Sunday, November 13, 2011

Death of a Pet

I'm sorry I have been away for so long. I'm sure you've been waiting for an update to my July post. But I need to write this post, about our Alaskan Malamute, Fur Island*. She died this week, very quickly and unexpectedly. This is a very long post. I just want to write this down, apologies for the length, I have a lot to say. I'm kind of surprised how upset I got because she'd always been a bit of a thorn in my side, despite being DH's best friend and one of the reasons he's still around.

In 2000, when DS was a baby, we moved to a cheap rental near the RSPCA. We decided to adopt a dog, and got a lovely Siberian Husky, Sibe* who'd strayed. We already had a cat named Midget* (since 1997), but we'd been unable to get a dog because our previous homes didn't have back fences. (Both Sibe and Midget have passed away now, but we have two other cats and a Labrador, all pets that we didn't shop for, but they needed a home.)

Living near the RSPCA was both good and bad. DH absolutely adores dogs & cats. He was stuck at home, caring for DS, and they could walk there and see the animals. But when DH was living at home, he could walk there with the stroller and they could visit all the animals waiting to be adopted... or "on death row" as DH used to say. They used to continue to visit every few days, even after we'd adopted Sibe. I wasn't sure this was a good idea, because I knew how DH loved to rescue people and animals. But I was working full-time and he was lonely. I made it clear I wanted to stay a two pet family for now.

One day, a young Malamute caught DH's attention. He played with her a lot and felt a real connection. When he took her back to her pen and tried to leave she held onto the bottom of his pants and looked up at him with "Don't leave me" in her eyes. DH decided he had to rescue her. And he decided he needed to do that without my knowledge, or I might say no.

My sister rang me one day to tell me she thought DH was going to adopt another dog. I said, "Don't be ridiculous. He'd discuss it with me first." I confronted him about it and he outright lied to me and said she was making it all up. (Which would be weird, as they usually got on like a house on fire.)

Later that week, I came home from work, and as usual, was running around like a chook with my head cut off. DH says I walked past Fur Island at least twice without noticing her. (We already had a large dog, there colouring was similar, and I was distracted.) He remembers the moment I realised there was another dog in the house. My face changed... confusion and then anger. I couldn't believe my husband of less than 3 years had told me an outright lie, more than once, just to get another dog!?! I was furious!

To be honest, over the next few days I was wondering if we could stay together. Not because I couldn't deal with another dog, but because he could lie to me like that. I wondered how many more lies there would be, or had been. I wondered if I was that hard to talk to, that he couldn't sit down and discuss getting this particular dog with me. I wondered if we would end up with several dogs because we were averaging an adoption every 3 months at this rate!

One big issue I had with getting another dog, especially another snow dog, was the dog hair. Malamutes & Huskies have a double coat and it seems like (to me) that they are always shedding.

Anyway, now I can look back and see that DH was just like a teenager dealing with something he wanted that he thought I would say no to. Do what you want and then apologize later; you may not get permission if you ask. I would've said yes, with a little convincing, but I guess he didn't realise that at the time.

Fur Island was fine on Tuesday, but suddenly ill on Wednesday morning. We took her to the vet after school. She had to stay overnight and it was possible it was the life threatening condition HGE. I was about to speak at a mental health forum when DH tried to ring me, so I couldn't take the call. When I was finished speaking, I checked my messages. The vet had rung to say Fur Island was in septic shock, and he'd been trying to get me to take her to the Animal Emergency Centre (AEC) where she could be monitored overnight, as she might die. I rang DH and he was furious that I'd been out when he needed me. (He couldn't drive her as his licence has expired, and he's too sedated & unmotivated to renew it; plus our second car had a flat tyre.) The vet had to go home and they were both worried Fur Island wouldn't be alive when the clinic opened (she was on fluids & antibiotics overnight).

