On Becoming Pack Leader

Had yet another incident this morning while out with Brody in which he lunged at another dog, almost without warning. This time, the other dog’s person was not understanding, in that he was not putting up with such behaviour and escorted his dog safely away immediately.

I felt terrible.

In talking about it with one of Brody’s treats ladies, who was with us at the time, I realized that one of his triggers might be the nose-to-nose greeting, particularly with dogs who are bigger than him. This was a puppy, but on the larger size, and she got right up in his face, right from the start, to which Brody said a whole lotta no. Apparently some dogs find that sort of greeting to be kind of stressful, and prefer to be approached from the side, instead. I noticed long ago that Brody shies away from direct frontal contact, even when it’s me reaching down to pet him. He prefers to ease into it, which I can fully understand.

Regardless, though, if things keep on like this, he’s going to get himself killed.

So naturally, I took to the internet, and delved into Cesar’s Way, website of Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer.

Now, I’ve stated several times – even as recently as yesterday – that I am not a good leader. This holds true for being a Pack Leader to Brody, as well, but in that case, neither of us can afford for me to not be one any longer. Really, I should have looked things like this up before Brody and I even met, but I was looking up a whole whack of stuff, trying to be prepared, and a person can only anticipate so much. Especially when one has never really realized that one would have to be a Pack Leader. I am the opposite of Alpha, so I have a lot of learning to do, anyway, but I think I’ve already taken great strides in just realizing that I have to come at all of it a different way.

Kind of like some of the lessons Hudson the polar bear taught me, actually. I saw things differently because of him, and now I am learning to see things differently because of Brody. It’s just time for teaching and learning between the two of us to stop being a one-way street. Brody needs me to lead, and so lead is what I’ll do.

Or I am learning to do.

One of Cesar’s rules is to live in the moment, not regret the past nor fear the future. Dogs live in the moment, and I need to, as well. Which I have already been thinking recently, anyway, I just needed a nudge to commit to it more resolutely. So instead of talking about what I will do, I’m attempting to talk about what I am doing. Or at least trying to do.

There is a lot to learn. And everybody is different so Brody and I will of course need to figure things out based on who we each are, but more importantly, who we are together. I just wanted so badly for him to love me – we came together because we’d both lost his girl and needed some extra love. While I have no intention of holding back affection, of course, I do intend to step up and be the Pack Leader he deserves. I now understand that’s what will create an even more loving bond between us than we already have.

Getting to know him has exceeded my needs and hopes from the get-go. Now it’s time for me to exceed his needs, too.

Love you beyond reason or measure, Brodykins. Time for us to both learn what that really means.

We got this.

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Hodgepodge of Nothing to Say

You know, I was feeling pretty good this morning – not physically, of course, but in every other way. Then I got to work and between how that’s going, and people and the internet and just, like…what the hell, Universe? I don’t even eat cornflakes, so why ya gotta go pissin’ in ’em, anyway?

Ridiculous.

Labels – do they bring us together and give us community? Or further divide us? Because how it feels when you don’t fit into the labels you define yourself with and/or with which others define you, would suggest the latter. And yet we keep coming up with more. We oversimplify and categorize and ignore less and less of the unique individual beneath the groupings.

It’s weird.

This is what some online comment/arguments/conversations look like to me:

Person 1 – I sometimes enjoy watching fish swim around. It’s calming to me.

Person 2 – I can’t believe people like you actually exist! I love the colour orange! In fact, oranges – which are MADE from orange – are super healthy, and you’re obviously an idiot who doesn’t deserve to live.

Note how they aren’t even talking about the same thing. Not on the same page, not in the same book – pretty sure not even on the same planet. It’s not even an argument at that point, because two completely different things are being said. Tearing a strip off someone without bothering to understand what you’re responding to is just silly, people.

At best.

Today has gone so awry in tiny ways that I can’t even remember what I wanted to say. I’m hungry, though, so I’ll eat shortly and maybe just look at pictures I took, or something.

I went through my budget this morning, because I realized I’d miscalculated last week by forgetting one of my more major expenses. I knew I wasn’t as well off this month as it had seemed. I don’t know if I can make it work now, but I’m definitely going to do my best! We’ll see what happens over the next two weeks!

