Adventures as a Recent College Grad Living with Chronic Illness and Training a Service Dog

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Living with an Invisible Friend

Little kids get patted on the back and called creative when they have invisible friends. Mine is not so creative, but rather destructive. It's been reeking havoc on my nervous system since I was 14. Sometimes it will seem like it's on a vacation and I'm free of its cruel tricks, but it has only proven a matter of time before it comes back. 

My invisible friend is a form of Dysautonomia called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS. In the last 15 months it has been more visible due to it now causing me to be wheelchair bound, but it's been around for a while. 

Researchers are still trying to find out why some people develop POTS, but they have had recent success in proving what it is.  

They have found that people who have POTS have a specific antibody that's abnormal, and the more antibodies a person has, the more severe their symptoms. This leads them to the belief that this is something called an autoimmune condition.

Enough fancy medical talk- the plain of it is that I have this disease that causes my nervous system to royally stink at its job. It can make my heart rate go sky high, my blood pressure go lower than a machine can read, my stomach to decide to boycott food, and for my head to feeling like it's spinning on a turntable. On the rare occasion- just everything seemingly stops and I faint due to not enough blood getting to my brain.

Why am I writing all of that? Because a certain friend (cough JUSTIN cough) just wrote an amazing piece about Living 'sick'. 

I'm plenty familiar with the feelings that he talks about. The people that are amazed at seeing me in the grocery store... The people who watch me get in and out of my wheelchair to the car as if it was a heroic act...The people that say "I don't think I could ever overcome what you have"

You don't know. Until you are in the situation- you just don't know. Just three years ago, I was Circuit Champion at HITS in the Jumpers. Today, I'm in a wheelchair and can't stand up for more than 2-3 minutes without fainting. I'm also going to call out another friend on here that has been through a life situation recently, Ashley. 

My favorite quote from Ashley is from a conversation about a situation in a grocery store where someone saw her shopping and came up and called her an inspiration. Why? Because she was bald. Her thought process afterwards that she shared- Don't call her an inspiration!

I think it's really common to look at someone that is facing a different struggle than yourself, and to think that they need help, or seeing them spurs you to think how fortunate you are. While those are both completely valid thoughts- it's the comments that come out of peoples' mouths that can make someone living with any disability- invisible or not- feel like they are less of a person.

I think the take home point is that I OWN my illness. It does NOT own me. I HAVE Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. It might change the way I get around and the way I have to plan my day, but I still get to do what I want to do, and I AM STILL ME.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Max's Retirement

There are dozens of criteria that separate a good dog and those capable of being a service dog. Max had shown nearly every single one of those character traits. Together we always struggled with encountering other dogs. Well, about 2 weeks ago now, unfortunately Max crossed a line of unacceptable behavior. He went to go bark at another dog and ended up pulling me out of my wheelchair, and then drug me about 10' before he stopped. I have worked with him on this with a trainer for months- it's his nature to be protective of me. As absolutely heartbreaking as it was in the moment, I feel that it's my responsibility as a pet owner to make sure that he is happy, and he wasn't anymore because I didn't feel that I could safely take care of him.

He has found a wonderful family with a police officer, his wife and two kids about an hour away from where I am in Texas. I dropped him off this morning, and through all the tears, it was very evident how much he will be loved and spoiled. He has land to run and play on and his favorite type of humans- kids to play with!

So, this is the last post of Max and Me. With the help of a few local breeders, I was actually able to already find another dog. I'll share more details in the coming month, but want to be more sure of it working out before sharing.