Author Topic: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?  (Read 1274 times)

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Offline SarahBr

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Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« on: June 03, 2017, 12:17:37 AM »
Hi, my name is Sarah and I am 20 years old currently and have been living with major depression as well as generalised anxiety disorder and a panic disorder for a few years now. My severely autistic younger brother who I was a carer for passed away when he was 9 and I was 12, and this unresolved trauma has slowly been emerging in the form of my mental illness. My close-knit family has also encountered generational trauma in early traumatic deaths of people in each generation for the last four, which has resulted in a lot of the younger members of my family struggling with these issues too. I was also bullied extensively in high school and did not speak to anyone at school for two years, leading to some serious social anxiety when I started university. I have decided not to take medication for my issues, as I have had a few family members with the same issues who have not reacted well to medication (addiction or bad reaction meaning it worsened the depression). It was a family decision that we would find some non-medication based method to overcome this and get some of my independence back.

My family worries about me on a daily basis and they do not like to leave me by myself. My parents own their own small business and my sister attends university so they can't always be there when I need them. I dread having panic attacks or "bad days" and I want to get back to a level of independence that means my family won't have to worry about me so much. During my panic attacks I often hyperventilate until I pass out, shake uncontrollably, vomit, or get paranoid thoughts about those around me and my environment. Depending on the week, I have between 1 and 5 a week each lasting between 30 mins and a few hours, and most of them occur when I'm out in public and I can't call my family for help.

I have two dogs currently, but they're elderly now and closely bonded for almost 10 years so I can't take one away from the other as a service dog. The process of training my older dog Sam was a great experience for me; it was a good challenge and I got to do a lot of bonding with him and I think the opportunity to have a bond like that with another dog I can have for mental, as well as emotional, support would be extremely helpful for me. I think I would feel safer, and my family would be less worried, if I had a service dog to help calm me and to help me regain my independence.

I have read that you can train dogs to perform pressure therapy where they lie on your chest to force you to calm your breathing, which is one of the only things I've found that works. I also struggle to talk when I'm hyperventilating or panicking, and so if I could train the dog to get help when I can't that would be a massive assistance to my everyday life. I've also seen they can perform various reality-anchoring techniques which I hope would be able to help me stop from dissociating when its already started.

If anyone could provide me with some advice on whether a service dog would be right for me, it would be very helpful. I live in Sydney Australia, which has different laws around service animals, but any advice would still be much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2017, 04:31:47 PM »
How far have you gotten in therapy?  Reality anchoring techniques are actually performed by the human partner.  All the dog does is remind the person it is time to do them.

Have you tried weighted or compression garments for deep pressure therapy?  A dog lying on you is a poor substitute for a weighted blanket or compression garment so if they don't work you'll already know the dog doing it won't work either.

How do you picture a dog getting help?  Are you thinking about in your home, that the dog would seek out someone else in the home to let them know you are in trouble?  Or are you picturing this working in public places?  The thing is this can be done in a home, but isn't going to work in any place where it wouldn't be safe for a dog to be off leash and not supervised (so any place that is not enclosed and dog-proofed) which eliminates any place where he might encounter cars or automatic doors that would let him leave, that sort of thing.  Plus you can train a family member to react to the dog by looking for you, but that's not how the general public is going to respond when they see a loose dog.

Can you type when you can't speak, or write?  Texting might be an effective way to get help when you are in trouble and can't speak.  Or if you need to communicate something specific to someone who is standing right there and doesn't know about your condition a lot of people will anticipate what they would want to say and have it printed on business cards that they keep in their pocket and can pull out and hand to a person when they cannot speak.  The cards would usually say something along the lines of your name, that you're disabled and unable to speak and that you need assistance, please call _______.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline SarahBr

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2017, 07:52:41 PM »
Hi Kirsten, thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

Yes, I am aware of this, and ideally I would like the dog to recognise what a dissociative state looks like and take that as the cue to remind me to do them. Deep pressure therapy is done by psychiatric service dogs in Australia, I've seen them done in quite a few cases. I have looked into how to train a dog to do these as well, and I think it could be very helpful for me as my family and other support are often not around.

