Day 1 of 31 Days in August
The Chronic Illness Collection of the PTSD Poetry Project
“Hills & Valleys”
Long hills of amazing
Those periods of boundless energy
Followed by deep valleys
Of stumbling through my days
Of stuttering through my words
Of my hand trembling
Of shouting when I want to whisper
People shove their opinions upon me
Of what they think is ‘wrong’
Never understanding I’ve known
For twenty four years
Scarring hidden away inside
Causing electrical frays
Intermittent conduction only
I push away those with their opinions
Shoved at me
I don’t want to hear it
I have the diagnosis
Similar to everything in my life
It is a trifecta
Confusing in it’s complexity
But the blood won out
I believe in the blood
The blood told the truth
The blood will always tell the truth
Your opinion doesn’t matter
August 1, 2016
Since 1992 I’ve had a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. Even before this point there were marked periods in my life of hills and valleys. Until 1994/95 it had been a long period of relapsing remitting phases making long hills of feeling great, then the valleys of feeling terrible, tired and unable to think straight. Walking would become a ridiculous dance causing family members to think I was drunk all the time. Or worse for those in my family with hidden addictions to point fingers and say “She’s hiding something”. Because in most ways I was.
Often it’s called the tiger in our lives. We live together most often very amicably until the day it tears me apart. Then I stumble through my days, my hand tremors are pronounced and I will stutter. Most days however this doesn’t happen until my body has become tired and over exhausted. Then it’s apparent something isn’t okay with me.
Today is one of those days. I was out too long yesterday in the heat of the day causing heat exhaustion. The vertigo was making me want to slump down and close my eyes. Yet even those moments the vertigo reared it’s head to remind me I’d done too much. My body has trouble regulating temperature control and I sometimes, most times, forget this as I approach my six week plan for myself.
To be able to run, to walk, to lift is a gift each day I do it. See, the path my life has taken with M.S. has taken me to the bad days being in a wheelchair full time and the good being ones I only had to use the forearm crutches or a cane. When my doctor suggested a service dog the programs were looked into. A two year wait. I didn’t have two years to wait. I was progressing quickly towards the period of being in a wheelchair full time. A friend’s sister had a litter of golden retriever pups and I picked out a male from the litter. AKA goldens, he was a dark golden who I named Joseph after my doctor.
He became my companion who went everywhere with me. The arduous path of training, obedience training, socializing and bonding happened in the first year of his life. There were a lot of groups online for self training and they also shared all the federal laws governing service dogs. The how to’s were something I rammed into my brain while it could hold it in.
Doctor appointments, dentist appointments, the grocery store, and walks with the children, he went everywhere with me. It was unthinkable to leave him behind. He became my world, I couldn’t imagine life without this incredible dog. His idea of ‘showing off’ for visitors was to open the side by side fridge and freezer just for fun. I always thought it was odd he never did this when left alone or to get his treats which were inside.
He helped me with laundry, if I dropped anything he’d pick it up and he would fetch all day long just for fun. I’ve never had a dog who would fetch like he did. We advanced from pure obedience to clicker training and it was then his learning exploded. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t learn quickly.
Today I think about my PTSD companion dog and how different she is from Joseph. She’s not socialized so in public tends to want to jump up into my arms. She’s a 55lb german shepherd/healer mix so this is pretty ridiculous. I’d never have slept through my nights without her though. The night I finally gave in and let her sleep in my room was the first night I slept most of the night. I woke from a nightmare and she was right there licking my sweat covered neck to comfort me.
They make a difference in our lives these animals we call ‘fur babies’ and ‘people in a fur suit’. The period of time without a dog in my life was so lonely and yet it would have been difficult to have had a pet due to working three jobs, raising three children. But the day dogs came back into my life? A pregnant dog which hung around at work everyone pushed me to bring home. Two weeks later she gifted our family with 15 puppies.