so close to one month
we’ve shared me
now, she’s sharing her.
calm this fragile soul.
we discuss a plan
what will help shape me?
Devil’s creek becomes
a safe place —
a sweet memory.
I pull from it love
that I need
when days are so hard.
“give yourself new things,
yourself in new ways.”
went to the mountains,
breathed fresh air,
found a sense of home
and left the pieces
of my world
that’d been crushing me.
she says, “you’re solid,
a still rock,
but it’s time to move.”
I hear her, I do.
has its claws in me.
*My therapist is teaching me how to better listen to my surroundings, especially in places of peace. I have taken a ton of pictures of late and with each passing day, in those photos, and around me, I am pulling out what I need and leaving what I do not. I still have a long road ahead of me, though.
I found myself working through a fit of disconnectedness on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, simply trying to get through the day to get to my first therapist appointment at 12:30 pm. Jernee spiked a fever the day before and we had been to the Vet’s office for what was supposed to be just her annual exam but turned into a big-to-do because the fever would not break, however, given one day to rest and be at home to romp about at will, she began to feel much better. Wednesday also found me in a meeting at my job for most of my scheduled half-day of work, so I felt all out of sorts with just a little bit more weight on my shoulders from Tuesday’s doggy shenanigans.
But, when I walked through the door of the psychiatric practice/mood treatment facility, a calming sense of peace came over me. I registered at the check-in desk by presenting my insurance card, recent lab work, and my Living Will and Testament. I paid my copay and before I could sit down, the lady who would be my therapist greeted me at the door to lead me on my journey and even said my name correctly. If I had a gold star in my pocket, she would have received it. We circled the hall and walked towards her office where she guided me to a medium-sized room, big enough for a comfortable couch, two even more comfortable chairs, and her desk space/work area.
She added to my increased level of comfort by asking me which type of lighting I preferred. I said to myself, “I am going to like her.” And, I did. I do. We began by breaking the ice, introducing ourselves, and then she said, “So, tell me what is going on,” and I let it rip. I started from when I noticed my mood changes and my decline in happiness and overall feeling of unworthiness and informed her that it all came to an intense spike a couple of weeks ago. As I was talking, I maintained eye contact, and so did she. She only broke my verbal stride to clarify what I was saying and to be sure she heard everything correctly. She took actual notes, reading back to me what was stated to her.
The entire session felt like a conversational hug — like something I had deep down inside, tucked in a corner that was afraid to come out, and at that moment, decided to present itself to be coddled. I felt a sense of genuine welcome and there was soft lighting in every nook of the office with a fragrance that smelled close to vanilla or lavender or a mixture of both in the air. I did not feel any pressure. Oddly enough, this space, the one we created, seemed very much like a space of peace.
Just like the soup that you see as the photo above, the space we created was my happy place. I felt warm, understood, and heard. I had a voice with her. She acknowledged my concern and addressed it, and advised me to continue to use the tools that I am using to increase my happiness and shift my mood when a dark cloud hovers, however, she was vocal about contacting her directly if I felt as though a volcanic eruption could occur. She is letting me set my schedule to meet with her and at this time, I feel as though, twice per month, will be good.
The next session, we will get deeper into other helpful tools that will assist me in getting back to a level of balance and to also learn about a few other things that can combat the molehill that I have possibly turned into a mountain simply because that is how it feels. There is a good chance that I may have some homework too, she actually said this, “Tre, I may give you some homework as time goes on.” Overall, my first impression of her? Genuine — is doing the job she is meant to do, and a great listener.
I think I am on my way… In time, at least, I hope so
Recently, I thought it would be a good idea to get Jernee a little sister, a new puppy to romp about in our bigger space, but that was swiftly shut down by my Little Monster. Jernee is a jealous girl. Now, I was not 100% aware of this until we opened up our home to the little ones for a visit. The foster mom brought both puppies over, the one for which I had interest and her sister and they had a blast running throughout our apartment. Jernee Timid? Not so much. She stood her ground at each station in our home and barked her disapproval at both pups.
The reaction to these little ones that she displayed made me incredibly sad. I was also a bit angry with her as she has never been mean to little ones before. She is generally a sweet girl, but she is a protector. She has one goal in mind — keep me safe. And to meet that goal, I am now thoroughly aware that she will do anything. Realizing her disdain, the puppies avoided her, they played with each other instead and Monterey, the puppy that I wanted for us, also played with me.
