Suffocation

Just when I thought things were getting to the point where I couldn’t take any more, and there wasn’t anywhere to go but up…I get knocked right down again. Hard. Like, I can’t get up, and I have no willpower to continue.

For the first time since this whole thing started, I feel like it isn’t going to end. More and more bad things keep happening. Even itty bitty small things are being monumental. If I drop a dish, or have a dog have an accident in the house right now, I feel like I just might break down, have a panic attack, and I won’t be able to continue living. I somehow have been able to pick myself up every time. I don’t want to get up this time. I just want to stay down so I can’t get kicked down again.

Everything that I try to do is ending in failure. A complete disaster. One bad call after another. Every decision I am making is worst than the last. How do I continue on when I’m making decisions that keep making things worse? There is no right answer. The consequences of those decisions haunt me.

Heather  Hamilton Project K9 Depression Bipolar blog

Manic Time Bomb

ticking time bombWhen I get to the point where I feel manic, I usually have a panic attack. I’m pissed, I’m depressed. I want to scream at the top of my lungs, and I want to break down and cry my heart out. I get shaky and snarky. Like, I judge everyone. That’s not me. Tonight, I was manic for about 4 hours without having an attack. I’m still on the edge. One extreme to the other. I can’t calm down, I can’t stop. I am seriously shaky and just drained. I can’t sleep, so I’m writing. Again. This seems to be the only thing that helps me. Putting my thoughts down.

Every little thing sets me off. I’m a time bomb. My mind is scrambled, I am forgetting everything. I am slipping. I can’t make good decisions. This is the time when I want to be medicated. These manic attacks. I live in manic now. It’s almost like I have split personalities. One minute, I’m super sensitive Heather, and the next, I am wanting to scream and break things.

Just fucking tear my heart out and get rid of it. I don’t need this. Take my brain too, because that seems to be part of the problem. I can’t think anyway. I can barely keep track of what I have to do each day. I have never felt so disorganized. I have never felt like I don’t have a hold on my life. I’m spiraling out of control, and there isn’t anything I can do to stop it. I’m trying, but it’s not good enough. I can’t accept help because I feel I am bringing other people down with me. I have to do this alone.

This is where I am begging for medication. Just put me out of my misery and drug me up so I can’t feel this way. But then, once I do start to feel like a normal human being again, I don’t want the meds anymore. I don’t need emotions, I don’t need to feel. Take away the good too, the bads aren’t worth it.
I’m frantic. I have too much to do, and I can’t do it all alone. I have to pack, train, take care of all my boarding dogs, my own dogs, clean, and list my house, along with all the other normal things like paying bills, shopping, and taking care of the house and the lawn. My normal household responsibilities just quadrupled. Plus everything I need to do to sell my house. I’m quite overwhelmed.

I’m making big decisions, and I feel so very much alone. No one is here to help me make these decisions. I have people who can give me advice, but the reality is that I have to do this by myself. I am alone in this void, and everyone else is on the outskirts, watching me. Some wishing they could help, others watching the show.

Make me numb. I like that feeling better. Please, let’s go back to that. I try to push people away when I’m here because all I’ll do is hurt them. I care about them, and I want them to back off so I don’t say something that would hurt them. Or freak them out by showing them this side. It’s not a pleasant thing to see me when I’m like this. I don’t want people seeing it. I freeze up, I’m quiet. It’s like a calmness right before a bomb goes off. I’m just afraid of the damage it causes when it actually goes off.

Anger in a dark place

It comes in cycles. Sadness, hopelessness, the feeling of wanting to curl up and die. Then, comes the pissed off, no bullshit attitude where I don’t take anyone’s shit. I’m angry and hurt and mad at everything. I’m depressed, but pissed. I don’t sleep, which makes everything more maddening. I’m touchy, and can’t seem to actually cheer up. I have moments where I’m not in as much pain as normal.  I want to punch something. Violent video games and/or alcohol aren’t helping. Walks, baths, training, meditating, reading, nothing helps. My normal stress relievers aren’t working.

