in the power of positive thinking, I also believe in potential harm of positive thinking. And have experienced the blowback when positive thinking fails. That is part of why this update took so long.

While I did compose an affirmation every day for 365 days, I failed at writing down each affirmation once a day for 365 days. Some times I forgot to write down an affirmation for one month or longer. Then had to go back and write them all when I did remember to record the affirmations and quotes.

On the other hand, I learned that creating an affirmation for the day did help me change my thinking processes, attitude, and behavior.

I learned how to reframe sentences and opinions to be either neutral or positive, kind, and encouraging, without feeling over-the-top or unattainable. For Example:

Today is not bad out – cloudy and gray, but smells like autumn and not raining.

vs

Today is bright, cool and gray with some clouds. The air smells like autumn rain.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be in order to manifest my goals and dreams

Thanks for reading