I tell myself this every day

I tell myself this every day

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Freaky Fred

I lost over 30% of my hair while on lithium. It was one of the unfortunate side effects that I not only experienced but was hit pretty hard by. I didn’t have bald spots but it was an even, all over loss of volume that was pretty easy to see. My body was starting to broadcast on the outside the hell I was going through on the inside. 

I suck at hair. As an artist it’s the one area I just don’t understand and don’t have the patience for. Whatever female magical power women are supposed to come with that makes them patient at trying to manipulate the thousands of dead cells pouring out the top of their noggins must have skipped me. I kept it simple- cute little V shaped bangs and shoulder length hair. Nothing fancy but the V bangs gave it enough of a different look that complimented the sharp features of my face and was easy to maintain.

I’m girly. I’m a much girlier person than most would guess. I’ll spend an hour or 3 putting makeup on, and managing my outfit accessories can take just as long. But I fall flat when it comes to giving a shit about the process of hair. If I have to touch a curling iron or hairspray I will immediately bitch about how it’s taking too long and that my life is over and I hate everything. I also can’t seem to figure out how to coordinate the movements of my arms while looking into a mirror. I can’t make the connection in my head and with the results being mostly 3rd degree burns and eye injuries involving bobby pins, I just brush my hair and lie to myself the rest of the day.

And then I lost my hair.

My V bangs became thin and gaps developed which looked terrible and reinforced the fact that life wasn’t even going to let me have a moment of relief with just looking not homeless. It was going to have my mental state in an uproar and my physical appearance in a sad state as well. I simply brushed my bangs to the side and ignored my head and avoided all mirrors.

But then I started to look like a nuclear fallout victim, with large areas obviously missing chunks of hair. Once it escalated to the “overworked and underappreciated washed up soccer mom” state, I knew had to act. I felt like hell on lithium and I wanted to at least lie on the outside and be able to look like I’m holding it together perfectly. Problem was the only hair style I ever loved on me was a 2 foot tall death hawk. The style isn’t the problem, the association was. That was Typhoid’s hair.

Typhoid is the name of my manic personality. She’s funny, impulsive, life of the party, and all around awesome- except when she’s mean, volatile, and getting me arrested. She’s an inflated ego come to life, she is my manic side and she’s dangerous.

I fear her more than any other aspect of my bipolar disorder.

So when I started toying with the idea of shaving just one side of my head to give me the look I really enjoyed, the death hawk when it wasn’t up, I started to worry that she was popping back up again. Typhoid is me, not an actual persona or personality switch, she’s still 100% me, I address her as a separate entity on purpose, it’s a safety mechanism. Mania LOVES itself, it’s a drug. When you’re high on drugs nothing feels bad at the moment, and if nothing feels bad then what’s the problem? Especially if that euphoric high comes naturally. Who wouldn’t love to be on cocaine, ecstasy, and good vodka all at the same time for weeks on end, naturally?

Mania feels good but just like a drug there is a crash and it’s absolutely devastating.

I have to keep her separate in my mind as a way to help control the possibility of a hypomanic state creeping up on me without me knowing. It’s a safety measure. Typhoid doesn’t just pop up, she slowly creeps her way into existence and I have to take all measures to make sure I’m not having symptoms that are red flags that she might be coming if I don’t do something.

So once I started having the thought of shaving the side of my head I started to panic because associated that hair style with her and I’m deathly afraid of her.

After about 3 months I finally broke down and did it. The hair loss was just too much and even though I was off lithium at that point my head was going to take a year or two to recover. I wanted to feel good about myself again but I wanted to make sure that that was truly my motivation. I didn’t want to go 2006 Britney Spears on myself.

I still feel like I’m still discovering who I am as far as my tastes go. I don’t feel like I really started exploring who I was, as in who I am completely separate from my disorder, until I was diagnosed and started really separating who I was from what the disorder causes me to do. I wasn’t into the same things as I was before- music, movies, people, everything was different. And I think I ran away from any semblance of my previous life and style because I associated it with Typhoid. I’m finally coming to accept what was part of my mania and what was actually me and it turns out my personality is much different but my tastes haven’t strayed too too far, they’ve just evolved.

I still like darker things, I just like them with a smile on my face now.

I no longer fear my haircut, as silly as that sounds. It not the haircut I feared, it’s the reasoning behind it. I now know that it’s just a haircut I wanted because it’s low maintenance and looks good on me, not Typhoid’s claim over me.

Thanks for reading

I'm still fighting to survive currently while I wait for disability. If you would like to help you can donate to my Paypal (no fees) or my GoFundMe (10% fee)
I'm currently struggling to get caught up on 2 missed car payments.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Taking a break

After 6 months of medication complications and instability I have been left weak. Bipolar disorder isn't just being moody, it's losing control over what you feel at any given moment with long bouts of negative feelings and states of mind. It wears you down and getting proper help is just as difficult as surviving the dark places your brain takes you to. The doctor and nurse practitioner I have been working with over the past 6 months has been detrimental to my health. They gave me very bad medical advice and did not handle my prescription drugs in a safe and responsible manner. For this I have suffered more than has been necessary. For this I'm the one rendered almost incapable yet have to pick up all the pieces. I've decided an inpatient stay is what it has come to, unfortunately. I wouldn't have had to go this route if I hadn't been terminated from my job the way I was. That silly little bike shop job was 1/3 of my happiness in what had become a daily struggle to survive.

Because of the physical side effects of the medication complications I couldn't ride, which is a pretty big hit to my mental state in itself. I didn't have a choice- the withdrawals had my whole body shaking and the lithium had me off balanced with hand tremors. I was a danger to myself and others if I hopped on a bike, so I didn't. What kept me going was knowing that once everything settled I could then figure out how to get back on the bike. But in the meantime I had a way to fulfill that part of my life- working at the bike shop.

It sounds so stupid but my brain craves bike life. Riding, talking about it, being a part of it. It's some sort of sick weirdo thing I have but it's just part of who I am and I've come to accept it. There are worse things to be obsessed with, so I've heard.

I don't think I can express how much I not only love riding but how balls deep I am in love with the sport itself. What I gained from working in a shop was the fact that I thrive off of getting people up and out riding. I live for getting people pumped about cycling- from the little old lady who wants to cruise a quarter of a mile comfortably down the street, to getting people set up for their first Iron Man- everyone counts the same for me. You want to ride a bike? Well, you're my new favorite person. I didn't care if you took 30 minutes or 8 hours of my time. I didn't care if you were spending $200 or $10,000- you were going to get my best. I didn't work on commission so my payout each time was the level of their satisfaction and enthusiasm. You only get enthusiasm from a "customer" when you're selling people exactly what they need and not just what you can get them to pay the most for. I loved every minute of it.

I also hate using the word "customer" when talking about people who came into the shop. A customer is someone who buys something from you and is a much more sterile type of interaction. "Good day, sir. How may I help you?" That's what you say to a "customer." When I see you out riding on the same road or trails as me, or riding in an event with me, you're not a customer. You're part of the community. If I have to solve issues that deal with chafed or numb genitals (and guess what 99% of people have?) then I'm not just another sales person and you're not just a customer. 

Most people don't trust you to solve their testicular area disaster unless you're a doctor or a bike shop employee.

I will say my proudest moments were ones where I hadn't thought much of it to begin with. I hosted clinics for women to help them learn how to change a flat tire if they get one during a ride. It's so simple to a lot of us who ride more often than your average person and something we rarely think about. But the reaction I got from these women week after week wasn't something I had expected. These women were so grateful that I took the time to host free clinics in order to help them learn this basic skill. The emails and handwritten letters I received over thanking me were what I did it all for- people deserved to be treated as important and capable, especially women in the cycling industry. Here I was receiving all this praise and I just saw it as bike shop basics- you should be helping out the cycling community in this small way., and I had the advantage of being a female. I didn't think of this as special, this is what you're supposed to do. But the way I must have been conducting these clinics was better received than I had hoped for. Ladies (and the brave men who showed up) had fun. They got stoked and gained confidence. That meant the WORLD to me. I don't need commission or extra perks, getting people enthusiastic was the ultimate pay off for me.