I’m productive when I’m pissed though. I can’t sleep, so I clean and pack, I advertise my business, I get shit done. I’m bold and assertive, sometimes abrasive. Not necessarily a good thing, and sometimes I use too much pressure when working a dog. In knowing this, I have chosen not to work with severely difficult dogs right now. Oh yeah, I get brave too. So, here’s my announcement.

I’m getting a divorce. My husband has moved out, and I’m moving out in the next few weeks. It’s too complicated to get into anything as to why right now, and honestly, I don’t want to talk about it. Bottom line, my security blanket is gone. My comfort level is at zero. My life is a mess, I feel like I’m floating, watching my life be torn apart. My business, my finances, my house, my mental state of mind, all dissolving.

I’m moving in with my best friends for the time being. I will still train, but I don’t do boarding, daycare, as many board and trains, or group classes. I may be able to start up group classes later in the summer, but right now, I need to focus on getting my life back together. I’m just focusing on private sessions right now, and making sure I always have at least one board and train for the next few months. I’m unhappy about having to do this, but I need to move out, and I need to move on.  And I am with the only people who make me happy. Of all the options I had, this is the best one. I need support more than I need anything right now, and I can still work and do what I love. Hopefully I’ll climb back up to the top of the cliff again…

So, as I mentioned previously, I’m shattered. I’m strong though, too. I can get through it, even though it seems I’m getting deeper and deeper in a sinking black hole. I’m not the first one to go through this, and other people have had way worse situations. I shouldn’t even be sad. There are starving kids in China, and people who don’t even have homes. I should buck up.

Invisible Battle Scars

No one can see them. No one knows they are there unless they know you or if you have told them. You don’t want to tell people. You wish it was an external wound, like an amputated leg. Then, you wouldn’t have to explain. You put on a face to hide the scars so you don’t have to talk about it.

Why do we hide it? Are we ashamed? Are we scared someone will ask us how we are? Are we too proud to accept help? Whatever the reason, we do it.

Sometimes, we get so into pretending we’re fine, that we trick ourselves. We tell people we are fine, and actually believe it for a minute. Then, after they are gone, we realize we aren’t fine. Then, the feeling is back, and we are, yet again… alone.

I feel whiney, depressed, and pathetic. A burden to everyone around me. A charity case. No one really actually wants to help, but they do out of a feeling of obligation. They pity you. Maybe this is the depression talking, but that is the reason I have such a hard time accepting help. I don’t feel like anyone would actually want to help me. Why would they want a project friend? I’m broken, and to fix me takes too much work. I try to distance myself. I don’t want to drag anyone down with me. I should do this alone. This road is too dark to bring anyone else along. It would be a disservice to them.

Sleeping. I don’t do this much anymore. However, I fall asleep at the most inopportune times… like at the movies, at the salon when I’m getting my hair done, when I’m trying to work, or when I’m making dinner. One time this week, I fell asleep in the shower.

I don’t want to be this way. But I don’t know how to get up again. I’ve been kicked in the guts, and I don’t have the energy. “Do something for you” means sit around and feel mopey. I don’t want to do anything for me. I don’t want to do anything at all. I do the bare minimum to get me through the day. I’m not living. I’m surviving.

I’ll admit it now. I’m shattered.

Shattered Broken Strong

I'm Heart BrokenA world turned upside down.

Everything I have worked for, dissolved. Gone in just one decision.

Plans made, and disappeared.

Dreams shattered. Steps taken back.

Decisions, so many decisions. Make them stop. Just make them for me.

Overwhelmed. Too many feelings. Drug me so I can’t feel them. I can’t take any more.  Make this go away. I don’t care if I’m numb. I don’t need feelings anyway. Lithium, take over from here.

Depressing thoughts accompany me. Envelope me. Feelings of self despair and hate. It’s my fault. I did this. I could have stopped this.

Thoughts of the end start to appear. Myemotional side fighting my logical side.

“You’re strong…” “It wouldn’t take much. Just do it.” “It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” “Just the thought makes me feel better.” “Stand up, you can do it.” “Just go to sleep, don’t wake up and you won’t feel anything” “There is light at the end, I promise”

STOP fighting. It’s exhausting. I can’t think. I can’t breathe. I can’t move.