I would picture the dog getting help within my own home definitely. I don't carry my phone with me in my house as the buzzing and noises increase my anxiety as does any unexpected sound, so texting if often not an option unless my panic attacks happen to occur when I am near my phone. I would like to let my family know that if the dog comes to them and I'm not with them they could look for me. Just to be clear, I would never let the dog wander around anywhere that is not my house or backyard without me.

I have an enormously hard time communicating with people I don't know even in normal day-to-day life, and this is made a lot worse when I am having an attack. I often find my way to a closed space, like a bathroom, and hide there for a few hours until I feel normal enough to leave. Ideally, I would like the dog to be able to help me with the techniques above so I can go get help from other people or get home sooner.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2017, 08:58:34 PM »
Yes, I know dogs are trained to do deep pressure therapy, but its a poor substitute for a compression garment.  You can have a compression garment now to perform this function for far less than it would cost to train a dog to do it and in far less time and on top of that, it's more effective.

What you have a dog do in your own home isn't so much a factor.  I mean an existing pet dog can be taught to go and fetch someone on command (voice or hand signal).  If it's only going to be used in the home it doesn't take nearly as much training to proof and generalize the behavior to be reliable in a wide variety of public settings.  So separate out the home-only stuff from the public access stuff.

I'll be perfectly frank here.  You asked whether a PSD was right for you, then listed some things you would like the dog to do, probably based on task lists you have seen elsewhere.  For one, that doesn't give the kind of information I would need to offer any guidance on whether it is right FOR YOU and for another, in all honesty, it looks to me like you may have gotten the cart before the horse and instead of asking "what is the best way for me to address these limitations imposed on me by my mental illness?" you've instead sort of played "Jeapardy" (a game show here in the states, don't know if you have an equivalent).  In the game, the host gives the contestants an answer and they must guess the question, or more properly make up a question that matches the answer.  It looks like you've concluded that you'd like to have a service dog and then asked the question about justifying that choice or decision you've already made. 

When I've offered other options, options that are superior to a service dog, you don't seem interested.

So in the U.S. when I see this occurring what is usually happening is that someone would like the dog to accompany them to places where pet dogs would not be permitted essentially for emotional support, but they're struggling to find a way to justify that.  I understand wanting that emotional support but at the same time am I really helping someone when I encourage them to essentially violate the law in order to get what they think they desperately need.  Or am I helping them when I point out that they're talking themselves into a precarious situation for something that probably won't materialize in the end anyway.  I mean how many times do I watch a person follow this path and watch their pain when it doesn't turn out as they imagine it will or do I try to set them straight so they can make an informed decision about what they're going to do for all the right reasons?  Which is not the same thing as trying to talk them out of a service dog but is asking them to really examine their motivations and expectations so that they make the best possible choice for their own wellbeing for the right reasons.

And it looks to me like that may be where you are.  When I bring this up sometimes people just leave.  I suppose some are angry, some are hurt, and some simply don't want to have their plan challenged.  Others stay and the discussion continues.  Some of them do go on to get service dogs, some get emotional support animals instead, and some make other changes, such as changes in therapeutic approach to improve their lives.

And so a piece about me:  I have a traumatic brain injury and I tend not to filter thoughts or ideas well.  I tend to be blunt and say frankly exactly what I think.  I care about people and that they have good outcomes.  I like helping people.  But sometimes with my style of communicating people choose to feel invalidated instead.  I've been at this for around 18 years and I still don't have a recipe I can follow that will work in these situations.  I just have to keep winging it as best I can treating each person as an individual and trying to help.

You asked if a PSD is right for your circumstances.  And my answer is that I think at this instant in time it would be a mistake for you to get a PSD and that ultimately the endeavor would do you more harm than good BUT that with some additional work, with your therapist not me, digging into why you want a service dog and what your expectations are, using us here in the community as feed back or reality testing, if you will (since the bulk of us have been there and seen both sides, have experienced both the benefits AND the costs, and some even very much like you are right now), that you could hammer this out one way or another and find a solution (which might or might not include a service dog) but would be the best solution for you to get you some relief from symptoms and increased independence.  Which is really the ultimate goal, surely?  To not feel so trapped and so miserably uncomfortable so much of the time.  I've dealt with mental illness too, including crippling anxiety (PTSD) and in fact I still deal with it but that's the thing, I'm dealing with it.  It no longer stops me from living on my own and doing the things necessary to take care of myself, including procuring food and having social activities.

