Beware What You Wish For

You really wish you could bring your dog with you everywhere?
by Kevin Crum

phoebe“I really wish I could bring my dog everywhere with me.” This statement has been said over and over. Do you really wish that? Beware of what you wish for. I don’t take my dog in public for the fun of it. She is the reason that I can go out everywhere.

Lets back up. PTSD: The big ugly word no one likes to talk about. What is PTSD you ask? The technical version of that is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Webster’s dictionary defines it as this: a psychological reaction that occurs after experiencing a highly stressing event (such as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) outside the range of normal human experience and that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event. How do I explain it to someone that has never experienced it?  Imagine if you will your worst nightmare. The thing that keeps you up at night. The thing in the closet, under the bed, goes bump in the night. Now take that fear and double it. Now that this fear has doubled I am going to take you away from your family and put you in a room full of these scary things. Every day when you wake up, go to sleep, eat, walk down the street, or even use the bathroom you have to deal with this fear. I will take you out of the area for a month and let you go home. Then right back to the scary area. Over and over day after day never ending struggle dealing with this monster.

Once you are home. You are trying to start a normal life but your brain at random times in the day decides to think about your time over there. You have nightmares about it. It starts to make you have anxiety you get angry and every time someone gets close to you start to think about that fear. You stop going out because you don’t want to remember it. You stop interacting with your family because you don’t want to remember it. Now you start to think that the only way to not think about it is to not think at all.

Then in a last ditch effort you listen to your therapist and go to a program where these dogs get trained. You’re scared. You’re not happy and you just want to go home. Slowly you lean on this dog. Slowly you are smiling. Then one day you’re sitting in class and you realize you are alone. Your wife and friends did not come to this week’s training. You’re free for that moment in time, and you’re not afraid.

The only way that I know how to help you understand is to tell you my story:
I am an Iraq war veteran, I was deployed and I came back home. My wife would tell you that the man she sent to war did not come back. In the beginning I didn’t admit anything was wrong and I used alcohol to medicate the problem. This went on for a while. I started going to the VA hospitals. I was medicated with dozens of meds. I was hospitalized several times on the mental health ward. After ten years of dealing with this problem I was done. I had decided that they only way to feel relief was to take my life. I was tired of fighting. I didn’t have a happy day at all. I was afraid to go to sleep, and anxious about being awake and dealing with the world. I knew my wife and kids were taken care of with my disability and life insurance that I had. I had a very detailed plan on how everything was going to end. My wife asked me to go see a therapist again to try again. I didn’t want to go I had a plan of action and knew the steps I need to take. However I decided that to be fair to her I would go. I got an appointment and waited. I went to the appointment and after I still knew that it didn’t change anything. I went again 2 days later and the therapist mentioned a program that she knew of that help vets out and they used dogs to do that. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t believe that this could help. I had tried so many things fought to long and I was tired. I told my wife about the program and we set up a time to go for an interview. Again I didn’t want to go, but as a way to show I tried I decided to just for her no other reason. The day of the interview I had a plan I knew that I was going to put everyone to bed, go for a drive and never come home. During the interview with Mike he made me look at him in the eye. He stated “We are going to save your life.” I promise it will get better.” I went home that night and I put everyone to bed and instead of driving off I locked myself in the bathroom and I cried. I cried for my sanity. I didn’t want to believe that there was hope. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I had so many times with no success. I had been knocked down so many times and I was tired of getting up. I cried for wife. I cried for my children, and I cried for giving up. I stayed in there until I could cry no more and I stood in the mirror looked at myself and said one more time. One more time I would try. One more time I would get up dust myself off and try. As days turned into weeks I didn’t think about that night. I didn’t think about that plan and I didn’t think about death. I didn’t realize it but I was changing for the good I was become open, a better husband, and a better father.

With my hero by my side it’s much easier to deal with the crowds. I am concentrating on her and not on most things around me. With my hero beside me I am not watching my back as much because she is doing it for me. SDI has saved my life and everyday continues to save other veterans life as well.