I keep coming up with more things I should perhaps cut out of my to do list, but I’m not sure which ones I’m most okay with ditching. This whole skipping antidepressant doses is messing with my mind and heart, so I’m trying to be careful about which doors I close right now. Trying not to make too many regrettable mistakes, but sometimes it’s hard!

Plus, I keep coming up with more things to add to the list, which is ridiculous, but that is how my brain works. Always thinking of more.

Sometimes I don’t quite know why I do as much as I do, when those I am supposed to be doing them with are actually doing so much less.

Maybe I should just do more for me.

But maybe that would be a mistake, too. So I’ll wait a while and not make any hard decisions until I feel more confident in my ability to make them.

Where possible, anyway!

Rambling Mind

I don’t understand what’s going on. At all. Maybe nothing. I have no idea. There is, of late, a huge disconnect between my inner and outer realities. Add a healthy dose of PMS into the mix and the confusion is overwhelming. So isolating. Perhaps I am just succumbing to my usual paranoia and uncertainty. Though it’s often been right in the past – can it still be deemed paranoia if it ends up being correct?

Meh. Questions without answers, really. Better to just keep plodding along and wait for my next break.

I have my next MRI on Sunday. While I’m technically hoping it will be a quick session, I feel it’s much more likely that it’ll be one of the long 45-minute-IV-with-contrast-material types, instead. It makes more sense, since it’s just my annual check-up type one and they’ll want to get as much detail and cover as much territory in the scans as possible. I just really hate those ones, and am running out of ways to entertain myself while in the tube for that long. However, at least it’ll be over with, and since Monday is a holiday, I’ll be able to just relax and do nothing, if I want, the whole next day. That’ll help. Usually I feel more than a little off once I come out of the machine. I know it doesn’t do anything to me physically, but my mind feels cloudy, anyway. Maybe from focusing on remaining still while not letting claustrophobia set in.

There should be a law against cologne – or artificial scents of any kind – that I can smell even if I am not near you. Seriously people. What kind of nastiness are you trying to cover up by dousing yourself so completely in something else?

Anyway.

I’m frustrated at this whole not working Saturdays thing. I know, sounds weird, but there are several reasons why I’m feeling this way. Aside from the fact that it’s a shorter work day, and earns a longer weekday off, which is sometimes enough. But it would give me the opportunity to do other things I want to do sometimes. Like go to the zoo. I hate going on weekends, through the summer at least, because of the hoards of sweaty hairless apes in my way, ruining my Zen thing. But if I want to go on a weekday, I have to burn a vacation or sick day to do it. I got turned down for volunteering at the Wildlife Centre because the weekend shifts are first to go, and those are the only ones I could do. I probably wouldn’t be a Big Sister again anyway, but that’s another thing I can’t do. Not the in-school mentor program, at least. I can see my therapist if I book an appointment first thing and then head to work after, which doesn’t always have me in the greatest headspace for the rest of the work day. Sometimes it’d be better if I could just go home after and process. But I can’t, unless I am willing to burn a sick day, o vacation day, if I know far enough in advance that I won’t feel up to coming in that day.

Overall, it’s fine. I’ve just been feeling lately like I am having to give up a lot of the things that I’d enjoy or look forward to or benefit from in some way in order to continue receiving a paycheque. That is, of course, the most important thing, because without that I’d have far less opportunity than I do now. I guess I’m just sad that this seems to be all there is, and I am struggling to make even that much balance out. It’s depressing sometimes.

In other news, Mr. Brodykins has an appointment with the groomer on Saturday! He will hate every moment, except the ones where he gets to hang with Momma Kristi and ride in the car. Probably on her lap, if he gets his way. That’s his preferred mode of travel, after all. I hate leaving him there, knowing how miserable it makes him, but he does love being picked up after, and being told how utterly adorable he is. He likes to show off a bit, at that point. Maybe I’ll see about getting him some kind of little special treat for being a good boy. Because he’s always a good boy. He hates the whole grooming process with the seething fire of a thousand suns, but he doesn’t fight it. Instead, he freezes in his silent misery, and tolerates it all until it’s finally over. And then gets unnaturally excited when you put his collar back on.

Bless.