So which is it you want?  If you want encouragement to go ahead and get a service dog and to be told it's definitely the right answer and it will make everything better, there are a good number of groups on facebook ready to tell you just that.  If you want a community that will sometimes agree and sometimes disagree with you, who will challenge you to really dig into the underlying issues behind a decision like this one, not to knock you down or to fit in to the group, but because they care how you, an individual friend, fares in this world, if you want people who will care when you succeed and care when you fail and stand by you either way not because the social mores of the group require everyone to always agree and encourage, but because they care about you as an individual person they've come to know maybe you're in the right place right here.

What I suggest is that you print off this thread and take it along to discuss with your own therapist for guidance.  That's the person in the best position to answer a question like whether a certain path is the best of the available paths for you.  Or discuss it with your family who seem to be truly caring about your wellbeing.  (You're very fortunate there as many with mental illness are rejected by their own family.) You might also want to visit the board called "the down side of service dogs" to get an idea of some of the costs of service dog partnership that tend to get glossed over by most groups.  Things like how being attached to a service dog removes your ability to slip by unnoticed and encourages total strangers to approach you and engage you, sometimes in perhaps uncomfortable/intrusive ways.  Unfortunately, a lot of people, who are just curious and mean no harm, will still approach someone with a service dog and ask personal questions like "what's wrong with you?" or "How are you going to feel when you have to give him back?" and so on. Sometimes they mess with your dog even after you've asked them not to or put patches on that say "no petting."  It can sometimes feel like you're wearing a giant neon sign instead of walking beside a dog.  Anyway, the "down side" board should give you a broad overview of the negative aspects of service dog ownership to help you make a balanced, informed choice weighing both the pros and the cons and know what to expect and prepare for.

I do hope you stay, but either way I sincerely hope everything turns out well for you.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline SarahBr

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2017, 10:11:57 PM »
Hi Kirsten. I apologise for any offence caused, that was not my intention at all.

I just wanted to explore every option I have available. I made a list of everything that I've found that helps me feel less anxious and depressed and then looked at possible solutions to these. It included support groups which I find not to be an option as I have panic attacks whenever I try go, I tried extreme amounts of exercise but this was unmanageable as I started overworking my knees and arms and was told to rest by my doctor, I looked in medications but knowing the long term effects due to my health and medical science background as well as family history with addiction this couldn't be an option for me, I tried compression garments but they made me feel trapped and escalated the situation. I eat well, try to sleep well, and maintain an appropriate level of activity, but the crushing periods of depression and anxiety keep coming. There's been multiple occasions where I've fallen in the bathroom during a panic attack and hyperventilated until I passed out and a family member has only found me once they noticed I had been gone for hours. When this happens in public, after I recover I feel too ashamed to leave and so stay there until I can work up the courage to get out, which usually takes two or more hours. My partner has tried lying on top of me to help my breathing slow to a manageable rate, and I found the feeling of being crushed and feeling a heart-beat comforting and not terrifying like a compression blanket. I also tried looking into a family member's eyes to calm myself and anchor myself in reality, and time my breaths to slow them down.

All of the solutions I found involved assistance from a person, so I thought I could investigate a PSD as a possible option as people that help me are often unavailable. My pet dogs do not have this level of training, they live mostly outside and when they come inside when it's cold they stay in the room in the house closest to the backdoor and don't venture outside that.

I thought it could be helpful if I could have that anchor when out in public, and that assistance when at home. I need a reason to get up in the morning, and I want to regain my independence and make my life livable again.

Again sorry for any offence I have caused, and thank you for your advice.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2017, 01:06:51 AM »
Oh heck, I'm not offended.  I'm afraid I am over done on reading though (eyes are very blurry, eye strain from getting older and needing reading glasses).  I'm sorry, I'll have to finish reading tomorrow.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline missythewriter

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2017, 11:09:03 AM »
Here's the thing:

Having a service dog sounds amazing. You get to bring a dog with you (almost) everywhere you go, and it's against the law to be unable to. You get to have that constant companion there to help you, to pick you up when you fall, alert you to oncoming medical conditions, etc. etc. But even looking aside from that huge question of whether or not your condition should be mitigated by a dog, you need to think about the public repercussions as well.