Cycling loads me up with a stockpile of happiness and a provides a sense of freedom that I have yet to find elsewhere. If I couldn't ride, the thrill of bringing happiness to other people's lives via bicycling kept me going. So when I was fired because my boss found my blog, I can't tell you how big of an emotional hit that was. I worked so hard to make sure my disorder didn't jeopardize my job, yet just having the disorder and being open about it is what cost me that piece of happiness in my life.

I had lost my source of income, but more importantly I had lost a main source of happiness.

Now I have to make a decision that's incredibly difficult but necessary. I have to be able to recognize when I need help, more help than I'm able to provide myself. My situation has gotten to the point where I need to have constant monitoring of my meds and symptoms. Nothing is going to get better in its current state. I would like to put out there that I am not suicidal, a lot of people think the hospital is only for when you're trying to kill yourself. It's not. I'm in a crisis situation but this is one of the few times it hasn't involved suicide. 

I'm having behaviours that worry me, like ignoring the danger behind a gun someone pulled out because I wanted to beat his ass for pulling said gun out. He pulled a gun out and instead of my brain saying "run," it just wanted to grab the gun, flip it around, and beat his skull in with it. You'll have to check my Facebook for the rest of that story, but yeah, someone brandished a gun in order to try and intimidate me the other day because I mouthed off after he said rude things while catcalling me.

Needless to say, I've earned my trip to the nut house this time. Life keeps throwing shit my way but I keep dealing with it. I'm in a bad place but I know I'll get through it, even if the timeline is unknown.

I'm still financially struggling, well more like financially bottomed out. Once released from the hospital I will be applying for disability. Until then my bills will go unpaid without knowing how I'm going to be paying them, which is another added stressor in this whole kit of life upheaval that's been so graciously dropped in my lap.

And the joy of waiting 3-6 months to get cleared for disability....

If you would like to help I have Paypal and a GoFundMe campaign. GoFundMe takes 10% and PayPal goes straight to me. If you don't know me personally and are afraid your money will be ill spent, know that I'm drug and alcohol free with no history of addiction issues, I was employed full time before this, am a mother of 2, happily married, and responsible. I've always been on top of seeing my doctors and taking my meds, it's just recently I had to switch doctors and the new set completely fucked me over.

I don't know how long I'll be in the hospital for since it is an inpatient program and my release is based upon my progress. Could be a few days, could be a few months. Just know that anything helps- if you want to donate dog food (some people locally have offered to donate time to help care for my dogs while I'm gone), toiletries, I will leave contact info for my husband so he can manage all of that while I'm gone.

To everyone who has already helped in some way- thank you. I will be better soon.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Just put me in a wheelchair, get me to the show

Just like clockwork, my winter depression has hit and is disrupting my ability to conduct my daily life. I'm having a hard time getting out of bed, staying on top of hygiene routines, and staying motivated to do anything. I sometimes still can't believe I have a problem with my brain that inhibits me from performing basic functions like making sure I shower every day, there's more to it than that but sometimes I try to find the humor in the simplicity of dumb things this disorder does to me.

Depression makes you immobile and incapable. It's like it takes your arms and legs away for a few weeks, or months. I'm not physically incapable but the areas in my brain that should be firing off the command to do these things isn't working.

I'm day 2 into the symptoms becoming problematic and beginning to interrupt my ability to operate. I woke up at 6:30 am today but didn't get out of bed until 9:15. Yesterday I woke up the same time but didn't get out of bed until 10am. That's not good. Sleeping in, or even laying in bed for that much time after I've woken up is not ok. Most people would think that's great- wake up when you want and have the luxury of staying in bed until you want, getting more relaxation time snuggled up in bed during the cold days of winter. Sounds great, right? It's what everyone rushing off to work thinks about every morning while getting ready for the day.

That's the problem- I don't want to be there. I don't want to be in bed, I don't want to mindlessly veg out on my phone or fall back asleep. I want to get up and start my day, get on top of everything I need to be doing at this dire moment in life.

But I can't.

My mind checks out on me. I tell myself 5 more minutes, or that I'm going to put my phone down after I read this one last article, but an hour will go by and I'll take no notice of it. It's just *poof* 2 hours later and I've done nothing mentally or physically. When I am finally able to get out of bed I feel absolutely awful, mostly for not getting up sooner, and that's when the best part of my day starts. I start beating myself up.

"You're lazy. You lost your job and spend your morning doing nothing."

"You can't get out of bed, how do you expect to do much else today?"

"How do you expect to do much else in life?"

"Other people out there are actually sick or physically disabled. Your legs work just fine."

"Remember that big project you've been working on? How about you just give up on it. You know you're going to anyway, just admit you're a failure."

"Every minute you spend in bed is one less minute you get to enjoy today. You're just throwing your life away."

"Don't think this morning was it. You're going to get lazier and lazier and eventually you'll be spending only a few hours a day just trying to get something productive done."

"You probably shouldn't even try."

"You know what? I know you won't even try. Because that's who you are."

Depression talks to you, through you. It doesn't directly control me, it manipulates me. When I'm hypomanic or manic by brain just tells me what to do "go jump off that curb, go write a whole book in a week, go repaint every ceiling in the house for no reason." Depression manipulates you. It uses your own thoughts against you.

You're not a willing participant, you're a prisoner.

Thanks for reading

If you would like to help you can donate to my Paypal. I was recently fired from my job because
my boss read my blog and decided that he didn't want someone with a mental illness
working for him. You can read about it here.

I also gave a Gofundme campaign if you rather donate there. Anything and everything helps!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Scream my face off

There are no laws in my favor when it comes to my situation (read here if you’re wondering “what situation?) which I don't necessarily see as defeat. I actually feel like it frees me up to be able to speak out about what happened, I don't have to keep things to myself because of a pending court case. This way I can scream and yell about it until mental illness is normalized and I have nothing to yell about. I took audio recordings of quite a few conversations, especially the one where I was actually fired. I have emails, and text messages backing up everything I say so I kind of have more power over the situation this way than if I did have a legitimate lawsuit. Well, how I view power anyway.

None of the discrimination laws cover me at federal or state level but I rather use this as a way to speak up for those who can’t say or do anything for fear of their situation ending up like mine. I worked at a bike shop, I loved it and it requires a lot of specific knowledge and dedication, it isn’t a skill less job, but my position wasn’t exactly a career one. I could, in the grand scheme of things, afford to lose that job the way I did. I didn’t lose a career.

I’ve been told if I didn't want this to happen then I shouldn’t have thrown my private life out in the open for the world to see. It’s not a matter of just my life, I am just an example of what already happens to others.

I think about people who went to school to establish themselves as a professional. Not that going to school is the only sign of working hard, you’re reading the writing of someone with a GED, and I have no doubt my writing style might have already told you that. I’m referring to someone who did go through school, acquire student debt, fight to get into a particular field, and bust ass to stay there- all while dealing with depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or any other serious mental illness. THAT person would be absolutely devastated if the same situation had happened to them, if they were dragged into their boss’ office because it was discovered they had a blog about their very difficult health problems.

I can't imagine a school teacher being fired for a parent of one of their students finding their writing about dealing with their mental health. It’s not a problem that it’s out there, mental health should be treated just as serious as physical, it’s a problem because they could lose their career due to the stigma still attached to it.

What if she’s an outstanding professor or he’s a special education teacher? What if one of them ends up fired because of they talk about their disorder in a constructive way? Not that it has caused any interference with their job, but because the people in charge decided having a mental illness was a threat?

It’s terrifying, and not just as a hypothetical, but because you and I know it happens all the time. All. The. Time.

I'm a tough son of a bitch and will get through this. I can't imagine someone who is a caregiver for an elderly or chronically sick family member being in this predicament. If they lost their job like I did what the fuck are they suppose to do then? How do you go home to that? How the hell does anyone expect someone to deal with that? What if they didn’t have the solid career they had hoped for and was already forced to live paycheck to paycheck trying to survive life, mental illness, and caring for someone else? This shit blows my mind and creates and overload of emotions, non bipolar related ones, actual empathetic and sympathetic feelings.

This system and cycle is what creates the down and out cases who can’t do anything about their situation. The world expects everyone to run a marathon while some people have broken or amputated feet.

I have 2 kids, something I always mention but never really talk about, mainly because it’s boring. I get the luxury of being the "other parent." My ex husband and I are great friends but when we split he was able to be a stay at home dad and has a large family support system so it made sense that the kids live with him. I see them whenever I want and their dad and I are still great friends. My husband and I go on double dates with him and his current wife if you really want to be weirded out by how undramatic it all is. I don't have to financially support my kids but what if I did? What if I had to come home after being fired, dealing with my mental state that I've been in, and walk into my house, trying not to blow my brains out?

