How a Puppy Almost Ruined Us

The whole process really started a few years ago when the kids began bugging us for a dog.  Back then the answer was easy… “I’m NOT potty training a dog until all my kids are potty trained.”.  I still had one in diapers and one on the way so this seemed like a safe statement to me.

Unfortunately, what I saw as a good excuse my children took as a promise.  This spring/summer marked a glorious new, diaper free chapter in our lives and I lived in blissful contentment…and then the begging started.

The “NO” came easily enough at first.  I’ve had dogs, I know how much work they are.  I’m not ready to deal with another creature’s poo yet.

Then I’d have days where my heart was a little softer but my husband would give the firm NO.  Or he’d have a soft-hearted day but I was firm.  Then both of our hearts started to soften at the same time.

We’d go into the city and see the pet stores or the pet supply aisles and sigh a little.  Then we’d wander in a little and just look around.

You can imagine what happened next.  Yep – we went to the SPCA and met the sweetest, cutest, cuddliest little pup!  He snuggled up into my neck and I was jelly.  I caught myself rocking and bouncing him like a tiny baby.  We paid the deposit but had to wait two more weeks to take him home as he needed another vaccine and to be neutered.

Those weeks were spent puppy proofing the house, teaching the kids that they couldn’t leave all their tiny toys laying around.  We bought a bed, a kennel, some toys, food and treats.  We told everyone we saw about our exciting news.  We.  Were. Pumped.

As the X’s on the calendar began to consume the blank spaces, moments of “what are we thinking” began to worm their way into my head, though, I gave them no heed.  I simply chalked it up to the fact that I was just being realistic about what my next long while will be like with training and not romanticizing the experience.

Then FINALLY Monday came.  We all woke up excited and happy.  The plan was to pick the kids up at daycare after work, drive to the SPCA and live happily ever after.

I got a call asking me to come two hours later than I had planned and I found myself oddly relieved.

3:00 came and I piled the kids in the van and off we went.  We spent the whole drive trying to agree on a name, to no avail.  We walked into the building and the kids all started calling him Rusty as I filled out the remaining paperwork and paid the balance.

The drive home was bliss as everything that Rusty did brought sheer joy to my children.

Rusty was just as sweet as we expected him to be.  He didn’t bark unless he needed to go outside.  He already knew to do his business outside!  He was well behaved and loved to cuddle and play.

I felt uncomfortable emotions rising up in me and I quickly stuffed them deep, deep down.

My husband came home from work and commented, “Yep, it smells like dog in here.”  and I was instantly upset with him. How dare he disrespect our new little bundle of joy?!

The evening went on and the emotions kept creeping up my spine.  We played, we trained, we oohed and we ahhed.  Then – my oldest daughter said the one sentence that brought me crashing down.

“So, mom, what do we do if Rusty gets sick?”

It was an innocent and thoughtful question – and it sent my emotions spiralling out of control.

“We take him to the vet.” I answered.

My husband looked at me and recognized the fear in my eyes and my inner struggle to hold myself together.  It’s a look he hadn’t seen since I’d been able to get all the depression and anxiety under control.

The worst part was that neither of us knew why.

The evening went on and the kids went to bed.  Rusty continued to be an ideal little pup.  He slept through the night.  I didn’t.

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What little sleep I had was fitful and troubled.  For some reason I was afraid of this puppy.  But more than that, I was terrified of the fear.

Morning came far too quickly and my husband got up for work.  He took Rusty outside, fed him and bonded.  When he left, Rusty gave the slightest of whimpers.  I got out of bed and spent time playing and cuddling with Rusty.

Okay, he’s still a sweet little thing.  Just focus on the positive.

I was determined to keep my self-talk positive and grounded in reality.  I did okay…for a while.  The children awoke and doted on Rusty.  We played outside, we played inside.  We took him for a walk to the town office to get a dog licence.