I stand up, and start again. And I fall again. I can’t seem to keep my balance. I’ll just stay down.

I’m going against the grain already. I’m being pushed back, and I don’t have the strength to stand up again. Just let me lie here. Just for a while. Let me rest and just absorb the punches for a minute.

Don’t ask if I’m alright. I’m not. But then, I have to be. People count on me. Why? What do I have that can help them? There isn’t anything here, move on to the next person. I’m all out of things I can give people. I’m exhausted, drained. Out of service. Go somewhere else.

One Day at a Time

Emotions. Why do we even have them? What’s the point? They just create unstable, unbalanced feelings that we act on, and then make decisions based on what we are feeling in that moment. Had a good day? Great, reward yourself with a high calorie, sweet treat from the ice cream store. Because that just makes things even better. Feeling depressed? To the bottle, yay! Feeling frustrated? Start a fight in a bar! Overwhelmed? Just throw your arms up and give up on life. Feeling sad? Mope and watch sappy, stupid movies while eating chocolate and drinking wine.. Alone.

Alright, maybe not everyone does those exact things, but I’m just saying we act on them. So, because when I’m overwhelmed, and possibly turning my entire life around AGAIN (yeah, I know. Sounds like me, right?), I take on a foster dog. I really like this kid, and if he fits in well in a month or so, he may just join my pack. I don’t know yet though. So far, he’s shown quite a bit of improvement in just a couple days. I’m on a roller coaster, and I can’t get off. So many things, so many situations, so many decisions. I can handle it, I can’t handle it. I’ll be ok, I’m going to puke. I think I’m almost off, then we start to go up again. And I wait for the fall. When does this end?! Overwhelmed, frustrated.

End of My Leash great Danes Aggressive

Haven and Tank (Boarding School clients)

I also just had a de ja vu experience with a great dane (yeah, another one. This has nothing to do with the breed, I promise) who reminded me a lot of Ryder’s situation. Her name is Haven. She is a beautiful black dane who is unpredictable around dogs, people, and sometimes food. When the owners were talking to me about her, I had a sinking feeling that reminded me of Ryder. It’s been almost a year since I put him to sleep. This new dog had similar traits that sent up red flags and made me take a step back. I observed, I did an evaluation on her, and still had a feeling about her. During the eval, she gave me absolutely no reason to feel like I couldn’t handle her. She was responsive, sensitive, and showed zero aggression towards me or the other dogs. I asked for advice from more experienced trainers, and I was told to let the past go, learn from it, and give her a shot. Try her out for a week. I still had a feeling about this, but it was only because of what the family was telling me. Feelings of … caution.

Anyway, I took her as a Boarding School client, and we started training. Two weeks (out of the four weeks she is supposed to be here) go by without an incident, and she is responding to training beautifully. One day, as I was letting the dogs out, our streak was broken. Over the course of two days, she went after four different dogs. The only warning I had was a feeling I had before letting her out of the kennel. No real warning signs that I could see. It isn’t like I haven’t handled ‘aggression’ before, but this is different. I wasn’t comfortable. And I was emotionally attached, and saw Ryder, not Haven. I called my trainer friend and explained the situation and said I couldn’t work with her – she was too much dog for me. I cannot begin to explain how guilty I felt. Thoughts of failure, guilt, sadness, loss, and how I had let down Ryder flooded me. I was again overwhelmed with a sense of complete failure. I couldn’t help this dog. I have been told time and time again I cannot save them all. It sucks when this happens, but it does happen. I know that, but it doesn’t suck any less, and I’m too fucking sensitive for my own good. So, feeling of heartbreak.

Project K9 Pitbull Foster Dogs

This is Rocko

Last time, I chose to continue working with Ryder, even though he was quite a bit of dog for me then. This time, I asked the owners to pick her up, and referred to another trainer. I handled it the best I could for the situation. It’s messy, and I feel like again – I couldn’t help. What if I had been training for 40 years, or if I was the best? Feelings of doubt.