You have mentally sick mothers and fathers trying to support their children who can’t say shit about what they go through for fear of losing everything.

It happens all the time. All. The. Time.

I feel lucky that my job in the grand scheme of things was not that important. I’m lucky I didn’t just have a career ruined. I won’t be able to work in another bike shop again, I’m sure of that, but that was a risk worth taking. That’s a huge bummer but compared to the scenarios I mentioned above, I’ll take that consequence any day.

I rather get my story out so people who can’t afford to lose their livelihood and careers don’t have to break their silence, or, hopefully, break the stigma behind mental illness so they don’t have to hide their suffering for fear of backlash. I’m not speaking up for anyone, I’m going to scream my face off for you.

Please help spread my story.

Share this post, my blog itself, my YouTube channel, Facebook, Gofundme, everything. Share all of it.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

No soup for you

This was the email exchange between my former employer and myself when I realized my symptoms were becoming a serious problem. If you read my other posts (Dog eat dog) or (Nowhere to run) you can get more insight as to what problematic symptoms can look like. I didn't want to take time off. My job isn't stressful, my home life isn't stressful, the stressors in my life at the time were dealing with my symptoms, medication side effects (read this for a better understanding of how bad the medication side effects really were), and exhaustion from keeping myself together through it all. I actually did a damn good job considering all I was going through. I figured if my boss ever payed attention to my writing or videos he would be impressed for what I deal with vs the person who comes into work. I held it together because of how dedicated I had been to my therapy, especially DBT.

I'm not resistant to bipolar mood swings or energy shifts. I can't change them but I have the skills in order to survive them. Since day one of finding out I had bipolar disorder I became 100% dedicated to living a life better than I had before as a mentally sick and undiagnosed person. I'm not an inherently strong person, I'm just good at finding ways to create strength.

I didn't want a reward or recognition, I figured if he ever saw my blog he would understand my dedication to the job. It would give him, or anyone, a small peek into the living hell that mental illness can be. That's not what happened. He decided I am no longer fit to work there. I asked him where my bipolar disorder has interfered with my job and he stated it's not anything I've done, it's what I could do.

"All I see here is an unstable person."

I held it together that long, took 2 weeks off when I knew my symptoms would interfere with my job performance, all in consideration for his business and the respect I had for my position. That's my responsibility as someone who has a disability to my employer- if my medical condition is going to interfere with my ability to do the basic functions of my job then I need to handle it in order to return to work capable or resign if I feel like there isn't a short term solution. I asked for time to handle my situation and communicated my backup plan if that failed- a voluntary stay in the nut house. I also did what has helped me get through the past 4 years- I typed out my demons into this very blog.

I don't write just to hear myself henpeck the keyboard or to reread my insufferable grammar because I stopped paying attention to english lessons by the age of 9. This is a medical condition that needs to be recognized as such. It's not made up. I was accused of using my disorder as an excuse to get out of my responsibilities, something I had never done but 8 months into my employment, without ever being seen as using my disorder as an excuse for anything, it was decided this one time I need time off to handle my situation was me just blowing off my work duties and trying to get away with it by claiming it was bipolar related.

I write to bring awareness but most importantly, and what is the driving force behind this blog, to let other people know that they are not alone.

The isolation that comes from struggling with mental illness can kill you. I mean that literally and figuratively. I have never experienced relief like I have with being crazy out in the open. By myself I felt like absolute shit. I've never experienced loneliness like living with my illness kept to myself, no matter if those close to me know and are supportive. Screaming to the world my deepest and darkest moments has been liberating in a way that you can never imagine. I write to provide relief and brings others hope.

And for that I was fired.

I included the email because of one line in particular. "Your health is more important than your job at [bicycle shop]." I knew exactly what he was saying there. It wasn't an empathetic line to let me know he understands how important my struggle is. He was letting me know how he felt about the situation. I thought I was being paranoid about the email until I went back to work and he fired me. After that moment I realized I wasn't being paranoid, it actually was a passive aggressive insult and it stung. I was going through hell, and like Churchill said, I had to keep going, but to be dealing with everything I was dealing with and then have a sentence like that come from my boss made my hell harder to wade through.

During my 2 weeks off I had to face the reality that I might be getting more than 2 weeks off, although involuntarily. I didn't know how I would be able to survive the financial hit of losing my job while I was trying to drag myself out of the depths of the mental disorder abyss. I started a Gofundme to help with my 2 weeks of pay that I would be losing, and so many people were generous enough to help me hit my goal, but that goal was bare minimum to survive, it didn't cover everything but I figured once I go back to work feeling better would make getting back on my feet easier, even if it would take a couple of months to get caught up. The whole time that one line from the email stuck in my head. There's no way someone would get fired for taking care of a medical emergency, is there?

If someone had their foot ripped off would he have said "your foot is more important than your job at [bicycle shop]?" I don't think he would have. My former employer put no faith in the reality that is mental illness. He also didn't believe in climate change so I guess I might have set my standards too high in the first place. I didn't have time to consider that before taking my medical leave- I was going down hill quick and staying at work would have leave to behaviour that would have justified a termination. But would he fire someone for taking care of themselves, having seen me struggle for 5 months with being yanked off one med too quickly, being put on another one too quickly, the horrific side effects of lithium, and finding out it was the wrong medication to be on in the first place? Would he fire someone over a broken foot?

Sure as shit, when I walked into the building I saw both mechanics pretend they were balls deep into whatever they were doing. You could tell they were avoiding any chance of making eye contact with me. My worst fear had been confirmed not even a foot into the door.

He asked me into his office and I walked in to find my blog open of the computer screen, he had used the cursor to highlight a couple of sentences he would read to me in a bit as to why I was a threat to the reputation of the company. I saw a stack of papers that were my blog posts printed out, he had gone through and in unmistakable neon yellow streaks, had highlighted parts of my work, which he also read aloud to me as reasons why no one would shop there. Another couple sheets of paper lying on his desk contained quotes from videos off of my YouTube channel that he had written down. They were also read aloud to me as justification as to why, despite a doctor giving a note clearing me as mentally fit to return to work, I was probably going to be unfit to do my job in the future.

He had taken the time to read, watch, study, and gather what he saw as evidence for justification for firing me. He did not have an answer when asked what duties I had neglected. He would try and redirect the conversation. In VA you don't have to tell someone why they're being fired but it was pretty obvious in this case and his inability to answer my question about duties neglected was a reflection of the fact that I had been doing my job, he was just attached to the fear associated with mental illness.

He threw my psychiatrist's note out, the one that cleared me as psychologically fit to return to work. He said he doesn't care what a doctor says because he's not clearing me as mentally stable enough to return to work, even though he hadn't seen or spoken to me in 2 weeks.

I explained the medication switch and how everything is getting sorted out correctly and I asked for a probationary period. 2 months of me returning to work and him being able to see that my situation was getting better. I asked for this knowing very well that my job performance hadn't suffered before my 2 weeks absence and that it wouldn't suffer during the probationary period I was asking for. Hell, it was only going to get back to where I started before all the mess- overachieving Gwyn mode.

He said no. He said he was done with me.

That sentence in the email above gave me a hint so I spent my last $35 at the time and got a pocket sized audio recorder. I had it on me and rolling when I was supposedly going to my first day back to work. Like I said, in the state of Virginia your employer doesn't have to tell you anything about why they're firing you. It could be because you have bipolar disorder, brown skin, or the wrong set of genitals. Doesn't matter, they don't have to tell you anything. But you also don't have to tell the other person they're being recorded according to state law.

I recorded the conversation because I wanted to save my ass if he ever came after me for a defamation of character suit because I was going to talk about the situation if I had been fired due to having a mental illness. I do not say the name of the business, the names of people involved, and have wiped my social media clean in order to prevent other people from targeting them. The local bike people know the shop and I can't change that but the blog views have been skyrocketing lately and I don't want a faceless internet hoard hunting them down.

But I recorded that conversation so I had a legal right to talk about what happened to me.

If you would like to help you can donate to my PayPal, Gofundme, or grab something off my doggie wishlist.




Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I don't want to race or anything

The more I think about the circumstances around me getting fired the more upset I get. I was exhausted by the time I took my medical leave in order to handle my worsening symptoms. If I didn’t sacrifice those 14+ days I knew the situation could escalate into something catastrophic. I know the signs of a storm coming and I’m experienced enough to know when it’s time to board the windows up.

I was the head sales lady, it’s what I wanted to do after I got diagnosed and medicated- I wanted to hop back into the cycling industry and I wanted to be on the sales floor, upfront and center. I came in with my personal approach that was a combination of tests done on the psychology behind consumerism and by my #1 rule- shut up and listen. There’s nothing worse than a sales person who talks without listening to you. I’m a natural pro at talking, too much too often, and too loud. I went into this position with it being my first job with the public since being diagnosed and medicated. I went in knowing a bit more who I was and what my limitations and gifts are.

My bipolar brain’s default mode: Talk a lot and think ahead of what people are going to say. I’m 4 steps ahead in a conversation that hasn't happened yet.

Gwyn’s revised mode of operation: Listen. Listen and understand them, not just from your point of view. Understand and sort out what they’re saying, what they’re trying to communicate, what they want, and where my knowledge can help them.

That’s how I approached my job. I didn’t want to sell anything for the sake of selling it. I didn’t get commission but I also never walked away empty handed. When you constantly have to monitor your behavior, you have to ask yourself in every situation “what am I getting out of this?” As in, what am I walking away with was it intentional or not, and is the result positive or negative? If Jane free bases too much cocaine and does something stupid what is she getting out of it? The scale could go from 2 hours of fun all the way up to a life sentence in prison. Next question: was it intentional? No, chances are if Jane is in prison it was not intentional. Final question: was it a positive result? I’m going to go with “no” if the prison scenario is where Jane ended up in this hypothetical situation.

Someone comes in and is looking for a bike and they have no knowledge about anything cycling related- a used $10 Walmart tricycle with only one wheel left dangling in a ditch and a $7,800 carbon road bike look the same to this person. Here’s a rundown on how that usually goes:

  • 8 minutes telling me how their bike got stolen from underneath their porch when they were a child in the 1970s.
  • 5 minutes telling me they aren’t a racer (because being half blind in your 60s with one leg missing wasn’t hint enough.)
  • 3 minutes about how difficult it was to get into the parking lot.
  • 2 minutes talking about the pictures their friend posted about her riding her brand new bike.
  • 4 minutes to once again reassure me that they aren’t ready for the lycra fairy to anoint them with a full head to toe kit.
  • 30 seconds about the bike trail they give close to.
  • 5 minutes on how they bought a canoe from the bike shop that use to be in the building before this one.
  • 17 minutes about the time their grandkid/niece/nephew/godchild/neighbor’s dog did something really talented and they got to be a part of it.
  • the final 5 minutes are to make sure I’m not going to sign them up for the Tour De France because they’re not interested in going professional. 

What do I get out of that situation? I spent more time listening to what looks like scattered rambling than answering questions or trying to interrupt them. How have I not been completely bored out of my mind and irritated by this person yet? What’s my pay off?

They just handed me one giant and glorious puzzle. I love challenges. Big, sticky, psychological, bike related puzzles. I love trying to figure people out, but not all the way. Just enough so I can get you what you need in the bike world. I get to psychoanalyze you for your benefit. I’m the bike lady, I know bike stuff. I have to roll through all of my knowledge and match up what you said, implied, and fill the gaps you didn’t know you even had. I have to ask the right questions and those only come from that beautiful word I said earlier. Listening.

I get to figure out where you want to be and pilot us both to that destination.

That’s what I get out of it. A challenge. And the challenge never gets old if you play your cards right. Hundreds of the same type of rider might come into the store and pretty much be looking for the exact same bike but a small hint pop up while they’re talking about little Jimmy’s drag show at the elementary school he attends. They could use a word they made up to describe something, like “long, fancy, connected candy cane bars,” and yes, that was actually said to me when referring a drop bars. You have to decipher what they want vs what they have the knowledge to express to you. Listening. It’s a sales person’s most useful tool.

I loved steering the ship and when they purchased anything it was because they felt confident in the decision they were making.

I learned my best selling skills by shutting the fuck up.

I have to talk, of course, but my time spent talking was to inform, direct, and help the person come to a conclusion they felt good about. Don’t let me misrepresent myself, I was 80% bad jokes, 15% listening, and 5% asking the right questions. Making the first higher dollar bike sale doesn’t mean shit if that person doesn’t come back. If they’re unsure or feel bamboozled, it’s a loss of business. There are more than enough bike shops for them to wander into and another shop could easily scoop them up because of how they’re treated. Acceptable customer service isn’t hard. Being nice to “customers” isn’t hard. Having someone’s best and long term interests as top priority while making money and making them a continual source of revenue is a goddamn art.

3 months before being fired I was told that I was the best head sales person he had had in 26 years of running a bicycle shop. I made him money, I was good for business. He appreciated that and I appreciated the opportunity to do it. It was my job, even if it exceeded expectations I was going to operate at that level no matter what. It was fun and I enjoyed seeing people enthusiastic to ride. That was my purpose, make him money while I get people pumped about riding.

I couldn’t apply my approach to anything else, cycling is the only applicable industry I would go the psychological distance for. I couldn’t sell you medication that would save your life, even if it was under $1, but I’ll have you on a bike with every piece of gear needed in no time plus a couple of high fives. I might even sign you up for a race or two since you never expressed that you weren’t into that sort of thing.

Every person and every situation was different. Cycling is a sport that covers such a huge variety of people and capabilities. I can talk to that same old lady falling apart at the hips about riding a bike just as easily as my friends that are professional.

Bikes unite people.

It stings looking back at my job performance and knowing that it was completely negated because of what a doctor wrote down on a piece of paper 4 years ago. I’m one of the ones who busts ass to manage my disorder. I’m one of the “harmless” bipolar people, right? All he had to do was see that I’m not a threat and then I won’t be seen just as my diagnosis, right?

I had blown expectations out of the water, my former boss said. He was impressed by my sales approach and what I was able to sell and accomplish.

I hate knowing that if I had put in 1/10th of the effort, but never said a word about my disorder, that I would still have my job.

A message to you Rudy

You guys don't understand the importance of this picture. When I first started dating my now husband, his dog, the dog you see here, was terrible. He bit people, lunged and growled at them, constantly shook and fidgeted, jumped on people, hid under furniture and barked, or hid behind furniture and growled, tried to attack other dogs, chewed up everything, grab things off the counters, begged, jumped all over the furniture, barked non stop, chewed his skin until he had raw bald spots, ruined furniture, ate dirty laundry, and never listen to a word anyone said. After a couple of dates with my husband all those years ago my mom and close friends asked me how I felt about Matt. "So, what do you think? How is he? Do you like him?” I told them he's fine but I don't know about his dog.

Yes, this brown canine demon made me reconsider a second date with who is now my husband. I'll be honest, I didn't like Rudy for a while, he was just too much. I have had dogs in the past but nothing like whatever the hell he was. I never wanted him gone, it wasn't a matter of "me or the dog." I knew that my husband and that crazy ass dog were a package deal. I just wish his dog would calm the fuck down.

The one thing the dog had going for him then and now- he loves Matt. He loves Matt so unbelievably much, he is his whole world. Back then he would spend all day laying at the front door waiting to hear Matt’s car come down the road after he got off of work. If Matt went to the store Rudy planted himself in a window and watched everything that moved in hopes that it was his daddy coming back. If Matt was gone, his whole brown life came to a halt.

4 months into our relationship I informed Matt that I was going to train Rudy. I couldn’t stand that dog but I didn't want to keep hating him as much as I did. I was never mean or cruel but he was "Matt's dog" and "Matt's problem." I didn't know anything about dog training but I knew a dog shouldn't act like that. I'll admit, I didn't start attempting to train him for his benefit- he was literally driving me crazy and no animal is going to chew the crotch out of my underwear, pee on my shoes, and try to bite me without meeting resistance. Plus, I liked his owner a whole lot.

I may not have known anything about dog training but I did know that you don't fight aggression with aggression. Dominance doesn’t mean the who’s the winner, it means who’s earned the respect to be the boss.