Rusty continued to be perfect.  I continued to lose my mind.

I was texting with my mom and sisters, who I’m so grateful for!  I love that in these times I can be honest with them without fear of judgement.

I tried all the grounding exercises.  I tried to enjoy watching my kids love on this little mutt.  The anxiety just kept building.

I called my mom.  I think it was about an hour long conversation.  My mom loves me and advised me to take Rusty back to the SPCA for the sake of my sanity.

I called my little sister who has a dog and could understand my feelings.  My sister loves me (and sometimes she likes me, too) and she advised me to just give it a little longer and maybe Rusty would prove to be a great asset to our family.

I called my big sister who can talk me down from pretty much anything.  She loves me too and advised me to put my emotional well-being ahead of my guilt.

I called a very dear friend who always makes time for me and my family and is like family to us.  This friend loves me and advised me to give it a few more days and do my best to restore my bond with Rusty.

 

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Rusty loving my oldest daughter

I texted my husband to ask how his allergies were.  I’ll admit that I was angry that he wasn’t sick from having a dog in the house.  I wanted him to say that it was unbearable and we had to get rid of Rusty.  That’s an easy and logical decision.

Throughout this day and these phone calls I became more and more of a wreck.  I couldn’t hold in the tears any longer.  I found myself trying to hide from Rusty.  Rusty kept finding me and giving me this look that begged me to love him.

I even called my husband at work and I NEVER call him at work.

I had to be on the phone.  I had to be talking to people because left alone with my thoughts was NOT a good place to be.

On top of all this irrational and so very unexpected anxiety was a load of guilt too heavy to bear.  I went from Best Mom Ever to Worst Mom Ever in less than 24 hours.

I did this.  I said yes to getting a dog. And now I knew in my heart of hearts that I had to say no.  I got my kids’ hopes up and now I was going to dash them against some very jagged rocks.  I was being mean and selfish.

In the fog of guilt, however, was the lighthouse of truth.  My kids would get over it.  Both my husband and I had dogs growing up and both dogs met untimely deaths.  We both coped and moved on.  My kids would too.

By the time my husband had come home from work I had resolved in my heart that Rusty needed a better home than I could give him.  I was perking up.  As an added twist to the saga, my eyes began swelling shut and hurting in a way I had never experienced. Apparently now I’m allergic to dogs too.

This story has a happy ending.  Rusty now goes by a new name and has the perfect home with my daughter’s best friend.  He has some four legged friends there too and my kids get to visit him regularly.  There were tears and questions, but within two days my children had basically forgotten that they even had a pet and I have had no anxiety since the new family told me they were keeping him.

I’ve had many theories as to why I reacted the way I did to Rusty, but the truth is that I just don’t know.  God doesn’t always answer the question, “why”, but that’s okay.  I trust Him anyway.

In the Midst of the Battle

*This post is not intended to garner sympathy or attention for myself, but rather to help you understand what it feels like to sink into/be in despair.  If you have never experienced this (be thankful), my hope is that this will help you understand those around you who are struggling with this darkness.

We KNOW that life isn’t is bad as it seems in those times, but we feel stifled by the despair nonetheless.  A hug is more helpful than being told to “suck it up”.*

 

I’m sitting in a hospital bed right now, fighting two battles.

The first battle is and infection in my foot.  It started Wednesday afternoon and took a hold of me swiftly and severely!  At first I thought I had caught a crazy stomach bug – I’ll spare you the details.  My husband came home from work to find me under 5 heavy blankets shivering violently.  After he added a heating pad my body calmed down a bit.

The next morning I saw the doctor because my foot was getting painful and I knew there was more to this than the flu.  He gave me antibiotics and strict instructions to monitor things closely and go into Emergency if there is even a hint of spreading.

