Walks are my sanctuary during good times and bad. Sometimes, on rare and wonderful occasions an onrdinary morning for no particular reason turns into a special day.
This begins with a tingle of expectation as the glorious serindipity of small things coming together hits me. What does that mean? Simply that I will spot a beautiful flower and notice it’s stunning beauty. Then I will notice why: it is a’colourwheel’ contrast to it’s surroundings meaning of course that it is displayed to its absolute best.And all of course by chance?! On such days it is as if the senses are all on overtime and an inexplicable feeling of oneness with nature -a peaceful ‘knowingness’ almost that I am in collaboration with the universe and I am in on all it’s precious secrets.
Too much? Maybe, but I get the sense that there is so much in our world that normally we are unaware of as we charge almost blindfolded through the day. An extra dimension that in our business we just don’t see. There are so many unacknowledged truths that could make living so much easier, if we could take the time to experience it. How? If you don’t already do this try it- stop for a moment- breath in (… yes and out please) –just where you are stand perfectly still and stare. I promise the blinkers of pressure and schedules will drop revealing the beauty in the street or the view you can see from the office window. Escape outside. Let the delicious sensations of the breeze brush your face. Listen for a bird and allow its song to shut out the usual drone of the traffic. What is it telling you in that one moment? Not the past, or the future but now- for this is where life is lived.
Getting out and about is something we can take for granted. Birds singing, sun radiating through the window becoming me outside and that glorious feeling of the whole day stretching out into endless possibility. Quick grab your essentials and off you go out into the world for an adventure…
Bang, the door closes triggering a whole new train of thought. Suddenly a cold breeze blows and the sun disappears behind a cloud. The mist has begun to descend. Recent science states that in people who suffer from ptsd and depression the brain reacts differently to triggers. The normal instinct to investigate a feeling, assess it’s significance and the ‘risk factors’ attached to it and produce a reasonable physical and emotional response are unfortunately overridden. Previous painful stimuli are remembered in this area of the brain stimulating the release of chemical transmitters alert sufferers that they cannot deal with this situation causing feelings of being overwhelmed and spiral into ‘meltdown’. In 5minutes I am back inside the house. Mission abandoned. This is why having an assistance dog trained to recognise the initial physical symptoms of my meltdown or freeze is such a lifeline for people like me. Confidence that he will alert me in time to take action and guide me out of the situation make it easier to access the fresh air, exercise and socialisation that we are all told are positive for good mental health. It is indeed gauling that the very things we are encouraged to do to help ourselves can seem completely out of reach by the very nature of depressive conditions. The irony of the situation is not lost on me and is the reason for this post. It does not need to be the help of a dog- anything that inspires positivity and provides a reason to keep going has to be embraced. If the dream you have seems impossible to achieve- be realistic but don’t give up on it. Take small steps towards your goal and just see what comes of it. The chances are it will take you further on life’s journey and you will learn something important to improving the quality of your life along the way.
Since Angus has begun to wear his work jacket I have had so much interest in his role that I decided it was time to write about it! The following is from a fb post after a trip to a local town event. Crowds, conversation and nowhere to hide. Soooo outside my comfort zone!
People: Aww assistance dogs are so clever. What kind is he?Had him long?
Me: He is my mental health assistance dog. We have just finished training. It took us two years.
People: Gosh I didn’t know they did that! How does he help you ? Dogs do make you feel calm.
Me: Yes they certainly do! To be qualified he also needs to help me physically. One thing he does is to recognise signs that I am having a problem. He is trained to alert me by licking my hand and guide me safely out of crowded spaces if I freeze up in the supermarket.
Today so many people asked me about Angus.We chatted to some wonderful people at the Heritage fair including: caravaners from Belfast, a school party from Sienna, Brummie Vikings, Roundheads and their horses all mingling with lovely locals. What is really amazing is that I managed to be in a busy place let alone to stick around and talk to these nice people. Something that may not be evident on the surface but has become so difficult over the last few years. This is just one aspect of how Angus has helped me to begin the journey towards good mental health.
It is time for me to speak out now. If you know someone who may benefit as I have – please spread the word. And of course keep talking about mental wellbeing. It really helps.
Finally I need to mention the unsung heroes. My unflinching supporter and darling husband Neil and Darwin Dogs CIC who give so much in time and expertise to train mental health assistance and canine personal assistant dogs.