Losing a Pet Is Heartbreaking: I’m Heartbroken

Dogs are not our

Twelve years ago, we met our best friend, Buddy. My husband and I drove to the house where he’d lived the first four months of his life. We were standing in the garage, and Buddy came galloping out, like he was saying, “Hi! I’m Buddy, and I’m fun!”

It was love at first sight.

Half an hour later, we were in the car with our high-spirited puppy, his crate, bowls, and toys.

On the way home, my husband drove and I sat in the back with the new addition to our family. He seemed nervous and snuggled right up to me, so close. It was like he knew I’d keep him safe. Our bond was instant.

I pet his head and said, “You’re such a good boy, Buddy. Don’t worry, everything will be okay. I love you.”

Buddy was the perfect dog for our family. His energy and playfulness filled our home with laughter. He was there in the good times, and there to cuddle and console when times were hard.

He was our protector, our walking partner, and our silent listener. He was never angry with us. He was sweet and demanding, stubborn and smart. All he ever gave was pure, unconditional love.

Our daughters, Mackenzie and Talee, were so close to Buddy, they referred to him as their little brother.

Peace from Panic

This past weekend our best friend and constant companion became very ill.

I’m grateful that Mackenzie and Talee both happened to be home. The girls gave Buddy lots of love and attention, like always. They played with him in the pool and took pictures. They saw Buddy’s decline.

We had to do what we’d been dreading for nearly 13 years. We had to say goodbye.

On the way to the vet’s office, I drove and my husband sat in the back with our faithful dog. Buddy snuggled close to my husband, and was calm. It was like he knew.

My husband pet Buddy’s head and said, “You’re such a good boy, Buddy. Don’t worry, everything will be okay. I love you.”

Full circle.

That afternoon, my husband, daughter, and I didn’t want to be in the quiet house. We  went out to do some errands. On the drive home, we took the “back way,” a beautiful, serene road with sprawling ranches on either side. We’ve gone this way hundreds of times.

There was something in the middle of the road. We looked closer and it was a gorgeous, majestic deer. We have never, ever seen a deer on that road. We slowed down and watched this amazing animal prance across the road and gracefully jump to the other side.

We all thought the same thing. It was a sign from Buddy, letting us know he’s okay. He’s happy and healthy again. We shouldn’t worry.

Our home feels so empty.

Every single room has reminders of our little guy. One minute I’ll be fine, and the next I’m tearing up and sobbing. It’s the small things that I want back. He followed me everywhere. The kitchen, the office, the family room, the bathroom.

When Buddy was sleeping and I’d walk into the room, I’d hear his tail thump, wagging because he was glad to see me. He loved walks and was super food-motivated. It made us laugh when he’d hop up on a lounge chair in our backyard, and bask in the sun.

One of his favorite things to do was spend time outside when I was gardening or if someone went swimming. The day he died, I broke down when I walked out to the backyard.

I told Talee that losing Buddy is too painful, and I don’t think I’ll ever want another dog.

She said, “Mom, you don’t mean that. He gave us so many years of joy, and you wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

No, I wouldn’t.

In time, there will be less tears. We have millions of happy memories. But right now the sadness and emptiness is raw.

I know we gave Buddy a wonderful life. But he enriched ours in ways that he’ll never know.

20 Best Inspirational Dog Death Quotes Pinterest Images

Third image courtesy of here

Fourth image courtesy of here

 

Excited to be Published on NAMI’s National Blog!

I’ve written a post on my volunteer work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which is now published on their site. You can see it here: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2017/Talking-About-Mental-Health-Should-Start-Early

I’m a presenter for NAMI’s in-school presentation for middle and high school students, called Ending the Silence. We discuss the warning signs and symptoms of various mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and suicide.

I’m passionate about speaking to the youth. I think if the conversation is opened up with adolescents, it’s a step toward lessening the stigma. I want teens to know they shouldn’t be ashamed to have a mental health condition and that there is help available.

There is hope.

Knowledge

First image courtesy of here

 

 

 

10 Mantras to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Serenity

I’ve had “white coat syndrome” since my early 20s. My blood pressure tends to surge at the doctor’s office. I don’t think I feel nervous. But deep inside, I must be. I can’t figure out why. My doctors and nurses are all very kind and easy to talk to.

I get frustrated because I can’t control my blood pressure in a medical setting. This is a concern, especially  because I have hypertension and take medication for it. And it’s well controlled — at least at home.

When I have a doctor appointment, I do my best to relax on the way there. I take deep breaths, listen to music, and tell myself I’ll be fine and not to think about it. But that makes me more nervous and I can literally feel my numbers rising.

Worrying-1

What am I so afraid of? My doctor has never gotten angry because it’s too high. He might look concerned, and we discuss how my numbers are at home. He takes it again at the end of the appointment, and it’s always in the normal range.