10PM that night we called a friend over to stay with our sleeping kids while my husband took me into the hospital where I was started on Intravenous antibiotics.  Perfect, I thought, a couple days and I’ll be as good as new!  We left the hospital with crutches and an appointment for my next dose of IV.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the next morning did not find my foot better.  I was hoping for some improvement, at least a little.  Deep down inside of me, the other battle was beginning.

This was Friday morning now and my weekend consisted of laying on the couch with my foot up and going to the hospital 3 times daily for IV.  By now the pain had subsided (mostly) but the swelling was not going down.

Monday morning I saw the Doctor again and he pleaded with me to let him admit me into the hospital.

“What about my kids?  I have to look after my kids!”

“Please think about it.  We should be seeing better results by now.” he gave one last plea.

I hobbled to my van and texted my hubby what had just been said, put the phone down and drove to the  hospital for dose #11.

The nurse gave me the same pleas.  My phone buzzed.  I opened the text from hubby telling me he will take the week off so I can get better.  I got one of the good ones!

I relented and the process started to get me all set up in my tiny cube of a room.  Sterile and windowless.  That is how my soul was beginning to feel too.  The ticking of the clock and the hum of machines to keep me company I was feeling forgotten.  I’ve had visitors and that has been great, but where has God been for the last 6 days?

I chastised myself for letting my emotions get the better of me.  I know – I KNOW –  that He has not abandoned me, but the invisible infection of my heart was telling me differently.

Maybe if you were a better person, the infection hissed, this wouldn’t be happening to you.  It’s because of every bad thing you’ve ever done.  You deserve this.

You might as well give up now.  They’re not telling you everything – this is way more serious than they’re letting on and now your kids have to grow up without a mom.  Just pull the blanket over your head and go to sleep.  You can’t fight it – just give up.

STOP IT! I scream inwardly.  Lies.  All lies!

Not that I’ve never done bad things, I have and do and will because I’m human.  But I’m a forgiven human washed clean by the blood of Christ!

But there are moments when “standing on the promises” are not enough and the infection overwhelms me.  Last night I struggled, but held it together.  Today I couldn’t.  Today is Tuesday which makes tomorrow one week since this started and I’m no better off physically and definitely worse off in my heart.

Today I have cried.  A lot.  Today I am not strong.  The nurses notice and are being extra delicate with me.  Today Christ’s strength is made perfect in my weakness [2 Corinthians 12:9].

In my darker times of depression, I find myself running to God almost superstitiously.  Maybe if I pray just right, or read the right number of chapters of my bible, etc. then God will heal me.  I know that’s not how it works.  He’s not a genie in a lamp that needs to be rubbed exactly 3 times then will grant me my wish.  I’m believing for healing.  I’m expecting for healing.  But I’m listening for what God has to teach me in this too.

As I type this, I’m listening to “Blessings” by Laura Storey.  If you’ve never heard it, please take a moment to listen.  This song has seen me through many a dark time and it is perfect for where I am right now.

So where does this leave me?

I will fight, I will persevere because I know I am not fighting alone.   God is with me.  Family and friends are praying for me.  I’m anticipating a few more days here yet.  The battle rages on, but ultimately it has already been won. flourish

Today is the following Monday.  Almost a week since I wrote this last post.  I have been out of the hospital since Thursday, but have since developed an allergy to one of the medications.  The beauty is, I can laugh at that now.  It’s a testimony to how far God has brought me out of this pit.

Last Tuesday, when I wrote the original post, I did one of the hardest things possible when in such a deep depression – I reached out.

I called a few of my trusted friends and told them that I wasn’t doing well at all and that I couldn’t cope on my own.  These people prayed for me, and they prayed hard.  That afternoon already saw a huge improvement in my mood.

My husband brought me some of my favourite comedies to watch and smuggled in some popcorn for me.  All the little things like this definitely helped pull me out of my pit, but ultimately it was God who healed the infection in my soul.  He also continues to heal the infection in my foot and each day sees great progress!

Wendy

 

Beyond the Baby Blues

Depression has been a part of my story for as long as I can remember.

