For those of you who don't know me, my name is Katie and I am 23 years old. I officially received a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in December of 2010, however my therapists believe I went undiagnosed from 2006 onward. This is hard for me to do, but I NEED HELP getting a service dog. I had been attempting to owner-train my own service dog using my dog Zeke but it has become clear that he's just too anxious to handle it. Before I get more into that I will give you some background.
My PTSD arose from chronic childhood emotional abuse and neglect at the hands of my mother and stepfather. For that reason my case is a little different than the PTSD everyone hears about. Most individuals get the disorder from a singular event or handful of events such as those experienced in an assault or during warfare. My PTSD is a culmination of roughly 14 years of trauma. This makes it even more difficult to treat.
So far I have been through nearly two years of traditional therapy with a counselor. For the past 6 months I have been seeing a PhD pyschologist with 20 years of trauma experience as well as a psychiatrist. Over the past 2 years I have been through at least 6 medications with mixed results, none of them particularly effective.
My current treatment plan includes an ongoing hunt for effective medications, weekly EMDR and CBT therapy, and getting a PTSD service dog. My dog Zeke was in training to do this for me but it has really become apparent that he feeds off of my anxiety. Something you can't have in a service dog. This page started out with a goal of $4000.00 to complete his training but has now been changed to $10,000.00 in order to fund a fully trained service dog from Little Angels Service Dogs in California.
It has been a ROUGH road for me, I put myself through college and completed a Bachelor's of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology all while suffering from PTSD symptoms. For those of you who aren't familiar with the disorder I'll give you my experience:
1) Disturbed Sleep- This includes nightmares of my traumatic experiences nearly nightly, difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, clawing my skin in my sleep, poor sleep quality
2) Hypervigilance- It is difficult for me to relax in a public situation, I am constantly scanning my surrounding to see what everyone around me is doing and where they are going. I lack a feeling of safety in most public settings.
3) Re-experiencing Trauma- It's honestly like living a nightmare. My mind when not constantly distracted goes back to my traumatic childhood memories. That can lead to actually hearing audio from those memories or just general feeling of fear and distress as experienced in that memory. Flashbacks, luckily, are more of a minor problem for me, I've only had them twice, but that's when you actually believe the event is happening again.
4) Anxiety- My beginning anxiety levels are so high from all of these other issues that the smallest stress can send me into a panic attack. This involves sweating, a pounding heart, rapid breathing, and a general feeling of "if I don't leave this place I'm going to die". I have tried pretty much every relaxation exercise known to man and the only thing that can pull me out of a panic attack quickly is my dog Zeke.
5) Dissociating- This is similar to all of those times you drive somewhere in a car and suddenly realize you don't remember the steps that got you there. For me, I begin to detach myself from my surrounding when I become overwhelmed, such as in a crowded grocery store or if I am remembering something traumatic. I can listen to someone talking and not hear a word they say.
6) Isolation and Avoidance- All of the above culminates in agoraphobia, I'm afraid to go out and experience the world because I never know what will trigger me into experiencing a memory or having a panic attack. Triggers for me can be something as simple as bright pink nail polish, a navy blue sweatshirt jacket, or a pregnant woman. Most of my triggers are hard to identify because I can't remember or verbalize a lot of my memories until something sets them off. So a lot of my triggers are learned as I go instead of something I can know and avoid. I lost out on a lot of college experiences and now the experience of working in my field as well.
Right now I am working a part-time retail job while in therapy. I tried working a full-time biology job in August but had a nervous breakdown from trying to ignore my PTSD. I'm doing this the right way now, the right therapy, the right medicines (hopefully), and now the right service dog.
My goal is to be able to attend my post baccalaureate certificate program in medical laboratory science while also working part time in the Fall of 2013. I want to live a NORMAL LIFE or as normal as it can be and to do that I need a service dog. See below for info on what a dog would do as my service dog, taken from Little Angels Service Dogs:
Just as a dog can be trained to alert to seizures and other medical conditions, a dog can also be trained
to sense the changes in a person's body when they are beginning to have a panic attack, flash back,
anxiety attack, or other psychiatric condition. The dog is able to paw at the leg of their disabled recipient
and interrupt what would otherwise be a debilitating and destructive behavior for the individual. This
helps the handler to refocus on their dog and work through the problem.
Deep Pressure Therapy
Just as medical wraps are used to alleviate anxiety in persons with psychiatric conditions, dogs can be
trained to put the pressure of their body weight on their handler's lap and abdomen to physically, and
then mentally relieve anxiety and induce a sense of calm.
When the individual suffers from anxiety due to the close proximity of others, or due to claustrophobia in
a crowded room, the dog can be trained to stand in between their handler and others to gain more
personal space. The dog is not being protective, but is simply following a simple cue from their handler to
move their body into the space surrounding their handler.
A frequent problem for those suffering from PTSD is to negotiate corners without the fear of what is
waiting on the other side. Our dogs can be trained to go around corners in front of their handler and
then alert their handler if there is someone waiting on the other side. Over time this form of therapy can
assist the disabled recipient when becoming more comfortable with going into public.
There are many situations when a recipient will need to excuse themselves from a classroom or meeting
due to personal psychiatric concerns. With a discrete signal to the dog the handler can command his
dog to paw at the leg, making it look like the dog is seeking attention. The handler is then able to
comfortably leave the situation with the excuse that his dog needs to relieve itself.
It goes without saying that any service dog's greatest assistance is the emotional support they can offer
their handler. Most disabilities present trials than can be relieved on a mental level simply by the dog's
presence. A well behaved dog can help to lower blood pressure and give a sense of ease to anyone who
I know this is a lot to take in, any amount of assistance is so greatly appreciated, even if it is only $1 or a share on social media. I don't want to be a victim of my circumstances, I want to heal, grow, and help others. Please help me on my road to recovery and help me get a service dog!
Thank you for reading!
***Note, this page was edited 3/1/13 to reflect a change in goals. It shifted from finishing service dog training for my dog Zeke to a fully funded service dog from Little Angels Service Dogs in California. My PTSD meds stopped working completely and it was revealed that Zeke feeds off of my anxiety in public and in turn becomes unresponsive to commands. This is something you can't have in a service dog.****