"Am I disabled enough" seems to be a running theme in many of our lives when we contemplate having a Service Dog. Do I really need the extra help? When we first think of Service Dogs, we typically think of dogs for the blind. That seems to be the bar for disabled. I can see, I can speak, I can walk; do I really need a Service Dog?
It is all about degrees. I can see - better at the beginning of the day, but when tired my eyes play tricks on me. I can speak, though with the fibro fog there are times I don't know what I just said or can't keep a train of thought going. I can walk, though it is limited and wobbly. But am I disabled enough?
It is hard to come to this part of your life. To accept new limitations. To know that you probably will not be able to do the things that you used to enjoy. That life has to become more structured for you to be "safe".
It's the loss of independence that is a scary thought. What if I can't do for myself? What if I can't care for myself? With that, there is grief, a sense of profound loss. I am struggling with how to be independent. I need to find out what I can be, on my own, before I can readjust on how I can be with others.
It is a powerful feeling, thinking that you might be dependent on others to live. Heck I can't even go to the bathroom alone anymore (Spirit is quite insistent about that!). It marginalizes who you are and what input you can have on your own life.
I am lucky enough to have some wonderful people in my life, though I hurt them in my struggle to accept that I am disabled. I hurt them because I have a desperately need to prove that I can take care of myself. That, in my own way, I am still ME, not my condition. If I don't find that out, if I can't sort that out, who am I? A burden to be taken care of for another 40 years? Or a person that can contribute? Am I an overgrown child being told when to eat, when to sleep?
Being independent and disabled is a terrifying thought. But if I don't push the boundaries, how do I know if I can be more - different what and who I was before this - but a new person accepting who and what I am.
My mother lived her life and went to her death with no regrets. I hope to do the same, but in doing so I cause pain. But if I don't, how can I know who I am?
This blog post started out to be why I got a SD, and seems to have blurred into something else. I am tempted to erase it, but blogging is all about who you are in the NOW and if I keep turning away from this inner voice, than I am ignoring myself (which I think I have done for too long).
Having my SD as a companion I find that I can stretch my boundaries. It is a scary thing. Begin able to do more forces me to think more and to try to become more than I am alone. With a dog as a helper I don't feel as powerless as i do/would with a human companion.
Spirit is dependent upon me as I am upon him. It is almost a symbiotic relationship. We are both alien enough from each other to take away the hidden resentment from the care we give each other.
So when thinking "Am I disabled enough" this is what I came up with:
Are there other "adaptive medical devices" that I could have used? Here were the options offered to me:
Cane - great if I am listing only to the side. Crap if the world decides to spin and I go over in the direction the cane isn't in or backwards. I also have coordination issues so me walking with a cane and then something else in one hand . . . I will drop on of the two and picking things up with my issues can be a challenging event.
Walker - kinda like a shopping cart for me, but I have tipped a half full cart once when I over compensated going around a corner. I figure if a long cart with 20+ lbs of stuff could not keep me up, a walker wouldn't stand a chance :)
Wheel chair/power chair - no way! I want to still use my muscles and I would still have the issues with positional changes.
Why a dog works for me:
First off a mobility dog is NOT a walker, cane or any other device that you put downward pressure on! There is an upward pull to re-balance with and a touch on the handle to let me know WHERE in 3D space I am at.
Some days I can bend down and get up safely, other days I can't. A cane and walker cannot do pick up work. Those things cannot undress me when I'm having range of motion issues, nor can they tell me I am being stupid and need to rest (intelligent disobedience).
It is work, I won't kid you on that. I was a 5 min out the door kind of gal, now it takes me at least 10-20 minutes. If he is having a down day and my back-up dog isn't up for what I need or a friend isn't available, I don't go out. I've tried and I've learned my lesson, so I try to be smart about my health and safety.
People don't get it, they think "How nice you can take your dog everywhere with you. I wish I could." I wish I was healthy enough to leave him at home and enjoy the things I used to. But that is not where I am at in my life now. He just makes it easier.