I wasn’t always the one battling it, but I can’t remember a time that either I or someone that I love hasn’t been touched by it to some degree.

As I look back at my teen years now I can see that depression had a stronger hold on me then than I was aware of at the time. I just thought I was extra moody.

The first time that I recognized it in myself was about 10 years ago. I had a job I loved with people that I really enjoyed, but the stress of being middle management was getting to be too much for me. Having a boss that throws you under the bus constantly in front of your staff was tough to deal with. It was at that time that I first sought medical help. Eight months of medication helped me feel human again and I could now deal with things.

I had a few bad stretches over the next 7 years, but nothing that some relaxation and perspective couldn’t cure.

After the birth of my first child I had a few months of baby blues, but I can clearly remember at the 4 month mark waking up one morning and suddenly feeling like myself again. It was great!

The birth of my second child brought the same fog, but not for as long a stretch.

The birth of my third child; that brought on experiences that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Labour with her was long and complicated, but after 46 tense hours, here she was! My first thought was that I couldn’t hear her cry and the there was a crowd of specialists around her for what felt like an eternity.

Eventually I got to see my sweet baby girl and get settled into my room in the hospital. She was born in the wee hours of the morning so my Doctor gave me a few hours to rest before coming to check on us. We went over all the usual questions and I remember her crying in the bassinet and me not being overly concerned with picking her up.

My Doctor then mentioned that for the next few weeks I would have to very closely monitor her breathing as they had to “aggressively revive” her immediately following delivery. That explained the team around her.

I was already having trouble bonding with this beautiful baby and now I was afraid to try! God, why would you bring us through all these complications just to have her die right away? My heart can’t take this!

The next day the Doctor came to see us again and I pushed him to discharge us. He felt strongly that we should stay another day but I NEEDED to go home. I didn’t realize it then, but I was going crazy being alone with my thoughts all day and night.

We got home to 2 sick kids. They just had colds, but now I was scared to have them anywhere near baby!

Over the course of the next week, our very dear neighbor passed away unexpectedly, we had a chicken pox scare, and several trips into emergency with my baby because she seemed to be struggling to breathe.

I’m so thankful for the our doctors and nurses who saw the panic in my eyes and soothed me instead of laughing at me or waving me off.

I wasn’t resting, I wasn’t eating well. I wasn’t enjoying life. Something just wasn’t right. I talked to our local public health nurse and explained to her everything I was going through and that I just couldn’t relax. I felt on edge constantly. We talked about anxiety and a few things to try and arranged a follow up. I followed her advice, I cried out to God often to take this uneasiness from me. I tried to be a good mom despite feeling like my world was spinning out of control.

A few weeks later my oldest daughter got sick. High fever, lay on the couch, no energy sick. Up to this point she had never been like that. Nothing ever slowed that girl down, so when she was so sick she that she had no interest in anything it just added more panic. I took her temperature obsessively and called my mom and sister frequently for advice or just a voice to calm me down. I couldn’t stop crying; I was convinced that I was watching my little girl die!

It took about 2 weeks for her to recover, physically. Emotionally, however, she was clingy and shy and refused to let me out of her sight. She was 4 at this time and my son was almost 3 and the signs of Autism were getting stronger. Another worry to add to the pile.

I stopped taking hormone based contraception as I knew this was adding to “the crazy”. I also sought out professional counseling through Public Health. My counselor was wonderful and helped me in dealing with my oldest daughter as her neediness was getting worse. Just talking to someone who I could be completely honest with and not have to worry about hurting her feelings or who she’d go tell was helpful in itself.

We came to the conclusion that my obsession with my kids’ health likely stemmed from the issues my youngest had at birth. We also determined that my brand of depression had a lot to do with my inability to express emotions. My depression generally doesn’t show up as sadness, but anger. I don’t get violent and have never had thoughts of harming myself or my children, but I overreact to the most insignificant situations and I’m quite sure that the whole world is against me.