I love that little guy.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just so in my head I don’t really know what’s accurate or real anymore. Or maybe my instincts are good enough that I’m getting the hints being put out there, but am just not certain enough to react. Maybe there’s nothing to react to at all. Regardless, I feel dumb, so hopefully I can figure out at least some of it soon. It’s seeming pretty manic, really. I’m still here, though, so as much as I am trying to sort some things out, I’m also trying to, like, live day to day life. It’s all I can think to do, sometimes.

Long weekend coming up finally, and then next weekend is the first one I booked off for myself. Four days in a row! I don’t know how I’ll manage NOT to give myself so much to do that I won’t get it done and then be disappointed in myself…but I’m going to try not to give myself so much to do that I don’t get it done and feel disappointed in myself.

A co-worker just asked if it was Friday yet – it’s like he’s reading my mind. I was just thinking how far away Friday still is, but that it’s kind of a good thing because I have a lot to do in the meantime.

I was looking up screenwriting contests yesterday to see if there were any deadlines I could aim for but realistically meet. I realized that I’m not anywhere close to ready to start writing the updated adaptation of my first book, though. I need to sort out the changes that will be made and how they’ll all go together with the parts of the story that are being kept. I’ll work on a new outline first, and then consider starting the script.

Why can’t things in our heads just come out on paper automatically?

On The Need For Mental Health Reform

So, back in 2008, a guy named Vince Li got on a Greyhound bus and, seemingly out of nowhere, started stabbing the young man sleeping next to him, 22-year-old Tim McLean.  Li would go on to sever his victim’s head, show it to the horrified passengers who were huddled on the side of the highway, and then not only remove other parts of McLean’s body, but eat them, as well.

In court, Li was found not criminially responsible for the crime, and sent to a high security psychiatric ward.

Less than 8 years later, he has legally changed his name and is preparing to live on his own again.

I have to say, I am really struggling with this whole thing. On the one hand, I understand that mental illness is a legitimate reason to not be held responsible for committing a crime. On the other hand, this man took the life of another, and while he may be feeling better now, the other passengers, the bus driver, the trucker who stopped to help, the police on the scene (one of whom has since taken his own life) and most of all, the friends and family of Tim McLean, will carry this horror and loss with them for the rest of their lives. I’m just not sure how I feel about someone causing – deliberately or not – so much pain and suffering to others, being able to just move on and live out the rest of his life.

I think this whole scenario serves to highlight the many issues and problems with the way mental health is handled, both in this country and possibly around the world. I think, even though great strides have been made, at its heart, we still don’t really know what to do, what to think, or how to feel. We can couch our thoughts into PC wording, or spread clever memes and hashtags on social media, but I am not sure anyone actually has any real understanding of how best to deal with mental health issues. I’m not sure it’s even possible to really understand, not for those suffering, and not for anyone who is not.

It’s not that people aren’t trying hard enough. I think it’s just such a vast and complex issue overall, and the fact that mental health is completely intangible, and invisible – we can’t touch or see the problem itself, only the external effects of it – that all makes it even more impossible to truly get a grasp on. In addition, actual focus on mental health – in terms of the wider public, at least – has really only come about in recent years, comparatively speaking. We hear horror stories of drilling holes in skulls to release the demons within whenever someone had a headache (along with pretty much anything that happened in asylums around the turn of the 20th century or so), we shake our heads in dismay at tales of electroshock therapy and the mishandling of postpartum depression. Even the effects of addiction and withdrawl haven’t been fully investigated and treated as of yet. There’s still so much more we don’t know or understand than we can claim to have a handle on, and that’s kind of terrifying, if you think about it.

We have procedures and punishments for those who break the law outright, deliberately and knowingly. Those have changed a lot over the years, too, as we learn more about incarceration and rehabilitation. We aren’t sure what to do with the criminally insane – those who seemingly can’t be rehabilitated and released back into the wild (aka civilization), so we keep them locked up indefinitely, for the safety of themselves and others.

But we have a very vague line drawn where accountability and responsibility is concerned, and that is part of the problem. We agree that some people shouldn’t be punished for crimes that they can not be found criminally responsible for. But…what can be done, instead? Can justice still be served if the offender can’t ever be held accountable for his or her actions?