I will promise you right now, people will hate you because of your service dogs. Restaurants will try to sit you in the very back corner or outside so they don't have to be around your dog. Businesses will begrudgingly allow you through their front doors, or may try not to at all. Gas station workers, fast food joints, clothing stores--more than half the time, they want you to leave. Forget about receiving that sweet "The customer is always right" treatment. Once there's a dog attached at the hip wherever you go, businesses and other public places don't want to service you anymore. From their perspective, what kind of nice-floored business wants a hairy, shedding, slobbery, long-nailed creature plodding through aisle seven?

And not to mention family and friends, of course. If you think all of your friends and family will happily accept your dog into their home or on their outings, I'm sorry, but you're probably thinking of them in too kind of a light. Even if they don't say anything directed at you on the subject (which I can assure you, some will), they will be thinking it. You are no longer "Oh, my sister/daughter/friend, So and So." You are now, "Oh, my sister/daughter/friend and her dog."

You will no longer be able to have a first impression. Ever. Your first impression may previously have been, "Oh, she's nice." "I like her smile." "She has a great sense of humor." Nope. Your first impression anywhere and everywhere you go is now "DOG." You won't be able to go to the grocery store without stares following your dog everywhere. People will follow you through aisles, take pictures of you, and ask you endless questions. Some of them curious. Most of them imposing or rude. They'll scream at you, show massive offense when you disallow them from petting your animal, and make wild assumptions about you because of the canine beside you. If you have crippling anxiety, having a service dog may actually come with more negative side effects than positive outcomes. The positives are great, but the negatives--and the ones I discussed are only those from a social standpoint--are huge as well.

Honestly, getting a service dog should be your last resort, after you've exhausted all possible options. Getting a dog is a lot more permanent than trying an herbal medication (as you said most drugs won't work for you: have you tried herbal remedies?), therapy, or other coping mechanisms. Once you get a service dog, you will always be "that disabled girl with a service dog" even long after you no longer need the dog (if that day comes). Before you even think about getting a dog, you need to think about whether you're okay with that. When people think of adjectives to describe you, ones that were previously defined by your talents, your traits, your characteristics, will likely be replaced by "Dog." You're going to deal with stares, public access issues, questions, comments, screams, yells, children running and grabbing at your dog, and so on. Ultimately, though the decision is yours to make, you should try literally everything else you can before getting a dog.

I only decided to get a service dog--and still won't be until 2018 or 2019--after trying medication after medication after medication, CBT, acupuncture, professional massage, changing lifestyle, etc. as a "fix" for my Chronic Migraines and Fibromyalgia. And I'm still going to be looking for other methods of management until then, to see if there's anything else to help that can replace the need for a dog. It's a huge commitment, and not one that everyone can make. It sounds like a dream solution, but it's really not. It comes with a lot of downfalls, a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of regret. Though it can be life-changing, you need to weigh both sides of the equation, rather than just the positives.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I hope this helps some.

Offline EverConfused

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2017, 11:32:30 AM »
hi and welcome, sarah!

i'm sorry things are so tough right now. i ask lots of questions below. these are just things that i think might be useful to think about. you don't have to answer them here. & if they're totally irrelevant, you can disregard them entirely. it's up to you.

Quote
I made a list of everything that I've found that helps me feel less anxious and depressed and then looked at possible solutions to these. It included support groups which I find not to be an option as I have panic attacks whenever I try go [...]

i think you're saying that support groups are helpful for you, but that you are struggling to get there because of panic attacks. am i understanding correctly?

would online support groups (in addition to this one) be appropriate or useful? have you asked your therapist for their recommendations? they might have some online resources to suggest as well as guidance for using online support in intentional, productive ways.

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I tried extreme amounts of exercise but this was unmanageable

hm. i'm not sure who advised you to do extreme amounts of exercise. certainly there are people who live for utlramarathons and channel swims, but most of us will get plenty of benefit from very moderate exercise and will not do well with extremes. i'm glad you talked to your doctor. i hope you've gotten some solid recommendations about how much exercise is enough for you.

if you haven't done so already, i think it might be worthwhile to speak to your therapist about exercise, mental health, and establishing realistic/healthy goals and expectations.

if your therapist was the one who gave you this advice in the first place, that's harder. it might make sense to let them know that the advice they gave you conflicted with what your doctor told you.

