Dogs, Depression and Writer’s Block

Posted: February 7, 2014 in Feedback Friday
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All writing problems are psychological problems. –Erica Jong

About a month ago, my dog started acting strange. She does this sometimes; despite her breed’s fierce reputation she’s a sensitive little soul, and she goes through periods of what I can only describe as melancholy. She doesn’t really want to eat, she doesn’t want to play much, she doesn’t want to put in the effort to walk outside or across the house or do anything other than lie in her crate all the time. In the deepest throes of these ‘episodes’, my husband and I must resort to hauling her bodily from her nest, carrying her out to do her business and spend time with the people who love her. She manages to fake it for maybe an hour before she is demanding to be let back into her crate, where she will sleep. And sleep. And sleep.

In the time before and after these episodes, which last several weeks and try everyone’s patience, she becomes moody and snappish, a notable departure from her usual behavior. She’s generally a very happy-go-lucky kind of dog. She’s lived with us for three years, and every time this happens, my husband and I question each other, exasperated. “What’s wrong with her? Why is she acting like this? She was fine just yesterday!”

Physically, she is perfectly healthy. There’s no rhyme or reason to her behavior.

At least, I thought there wasn’t.

About a month ago, I started grinding my teeth in my sleep. I would go to bed with a headache, and wake up with one. I started taking over-the-counter painkillers every day, just to keep the agony in my eyes and jaw at bay. It didn’t work; it isn’t working. I’ve either had or been on the verge of a migraine for so long I don’t quite remember what it feels like to not be in pain.

This isn’t anything new to me. It happens twice a year, when the last remnants of my depression and PTSD decide to come out and play. The period between September and October is difficult, for reasons I’ve never been able to discern, but the period from January to mid-March is worse. I suffer from nightmares; dreams from which I wake sobbing, or screaming, or soaked in sweat. I lack the energy to do even the most basic tasks. I don’t want to go anywhere, or be around any people, not even those I love and live with. I can’t stand to be touched. I eat rarely, and only because I have to.

This is, believe it or not, an improvement. My condition was much worse 4, 5 years ago. I’ve been medicated and therapied and support grouped, to no avail.

And then I got my dog.

I didn’t get her for the purpose of helping me – I’m simply a sucker for a sad faced animal in need of help. When I adopted her, she was on the kill list at a city shelter, slated for euthanasia in a few hours’ time. After a sour experience with a prior rescue dog, I’d decided I had very strict criteria for the next dog we’d adopt: male, a puppy I could train from the beginning, small enough that I could pick it up when it was full-grown. What I got was a one-year-old female pit bull, with saggy teats and lost puppies of her own and a white stripe on her forehead that is, I swear, the softest spot on the planet for rubbing a finger or a nose. She loved kids and hated cats, a hatred that has transformed into intense fear after the smallest of our feline litter thoroughly kicked her ass. I can pick her up, but it’s not a pleasant endeavor. Her size, however, doesn’t keep her from believing with all her heart that she’s a lap dog.

After she moved in, I stopped thinking about the best way to commit suicide.

There’s some debate as to whether dogs are capable of empathy or sympathy. Scientific debate, anyway. I think most people who actually own dogs would argue that their dog is absolutely aware when they’re having a difficult time, and that the dog goes out of its way to offer comfort.

My dog, it seems, has developed sympathetic depression.

It’s pretty brilliant, actually. When I’m dealing with her and her stubborn refusal to get up and go pee at least once today, for god’s sake, I’m not listening to the voices in my head. The voices that natter at me about all the things I’ve fucked up, all the ways every terrible thing is entirely my fault, all the ways I’m inadequate and stupid and should go eat worms and die – those voices have to shut the fuck up for a little bit, we are carrying an armful of 60-pound dog down the hallway here and do not have time for your bullshit. When she’s bummed out and not willing to do anything except sit in my lap and groan sadly, I get to rub her ears and her head for hours on end, and we all know the benefits involved in petting an animal.

The one thing she can’t do is fix the block that happens when I’m in the throes of one of my ‘episodes’. There are so many other thoughts running through my mind, most of them unpleasant, that they tend to out-shout the story related ones. I’m trying to push through it, but it feels like an exhausting physical task, rather than a merely mental one. Digging ditches, at this point, might be less demanding.

I’m working on it. I’m hopeful that the next chapter will be ready for Sunday but honestly, right now, I can’t make any guarantees. I’ll do my best, and that’s all I can say. If it doesn’t come off, you can kindly direct any hate mail to my sofa, where I’ll no doubt be moping with my BFF.

There are worse ways I could be spending my time.

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Comments
  1. No hatred or mean comments coming from me! I do just want to say that I found your site, read all 20 chapters at once and have been anxiously awaiting more ever since.
    Hope you’re feeling better and looking forward to reading more!!!!!

    • This comment just made my whole day. Thank you! A new chapter will *hopefully* be going up on Sunday, it’s almost finished. Thanks for being so patient and hanging in there with me. 🙂

  2. Well that’s great! I’m glad 🙂 And I’ll be checking back in early next week to hopefully get my fix!

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