For Puppy Dembe

Never in a million years did I think I would actually be training my own service dog, but it’s happening! I even found an expert both in dog training and mental health. Right now we are working on manners and basic commands but I can’t wait to keep going. Dembe is so smart and so intuitive already. We went to Walmart one day and I felt my chest tighten and my legs get wobbly which are just two of the signs that a substantial panic attack is on its way. So many people were getting in my face, wanting to pet him and I even got a couple “Oh well, you don’t look sick.” Ugh. So what does Dembe do? He guides me back to the ladies department where we had just been and he walks to a quiet little space. He sat on my foot, putting all of his 25 pounds against my leg. This is so special because that small thing he just did? It is an integral task that I will need him to perform when I am feeling anxious. How did he know to do that?

My mom and Van and therapist tell me they can see a bond between Dembe and myself already. And our stellar trainer, Rachel, seems to agree.

Mom and I went to Ulta yesterday and I wasn’t sure how he would do with all of the makeup that would be at face level. He was amazing! We would walk to a brand I was interested in and lay on my feet. He stayed out of the way of other shoppers, ignored everyone (he is very good at ignoring  people which will come in handy down the road when he becomes a Full-Service Dog).

I love being out with him. My go-to behavior when I am not feeling well is to crawl inward as much as possible. My brain starts overthinking and social anxiety kicks in and often I find myself disassociating in order to deal with the overwhelming feelings and thoughts I’m experiencing.

Rachel let me know that it is my choice whether or not I allow people to pet Dembe.  I’ve let a few people pet him while he is working because they were very sweet and I thought it would lead to a positive social interaction. Then there are the people who interrupt me when I am trying to focus Dembe or the man in Costco last night who out and out whistled at Dembe and said: “Here, service dog. Look at me.” Dembe ignored everyone! Even the whistler! But, I need to gain confidence and tell people no or not to do those distracting things. Luckily there are more nice, lovely, polite people that there are ignorant, rude folks.

Dembe is one of the best things to ever happen to me. He is my protector, my support, my best friend…he is going to save my life and he already has. I have been struggling for the past 5 months or so which is probably obvious from my other blog posts. I wanted this entry to stay positive, but sometimes things take a unexpected turn. I struggle with suicidal thoughts every day. Most every night I pray I won’t wake up. Why? I know this sounds so simple, like an easy fix, Like “just like yourself, you’re so sweet….” can’t you get over these thoughts? I mean, you’ve had them for a long time, shouldn’t you be cured?” Things like that.

Truth is, no, I do not like myself. Whoever said you can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself, I would like to have a conversation with them. Because I truly love other people. I do.

Back to what I was trying to say before my tangent 🙂 The other day I felt completely overwhelmed. I still could not figure out the baby gates, Dembe started teething and began biting me at every chance. I felt like my puppy hated me and that I was a bad person for such a sweet dog to bite me it must mean I am evil. So I called the Suicide hotline but couldn’t get through and then tried the online chat on their website and there were 45 people ahead of me. Van was out of town and I didn’t want to bother him even more than I already do. I called my Mom hoping she wouldn’t pick up and she didn’t. The overarching theme with me is that I am a burden and anyone close to me would be better off without me. I only cause pain and suffering and I am very annoying.

Anyway! I was looking through the knives which are all pretty dull, but I found one. Many thoughts went through my mind and I almost felt peace, knowing it would be over soon. As I readied myself, I felt something fuzzy plop on my feet. I looked down to see Dembe. What timing he has. I couldn’t do that to my little buddy, the one who was going to love me, protect me, stabilize me, soothe me…he looked at me with his beautiful little eyes and I felt warmth and I felt love. This is not unlike what happened in 2006 when Grover (my beloved cat/protector who left us a few years ago) stopped an attempt almost exactly like this one. I know I have guardian angels in heaven (Grandpa, Uncle Mark, Grover), but I have one here on Earth.

He is going to be the best service dog around.

Thank you so much for reading!