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I looked in medications but knowing the long term effects due to my health and medical science background as well as family history with addiction this couldn't be an option for me

was this a conversation you had with a doctor or research you did on your own? if you haven't spoken to a doctor or it has been awhile, i think it's worth having that conversation. not because i think you should take meds--i have no opinion on that and it's ultimately your choice--but because having a medical science background isn't a substitute for consulting a doctor. even doctors can't be their own doctors.

Quote
I tried compression garments but they made me feel trapped and escalated the situation.[...]My partner has tried lying on top of me to help my breathing slow to a manageable rate, and I found the feeling of being crushed and feeling a heart-beat comforting and not terrifying like a compression blanket.

has your therapist or doctor recommended dpt for you? have you tried other methods of administering dpt?

Quote
There's been multiple occasions where I've fallen in the bathroom during a panic attack and hyperventilated until I passed out

have you spoken to your doctor or therapist about this? have you gotten (& implemented!) any fall prevention techniques?


it sounds kind of like you've had to devise most of your coping skills on your own. do you feel that your therapist is helpful to you in this regard? either in teaching you new skills or helping you refine/modify the skills you've figured out on your own? if not, is that something worth discussing with them? is it worth looking for a new therapist with a different approach?
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Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2017, 10:57:35 PM »
I just wanted to pop in and say that finding a heartbeat comforting is not DPT. If DPT were effective for you it would be effective in compression garments or weighted blankets/pillows as well as in having a second person lay on you.

Finding the heartbeat comforting is emotional support, which is not a task that legally qualified a dog as a service dog. 
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Offline SarahBr

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2017, 03:17:52 AM »
Responding to Missythewriter

Hi Missy, thanks for the advice. Itís good to hear the advantages and disadvantages so thank you for being so open and honest with me. I feel like Iím a bit caught at the moment because it was never in my nature to care what other people thought until my anxiety got to where it is now.

Iíve talked through several options with my family (including medication, lifestyle changes, and a PSD) and this is the option theyíre most happy with, thatís why I decided to try get some opinions on this forum so thank you for thinking about that. Iím still looking for the best option for me but itís tough for me to keep up a commitment to wanting to get better so Iím doing it for them now (my sister, my mum, my dad, and what we think my brother would have wanted). This is the one they feel the most comfortable with so Iím happy to read up on it and keep getting advice.

Again, thank you for your contribution, it does mean a lot to me.

Offline SarahBr

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2017, 03:20:38 AM »
Responding to EverConfused

Thatís ok, I really appreciate your response, Iíll try my best to answer them. Ignore any answers that are too long, I just appreciate the advice on the parts you can answer.

Support groups
What I meant by that was that talking about whatís going on inside my head and what Iím thinking was really helpful to do with my family but since theyíre not always available I thought it might be a good idea to try support groups, but unfortunately it hasnít really worked the same way with strangers as it did with people I know and trust. I just end up panicking and hyperventilating, and itís really frustrating cause I really wanted that method to work. Just for some context my grandparents, aunt, and cousins, all of whom Iím really close with, I havenít been able to talk to them about it despite trying to. I would be willing to try online support groups (the first two responses to my first post on this one were really terrifying for me and I missed several days of university and work) but I might try start slower and build up to it. My psychologistís recommendation was NOT with people I donít know since I struggle a lot with communicating and openness with people I donít know; paranoia about them wanting to hurt me/touch me/etc. But Iím willing to give this another go, so thank you.

Exercise
The extreme amounts of exercise was on recommendation from two psychologists unfortunately. When I have ďgood daysĒ Iím a really active person and I love running, hiking, rock climbing, etc. and I need a lot of exercise to keep me satisfied so the idea was to exercise until I was very tired every day so that I wouldnít have the energy to be anxious. Clearly this was not a good idea and did not work at all. Thanks for the advice, I told them I was struggling with it and they told me ďkeep tryingĒ but I will try explain it better next time I see them.

