Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Waterfalls and Mental Health

 Here's another "today's view from our mobile office."  Have you noticed I like to park and work near water -- particularly moving water and more particularly waterfalls?  I find water very calming to see and even more so if I can hear it. It also helps me work productively on something that requires significant attention and focus, like writing. Today I was triggered  into an angry, hypomanic mood. The event that triggered me would have made anyone mad, but I got the anger with truly racing thoughts about what I should have said or done, what I will say or do,and all the incidents in both recent and ancient history where this person has treated me and others in a similar way --  not to mention crushing pressure in my chest.

 You can't eliminate all bipolar symptoms, but you can learn to deal with them. Here's what I did:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Don't Restrict the Right to Service Dogs!

I wrote a guest post on Maeve's blog the other day.  We keep running into well-meaning people who think the ADA should restrict service dogs by requiring certification and/or professional training.  Here's why that's not true:  http://servicepoodle.blogspot.com/2011/06/why-professional-training-or.html

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Service Dog on the Trail

Maeve and NY Mountain Laurel along the Appalachian Trail
Hiking is the primary reason why I decided to get a service dog. Memory and attention problems caused by my illness and past treatments have made it much less safe for me to be out in the woods by myself, but hiking was very helpful in controlling my bipolar disorder and anxiety. On a good day, I'm quite competent in the woods. On a bad day I might tend to make wrong turns because I'm not paying attention to the trail markers. On a really bad day I don't make short-term memories for a while. This means I could end up in the middle of nowhere and not even remember anything I walked by. Worse still, I don't always perceive that I'm having a bad day until I realize I've screwed up.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

May SPOT Outdoors Report

This was NOT the best month for outdoor activities  (unending rain, scores of bloodthirsty ticks, tornado warnings, migraines, and family troubles), but we got out every day except for one anyway.

We went to state parks, a national forest, and rivers in three states. We saw dozens of varieties of wildflowers (including two varieties of wild orchids), encountered innumerable birds (including a black vulture who was quite interested in Maeve and whom Maeve decided to chase), gathered 11 pounds of morel mushrooms,  and visited waterfalls (all that rain had to be good for something).  On days where the weather was too bad, I was too sick (or too lazy), or we weren't organized enough to go out and do something more interesting we played outside with our favorite toy--a Kong Frisbee.

The effect? It was a difficult month and full of triggers .While I suffered a fair amount of anxiety, my moods were more under control than in any month in the years since my illnesses left me unable to work. I even had some symptom-free days--a real novelty.

May SPOT Outreach Report

Good News: In the first month (roughly) we were able to add 43 businesses in 4 states to Maeve's Business Honor Roll and more than half earned a Two Paws Up.  We had only one unpleasant incident and even that was just annoying. 

Good News: We happened upon at least a few people in three states with psychiatric disabilities who didn't know they had the right to have emotional support animals (pets) in no-pets housing without deposits or fees. (We only count those who disclose to us that they or a family member suffer from a mental illness so it may have been significantly more.)

Good News: Despite everything that went wrong, we had a good interview on Dog Works Radio. Read all about it and/or listen to it.

Good News: We talked to many people in grocery stores, restaurants, malls, parks, and on trails in four states.  Almost always we disclosed that Maeve is a psychiatric service dog. Often we disclosed that Joanne suffers from bipolar disorder and a slew of anxiety disorders. Usually we talked to people about rights under federal laws to emotional support animals and to psychiatric service dogs. In addition to getting the word out about these rights, this serves to fight stigma. We also remind people that they almost certainly know a number of people with psychiatric disabilities.
Good News: We attended the Annual Canine Convention for Autism in Montgomery sponsored by and New York State Mental Health Association and a Candlelight Vigil for Health and Wellness in Torrington, CT sponsored by Advocacy Unlimited, the NW Region of CT's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Primetime House.