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It’s Been a While

So… what to say…

I know. Start with the best thing! I am training my own service dog. His name is Dembe. Dembe is the name of my favorite character on the show Blacklist. In Ugandan, it means peace, or peace bringer. Here are some pictures of my sweet boy

 

He is a 10 week old German Shepherd and the last time we were at the vet, he weighed 18 pounds. We have gone on 4 excursions and he has done so well each and every time. Earlier today Van and I stopped at Walmart and I became so overwhelmed by people asking to pet him that I began to have a panic attack. Dembe led me to women’s clothing and sat down, leaning his entire weight against my leg. This is huge because this seemingly small action is one of the advanced techniques he will learn in order to help me lower my anxiety. He is magical and I am forever grateful to Stacey for introducing me to my best friend. I already feel like Dembe and I are a team. I love him. For clarification’s sake, he is a service dog, not an emotional support animal.

Why do I have a service dog, one might ask? (Before I go further, I apologize if I tell you things you already know. My brain is quite literally gray mush).  There are many reasons my psychologist and psychiatrist urged me to get a service pup. I have several mental health diagnoses. I don’t mind talking about them, so please feel free to leave questions.

Mainly, Dembe will help me with my PTSD diagnosis. PTSD? Me? Yes. My mother’s first husband was a monster. He physically, verbally, emotionally, and mentally abused my mom every single day. What no one knew was that he was also abusing me. We lived with him from about ages 10-12. He pushed me down the steps almost every day while my mom was busy. I had concussions, sprained ankles and wrists. He mixed in Comet kitchen cleaner into my food every day and sometimes I was made to eat spoonfuls of it. He loved to remind me that he would not be hitting my mom if I’d never been born because then my father never would’ve moved out of state (Mom got pregnant with me when she was 17. My father’s mother did not want to have her life or her son’s life ruined because my mom would not get rid of me. I’ve since met him and even though he was kind of a disappointment, I found my long lost sister, Alex who I love with all of my heart and miss every day). Pat also took special pleasure in telling me how ugly I was. He said the ugly came from the evil inside of me. Oh and he ripped up my Magic Johnson rookie card. My most prized possession.

I also have a severe panic disorder, social anxiety, schizoaffective disorder, and a few other diagnoses I won’t get into now. Later in Dembe’s training, I will tell you about his specific tasks as a Psychiatric Service Dog.

I haven’t felt as low as I feel now in a very long time. I began feeling “brain sick” several months ago but I told no one. I couldn’t bear to burden anyone with my problems so I kept on keeping on until I began to crack and my mom noticed. She should really be a therapist 🙂

I’ve had trouble not dissociating. I am depressed and I overthink everything. I take everything personally and feel as though I can’t truly trust anyone. I’m told I’m paranoid by my doctors and I’m not sure I accept that although Van and Mom agree that I am. I very strongly feel that my doctors are disappointed/sad/upset/irritated, etc. that I did not tell them how I was feeling sooner. I don’t want to bother them.They have enough going on and me just being their patient is burden enough. Plus, chances are if I’m honest, I will have to take time off from work and that makes me sick. I know I continue to bring up being a burden, but that is one of my biggest fears.

When my mom was with Pat he and other adults in the family and his friends, love to laugh at me, to pick me apart. “why are you so weird?” “people can tell you don’t belong to this family just by looking at you.” Those were the nicest things I was told. Then throughout elementary, middle school, and high school I had those messages reinforced by, my classmates, and I began to full force believe that all of these awful things people said about me were true.

I feel like this blog is kind of silly, but I’ll leave it as it was my assignment to write whatever came to mind. I would like to take a moment to thank a few women.

Laura and Kristie were a few years ahead of me when I began to feel completely hopeless. They were beautiful and cool (I sound like a nerd!) and everyone wanted to be their friend. Laura and Kristie, you were genuinely kind to me when I first began having very horrible thoughts about myself, a time when I hated myself and felt ugly and weird. Thank you for your kindness and for your friendship. If I could only explain to you how much your kindness changed my life. These words do not adequately express my feelings. Thank you with my whole heart.

Jennifer was a few years ahead of me and absolutely gorgeous. She took me under her wing and offered protection and a mentor. I will always love her for that. I feel like she saw me for me, not the gangly, awkward girl who was searching for a safe place and a kind soul.

