Author Topic: Am I justifying? Or justified? :smile:  (Read 612 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Cinnamon

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 10
  • Location: Tennessee
  • SDC interest: curious
Am I justifying? Or justified? :smile:
« on: March 25, 2017, 07:09:53 PM »
Hello everyone!

I am not new to the mental illness game, but pretty new to the service dog world. I don't want to be a "faker," my heart is in the right place! I think I could hugely benefit, but I want to do this the right way.

Diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 11, barely made it through high school, almost flunked out of college, but managed -- through extensive therapy and medication -- to make it through graduate school with halfway-decent grades. I don't feel that much about my ADHD is disabling anymore, and while I did have some accommodations for this disability while in school, I have worked on my coping mechanisms to the point that I am functional.

However, comorbid with my ADHD, I have panic disorder and major depressive disorder. I started having severe, debilitating anxiety attacks when I was in high school, and started medication and therapy around the age of 16. I continued in therapy through college, and now (age 29), I manage my disorders with my general practitioner. I have been his patient for the past 5 years. He has been very helpful, and after swapping my medication about 6 times after the last one pooped out, I'm finally on meds that help my symptoms, which include all the classics -- lethargy, loss of interest, inability to focus, EPIC SADNESS, shaking, nausea, dizziness, etc. -- plus fun and weird stuff like:
- Fear of driving alone (I sometimes take tranquilizers to mitigate the anxiety when initiating car travel by myself... you can probably see how this might be not-a-great solution, since it pretty clearly says on the bottle "Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery")
- Fear of bathing (completely irrational, but I will sometimes not shower for days when in a depressive episode. Plus, irrational anxiety brain makes me start to think I have rabies! :rolleyes:)
- Suicidal ideation (I have an action plan for crisis episodes, but I rely on support people in my life to help me execute my plan)
- Derealization/Depersonalization (Who am I? Where am I? None of this is real!)
- Dreamlike-sensations (Similar to the above, but with Enhanced Agoraphobia Action)
- Inability to cope with normal work stress (I am self-employed currently; when I was working any "real job," I was crying in the bathroom daily, and occasionally had to leave early or call in sick due to anxiety and panic)

Plus the fun side effects of my medications:
- Weeping openly in what appears to be a drunken state when my tranquilizers take me down off the anxiety cliff but leave me with the inconsolable sads... usually this means having to awkwardly escape from social situations, bawling and going, "I'm sorry! I love you! I'm nuts!"
- "Dream Hell" -- nightmare hallucination-type things + Sleep Paralysis which lasts for about an hour, which I cannot pull myself out of unless someone (boyfriend or dog) hears me make a tiny sound or twitch, and wakes me
- Insomnia because of "Dream Hell" described above

And the bonus effects of being born almost 4 months early: Sensory processing problems! I get overloaded and anxious in visually busy places, and I become very dizzy and disoriented in open fields/at the beach/other spaces with a lot of horizon. I can't handle balcony seats at the theater without becoming dizzy and nauseated. I'm not sure a dog could help me with these, but maybe? (I do have balcony seats for two shows next month... Sometimes the house manager will move me if there's an open seat available, sometimes I just feel sick, sometimes I leave early.)

I FEEL like I'm substantially impaired ("caring for oneself," sleeping, thinking, communicating, working, all are "major life activities" under ADAAA, plus the "major bodily function" of my jacked up brain) when my disorders are going hog-wild, and while my medication is working right now, my doctor would like to d/c it eventually (it can cause more neurological issues long-term) or at least do some "med vacations" so I don't have "SSRI poop-out syndrome". Under ADA, a disability can be episodic, and disability status should be considered regardless of mitigating measures like medication, therapy, etc.

I know a therapy dog is not a treatment, but might be able to help me cope with my symptoms enough to remain functional in times when I am without meds. I know that a dog isn't going to improve my psychiatric symptoms or even provide the right kind of emotional support (my boyfriend and our two dogs are ALL supportive and loving, it doesn't make me not-crazy), but I THINK having a dog for some of the following would make my traversing through the world much simpler:
- A car or bus buddy (because sedatives and driving don't mix)
- Bathroom pal! (my pets do this at home, but I have to travel for work and sometimes this involves extended stays in hotels where I'd like to not stink to high heaven after 3 days)
- Help somehow with carrying out my suicidal-ideation crisis plan? Phone fetching or similar? These meltdowns are pretty epic. It's been a while since I had one, but the last one was pretty bad.
- Reality checks/grounding during dissociative episodes OR tactile stimulation when I "zone out"
- Mitigating anxiety/panic symptoms with pressure?
- Turn on the lights and wake me out of "Dream Hell" described above

I have a VERY mellow black lab mix, about 50 lbs, who behaves beautifully in public, rides well in the car, is very obedient and a quick learner. I think he'd make a great candidate for an SD, but I find myself feeling a little guilty... Like maybe I'm not "damaged enough" to need an assistance dog, even though it seems like it would be such a good option and make my life so much easier?

I struggled with these same feelings getting accommodations for my ADHD, until a friend (who had accommodations herself for visual impairment) advised me that there's no reason why people with disabilities, even invisible ones, should have it harder than anyone else does in life. You shouldn't have to suffer out of a sense of nobility or because someone else has it worse than you do!

What do you think?

Offline BearNeccessity

  • Active Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 232
  • Location: Utah
  • SDC interest: owner-trainer
Re: Am I justifying? Or justified? :smile:
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2017, 09:14:57 PM »
Its not about being "disabled enough" because most of us never feel that we are. Its simply: are you disabled according to the ADA? The best person to answer this for you is a healthcare professional. The doctor that treats you, or a therapist you see is usually whats appropriate when thinking about a psych SD. We don't know you and couldn't possibly answer this.

The second part of the equation is, what tasks can a SD do to mitigate your disability? Accompanying you or providing comfort is not a task under the law. A task must be something that is trained. For example, waking you from nightmares is a task because you would need to train the dog to respond to a bodily cue given off during a nightmare by nudging you awake or turning a light on.

Also some definitions so we are clear.
Therapy dog - a dog that is trained to go to hospitals, old folks homes, etc to provide emotional support/comfort to the people it visits. It does not have public access rights or housing rights, with the exception of the facility allowing the therapy dog in to do its job.
Emotional support animal - any animal that gives emotional support. These animals also do not have public access rights. They can live in no-pets housing and fly in cabin in an airplane with a doctors note.
Service dog - a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks to mitigate a disability. Service dogs can go almost anywhere with their handlers, with very few exceptions (clean rooms in hospitals, in a restaurant kitchen or other place where food is prepared, etc...)

Also consider that it takes about two years to train a service dog. If your dog works out as a candidate, which may or may not happen, it could be a bit shorter (depends on age too, didnt see an age but I may have missed it). Its very stressful, expensive, and can be heartbreaking. Can you realistically handle that? Can you dedicate yourself to the daily training it would take? Can you handle the costs of working with a professional trainer (don't think you won't need one, unless you already have a TON of experience with dog training.) Not trying to discourage at all, just letting you know the realities of it. Also, super laid back dogs are not always the best candidates. They need to have some work ethic. The best thing to do should you choose to go forward would be to partner with a professional trainer and get an evaluation on the dog.
Good luck, and I hope you find a solution that works well for you.