Noticing the discomfort written in the body language of Jernee disappointed me. I wanted her to feel my happiness, to welcome something new into our home, another baby for us to love, yet she clearly indicated that she was not having any of it. The foster mom leaned over to me and said, “I usually tell people with senior dogs to get older dogs as their companions, not puppies. In a sense, they feel as though they are being replaced. Maybe an older dog, close to her age will be a better fit for Jernee?”
And I instantly thought about Nala, who is Jernee’s best friend/big cousin. They grew up together and the two of them are like Frick and Frack and I said to myself, “Why is she so happy with Nala but will not let any other puppy in? Why the wall?” There used to be three: Reese, Nala, and Jernee. Both Reese and Nala are older than Jernee and we lost Reese two years ago. They went from The Triple Threat to Double Trouble. Now with only Nala in tow, she clings. I notice how she affixes herself to Nala when we visit or when I am dog-sitting Nala. She wants her close.
She wants to be sure that Nala is okay, just as she monitors my safety and happiness, she keeps an eye on her best friend too. But, when does the caretaker get her break? When can she rest and let us be without fully being on duty? I do not think that she’s programmed to step away from her job. Jernee is my safe place. She is who I turn to when I am overwhelmed by life — when things weigh me down and I feel like I will break. I can put my trust in her, it is in her, she will love me back to a place of peace.
Of late, there has been a mountain of things that have tumbled down and landed on my shoulders and I can feel the weight pushing into my skin. This is too much for Jernee. I know it. I feel it. I recognize it as a sign to call in bigger guns. I am seeking the help of professionals and have submitted my request for an appointment with a psychiatric practice in our area.
I was detailed in explaining what has happened, what is happening, and how it is affecting my daily life. I left a brief biography and description and also my preference in the therapist who will handle my care. The place in which I submitted my inquiry comes highly recommended by several people, including my cousin Akua (an operating room RN, now a board-certified Nurse Practitioner)who was apart of referring some of their patients to this entity while she was doing clinicals.
It feels good to share my feelings with my cousin regarding my heart health and my mental health as well and to hear her say, “This is going to be really good for you. I am happy you recognize that it’s time.” The Powerhouse is empathetic, wishing that she could share her therapist with me, but we are an hour and fifteen minutes away and convenience is a must.
I want to be myself again. I feel that I am not. I know that I am not. Jernee was/is a gift from God because he matched me with her when I was going through the same battle with emotions nearly eleven years ago and she has helped tremendously, but I feel the pull in my spirit and I am moving in the opposite direction, away from wellness and that must be rectified. Realignment of heart and mind must take place once again and I cannot rely on Jernee alone, although great therapy for me, this task… it is one that is too big for her. I am giving her a break.
I love myself enough to know that I need myself back and seeking professional help is the answer. This will be our new journey.
Author’s Note: When I begin therapy, I will begin a nonfictional series about my journey back to mental wellness and a healthy heart. I wanted to share this here too just in case you’re in my shoes–just in case you needed someone to say it. Thank you for reading.
nicknames aren’t what most aspire to.
we’re often saddled with descriptions
that lessen our personality,
but “the little Monster” suits Jernee.
on walks, she sets her eyes
curiously on nature’s green gifts,
sniffing out the elite versus the subpar.
she has a system.
I am watchful, yet patient.
I admire her investigative process, her
obsession with marking her territory.
I give her space to explore
crumbled earth between her toes,
the dust settling on her paws
becomes a lickable treat after two miles.
we break for hydration and deep breaths,
neither of us — as young as we feel.
during Winter, the dew-drenched grass
is slick and tricky but doesn’t trip
the quick pace of a four-legged athlete.
she glides through the sea of green
life is less difficult with her around.
the walks we take, they are glue
for pieces of me prone to breaking and
in need of constant repair.
she senses my love for them, for her.
in every step, I witness a pet
who is confident in her role as
caregiver, as companion.
I don’t have to be anyone else.
she gives me space to adapt
whenever adaptation is necessary.
I favor the weekend morning walk.
we stroll and strut and spend
our time wisely.
just us, the wind, God, and the clouds…
and the knowledge of a connection between a woman and her dog.
This is my eleventh year with Jernee by my side. You may hear people say, “I don’t know who rescued who,” but I do know and I can say without one shadow of doubt, that with her — I am much better. With her, I am alive.