Medications
Firstly, thank you for appreciating it is my choice first, I really appreciate it. This decision was a combination of my doctorís advice, my psychologistís advice, as well as familyís recommendation (2 nurse aunts, one of which specializing in drug medicine in which she has a PhD), and my own knowledge and studies (my specialty is in medical science and I have clinical experience in neuroscience and pharmacology, among others). My family (the non-science-experienced ones) had an input too, but I took the doctorís and psychologistís advice first.

DPT
My psychologist told me theyíd rather I just sit with the feelings of panic and let the physiological results (heart rate, blood pressure, hyperventilation) just take their course, which is really not helpful because even after a year of this strategy it continues to take the same amount of time to recover and feels just as awful. I tried a pressure blanket filled with sand on the suggestion from a doctor and recommendation from a friend separately and it really did not work for me. It was a terrifying experience so I was really hesitant about trying it again. Another psychologist told me I should try the same kind of thing but with a person (my partner volunteered which was great) and it was a much better experience. Iím not sure if it was more to do with the heartbeat I could hear, the weight (heís 90 kg, approximately 198 lbs), or maybe just the knowledge that it was a living thing causing the pressure so I could get out anytime.

Falls
I have spoken to my psychologist about this and the advice has mainly just been when I feel like I may be getting to a point where I might fall, I should just make my way to the ground and lie there, which I do. Other than that there havenít been many management strategies for this. My house is all one level so luckily I donít have to worry about falling a long way. The main issues with falls for me is no one finds me until either I crawl to help before hyperventilating until unconscious, a family member comes and looks for me, or when I regain consciousness I can get back up. This wouldnít be too bad except for the fact that a few times this has been in the shower or bathroom and, since my house doesnít have heating because it's normally not needed in Sydney, the tiles are still very cold particularly in winter so Iíve gotten mild hyperthermia twice from this.


My psychologist is a little different in that her style is to encourage me to try find my own coping strategies opposed to her giving me some. Itís a little frustrating to be honest, but Iím still hopefully that it will be helpful if I keep going. I would be open to trying an additional psychologist so Iíll have a look around.

Again, thank you for your advice, I really appreciate it.

Offline SarahBr

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2017, 03:23:40 AM »
Responding to Summertime.and.Azkaban

Hi, thanks for the contribution. In Australia, specialized psychiatric service dogs that perform these behaviours actually can legally qualify as a service dog. If the mental illness influences your everyday life and you have a dog that alleviates some of the symptoms that disable you from living your life as normal, they can qualify as a service dog. (If I do eventually decide to look into getting a service dog, it would be trained to do more than just this though.) I understand the laws are different, and that might be where some of the different opinions are coming from. For example, many people that have service dogs in Australia have qualified their existing pets once they were trained to perform behaviours, or simply learnt behaviours with no training, which assist their ownersí psychiatric symptoms both in their houses and in public.
Thank you for the advice, I appreciate it.

Offline Moonsong

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2017, 09:03:00 PM »
I'd like to share a few opinions I've made reading your latest posts. Please excuse any bluntness.

1. Getting a service dog is going to affect you much, much more than it will affect your family. The same goes for just about any form of treatment. Don't make such a huge, fairly expensive, and crucial decision based only on what they prefer. You need to figure out for yourself what's best for you, not just what they think is best for you.

2. I find the responses you are getting from your psychiatrist disturbing. That they would advise against working on a severe social issue (to the point where you're missing work and school) is a bit scary to me. I don't know them or your individual situation, but would imagine that they would want you to improve on the issue, rather than just ignore it. Then, they say to "keep trying" a method that, not only sounds like a bad idea to me, a layman, but one that your doctor specifically said not to do is definitely a red flag for me. I know you said you want to explain it better next time, but I feel like if you tell them that your doctor said it's not safe for you that should be enough.

3. Regardless of the laws in Australia (I'm not familiar with them), what you were describing can't be DPT. If you didn't receive the same benefit from compression garments or a non-living weight, but did from your partner then what you're experiencing is emotional support and not deep pressure therapy.