I left immediately after my phone call (I was supposed to be on a panel) and spent the drive home praying a rosary that Fur Island would make it through the night. I couldn't understand why the vet hadn't told me that if she needed to go to AEC, that I would have to drive her. If I'd known that, I could have canceled my speaking engagement, just in case. DH was asleep when I got home, but woke up later. He was no longer angry with me, just sad. He was convinced she was already dead. I kept telling him we didn't know that for sure.

Thursday morning he tried to get DH out of bed and dressed so we could make it to the clinic in time for the opening, but he was even slower than usual due to his sadness. So, I ended up calling the clinic. The nurse told me "She's still alive!". But she was also able to say she wasn't doing great. I had prepared the children earlier by telling them the day before that Fur Island might die. DS wasn't coping at all well. We decided he could come to the clinic with us, and see how she was doing, and stay home if he thought he would be too emotional at school. He didn't want to cry in front of his classmates. He's done that so many times before, but not in recent months, and he didn't want to get his reputation as a cry-baby back. I dropped DD at school, she wasn't really worried.

Poor Fur Island, she was breathing heavy, she was so lethargic, her tongue was sticking out, it looked very wrong. Both DH & DS were so upset. The vet told us there were a number of things that could be causing her condition. I decided we needed to X-ray, because one of the possibilities was that her intestines had got twisted and blood flow was cut off to them (similar to gastric torsion, but precipitated by the HGE, not by a meal). If this was the case, there was nothing we could to do to save her.

We all went to my office. I worked for an hour, the vet called. It was the bad news that she did have the twisted intestines. The three of us spent some time with her and said goodbye. DH was holding her when the vet gave her the injection that let her go. We stayed with her for a while. DS and DH were both distraught, and I cried too. DD was fine when I told her, she's only 7, and only emotionally about herself, usually. Her first question was, "Can we get another dog?"

Fur Island was an extraordinary dog. When DS was a baby, he walked on her and didn't complain. She carefully evaluated people and gave them the right level of her enthusiasm. With my elderly grandma, she just sat at her feet. With kids, she babysat. She barked if she thought they were doing something stupid. She also barked at us when we tickled them and made them laugh. She kept DH company through his periods of darkness. She was his best friend.

I woke on Friday feeling depressed. I wasn't expecting that. DD was feeling low too. We had a little chat, and decided that it was like our picture of the world and our family now had a hole in it. Fur Island was gone, and it would take a while to get used to that. So it was okay to feel sad. DS was still too sad to go to school.

It's Sunday now, and the kids and I are coping. I was supposed to go to a big karate seminar today with our founder. But DH has just lost his best friend, and is not coping with his pain. We pick up his methadone takeaways today, and he might just be tempted to search my office and take them all. I certainly couldn't take them to a karate seminar with kids all over the place. And he needs some company. Kancho will be back another time. Our little family comes first.

*Pet names have been changed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Making a plan

I'm not falling apart, I'm moving on.

The plan is for me to:
- attend counselling, just organised through Carers Australia - starts Friday the 15th, unless there is a cancellation. I plan to use these sessions to move forward with my life.
- attend Partners in Depression 6 week (2hrs/week) course - starts Wednesday the 13th, although I haven't got confirmation yet.
- ask Carelink for help cleaning the house (it hasn't been cleaned properly in at least 3.5 years, maybe almost 5 years since hubby hurt his shoulder and his depression took over) and for advice on separation.

- arrange mediation (free for carers here) so he understands what I need him to do to get better and what will happen if he doesn't (separation).
- find out how to separate from him without just kicking him out; accommodation and finances and how he can go on getting his methadone.
- start life as a single mum, which I already have been. But this time, I will have more time and money so I can live a more happy & normal life.

I have told him this is the plan. I'm not sure he understands, which is why it is pretty comprehensive.His first response was I don't need to help him cope with single life; I'll just kill myself. I'm not going to help him with that... if he wants to do that, it's his decision.

What I need him to do to get better (The GP wants most of these too!):
- go to counselling / life coaching (I actually already have an appointment booked for him, am happy to help him find the right one)
- go to a new psychiatrist (I have found one that deals with most of his conditions and may actually be able to help him at her private clinic).
- Maybe go to GROW
- Maybe get a PHaMS worker.
- Make some progress.