Long before I met Rudy, or even had a dog, I was a huge fan of The Dog Whisperer show, not because of dogs, but because I always liked Cesar Milan's message about having calm and assertive energy. I always felt like that's the kind of energy I have whenever my disorder isn’t fucking up my emotions. If I was manic then I was queen of the world and people should do what I say, when I say it, and how I say it. That’s aggression. When depressed I'm afraid to speak up for myself and hole myself in my house. That’s avoidance submissive. Who I am naturally, the woman without the mood swings, is calm assertive. Calm assertive. I love that.

I watched his shows, read his books, and bought his pack leader DVD series. I also didn't learn a damn thing about dogs, but for a good reason. I didn’t have one. He was another form of therapy for myself, I never thought about applying all his dog psychology to actual dogs. He helped me deal with my mental problems but I never bit anyone or tried to kill the FedEx guy. Thanks to Cesar Milan I had a good place to start when the time came to actually work with a dog.

*DISCLAIMER* I know a ton of people and professional dog trainers disagree with or hate Cesar Millan. I'll probably get more messages and comments about how terrible he is than any other subject on this blog, ironically. That being said, I pulled from hundreds of other dog training and behavioral sources during this process. I took the time to research each issue and new ones that popped up until I found what worked. He never taught me how to make a dog sit, he taught me where my mind should be in order to help the dog be able to learn how to sit, to understand where the dog is at mentally in order to train him during the right moments. Caesar once said that there really isn't a such thing as a bad dog and I wanted to look at Rudy like that because all I saw was a rotten shit head of a bad dog. Hate “The Dog Whisperer” all you want but he's helped with my psychological issues and has helped out this stupid brown lump you see next to me. I think he’s great (Caesar, not Rudy.)

Very first order of business, I taught him to sit, stay, and not to beg. It took me about a week for sit, 2 weeks for stay, and about 6 months to stop begging. That's not normal, dogs don't take that long to learn simple concepts like that. The dog was stupid. He was so very stupid. He would randomly forget everything I taught him. Four months after learning to sit, if commanded to do so, he would stark barking frantically as he ran room to room until he finally settled onto a nervous swan dive under the couch

So dumb.

I decided to keep working with him until I saw some kind of progress, even though that felt like it was impossible. He still maintained a high level of anxiety and continued to be as dumb as ever but his aggression decreased. When it was meal time he would jump around, howl, scream, and whine until his bowl hit the floor. He also had a speed eating issue to where he would choke on his food and growl at anyone who came into the kitchen to make sure he was ok. I hadn’t done any research on this particular issue but I was not going to let it go on any longer.

I was so fucking stupid for doing this but it made sense at the time. Cesar said it’s about making dogs understand that #1) everything belongs to the human, I have control over everything at all times. It isn’t dominance as people usually see it. It isn't a bad thing, the dog isn't suffering if done right. Quite the opposite, it’s about letting the dog know “you don’t have to defend yourself, I am in charge and you are safe.” #2) We are a pack. We rely on each other (if it was in the wild) for survival. We are on the same team.

I have no idea where I got the idea for this, I didn’t even have anything to base it off of, but one day I took his bowl, filled it with his food, made him sit and wait, sat my ass on the floor with his bowl in my lap and made him come to me and I fed him by hand. Handful after handful of food out of my palm. Want to eat? Then this is how it’s done, you brown mother fucker.

I would never recommend that to anyone. I did not know what I was doing, I should not have tried to feed an aggressive dog that is known to bite, I should have obeyed the number one golden rule, “never mess with a dog while it’s eating.”

But it worked.

He obeyed the #1 golden rule- never mess with a bipolar woman who has your food. I understand more now about what was at play and as puppies if you do what I did it helps with food guarding. Felt pretty good knowing that I had some positive intuition in the situation.

I also learned what bite inhibition was, the hard way. He would bite my hand during meal time. It wasn’t an act of aggression, he just didn't understand how to use his teeth unless it was eating at lightning speed for fear of his food being stolen or for attacking other animals. That was the painful process of putting his food in my hand, closing my fist, and presenting it to him. If if he bit too hard I would yelp "OW!" really loud, pull my hand back, and give him 10 seconds of no attention to let him figure out that teeth on skin = no food. I had to do this every time. Every day. Every meal. Every treat.

Only 1 out of every 10 times did he not bite too hard in the first several weeks of teaching him this. It reminded me of the Helen Keller “water scene" except my Helen Keller was a bloodthirsty jack ass who was learning that biting people is not ok.

Good news is that it worked. Bad news is I still have scars on my hands today. It sucked so bad during the process, and I often had to take 5 to 7 day breaks in-between days of using this method because my hands would be so sore, but I knew if I was going to train him any further then he had to know how to take food properly. I feel lucky I still have fingers to type this all out with. Once again, it was stupid of me to go into that situation blindly and I absolutely do not recommend it.

Over time he calmed down a lot but was still such a pain in the ass that I didn't really work with him on anything new much after that. I would say “sit” and he would roll over, spin, or do some other trick that was nothing close to what I asked him to do. Drove me crazy. I still went over the 10 or so tricks I taught him periodically, and I did get him to stop jumping on people for attention. He also stopped trying to kill things as long as they didn’t get too close. He was more of a “bro, hold me back” kind of dog than he was a “lunge and try to rip your throat out” kind of dog. The main reason my attention shifted because I got a puppy. I got a dog for myself and she was a sweet, impressionable 4 month old American Pit Bull Terrier and named her Dovahkiin (and if you get that reference then you rock).

Rudy never messed with her because I let it be known on day one that she is mine. That clueless brown dog could never figure out much on his own but when I walked in the door with that puppy in my hand and he looked up at her, only to find himself locking eyes with me, he suddenly figured out that this dog, despite all others he had tried to kill, was not be touched. I never had to say or do anything to keep him away from her, whenever he looked at her he knew I was watching him and that he didn’t want to die that day. Not once did he ever bother her, not even during meal time. After letting him gnaw my hand to shreds and come back for more I think he realized he'd been out crazed.

She’s a terrorist now but back then she was a sweet puppy who didn’t understand the psychological circus she was being tossed into. I wanted to apply everything I had worked on with Rudy and use that to train her properly. If I could make Rudy less of a threat to society then a puppy shouldn’t be overly difficult. I was going to train her my way and she was going to be well behaved and perfect.

I VERY quickly learned what worked for the idiot brown dog was not going to work for her. I trained her somewhat well, simple obedience and tricks but not much more. It was too frustrating. I also learned that I have no idea what I was doing with dogs, despite already knowing I don’t know anything about dogs.

The one area that I completely failed as a dog mom is walking on leashes. I tried EVERYTHING I could find on the internet but nothing worked. So I stopped trying. I was doing everything Cesar told me not to as far as body language and verbal commands, I just couldn't get it together. I could not get them to cooperate. It was overwhelming and with no progress after 2 months I stopped taking them for walks. Dovahkiin had too much excitement that kept her from paying attention to anything, especially me. I tried exercising her first thing in the morning but even after 2 hours of fetch she wouldn’t calm down on a walk. Idiot Rudy would pull so hard he would choke himself and it became a situation where he was doing himself physical harm and to continue would be abuse. I tried every harness, collar, and different forms of psychological warfare on the market. Nothing worked.

I took Dovahkiin to the dog park for a while but I ended up with an injury and couldn’t walk around much. 6 months went by and the next time I took her she displayed bizarre behaviors towards other dogs so I stopped taking her. I do remember Caesar saying that dog parks are for balanced, healthy dogs, not every dog. I didn’t want to bring a problem dog to the park so I stopped trying.

Then life got in the way and there were no more parks or walks at all. I still played fetch 4 to 6 days a week with Dovahkiin but there would be a week or two or 3 at a time that I would just stop, never giving her the routine she needed. Bipolar disorder makes routine very very difficult. I knew deep down it wasn’t enough but there weren’t any really bad behaviors so I justified it as not a necessity. My dogs seemed fine but Cesar emphasized exercise as the number one need of a dog so I knew I was falling short, even if I lied to myself about it. I can’t live a life without exercise so I understood. Then it hit me.