And finally, Dawn. Dawn was the bright light in Pat’s extended family. She was stunning and always kind to me. She was a safe place. At first, I thought it was a joke. No one in this family liked me, how could someone so pretty be so nice? But she was! She was like an angel. An absolute lovely person whom I cherish to this day.

I don’t know how weird or random this is, but thank you for reading. There’s so much more I want to share, but I don’t know how to express it right now. Maybe next time.

 

Wishing you peace and love,

Brooke

February Wrap-Up and What I’m Reading in March

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February was a pretty good month for me as far as reading goes. You may notice that the books above differ from the books I thought I would read in February. I’m sure I will read Wonder Woman and The First Wife in the near future.

I liked almost all of the books I read, Refuge Cove being the exception. I’m not even quite sure why, I just didn’t gel with the story. The Wife Between Us was the standout book of the month and I can’t stop recommending it to everyone I know. Liars and Running in the Dark were suspenseful and the plots were interesting. I would caution anyone reading this who might be interested in Running in the Dark that there are several references to suicide  and these could prove to be a trigger.  Best Day Ever is in a category all by itself, giving readers a glimpse into the mind of the of a budding psychopath. I was happy to finally read one of Karen Slaughter’s books and Pretty Girls definitely gave me the creeps. I would also warn readers of a possible trigger in this book as it talks in depth about human trafficking and sexual assault often leading to grisly murder scenes.

March is going to be fun! I have already finished The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian and it was outstanding. By far the best book I have read this year. Here are some more books I am excited about in the month of March:

I hope you have a wonderful day!

Book Review: The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

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The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian
Random House LLC
Published March 13, 2018

The Flight Attendant – goodreads
The Flight Attendant – amazon kindle edition

Book Blurb (by Goodreads):

Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police–she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home–Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?

My Thoughts:

The Wife Between Us has been dethroned! The Flight Attendant has taken the top spot as my favorite book of 2018 so far. I regularly watch the YouTube channel, Fly with Stella, which was created by a flight attendant named Stella who is based out of JFK. While reading, I often thought of Stella, which lead me to become cognizant of how much research Bohjalian put into developing the main character of Cassie. I have a great deal of respect for him because of the attention to detail and how it helped Cassie come to life.

Thank you to NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this book.

Rating: 5 doughnuts out of 5! 🍩🍩🍩🍩🍩

Review:

Once in a while, you come across a book that you think about, wishing you could be reading it instead of doing whatever else it is you might be up to. This is how I felt about The Flight Attendant. I read it at work between tasks (I am a librarian, so reading at my desk is actually smiled upon which is amazing), in the doctor’s office, wherever and whenever I could get a few pages in. I cannot believe that this is the first book of Bohjalian’s I have read. I think it’s time to remedy that.

Cassie is the type of character you should not like. She is irresponsible, she takes too many risks and she is selfish, among other things. Despite all of her flaws, I found myself caring about Cassie and I was constantly on the edge of my seat, worrying about what might happen to her next. One of my favorite aspect of a book is character development. Let it be known that Bohjalian is an expert when it comes to creating characters that flourish right before your very eyes. Even minor characters are given such rich personalities that they come to life, jumping from the pages (or screen) of the story, adding dimension and mystery to the story.

At the end of the book, when everything began coming together, I found myself feeling tense and anxious- I  could not read the words fast enough, but I also wanted to savor the ending. After everything was reconciled and I thought it was safe to breathe again, an unexpected surprise was revealed!

The writing and grammar in The Flight Attendant is topnotch. It is the mark of a seasoned author who can both write well and develop gripping, suspenseful stories that please readers and exceed their expectations.

Would I Recommend this Book?

Yes! I would absolutely recommend this book.

To Whom Would I Recommend this Book?

I would recommend this book to those readers who enjoy thrillers, trying to figure out the puzzle that is a well-constructed book with a solid plot and engaging characters. I would also recommend this book to readers who like surprises and plot twists. Also, the description of the life of a flight attendant was fascinating and, as I wrote previously, done so well, it truly helps the reader to become immersed in Cassie’s life. So, I suppose you could say that I recommend The Flight Attendant to all readers 🙂

I hope this review has done the book justice. Whenever I truly feel passionate about a book, I find it difficult to deliver a review. Hopefully, my humble attempt will lead you to consider reading The Flight Attendant.