At present, he has been coming to work with me most days and lying on a camp bed and resting in my office. He doesn't seem to be able to move forward. We have an appointment booked Friday with a place that can help him deal with getting off benzodiazepenes and his anxiety/depression. He's still 'thinking about it'.

I have posted some of this blog entry on carer forums I belong to and plan to take it along to my support group meeting today. Thank you for your ongoing care and support!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I don't want to care any more

Why can't I find a nice little link somewhere with all the details on how to get someone else to take care of my husband?

The problem is, while he doesn't want to do any of the things that may help him get better, the kids and I have to live in a constant crisis mode... no routines, a filthy house (toilets haven't been cleaned in months, bathrooms in years, drifts of dog hair everywhere... floor only gets cleaned when a pet vomits, defecates or urinates on it), and it's all about him... except he won't do anything.

After years of carer education, support, and opportunities, he finally went into hospital and got fixated on one medicine that makes him very sleepy and he wants more of it. He left the hospital because he thought the doctor and I were ganging up on him, and now the doctor doesn't think he's sick enough to go back.

And so, instead of staying home and thinking about death, he comes to work with me every day. And requires me to buy him finger buns from the bakery every morning and a chicken schnitzel sandwich for lunch.

And what do I get in return. A sleepy husband who loses his temper when I ask questions, who sleeps in my office snoring and talking to me in his sleep. And boy, am I patient. You have no idea.

I think my infinite patience is wearing out... but how do I let him down gently? I am not buying a caravan for him to live in our yard for a year... my friend did that for her ex, and he still killed himself in their garage when the year was up.

Can I get him on the pension while I am moving him out? Where can I move him to? Or maybe I should just tell him to kill himself as he's been threatening to do for at least the last 7 or 8 years?

Sorry, I just need to vent. If anyone has any useful suggestions on how I can move on with my life without just throwing him onto the street let me know. (I guess I could inflict him on his elderly parents who live overseas)

Monday, November 29, 2010

What have I lost?

I am reading a book on dealing with grief at the moment. Each chapter covers a myth about grieving, and the reality. The first chapter's myth is You only grieve when someone dies. And the reality, of course is, We grieve whenever we lose anything, whether it be someone or something. I completely agree with this.

One of the exercises at the end of the chapter is to make a personal loss profile about a specific experience or an event. So here goes.

The event I choose to reflect on is: My realisation that this may be as good as it gets; hubby may never get any better, and in fact may continue on his slow downward spiral.

These are the losses I experienced, albeit gradually, not all at once:
  • I've lost the ability to be honest about my life with friends and family. Apart from our parents, I am not 'allowed' to tell anyone that knows my husband what is really going on in our lives. He believes that he has lost friends by me sharing my problems with people we know. In truth, he may be right, but I am just stating my losses.
  • I've lost my house as a welcoming home into which I can invite other people. Much of it is now full of junk. Drifts of snow dog hair and piles of clean and dirty laundry make it extremely uninviting.
  • I've lost my freedom. If I go out in the evening, I pay for it later as his anxiety ratchets up, and he becomes extremely clingy and needy.
  • I've lost the ability to work a 40 hour week, so I've had to take a pay cut and work a 35 hour week instead. I tried, but even when I was still working at home, I kept running out of time and always having to work on the weekends... because I have to take him to almost all of his appointments and sit there with him so he doesn't get anxious or scatterbrained and forget all the details. Despite him officially being the at home parent, I have to do most of the kid things too. I may as well be a single parent, in that regard.
  • I've lost the opportunities to spend time with my extended family (other than my parents). He feels betrayed by my sister and her husband; and my brother and his wife have been distant to him as he becomes intense and hostile when things don't go his way. I have three nephews and a niece that I hardly know. 
I feel better putting that down in writing. I have tried to stick to just the losses and be objective. It will be interesting to see where this book leads me next. I am tempted to write what I am grateful for now, as a follow-up, but I think I will stick with the book exercises for now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm back, with carer grief