I’ve thought of different ways to help calm myself when I’m sitting in the waiting room. These techniques also help control my panic attacks.

The first tip is to use deep breathing and imagery. I imagine myself at the beach. I think about how it feels when grains of sand slide through my fingers. I smell suntan lotion,  taste the salty water, see shades of blues and greens in the ocean, and hear waves crash on the shore.

The second idea is to repeat mantras while I’m deep breathing. I like mantras because they’re short and simple, and encourage me to be positive and mindful.

It feels like I’m breathing in calm and breathing out nervousness.

Here’s what I do. I take a deep breath in and at the same time, say (in my head) the first part of a mantra. Then I exhale slowly and say the second half.

Like this: take a deep breath and think, “Life is”… slowly exhale and think…”good.”

My Favorite Mantras

I see my doctor in a couple of months. Until then, I’m going to practice my breathing and mantra exercises.

I’ve recovered from panic disorder. I’m hopeful that one day I can say I no longer have “white coat syndrome.”

Not to worry. I got this.

Take a deep breath...

 

Why a Target Ad Made Me Sad

Last night my husband and I were watching TV. A Target commercial came on and I felt myself wanting to tear up. What? It was a really cute back to school ad, with happy kids and parents buying colored pencils, notebooks, and backpacks.

It hit me. I don’t have any more “Back to Schools.” Mackenzie graduated college three years ago and has been living and working in the city. Talee graduated college this past June and works at a “big girl job,” as she calls it.

No more school days.

Even when the girls were in college, and we no longer did the traditional K-12 back to school shopping, I still had a back-to-school-time-of-year. Shopping for their dorms or houses, getting them some clothes and makeup, and maybe a notebook or two.

Mackenzie, Talee, and I have great memories of back to school shopping. The girls have often told me that their favorite part — more than buying new outfits — was going to Target or an office store to get their supplies. There’s something about clean, fresh paper, sharp pencils, clean erasers, and folders that don’t have anything written on them yet.

A fresh start.

Last September when Talee started her senior year of college, I’m surprised I didn’t think about it being my very last back to school year. Not that I would’ve done anything differently, it just didn’t cross my mind. And it’s important to me. One of those things you think will always be there.

This fall Talee will be moving out to be closer to work. It’ll be fun to shop with her for plates, silverware, pots and pans, and towels. I guess that’ll be my version of back to school.

My husband and I will become empty nesters again, and that’s bittersweet. I’m proud to watch my daughters become independent and grow in their careers and adult lives. But I miss their younger days. I miss driving them to school, picking them up, making lunches, and helping with homework.

Those days are gone and that’s sad to me. But I’m thankful I treasured those moments and cherish those memories. A new season is about to start and we have to move on.

A new beginning.

Maybe the next time Mackenzie and Talee are home together, we’ll go to Target or the office store and get some new pens, sticky notes, and journals. They’ll never be too old for that. Neither will I.

First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here

Third image courtesy of here

Trending Now… Millennials and Mental Health

“Mom, you wouldn’t believe how many people my age talk about mental health,” my oldest daughter, Mackenzie said. “It’s not a taboo subject anymore. I know a lot of people at work and friends outside of work who see therapists or take medication for anxiety and depression.”

Really? I couldn’t hide my smile. Not that I want them to be dealing with mental illness. But I’m glad they’re not afraid to bring up the subject.

My experience growing up was completely the opposite. I felt alone. My panic attacks  began when I was ten. I kept it a secret. I didn’t want to be thought of as strange or different. I didn’t reach out for medical help until my early 30s.

Mackenzie is 24 years old. She graduated college three years ago and started working at a great company. She loves her job, and is happy living on her own and being financially independent. But she’s struggled the past couple of years with stress and anxiety.

Mental health conditions run in our family. I’ve recovered from panic disorder and agoraphobia. My youngest daughter Talee had panic attacks when she was young and is now panic free. My mom has dealt with severe depression. Doctors say our imbalanced serotonin is hereditary.

Mackenzie was aware of this, and spoke with her doctor about treatment options. She decided to try an antidepressant.

It’s been several months now. The medication has helped her immensely, with little to no side effects. She often says, “I’m so much happier!”

Music to my ears.

Mackenzie knows she’s not alone in trying to manage her anxiety. Many of her peers are stressed too. She says there’s an actual name for it. Quarter-life crisis.

I laughed a little. “You mean like a mid-life crisis, but a quarter-life crisis?”

“Yeah. You can look it up. It’s really a thing.”

How to Survive a Quarter Life Crisis | Christa in New York

Mackenzie’s anxiety may be caused by a chemical imbalance. But coping with generational stressors most likely contributes to it. I asked her why Millennials are so anxious.

“A lot of reasons. Everything is so fast-paced and competitive. Part of it is social media. The sense of immediacy, everything has to happen right away, at the click of a button. There’s pressure to constantly be ‘on.’ To look and sound perfect, and act like you have it all together. But you don’t.”