Bicycle + Dog

I would have my dog on a leash and run her through the neighborhood. She’s a pit bull, but it’s the other word people forget- terrier. She’s a terrier and that kind of exercise is her thing. I found it tired her out, but only in the beginning week or two. After a while it became a source of anxiety for her. When running, if there was another dog, she would run even faster and I would pedal harder so we’re both ramping up our speed and flying down the road like crazy. That’s perfect, right? More excitement = more energy burned, right? No. It taught her anxiety to escalate ever worse with certain triggers. She would enter what I called “terror terrier mode.” Body and ears stiff and perked up, hyper, barking, and ready to chase and kill anything that moves (not actually kill, she’s never had aggression problems.)

It made everything worse. The common spots her and I would go faster would set off “terror terrier mode” even when not on the bike. If she anticipated that we would be traveling by those spots she started to get frantic. I can’t walk my dog, I can ride with my dog, and fetch was so wishy washy.

I also got the bright idea to try this with Rudy. Hopped on the bike, started him off slow, he seemed to get it, picked up the pace a bit more, and things seemed to be working. And then he spotted another dog and bolted. Fuck this ass hole. I had to do this miraculous dismount/dog grab maneuver in order to save the other dog’s life. He saw red and I did too realizing I had to leave my bike where it was and walk him home, not knowing if it will be there when I get back. I never attempted anything bicycle related with him again.

The guilt about not being able to solve my dog’s problems, something other dog owners seem to accomplish without any problem, became overwhelming. I loved Dovahkiin, she was my puppy. I didn’t love Rudy but didn’t hate him as much anymore.

Fast forward to late November this year. I got another dog. I have no idea why, I didn’t need, nor was I looking for a new dog, I had already established that I was a half assed dog mom. The day we got her I was terrified that I might be hypomanic because I just got another dog when I know I haven’t been taking full physical and psychological care of my current two.

The moment I saw new dog I had to have her. I don’t love instantly, but I loved her right away. My husband and I put a hold on new dog and would be picking her up the following day. I was so excited! How was I going to be able to wait for the next 24 hours knowing my sweet, little, butterball, bucket of frenchie, mush face, monster head was coming home the next day?!

And then I heard the most horrific words come out of one of the staff member’s mouth, “oh, and bring your other dogs so we can see how all three do together.”




I can’t bring my other 2 dogs in! They would call CPS and report how we’ve stunted their psychological growth over the past 2 years. Rudy and Dovahkiin will expose us for what we were- no walk giving, wishy washy fetch playing, half assed dog parents. Rudy was never trained or socialized as a puppy and I didn’t start working with him until he was 4 years old. He still couldn’t be around other dogs and my dog was a neurotic spaz who had developed bad behaviors like running up to another dog barking at them in small, intense explosions. It wasn’t aggressive but I knew it wasn’t friendly. Neither one of them could go to the pound on a busy Saturday to meet a dog they don’t know. That was going to be a nightmare. How the hell do people survive this kind of event? I was going to have to pull out the Hannibal Lecter suits, dolly included, in order to prevent a nightmare of vet bills for any party involved. They were going to think we were wrecks as far as dog parents go.

Knowing what I know now, they would have been right.

We weren't technically bad dog owners, our dogs were loved, fed, safe, attended to, showered with affection, and far from neglected. No abuse what so ever, in fact my dog had her own Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and a following. They were just flawed at a genetic level, right? Our dog troubles were because of their personality, right?

We didn’t do anything wrong, it’s what we didn’t do that was the problem.

After 24 hours of nail biting anxiety, we brought in our two resident nut jobs and the staff put new dog into a fenced-in area and our dogs were going to meet her one at a time. First up- Rudy. I didn’t sleep that night because I knew Rudy was going to fuck this whole thing up. I got him calm enough to live with but in public, around strangers, and hundreds of other dogs? A complete nuclear fallout nightmare.… Except it wasn’t. Surprisingly, Rudy, who I was convinced was going to blow the whole operation by ripping the guts out of a 9 month old puppy, couldn’t give 2 shits about new dog. He was more interested in all the spots of dog urine scattered about the enclosure, he didn’t even bother looking up at her. He just waddled his overweight ass across the yard to revel in more piss smells. He acted like she didn’t exist.

Dovahkiin? She has bad habits but nothing like Rudy. If his violent, psychotic, bloodlust urges weren't activated by the current situation then my dog will be a (dog) walk in the park.

Bad news.

The woman from the shelter told us right away that she had a bad habit of being bossy. Well yeah, aren’t all strong women bossy sometimes, girl dogs included? She’s never bitten anyone or anything so it can’t be but so bad.

“Bossy.” That’s the word they used. They explained that the way she was barking at dogs was her telling them how to play, when to start playing, when to stop playing, how not to play, when they should stop but not all the way stop playing, they were playing in the wrong spot and need to move, they shouldn’t be moving and need to stop but not stop too much, and a laundry list of impossible demands. Dovahkiin was a brat. She wasn’t playing with new dog, she was trying to control her.

She had done those same behaviors with Rudy because we never saw them as a problem. Whenever Rudy barks at something she runs up and barks at him to stop barking at whatever it was because she decided it was her thing to bark at. I always thought that was hilarious. She was just a jerk, it's who she was, right?

The staff were honest. I asked them how bad it was and she gave me a polite, but firm look that said, “I don’t have words to express how bad you’ve completely fucked this situation.” It was so bad that new dog was cowering from her. Very very bad sign. My sweet puppy wasn’t a healthy, balanced dog. That’s what Cesar always talked about wanting to create in a dog- happiness and balance, and it’s what I’m always looking for in myself so I want my dogs to experience life that way. Dovahkiin was overly territorial and unable to play or be around other dogs. She was miserable. She didn’t just guard her toys or food at home, she thought everything was hers- the ground she was currently sitting on, the ground over there, the bird shit on the sidewalk, the cloud the sky that looks like bird shit on the sidewalk- everything.

I could tell the lady who was helping us didn’t want to deny new dog a forever home and could see we weren’t bad people and that our current dogs were well taken care of. I asked her straight up, is this a good idea, in her opinion. She told me that she doesn’t think it was a good idea. The recourse guarding that Dovahkiin exhibits can lead to fights and the other dogs around her might not be safe.

I decided I wanted new dog right then and there. Not despite what the woman had said, but because as soon as she labeled my dog’s bad behavior I knew I could correct it. As long as I am pointed in the right direction I can get anything done. The problem could be fixed, no matter how difficult. How did I know I could accomplish this, even with a professional disagreeing and rightfully suggesting that I don’t take this task on?

Because I was just given its name.

I spent 30 years dealing with a problem I couldn’t see that left me living a shell of a life. I saw the symptoms but thought the source was my personality. I saw the symptoms in Dovahkiin but thought it was just who she is. But once the behavior is separated from the individual you gain the ability to start fighting back. I knew who my enemy was- bipolar disorder. I had lived with and misread the symptoms but then had discovered the source. My dog’s problem had been identified, I had seen and misread the symptoms for some time now but I just discovered the source.

I knew in that moment that this 3 dog trio will work. I was going to make sure it worked for new dog, my dog, and my husband’s dog. We all had names for what is wrong with us. I was going to take care of all of us.

We were probably a 20% yes, 80% no as far as the shelter’s confidence about us filling out the paperwork for new dog. They work hard with these creatures, the amount of good dogs they’ve seen ruined for going to the wrong home must be astronomically high. Taking a dog back has to be devastating for these people and putting one down must be traumatizing. Their whole job is taking care of what some human couldn’t, not all cases are bad I’m sure, but I have a feeling the bad ones far outweigh the good ones. I absolutely feel that the shelter’s employee was justified in everything she said to us, how she emphasized Dovahkiin’s problems, and how she didn’t think there was a high success rate of fixing Dovahkiin’s situation.

The only thing that got us new dog is the fact that I asked the right questions about correcting my dog’s behavior. I didn’t just *want* new dog, I wanted a 3 dog, 1 rat, 2 human pack and new dog was the missing link. I promised not to fuck up new dog’s life and that I will make this my first priority in the household. I would not disappoint any party involved. If I can get Rudy to ignore a dog on a busy Saturday at the city pound, I felt like I could get anything done with a dog as long as I kept at it.

She made no illusions about its difficulty- this kind of thing isn’t training, it’s rewiring their brain. I believed her when she hinted around at the idea that I had no idea what I was doing. I believed she was in the right when she hinted that my dog is an absolute social terror. I believed her lack of confidence in me was justified. Her biggest piece of advice? It’s going to get worse before it gets better. A lot worse.