It was early summer now and I was starting to feel better. My counselor told me that she felt we had gone as far as we could for now but I was always welcome to call her back if I needed.

We headed off to Family Week at our Bible Camp for a much needed holiday.

I’m an introvert so having a baby along was a great excuse for me to sneak into the camper for naps/alone time with her often with no questions asked. Something happened to my oldest there too – suddenly she became herself again! No more clinging to me for dear life or screaming her head off at the thought of me being more than ten feet away from her. It was wonderful and freeing!

Things started looking up, but then fall came and the anxiety and depression were getting out of control again. I had friends and family offering advice constantly. I had people quoting bible verses at every turn. 1 Peter 5:7 seemed to be everyone’s favourite, “Cast your cares upon Him [Jesus] because He cares for you.”1peter57

To be clear, I BELIEVE the bible completely. I don’t disagree with the word of God at all, but in those dark times my heart couldn’t stop worrying.

One of the most hurtful days came with a well meaning phone call from a friend. She just wanted to see how I was doing and if there was anything she could do for me. We talked for quite some time and I was feeling a bit better. She then asked me, “How has your prayer life been?”.

It was like the rug was pulled right out from under me.

Throughout all of this I had been seeking God with everything in me, so to have someone suggest that perhaps I wouldn’t be having such a hard time if I were a better Christian was a crushing blow. I spent the rest of the day in tears.

Winter came and so did endless colds and infections. Tonsillitis and Strep Throat were a constant presence between my 3 kids. During this time, we also discovered the hard way that my youngest two are allergic to penicillin.

The anxiety was taking over my life and my kids started dreading me kissing them on the forehead because they knew that I was really just checking for a sign of fever.

I knew that I needed medication to get this under control but I wanted to wait 4 more months until my baby turned one. I was determined to nurse her for one full year (something I was unable to do for my other two). I also knew that nursing would give her antibodies to protect her from sickness.

In early January, all three got sick…again. This was it. I was done. Clearly my theory about keeping my baby healthy by nursing wasn’t panning out and I was exhausted from trying to fight the darkness and fear. I weaned my baby girl easily and started taking care of my own health. It took a few weeks for the medication to really start working, but just knowing that the process had started helped me immensely!

It’s been a year and a bit now since going on meds. I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’m still so glad that medical intervention is available to me. For just over a year I stayed on the lowest possible dose, but in January that changed as well. It was my oldest daughter’s sixth birthday and I spent most of the day hiding in the basement crying. My husband tried to keep the kids distracted because he knew I didn’t want them to see me this way and I called my wise big sister who spent a great deal of time and energy “talking me down”.

Let’s see, what was my issue that time? I was pretty sure that I was having a heart attack or stroke or both. My kids would have to grow up without a mom and who would know how to raise my newly diagnosed son properly?

This happened on a Sunday – Monday morning the medical clinic opened at 8:30 and at 8:31 I called to book an appointment with my Doctor.

A few days later I blubbered out my story to him and told him that I needed more help. He thoroughly checked me out, assured me that I wasn’t having (and hadn’t had) a heart attack or stroke but that the anxiety was causing the chest pains. We agreed to increase my medication and follow up in a few weeks time.

It’s been a few months now and I’m feeling so much better. The depression and anxiety are still there, but I feel like I control them now, instead of them controlling me.

Have you struggled with depression and/or anxiety? Is this a current struggle for you? Please find someone to talk to. Please know that it’s not because you’re weak or a failure.

God has created people with talents in the medical profession and it is NOT a sign of weak faith to seek help. I would love to hear from you if you are going through or have gone through this valley.

The good thing that has come out of all this is that my relationship with God has been getting stronger. My ability to worship Him is increasing and that has a beautiful impact on every facet of my life. Not every day is perfect, but every day is a gift!

 

Wendy