Category Archives: Dogs

Where’s Your Happy Place?

When I was a kid I had a place where I could escape all my childhood cares and be completely at peace with myself. It was along a disused railway track and up a slope. There was a stile where I would sit and look out over the beautiful fields. Skylarks and Yellowhammers were always twittering and made heavenly companions. If I was angry to begin with, I’d inevitably feel more calm after 10 minutes or so just sitting doing nothing except soaking up nature.

In a way I didn’t even feel alone. I definitely felt some kind of universal presence, call it God or Spirit. Nature always had a subtle power to befriend me and allow me to offload my troubles.

This is gonna sound so stupid but even watching cows or sheep grazing helps me refocus and calm my emotions. I love the way all they care about is grass- chew, chew, chew. All they seem to think about is where the next best bit of grass is. I love it! Their lives are so simple! Kind of brings any of my worldly problems back into perspective! Sometimes I think animals are way smarter than humans.

I also have an imaginary happy place that I “visit” when meditating, under a big oak tree at the top of a gently sloping wildflower meadow. It overlooks hills and trees. Here I imagine sitting and reading. All the dogs I’ve grown up with are with me, lying around in the sun, as well as the horses I used to ride. No people though!!

Dogs are brilliant too. My dog Cassie is never sad. She might get a bit worked up when she knows her dinner or walk is due, but afterwards she never fails to jump up on our laps for a cuddle. She’s so happy! She doesn’t worry about impressing anyone or what she needs to get done or relationships. Once the belly is full she’s the most contented animal ever! A lesson in gratitude from a dog!

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Bipolar, Border Collies & Balance

On my dog-walk this morning we bumped into Sue, another regular dog-walker, who has the most beautiful Border Collie (sheepdog) called Tara. Tara is usually fairly excitable and eager to be fussed, but today she was more subdued. Immediately Sue shared that Tara has been having bad fits regularly over the last few weeks. The vet’s treating her for epilepsy.

Apparently epilepsy is a common condition in Border Collies. Sue mentioned that the vet advised her to keep Tara as relaxed as possible and give her lots of piece and quiet as stress can be one of the triggers to fitting. (From what Sue told me, her house is dominated by her boisterous older kids, so can be a little chaotic!).

Border Collies and Balance

Border Collies are highly sensitive dogs that are very high maintenance. They were bred to be working all day in the fields, rounding up sheep. Even dogs kept as pets need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom. A bored Border Collie can easily become snappy and aggressive, destructive and obsessive- they will stare at shadows for ages and fixate on them, or become obsessed with bringing their ball to you to be thrown. (I’ve experienced this one first hand- these animals have insatiable appetites for play and interaction).

However, they also need a fairly stress-free environment to live in. They are especially sensitive to noise and can easily become chronically stressed if living amidst chaos, which in Tara’s case, could possibly have triggered her epilepsy.

But a happy, healthy border collie is capable of amazing achievement, evident in agility competitions, performing routines to music and of course their fantastic work with sheep farmers.

How does this relate to Bipolar Disorder?

This got me to thinking how closely the Border Collie resembles us Bipolar people! We are often high maintenance too and need to find a happy balance in life, just like the dogs!

Depression: As bipolar sufferers we are usually intelligent, creative and have a need to be stimulated in these ways in order to prevent boredom. Boredom in Bipolar often leads us to fixate on our thoughts and become obsessive, anxious, depressed or irritable.

Without a purpose we are liable to analysing every little thing we do or don’t do, often judging and criticising ourselves in the process. We can eat up our souls with our innate ability to analyse ourselves negatively. Our minds are hungry to work and without mastery, they run along of their own accord, often with negative consequences for us!

Hypomania/Mania: On the flip-side, if we spend too much time working, we are likely to end in a similar situation or possibly with hypomania or mania.

We are so intense in our focus, with many many ideas- so many that we often have to work faster and faster to keep up with our minds. The highs we can get from immersion in our occupation can then be exacerbated when, feeling so confident and drunk on life, we go to too many social events/nightclubs or spend too much time shopping. Mania here we come!

Peace and quiet are therefore essential in keeping us from becoming self-destructively high!

Balance: The Path to Reaching Our Potential

Like Border Collies we have a very strong need for balance. We are easily tipped either side of the scales. Learning to keep that balance seems to be one of the lifelong challenges for those of us with Bipolar. But once we have that balance through finding the right vocation, environment and (usually) medication, we are capable of fantastic achievements and can really thrive. Just take a look at any list of famous people with Bipolar Disorder and you will see that we can be just as successful as those without, and in some cases, even more so!!

Famous Bipolar Sufferers: Van Gogh, Carrie Fisher, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, Spike Milligan, Stephen Fry,Virginia Woolf, Amy Winehouse, Schumann……They’re all Border Collies!

Resources

List of famous Bipolar Sufferers taken from List taken from Wikipedia.

Photo Credits: Border Collie Jumping by gadgetgirl; Bored Collie by furry-photos; Puppy by andyvanyperen.

Cassie

We got Cassie home at 4pm after a stressful day hunting out, and then assembling a dog guard for the car. She was pleased to see us when we collected her, and seemed her usual outgoing self. The car journey was a bit traumatic for her, but she wasn’t sick or anything which was good. Once home she soon settled and was relaxing and snoozing away within a few hours.

Cassie’s first night with us seemed to go really well- she was quiet and there were no toilet problems. Walking her has also been good today. It’s frustrating not being able to let her off the lead though, as she clearly needs a really good run in the mornings. She’s also wearing her Buster collar (plastic cone) which I think is annoying her now. We’ve had a little play today with a ball and a ragger rope, which she really seemed to love. Really pleased to see she’s interested in playing.
To get her used to being alone, we’re keeping her shut in the lounge and leaving her for short periods of time. I’ll actually leave the house for 30mins tomorrow to see how she does. I’ve got to leave her for about four hours on Wednesday so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll be good.

Barking Mad

I’m so excited- we’re adopting a rescue dog! I’ve been wanting one for so long that I can’t believe we’re finally doing it. She is a 2 year old Springer Spaniel x Border Collie (which I believe is called a Sprollie) who we’re calling Cassie. We met her on Saturday, at the Dogs Trust at Snetterton, and took her out for a long walk. We quickly decided we’d like to take her on (think she’ll be hard work as she’s very energetic) and so we’ll be collecting her next Sunday. I can hardly wait, I feel like a kid at Christmas who has to wait for her parents to let her open her presents!

I’ve noticed a change in my mood already: I’m obsessing about dogs (which I guess is pretty normal if you’re going to get one) and reading anything I can get on dogs and training from the Millenium Library in Norwich, I’m slightly hyper- more energy, harder to sleep, more confident and making plans to win medals and awards for dog agility with Cassie. Poor dog- she’s going to have to live up to my massive expectations! I’m not taking myself too seriously though, as I know all my enthusiasm will wear off and I’ll just want a regular pet.

Cassie’s going to have a tough week this week as she is being neutered at the rescue centre today which means she’ll wear the dreaded plastic cone round her neck (the “cone of shame”- as amusingly named in Pixar’s recent film “Up”). If that wasn’t enough she’ll be changing homes, and she’s probably just starting to get used to the Dog’s Trust after only 2 weeks there. I’m really hoping she’ll love it here with us, I’m totally committed to exercising her loads and giving her plenty to do as I know she’ll get bored easily. I can’t wait to get her settled in.

 

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