I believed her. I took her words, and the ones she didn’t but probably wanted to say, very seriously. I knew I was doing something stupid but I also know my determination when it comes to correcting psychological behaviors. Once the source is discovered, BAM, I’ve got it. I know how tough it can be, and for my grey little she beast, I would do anything to make her happy, even if it meant making her unhappy for a little while.

3 days after bringing home new dog I went on a two week medical leave from work (before being fired, check that story out her.) I spent as much time as possible researching about dog behavior, body language, how to establish a pack, and I especially hit the research hard for Dovahkiin’s issues, resource guarding and separation anxiety. After only a couple of days it was apparent that the woman was right- my dog is an absolute psychological nightmare. I had no idea what I had been doing. I had been cultivating certain bad behaviours and now had to try and reverse 2.5 years of said behaviour. There is something about dogs that I don’t understand- everything.

I’m not a natural animal person, I’m just not, but I want to be an animal person. I always thought it’s because I have bonding issues (which I did and still kind of do) but if I eventually found ways to bond with human animals then I must be able to bond with a living, breathing, shit machine called “man's best friend.” I knew how to love a pet and take care of them but I didn’t know all of the layers that were involved, physically and psychologically, just like humans. I really had no previous way of understanding how complex something that is afraid of its own farts can be.

And then comes my knight in shining brown armor. Rudy.

I taught him how to learn in those early days when I still hated him. This big brown doofus not only did the tricks required of him but he figured out that people required certain things from him. He learned how I put out information in order to communicate what humans wanted from him. He figured me out long before I did him. Just 3 weeks ago he finally taught me how he receives information.

I taught him the physical cues along with the verbal cues for everything. After he learned both I kept using the verbal cues more than the physical or combination of the two. He was still all over the place with being told what to do and what he actually did. I thought for a while he had eyesight issues due to small weird things we would do. I started using mostly auditory cues because of his eyes. I thought I was helping.


After taking such a long break dealing with him and starting to hit my research hard again, I watched an episode of Cesar 911 where he says humans have to be able to read dogs’ body language and understand it.

Scratch to go outside = I want to go outside. Duh. See? I obviously understood dog body language already.

Then there was a revolutionary training session with Rudy. As I looked at his dumb little face with his weird ass stare I realized something. He wasn’t staring at me blankly like an ass hole when I gave him commands- he was staring at me because he was waiting for my body to give the cues. I saw that he stared like that because he was trying to make sure he was being as receptive as possible for visual commands. He relies on his eyes more than his ears to figure out what I want from him. The idiot doesn’t place any value in auditory cues. His stupid brown eye holes work just fine.

That’s when something kicked in- I need to listen to what the dogs are telling me instead of just trying to see if their behaviour lines up with something I read. If I tell Rudy what to do with my voice he stares at me and 5 out of 10 times might get it right. If I stop speaking but start waving my hands around instead- the commands got done. Simple as that. I tell him to do something and he ignores me or gives me a confused look. He understand the auditory commands but that’s not how he processes information. I look at it as writing the instructions down. I’m ADHD, you can tell me something you need done a thousand times but there’s a 99% chance you’ll get whatever it is you want done if you write it down for me. Rudy just needs instructions written down for him.

In the past month he has taught me “The 16th time you say ‘sit’ is not the magical number that magically commands my brown ass to hit the ground.” This whole time he wasn’t being stubborn, he was just working with what he’s got. It was a huge lesson that I needed. He taught me that if it isn’t working then the dog itself isn’t the problem. Dogs don’t write blogs or plan holiday parties in the wild. It’s all body language like Cesar has always said. Rudy's body wasn't doing anything so I assumed nothing was going on upstairs, when in fact there very much was. Body language doesn't just mean where his toes or shoulders are, I should have picked up on everything sooner. He taught me that I can bring his life into balance by speaking and understanding his language.

Teaching new dog has been rough due to my mental state, getting fired for having bipolar disorder, and severe fanatical stress doesn’t help the whole calm assertive thing. I taught both other dogs new tricks before, I can do it with new dog, right? Especially with my new found understanding of dogs, right?


New dog isn’t like the other two. She doesn’t look at me or try to figure out what she’s being asked to do like the other two did. When she does look at me she has the same bug eyed frenchie stare. She’s not an idiot, she’s far from it. The dog is smart as shit which makes it worse because her body language isn’t as easy to see. Rudy communicates that he’s scared, nervous, or excited. Dovahkiin expresses being alert, excited, or startled. New dog? She looks at you like you’re wasting her time. I can wave my arms around all day trying to give physical and verbal commands and she thinks it’s the best show she’s ever seen in her life. I’m not telling her what to do- I’m her favorite comedy show. Only problem is she’s laughing at me.

Me: “Annie, sit.”

Annie: *no response*

Me: “Annie, SIT.”

Annie: *bug eyed frenchie stare*

It was maddening and with my instability I had to walk away from training sessions often. I couldn’t make any headway with her. That was until that brown bastard walked into the room.

I started doing training sessions with all of them in the same room purely for the sake of time. Annie (new dog) would watch what I did with the other 2 dogs very closely. It’s the only time she ever betrayed her “better than you” stance was when she was watching the other dogs do something interesting. Rudy was so good at his commands now and his constant ability to stay calm and collected was impressive. Because of this I saw that Annie watched him the most.

There was a snow pea I had dropped on the floor and for an hour both girl dogs sniffed and then ignored it. Rudy will eat anything so when he passed through the kitchen he chewed and swallowed it up without missing a beat. Annie stared at him in disbelief while he did so. That thing was food this whole time? I put a snow pea on the ground and watched her spend 10 minutes fighting with knowing it must be food because she saw Rudy eat it, and the fact that her taste buds were very clearly telling her that this thing is not classified as food.

Annie never barks, at the pound she was the only dog not barking. We didn’t hear her bark for the first 4 days we had her. But when Rudy would bark at something I noticed Annie would try and figure out what he was barking at. Was it inside? Was it outside? Was it a person? Was it a ghost? She eventually started barking whenever Rudy did and ditched the investigation beforehand to see if it was worth barking at. Oh, that brown guy is barking? Must be legit, I better start barking with him or else the demons will get us. If Rudy did a trick I asked for, she was watching him.

I tried to get her to follow or learn new commands but I could grab her paw a thousand times, give her a treat, and say “paw” and she would not get it or take me seriously. The only dog I’ve ever known that can shoot a look and let you know she thinks you’re a complete idiot. I need to balance taking care of new dog’s training and Dovahkiin’s issues but I was drowning in the difficulty of both. New dog thinks I rode my clown car to pick her out of the shelter and my terrier terrorist was going to start attacking the other two over door ways. Her resource guarding was going to be a threat if not addressed as soon as possible.

Then I got a crazy idea, just like when I took control over Rudy’s food bowl. I pulled Rudy in front of Annie and did the “paw” trick 3 times with him. Then I turned to her and said the command. The very next second I had this fat, fumbly, frenchie paw in resting in my hand.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t fucking believe that just worked. I had previously tried to teach her “down” but she thought that meant “gnaw on new mama ladies’ wrist, pee on her a bit, and try to jump on her back.” Then I tried it again. But this time I brought Rudy to the front of the class and had him lay down 3 times. I turned to Annie and as soon as I said and motioned the command, her fat frenchie belly was on the ground.

I still couldn’t believe it.

Rudy’s greatest accomplishment has been on walks. He was absolutely impossible to walk previously. Dovahkiin did good about 50-60% of the time but things like squirrels, a car door closing, or a fart could send her into a frenzy. Rudy couldn’t get out of the yard with out pulling, snarling, or trying to attack everything that moves. Cesar taught me to interpret his behavior appropriately. I can’t think emotionally or be emotional when the a dog is acting like this. In DBT language, I have to use my wise mind.

What did I find? Rudy wasn’t aggressive or trying to be stubborn.

He was scared.

He was scared of everything. After I broke down the wall of aggression it was easy to see what had been behind most of his bad behavior- he was still a frightened, unsocialized puppy on the inside. I started walking all the dogs separately because they needed exercise and I wasn’t going to crap out on them as an owner anymore. They were mine to take care of and I had to really stick to my dedication of handling them. I could work closely with the Rude Dude to figure out how to help his fear.