So, now I’m here. Thinking about all of it again. Overanalyzing. Learning. Advancing. Yes, I have high standards, and for some reason, I feel like emotions make us weak.

So, I’m choosing another emotion. Numb. Let’s try that one for a while.

The Cesar Millan Experience

Exciting news! I had a very rare, unexpected opportunity to attend one of the Training Cesar’s Way workshops this year. I had a strict budget for workshops this year, and my mentor asked me if I could swing this one. How could I not?!Heather Hamilton Cesar Millan Project K9

I went with my mentor, Heather Beck from K9 Lifeline, and my friend Bethany Tracy from Wasatch Canine Camp. I was so excited, I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was going to train under the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan! I wonder what he would be like in person!

I had no idea what to expect. When we got there for the arrival dinner, there was a crew asking for interviews. Basically, just asking about we expected from the workshop. I had no idea, but I know I wanted to learn how to be a more stable, calm and assertive pack leader. No matter how long you have been training, you can always learn something new.  My super duper end goal is to handle any dog, and work with any issue. For now, I want to be able to walk a big pack, as well as to feel like a strong pack leader working with or without dogs.

Cesar Millan Project K9 Wasatch Canine Camp Dog Psychology CenterIt was a very small group, and we had a chance to talk before we headed to bed that night. I met some interesting people. Some of the ladies were even from out of the country. Germany and The Netherlands!! Everyone had different experience levels, and came from different backgrounds. Veterinarians, rescue folks, trainers (positive only, and some balanced trainers, all with different levels of experience), and even some people who were just there to learn more about handling their own dogs!

Finally, the day has come! We drive to the Dog Psychology Center to meet Cesar and learn some brand new, amazing material. We pull up and it’s better than I could have imagined! It is 42 acres of peaceful, serene land that Cesar has transformed into a zen-like dog park where dogs can be rehabilitated, and owners can learn to be all they can be for their dogs. It’s all about balance, and achieving harmony. He thought of everything, and is still expanding the center.

Heather Hamilton Cesar Millan Project K9 pack WalkWe started our day with a pack walk with Cesar! As we were walking, I realized, he was just a normal guy, who wants to help people with their dogs. His energy was so calm, inviting, and almost helped you be a calm assertive pack leader. He made you feel safe without any judgment. He gave each person a turn over the course of the week to walk his pack. By watching others handle the pack, you could see the energy of each person change the energy of the pack. You could see if that person was tense, scared, or not confident within the first few seconds of handling the pack. Not being judgmental at all, Cesar pointed this out, and helped each person achieve balance while walking. It was a powerful thing to watch each person overcome their own personal struggles and get a little closer to becoming that strong leader.

Cesar Millan Project K9 Dog Psychology Center Serene

Serene waterfall at the DPC

Every day, after our pack walk, we went into a tent to listen to Cesar lecture and teach us about his principles and theories. Almost all of it were concepts I have heard before, but didn’t quite GET until now. I had the building blocks set before I came, and this workshop was the mortar to build something great. Each new concept he discussed built upon the last. We had hands on experience working with each section, and had plenty of time to ask any questions we wanted. Cesar spent as much time as necessary to explain it in a way where the person asking could understand and explain it back to him to make sure he understood. I learned so much by just listening to other’s questions. Since everyone had different experience levels, some of the questions were coming from an ‘owner’ point of view, instead of a ‘dog professional’ point of view. However, they were not bad questions. It was really interesting to hear how everyone interpreted what Cesar was saying in their own way. Seeing these people grow, and the light switch coming on was rewarding in itself.

I’m the type of person who loves to see other people succeed, change, and grow into something spectacular. There was a lot of that going on in this workshop. I was watching a few people in particular, because I saw some of my own challenges in them. Everyone has roadblocks preventing them from moving forward or growing. Some of them were pretty obvious, and some were so big, you felt it yourself when they started to get close to the top of climbing that wall. Heather Beck is one of Cesar’s top trainers, as well as the owner of K9 Lifeline, and he said it best: You aren’t trying to fix anyone. You just want to plant the seed. I used to be that person – She planted a seed in me, and I have grown into a better trainer. I will always be a seedling, but I’m a little taller than I was last year. These people will also be a little taller next year.