Li claimed he’d been hearing the voice of God for a good 4 years before “God” told him to kill Tim McLean. There’s zero point in trying to find the logic in it. Like, God also said “Thou shalt not kill” – there was no caveat in that statement. And did God also tell Li to eat parts of the guy he’d been instructed to kill? To defile the body and cut pieces from it to put in his pockets? To show the head of his victim to the other passengers on the bus once he’d removed it? Did God create the aliens that he wanted Li to save the rest of us from?

Did God tell him to carry a big-ass knife around with him, just in case?

We’ll never know any of that, because we weren’t inside Vince Li’s head, and if we were, everything would make sense to us, because that’s how mental illness works. You see one thing; the rest of the world sees something else entirely. Everything you see is real, whether it’s actually there, or not.

In that way, reality is subjective.

So, basically, to Vince Li’s mind, he did nothing wrong. He was a hero, in fact, saving us from aliens, or whatever.

At the time.

But what about now? What does he think and feel abuot what he’s done now that he’s medicated and doesn’t hear voices anymore? His condition is currently not curable, so he must remain medicated for the remainder of his life. And there’s nothing to say that his treatment won’t need to be adjusted in the future to remain effective, so hopefully he’ll be closely monitored for the rest of his life, too, since he won’t be able to determine on his own if his reality is slipping again.

And that’s the thing, really, because who can tell? In the days and weeks leading up to the murder, no one noticed anything wrong or different about him. He’d been hearing God’s voice for 4 years, and apparently no one could tell anything was amiss. So how do we, as a society, know that we’ll still be safe even when he’s back out in the world, living on his own?

We don’t.

Maybe it’ll be fine, and he’ll never do anything like that again. But guaranteed there’s more people out there listening to the voice of God speaking to them and only them, every day. And no one around them can tell. There will always be more people slipping, and breaking from reality. There will always be crimes committed for which the perpetrators are not criminally responsible.

I realize that we can’t just lock everyone up and throw away the key, or hospitalize them until they die. I understand that, in this case as in many others, Li is and will continue to be closely monitored, even when he’s on his own.

But I think we need to find a better way. Some way to not only research and find new methods of treatment, but to also see that a better sense of justice is served. What Li did may never seem real to him, but it’ll never be anything but real to those who suffered as a result of his actions. There needs to be some form of punishment, some price to pay. Some attempt at atonement for crimes committed.

And not just in this case, nor just in cases where there is an added criminal element. We need to do better for mental health issues overall. Even something that seems simple from the outside – depression = sad, so therefore sunshine, laughter and hugs are the cure – is more complex to the person living with it, and to those around them who are affected by it. Hugs can sometimes be the cure for sad, but being sad isn’t the same as being depressed. Being sad is a mood. Being depressed is a condition. Hugs won’t cure depression any more than they cure a broken arm or a ruptured spleen. And that’s how we have to start thinking about mental illness in general. We need to treat it the same way we treat physical illnesses – as something that’s actually not all in our heads.

Even though it technically is in our heads, but not in a way that can be brushed off as irrelevant or easily remedied. It’s not something that can be quantified nor understood, even by the sufferer.

It’s a physical ailment of the mind.

As for when there is a criminal element involved…I just don’t know. There needs to be something in between institutionalization and rehabilitation/release. At least for the length of time a mentally competent person who’d committed a similar crime would receive in a court of law. Something that would allow for closer monitoring of the individual, as well as further research into the disease, the hopefully both understand and treat it better. Like a halfway house, but with stricter controls, medical and therapeutic monitors and less tangible access to the outside world. We don’t allow murderers out on unaccompanied day trips and the like while they are serving their sentence; the same should really hold true for those who kill while suffering a break from reality. The act is the same, the accountability is different, the punishment should be somewhere in between.

I think that might make it easier to determine what punishments would best suit others, too, like those who commit crimes of passion, or while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction is itself a mental illness, and while someone may commit a crime while they weren’t entirely in control of themselves as a result, there is still a price to be paid.

They always say the punishment should fit the crime. I think the real problem is that we’re slowly realizing that the issue is not nearly that clear-cut; not so black and white. It’s a series of complex layers that we’re only beginning to dig into.

So maybe the way we deal with it should have several layers to it, as well.