4. I would speak with your doctor about your falls. It's possible that they aren't being caused by panic, even though they happen during panic attacks or may have panic as a symptom. For example, they may be triggered by panic attacks, but the reason you're falling is due to another medical condition entirely. Or for another example, they may be happening when you start hyperventilating, meaning that you pair them with panic attacks when really it's the breathing that triggers the fall. In any case, definitely ask your doctor about it, because it could be another issue entirely. Either way, whether it's panic attacks or something more, you need to do more than just lie there. You need some fall prevention techniques or methods to cope with the fall after it happens. That might mean a life-alert kind of thing where you push a button so that someone knows to come find you, or it may be something else. In any case, I think that just letting them happen without attempting to prevent or manage is a bad idea, but I'm no doctor, so take that with a grain of salt.

5. Your response to Summertime worried me just a little bit. There are lots of people here in the states who claim that their dog can be a service dog only providing emotional support because that's "a service". It's easy to think that you know the law, especially with the incredible amount of misinformation on the internet, and end up hurting yourself in the long, or even short run. Can you give us a link to the source where you learned that any mitigation, even emotional support, still qualifies a service dog? It's not that I don't believe you, it's just that it sounds hauntingly familiar to what scam sites advertise to people and I would hate for you to believe you have a legal service dog only providing emotional support, and later face legal ramifications.



Anyways, I'm sorry if anything I said caused you distress or was too blunt. I care lot about seeing you succeed and hopefully get better. Also, please take everything I said with a grain of salt as it's purely my opinion as a layman.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 09:07:22 PM by Moonsong »
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Offline EverConfused

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2017, 10:18:02 PM »
hey sarah. i'm glad to hear from you again. :smile:
i have a few more thoughts that may or may not be helpful.

support groups:
i'm sorry support groups have been a source of anxiety for you. i think starting slow is a great idea. one thing i like about online groups is that i can participate in whatever way works for me at any given time. i can read but not post, reply to other people's threads, participate in discussions that aren't too personal, etc.

i don't know how much time you've spent looking at the rest of the forum, but there are discussions about dog care, hobbies/crafts, relevant news items, etc. i've been in a bunch of online support over the years and i prefer the ones that have places to discuss other things too. i personally find it helps me feel more comfortable talking about personal stuff if and when i want to. (another possibility is finding an online community based on another interest entirely, e.g. a rock-climbing or hiking group. that wouldn't be a support group per se, but it could be interesting and be a lower stakes way to get used to talking to people.)

while it's probably worth working toward widening your circle of trust a bit, i personally don't believe that you have to do that in any specific context. that is, i don't think you need to share more than you are comfortable with on this forum and i definitely don't expect or want you to share anything that makes you uncomfortable with me.

plus not every group works for every person. i've been part of some groups that had lovely, kind people, where the tenor of the discussion just didn't work for me. so while i do hope you'll stay and i think you'll be a great addition to the community here, i would be remiss if i didn't mention that i've had to look around to find groups that were a good match for me (both online and in person).

exercise:
oof. i hope your psychologists are more receptive when you explain this time. exercise is good for a lot of things, but it's not a miracle cure by any means. i think if you're already used to being pretty active on a regular basis, you're just not likely to see the same kind of dramatic improvements that people see when they go from very little activity to doing some amount of exercise on a regular basis.

i hope your knees feel better and you're able to the activities that you enjoy, at least.

medications:
i'm glad to hear that you spoke to your doctor. i, uh, have some person experience with making decisions first and consulting professionals later and i'm glad to know that you're more sensible than that!

dpt:
"My psychologist told me theyíd rather I just sit with the feelings of panic and let the physiological results (heart rate, blood pressure, hyperventilation) just take their course"

hm. i'm not a psychologist, so i am really talking out of turn here. i think even if you are going to sit with the feeling of panic there are different ways of doing that.

i don't deal with panic attacks, but for the situations that i do deal with, i need to practice certain self-regulation exercises consistently so they are available to me in the moment. in other words, for me personally, "sit with the feeling" isn't enough guidance. i need to do specific things ahead of time and in the moment in order to be able to do that.

of course, your therapist may have a really solid reason for advising you as they have. i do better when i understand the rationale behind a certain treatment approach, so i would ask if what the mechanism of action is. i would also ask or look for more concrete advice on how to actually  sit with uncomfortable feelings.

i hope you're able to find some more strategies that work for you. i find it so frustrating when my doctors are really set on one path for my treatment/management and it's not clicking for me. sometimes i just needed to give it more time. other times i did need to try something else. it's really hard to know which is the right option at any given time. you're trying different things (like posting here!) at least. in my experience that's an important and difficult first step, so high fives for that. :smile:
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Offline BearNeccessity

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Re: Is a psychiatric service dog right for my circumstances?
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2017, 11:32:08 PM »
Hi Sarah. Sorry times are rough, and I hope you will find support and better times ahead.