It was only possible if they were walked individually. It fucking sucked taking each psychologically damaged dog on a 30-60 min walk everyday, if the weather was nice they got one in the morning and one in the evening. The high dose of lithium I was on might have actually been working then for all I know, but the stress of trying to walk a serial killer, a coked up dominatrix, and a bumbling narcissist around the neighborhood twice a day is what would destroy any attempt I had at sanity. It was painful but I worked with each dog individually, trying really hard to figure out what their issues were and how to address them. My homework was to make sure the frustration didn't get to me. Calm assertive, calm assertive, calm assertive...

Rudy? He was afraid of his own shadow. I couldn’t walk him if the sun was down because if the wind blew anything around he would bolt one way or the other. If another dog was around I could snap him out of growling or lunging but that exposed him for what he really was- he was terrified of everything that wasn’t his house or backyard. I finally started to have sympathy for Rudy. It only took 2.5 years but hey, better late than never. Seeing his tail tuck between his legs, ears pinned back as he tried to back up into a safe place that didn’t exist, got to me. I didn’t want to keep him in the state of mind. What can I do? I had to put together my research notes and come up with a plan.

Notes I gathered:
Never reward a dog in that state of mind with treats. Never reward treats on a walk- the walk itself is a treat. Don’t use treats on walks as lures because your dog can become dependent on them and not actually learn how you want them to behave. Treats just distract a dog from learning good behavior. You don’t want to become too treat reliant, they won’t listen to you without them.

All of that was the popular consensus for just about all methods of dog training I was able to find on the matter. A million things you can do, but treats on a walk are not good.

I closed my notes, chucked my rock climbing chalk bag into the washing machine, bought a huge bag of diet dog food, and a gentle lead face harness. I filled my chalk bag up with the diet food as treats, slapped on his harness, and walked his brown ass out the door. I knew what I was doing is highly frowned upon but I knew how his stupid brain worked now. I figured him out and was going to use that to his advantage.

It worked. Cost a lot of treats but it worked. It was all about snapping him out of his own mind and distracting him before he acts on the impulse. As he got better I would randomly tap the side or top of his head, something that usually freaked him out, and pop a treat in his mouth. There’s one thing I got incredibly lucky with him- he’s food driven. He’d kill his own mother to lick an empty cupcake wrapper. He would look at me every once in awhile to see if a treat was coming his way and 20% of the time he got one but after a while I kept him guessing. The amount of time in between each head tap got longer and longer. He was paying attention to my hand and to me. That’s what I wanted.

If a car was coming by, something that scares the shit out of him, I would ball up my fist with 3 or more treats in it and put it in front of his face, making him nudge my fist for a bit in order to get to it. By the time he got the treat the car was gone. Other dogs barking at him? Same technique worked. Cat run by? Same thing worked.

On one walk we were passing a parked car when, I shit you not, a cat walked out in front of him with a dead mole in its mouth and just stopped and stared. My lungs fell into my stomach. They stared at eat other for what felt like minutes. My dogs about to go away to prison for life because this stupid cat. Wrong place, wrong time, that’s what’s about to kill this feline. In Rudy’s mind the cat was a snack holding another snack, like a chocolate covered peanut. This catastrophe was easily within lunging distance, Rudy would have her dead and her limp mole friend twice as dead before I could grab him or have a chance to save the cat’s life.

As I went to react to what will surely be a bloodbath, Rudy’s stupid little face turned to me, ears perked up, curly tail wagging in a circle, making his whole butt move around, and did nothing. He sat down.

He fucking sat down.

The cat dropped it’s victim (nothing anyone could do for him at that point, I’ve never seen a deader mole in my life) and took off. Rudy looked at the mole on the ground and looked back at me like, “huh, strange, that guy forgot his food.”

I gave him my entire chalk bag full of treats. He ate out of it like a horse feed bag. A leopard printed horse feed bag stuck to my born idiot’s face. He was the happiest and most calm I had ever seen him in what was the perfect storm, and only 1 month ago would have been a horrific scene. I’m glad I avoided the whole “Merry Christmas, neighbor kid. My dog slaughtered your cat.”

He’s less scared on walks now, I meet him halfway by not taking him out at night or during overcast or rainy days when it’s windy. The wind still gets to him but it’s getting better. He whines more now than he does cower, which is a huge improvement and shows me that I’m headed in the right direction.

He no longer jumps on the counters. He doesn’t chew on anything he’s not supposed to, he doesn’t get on the furniture unless invited, he waits for his food and I can stick my hand in the bowl and he doesn’t care. I could clean his teeth and gums while he ate breakfast and wouldn’t even notice. I play a game I call “gimme that” and it’s where I fill and freeze a Kong full of his favorite garbage- oatmeal with tuna fish juice, scrambled eggs, peanut butter, fresh rotisserie chicken, rice made with beef broth- and while he eats it I will gently take it from him while he’s enjoying it and then give it back to him 15-60 seconds later, over and over again for about 5 minutes and then I’ll let him eat the rest in peace. He knows he’s safe and that his treat being taken away does not mean it’s forever. He no longer annoys people for affection, if he wants to be pet he will walk up and plop his ass on the floor next to you, no hand nudging, barking, or acting out if he doesn’t get it.

The best part? He’s teaching the other 2 dogs how to walk properly. They will start pulling and freaking out (usually over wearing a gentle lead harness) and Rudy just keeps his calm demeanor and they eventually fall in line with him and he’s just following my direction so it’s like a blissful domino effect. Whenever I give the command for “turn” when we need to turn during our walk, I put one hand out to indicate which direction and he checks to see where it’s pointing and will turn with me, helping the little shit heads know where to go.

He’s my goddamn assistant. That’s crazy. He’s the worst dog I had ever met. I trained him for my own selfish purposes, so he would stop eating the crotch out of my underwear every time I came to his dad’s house for “date night.” This stupid, hopeless, wreck of a dog is now my star pupil and is helping me lead the pack.

He helps me train Annie, the new dog. Training with her has been ten times easier once I realized he was the key. He knows it, too. He helps me with her and letting me know if Dovahkiin is in a bad state and I need to take control over her. He’s the shit.

They all need to go sit in certain spots to eat or do tricks but the little two run around like it’s their first day on the planet. Rudy will go sit in his spot and that somehow triggers the other two to sit in their spots. He’s like my interpreter for the other 2.

“Hey dogs, do this thing I’ve spent a lot of time teaching you and I know that you know it.”

Dovahkiin & Annie: “what? where? here? no? there? no? now? no? smell this? no? where? what? huh? but why? now? not now? go here? eat your shoe? jump? chew on the floor? huh?”

Rudy: *sits down on his mat*

Other 2: “Oh! I get it! ‘Place’ time!”

I have never seen anything like it, nor was it a goal of mine. My only goal was to not get him arrested again (another story for another day). I wanted to train my dog when I got her as a puppy so she wouldn’t have any bad behaviors like Rudy did. I wanted to nip that in the bud. I now live in a house with a resource guarding psychopath that has really bad separation anxiety, a puppy still trying to figure out what, if anything, she can get away with, and a 4 legged brown sidekick who is making my life with these 3 dogs easier than I ever thought it could be. He’s giving me more time to focus on Dovahkiin.

That brown assed sack of nervous fur went from me hating him (I really did not like him), to becoming the most well respected dog I’ve ever dealt with.

My husband took the picture at the very top of this post a couple of mornings ago and it’s amazing because this dog and I don’t cuddle together. We’re affectionate but the other two smother me in cuddles and Rudy lives for Matt. He appreciates what I do for him, just like I appreciate he doesn’t chew my stuff up anymore, but I wouldn’t ever call us close.

But then I woke up to my husband showing me this picture, saying that Rudy was the one who cuddled up next to me (after being given permission to hop on the bed, of course.)

It’s amazing how much we’ve helped each other and I didn’t realize it until now.

I was recently fired because my boss found my blog and YouTube channel and decided he doesn't want someone like that working at the shop. Despite my outstanding job performance the owner fired me after coming back from a 2 week medical leave due to bipolar medication complication. I'm still dealing with a lot but now I'm doing it with no income. If you could please help it would mean the difference between success and failure for me right now. I'm about to lose my license due to lapsed insurance and my country taxes on my car hadn't been paid (medication issues over 6 months made remembering simple things difficult), I need new tires put on my car in order to pass inspection, and I pretty much need my car and license for getting any other job. It's causing me to slip into a depression which can sabotage any progress I've made if it gets worse.