It has been a while (7 months, oops!). Silly me, I thought I had everything 'under control', but over the last month or so...
  • I've cried at the end of the Dr Who episode about Vincent Van Gogh, because the credits said if we'd been upset by the episode we could go to this special BBC mental health website, BBC Headroom, for support.
  • I've cried at the meditation workshop I was at the next day at the beautiful Abbotsford Convent. We were supposed to be imagining a beautiful garden, and I just got sadder and sadder.
  • Started taking 2000mg St John's Wort twice a day, again, as once a day was just not doing it for me.
  • Wondered if there's something wrong with me for putting up with a husband who won't do the basic things he needs to do to take care of himself.
On Tuesday I finally got to go to my carer support group again (it has been six weeks, we only meet twice a month but my meditation workshop meant I missed one meeting, and then the Melbourne Cup meant the other was cancelled).

I talked about how I was doing and that I was taking care of myself but feeling so sad. Individual members helped me understand I was in a grief phase. Earlier this year I attended a workshop on grief (run by the CEO of Griefline) in mental health caring - the grief for the life, hopes and dreams we had, that we can no longer attain. It is sometimes referred to as burnout, disenfranchised grief or compassion fatigue. The problem is, there is no closure, no definite steps, little family or community support (unlike bereavement or something physical like a heart attack or cancer diagnosis) and it goes up and down and around like a roller coaster.

On Wednesday, I was supposed to go on another respite day, but apparently the government decided my region had enough funding and I didn't get to go. So I went back to Peninsula Springs, and this time I took hubby. Oh, we had a glorious day... and hubby has never felt so relaxed, so why am I feeling so sad again?

I need some more self care
  • Call Griefline and/or Carers Victoria and see if I can get some counselling around my grief.
  • Research programs that might help hubby with his combined issues (chronic pain, painkiller addiction, anxiety, and depression).
  • See if I can find somewhere the whole family can go and meditate or do yoga together.
  • Find somewhere closer hubby can go for regular bathing in warm water.
I'm glad to be back... I hope some of my followers are still out there!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My other blogs

As you may have noticed, I don't blog here often... that's because I don't have much spare time!

But I have realized I can blog on some topics without too much effort... I can touch type, and cut and paste, and just add a few thoughts of my own, but still share my knowledge and insights.

Please check out my other two blogs:

Carer Inspirations - lovely things that help lift my spirits

What Sapphyre Read - worthwhile reads. This blog title was inspired by What Katy Did, I read this many, many years ago and I'm sure I still have it in a box!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

To snore, or not to snore, that is the question...

This is how I imagine myself in bed, sleeping at night. Bliss (actually I sleep on my stomach, but you get the idea).

Apparently, I've forgotten I have a husband, as he's not in the picture... well, no, I actually am such a good sleeper (when I don't have adrenal fatigue) that it really doesn't matter whether he's there or not. (As long as he doesn't steal all the bedding.)

However, all is not well on the other side of the bed. A few weeks ago, hubby revealed that I am a snorer!
Image: Danilo Rizzuti /
We have looked at or tried a few different things, with limited success:
  • Anti-snoring ring. (This goes on your finger, just to confuse you!) This helps reduce the amount of snoring. Unfortunately, due to my distracted brain, I keep misplacing it. Grrrr. According to lots of people I know, it does usually work. (I suspect it doesn't work for sleep apnea.)
  • Sleeping on your side. Well, I haven't actually tried this, because this is supposed to help when you sleep on your back. Sleeping on your stomach apparently is no worse than sleeping on your side. However, now that I think about it, this is similar to the position that CPR teaches you to put unconscious people in, to improve their airway. (I think.)
  • Anti-snoring throat spray. 
And the winner is.... raising the bed head a few inches with bricks under the bed posts. Two nights in a row, hubby has had a great night's sleep. And I haven't snored for more than a minute!