I am also a bit concerned about your therapist. Have you considered trying someone new? Sometimes, not every therapist is right for every person. I have very severe PTSD. One therapist I went to was well-educated and trained in helping people like me. However, she was horrible for me. Her techniques did not work for me personally. I knew they were not working, but stuck with it anyway because I thought that was what was best and it would work out eventually. That led to me getting worse, and my husband taking a week off work to help me through some very difficult times so I didn't have to go inpatient. I did much better with a different therapist, who took different approaches to helping me.

Anyway, that was a long way of saying, I would think about how much therapy is helping you, or if it is hurting you. If you have been going consistently for awhile, and are not getting improvement out of it, I would seek out a different therapist and give it a try. It may help, it may not. I also recognize that switching therapists in and of itself can be terrifying or traumatizing. I hated it every time I had to switch due to imcompatibility or moving. The first month or two were awful. But it could be very, very worth it for you to explore this.

On medication:
It is absolutely your choice. That being said. If you are a student and have summers off (maybe not), it might be worth considering if that would be a safe time to try it. They can be incredibly helpful to some people and do not have to be a lifelong thing. I was afraid of them as well, and had a bad reaction (terrible dissociation) with one even. But the goal for me was to find one that helped enough that I was able to calm down enough to learn and implement coping strategies effectively. Once I had found a medication that worked, and then used the time on it to learn coping skills, I weaned off it and did quite well. It was hard weaning off, because of course my symptoms spiked, but the coping skills I had been able to learn to implement got me through it. Anyway, if there is a stretch of 3 ish months where you have less responsibility and someone you trust to watch you (a partner is great), then I think the risk may be worth it. I made sure my husband knew my fears, symptoms to look out for, etc, so he could watch over me while I found out what worked. It kept me feeling safe about the whole thing. Only you can decide this of course, this is just my personal experience. Medication doesn't have to be a "solution" or a "cure" It can simply be a tool to bring your anxiety down enough that other measures (therapy, coping skills) can begin to take effect.

On service dogs:
I'll take a bit of a different approach and say there may very well be things a dog can do for you that would help. They may not be the things you are currently thinking of. The suggestion to talk it over with a doctor or therapist is a good one, because they know you much better than we do. Typically, its best to make a list of symptoms that are most distressing to you. Then, find a way a robot could mitigate those symptoms. Then, see if a dog could be trained to perform those things the robot could do.

For example. I dissociate, and when I do I just keep doing whatever it was I was doing. This is super dangerous with walking, because I'll just keep walking until I "wake up". If I could have a robot poke me every time I dissociated to snap me out of it, or at least warn me, I could make sure I either implemented calming techniques, or at least was sitting down in a safe place. That way, I wouldn't walk out into traffic, or end up hours away from home, lost, with blisters. Then I'd ask if a dog could perform that function. The answer was yes, and my dog has indeed prevented many distressing dissociative episodes and their consequences.

The robot part is simply to separate emotional support from actual taskwork. I am not familiar with the laws in Australia, but here emotional support does not count. So this is a necessary and useful step.

Others are right about a dog attracting all kind of unwanted attention so be aware that that's not an exaggeration. People will be rude. In my experience, not to the extent that missy made it sound like, but still probably more than you think. It seems to be worse in smaller towns. And your experience is going to vary depending on your particular community. Even if people aren't flat out rude, they tend to focus on the dog more than you, which can make you feel a bit invisible and like you only ever get seen as the disabled girl with the dog.

Also, even if a service dog is for you, remember that it will take years to accomplish this, and you need coping techniques now. So whatever you decision, do make sure you are finding other things that help in the mean time.