“What else?”

“A lot of it stems from when we graduated. We worked hard to get a college degree and now we’re in jobs that we’re not sure about. I love mine, but some of my friends are saying, ‘Is this what I really want out of life? Should I be doing something else?'”

She continued, “Then there’s personal relationships. There are dating websites and apps and pressure to find someone. The clock is ticking. But a lot of us aren’t ready to settle down yet.”

Some of these concerns go way back. But past generations didn’t have to navigate the constant deluge of the internet and social media. It can make life better but can also complicate it.

I can’t begin to solve the dilemmas facing Millennials. I’m just glad they’re talking more about mental health.

And that my daughter is happy.

First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here

Third image courtesy of here

Jump In!

This morning my husband and I went on a hike in the mountains and it was hot. Too hot to take our 12.5 year old black lab. But we wanted exercise, so off we went. The wild plants on the mountains were dry and crunchy, and I thought how quickly fire could spread.

When we got home, I was so sweaty and could think of only one thing. The pool. In minutes, I put on my bathing suit, grabbed a towel, and glided into the water. Aah. It was perfect.

It was quiet and peaceful. Our dog hadn’t come out yet, begging for me to play ball with him. My husband was inside. I gently swam and floated on a pool noodle. I wanted to stay there all day.

It reminded me of when I was a kid and my friends and I would do just that. We’d stay out for hours. We’d splash, play mermaids or Marco Polo, and rest on the lounge chairs, without a care in the world. We’d go inside only to eat and go to the bathroom.

Then I thought about how much fun it was when our daughters, Mackenzie and Talee, were younger. They’d have friends over and swim all day. I loved to watch them jump on rafts and perfect their cannon balls and dives. They’d do headstands and somersaults in the water, and see how long they could hold their breath.

Oh, to be a kid again.

I thought about those simple joys of childhood as I floated on my back, eyes closed. That’s when my reverie ended.

My husband did a cannon ball and made a huge splash. Our dog came out and barked and barked at Alex, wanting to make sure he was okay.

Then the fun began.

Alex and I swam, kicked, splashed, and played ball with our lab. I tried a headstand but was wobbly and fell right over. I hadn’t done that in probably twenty years. After a few attempts, I could hold my pose for a few seconds, and even straighten my legs and point my toes. Alex tried and actually did a great job.

I told him I wanted to stay in the pool all day. He said, “Why don’t you?” Which was really sweet, but I can’t, there’s always too much to do. My carefree childhood days are behind me.

But that hour of floating in the crystal clear water was heavenly. There’s no reason I can’t do it again tomorrow.

First image courtesy of here

Second image courtesy of here

Third image courtesy of here

Shine Bright

5

I smiled when I saw this quote. I pictured my daughters and their friends playing with glow sticks when they were younger. I’d buy them for the kids to have at parties, in shapes of necklaces and bracelets. It was fun to bend and snap the dull-colored sticks, and watch them magically light up.

But this quote has a much deeper meaning. It reminds me of several of my family members who are in the military. In boot camp, they were broken down before they were built back up. It took years of training to develop them into the brave soldiers that they’ve become.

When I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, it nearly broke me. I had panic attacks every time I drove, went to the grocery store, or the mall. It got to the point where I worried every time I had to go out. I was afraid of becoming a prisoner in my own home. Thankfully, after twenty years of enduring severe panic symptoms, I finally went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with panic disorder and agoraphobia. I received treatment with medication.

I recovered. 

It’s hard for me to describe how wonderful it felt the first time I drove somewhere, parked, and realized I hadn’t panicked.

I can’t tell you how amazing it was to meander through the aisles at the grocery store, relaxed and calm. To stop and read labels to decide which pasta sauce to buy or which cereal to get. Before, I basically threw food in the cart just to finish quicker.

Panic no longer had it’s heavy grip on me. I was in control. Sure, those familiar anxious thoughts still lurked in the back of my mind. I knew I wasn’t completely cured. But–I was able to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and not be overwhelmed by anxiety.

It was freedom.

My struggles with a mental health condition made me stronger and more compassionate. I know what it’s like to be beaten down by the stigma surrounding mental illness. I didn’t tell anyone about my symptoms for twenty years. I finally reached out for medical help when I couldn’t stand it anymore.

It’s going to take time and effort to end the relentless stigma. Years ago, I didn’t realize the hold it had on me. I’m thankful I made it through and am now able to spread the message of hope.

I want people to know that having a mental illness is no one’s fault. They shouldn’t be ashamed. I know how scary and lonely it is to think you’re alone. I didn’t believe anyone would understand me. Now I know there are millions who do.

Like a glow stick, I was broken. But now I shine.

There is always hope.

Angle The sidelight shining on her face highlights her profile and each strand of hair which creates a lot more detail to the image

 

Second image courtesy of here

Third image courtesy of here