Cesar Millan Project K9 Sheep HerdingOne of my favorite events of the whole workshop was sheep herding. There were many different types of breeds of dogs here. I don’t know much about sheep herding, so I was excited to learn the rules, what you are trying to accomplish, what to look for, how prey drive comes into play, etc. There were german shepherds, shih tzus, pitbulls, labs, dobermans, pointers, shiba inus, etc. We all knew the German Shepherds would do great. The main sheep herder man was hesitant to let a pitbull in with his sheep, but Cesar insisted. Blake, a nervous pittie came in, not sure what to think of everything at first. The sheep herding trainer got her prey drive up and got her excited, and once she learned what to do, she ROCKED IT! She was the best of the whole group! It was amazing to see this nervous, shy girl come out of her shell and absolutely KILL IT when she was herding. It really made me want to do some herding with Jinx to see if we could get her drive going. Honestly, I would love to do it just for fun, but I don’t know what the herding instructors would think if I brought a pittie in to herd! Bah, she’d do awesome!

On the last day of the workshop, right before we all left to go to graduation, I had a question. A question that I was itching to ask the whole workshop. It had to do with Holly and Cesar’s Worst Bite, along with the experience I had with Ryder. My question felt complicated, and it took a minute to ask what I wanted to ask. I couldn’t leave this workshop without asking him. I would regret it. After I formed the question I was trying to ask, it finally came out as “How do you know when enough is enough? How do you know when it is the right move to let them go?” He said back to me “Well, look at Holly. She is a part of my pack now. She isn’t rehabilitated, but she’s better, and I can feed her, and my trainers can feed her. But she cannot be in a home with children. If she were to stay there, she would be dead. She’s happy here.”Not all of us have dog psychology centers”, I said. “We can’t all be Cesar Millan right off the bat, and we can’t rescue everyone. How do you know?” And he said “I wouldn’t know because I have never euthanized a dog because of aggression. It’s a hard thing.”

Cesar Millan Graduation Certification project K9I didn’t know it at the time, but I was looking for closure. I was looking for someone to tell me it was ok. I was looking for HIM to tell me it was ok. He wasn’t intentionally not giving me that closure, but he couldn’t. He is a humble, honest person, but he is good at what he does. My decision was right for this situation. Still doesn’t make it go away, and I’m still working at completely getting past it. I was able to give the family closure and peace in knowing this was right. That was what they wanted. They wanted permission to let go. Who gives me permission to let go? When do I feel that peace? Why do I hold on to this so much, that it feels like it is holding me back? What is it that I need to do to move on? To feel the closure I feel I deserve?

One of the MONUMENTAL things that started to make more sense while I was here was being a pack leader. What this means, and how to implement it. It’s not about the dog. Ever. It’s about the handler. Are they anxious, nervous, angry, heavy-handed? How do they act in their day to day activities? How do they handle stress? To be a calm-assertive pack leader, you have to balance out your entire life and learn to live in the moment and handle things calmly. If you get emotional, or over think things, you ruin that moment, and you are not being a strong leader. All of it starts here. Not with the dog. Once you can master the calm energy in yourself, you can handle a pack of 30 dogs no problem. This was a gigantic moment for me, as I was just starting to comprehend this concept, but this workshop made it so much clearer.

Cesar Millan Graduation project K9At graduation dinner, we took pictures with Cesar, said our goodbyes to all our new friends, danced, drank, ate, and had a great time. It was a wonderful week, full of new memories, new material to study and learn, and an experience of a lifetime. I am so happy I had this opportunity to hang out with Cesar for a week and learn from him. It was truly one of the highlights of my life. He is a normal person, who loves to hang out, loves food, loves dogs, and loves to help people understand how to build a better relationship with their dog. Now, I can also help people build better relationships as well with everything I learned.

I hope someday I can come back and see the expansions he will make on his new center. It is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to, and I won’t forget the feelings I felt there, or the things I learned. Such a life changing experience.

Cesar Millan Project K9

Cesar, giving us the tour of his center