Thank you for reading my review!

Book Review: Best Day Ever, by Kaira Rouda

best day Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda
Published September 2017

Book Blurb (by Goodreads):

 

I glance at my wife as she climbs into the passenger seat, and I am bursting with confidence. Today will be everything I’ve promised her…and more…

Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really? 

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. In the bestselling, page-turning vein of The Couple Next Door and The Dinner, Kaira Rouda weaves a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage…or a life.

My Thoughts:

Wow. This book is incredibly creepy thanks to the character of Paul Strom. I chose to listen to the audio version and the narrator did a great job at bringing Paul to life and making my skin crawl. Excellent job to Graham Halstead. He captured Paul so well and I’m sure that’s not always an easy thing to do.

Rating: 4 doughnuts out of 5! 🍩🍩🍩🍩

Review:

Kudos to the author for creating one of the creepiest characters I have ever come across, a true psychopath to his very core. The entire time I was listening to Best Day Ever, I felt like Paul was speaking directly to me and as time went on, he slowly started to reveal his true nature. I can’t express enough how impressed I am by Kaira Rouda’s creation of Paul and his slow decline and loss of control.

This books takes place over the period of 24 hours and is told almost entirely from the point of view of Paul. The author also does an excellent job of creating tension between Paul and his wife Mia and the entire time I was on my tip toes, wondering when I would finally find out what Mia was up to. Tiny clues are thrown in throughout the novel, but I missed all of them and I am kind of glad I did because it made the story more suspenseful.

Another thing I thought was neat was that the story took place in my home state of Ohio and I recognized many of the cities and locations. 🙂

 

Would I Recommend this Book?

Yes! I would also recommend listening to it if you have the option.

To Whom Would I Recommend this Book?

To readers who are looking for something different. To those who wonder what it would be like to get inside of a psychopath’s head. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.

 

Thank you for reading my review!

Book Review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 1.45.11 PM The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Published January 2018

Book Blurb (by Goodreads):

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. 

You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife. You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.

Assume nothing. 

Twisted and deliciously chilling, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage – and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

My Thoughts:
This is my favorite book for 2018!  It’s going to take a real stunner to dethrone The Wife Between Us. It hurt to put this book down because it was so thrilling. I hope for more from Hendricks and Pekkanen because they have a fan in me and I think they are truly gifted writers.

Rating: 5 doughnuts out of 5!🍩🍩🍩🍩🍩

Review:

Where do I begin? As I previously stated, this is my favorite book of 2018 and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I am wary to write too long of a review because there is so much mystery and intrigue, I would hate to give anything away through my review.

This book is a true thriller. The authors are highly skilled at creating characters. Some are likable, some are annoying, others have an underlying personality beneath what they show to others. I found myself having real feelings for the characters in this book and the development of all of the main characters is absolutely impressive.

Another thing I loved about this book is the fact that as soon as I felt like I had a decent grasp on what was happening, the authors pulled the rug out from under me and I realized that what I thought I knew was so far from what was actually happening.

I hope this review is making sense. I am truly so afraid of ruining The Wife Between Us for others, I find myself holding back quite a bit. But please, read this book. I passed it on to my mom and she was as confused, surprised and impressed as I was. This is one of the few books where I actually gasped out loud in genuine surprise or alarm.

Would I Recommend this Book?:

Absolutely yes! Without hesitation.

To Whom Would I Recommend this Book?

Everyone. Especially those readers who enjoy being confused and not being able to figure out what is going to happen from page to page, chapter to chapter. Readers who enjoy complex characters and character development and well thought out plots. It is obvious that the authors put a great deal of thought into the storyline, developing characters, thinking of ways to keep readers interested and on their feet. If you love reading, especially thrillers and mysteries, you must read The Wife Between Us.

Thank you for reading my review!

Mental Health Matters: The Power of You

When I am feeling depressed or anxious, life becomes like a labyrinth filled with oatmeal. I feel slow, I physically hurt, and waking up is a disappointment. My mood has been in the dumps lately, but I think I’m hiding it pretty well.

Negative self-talk, social paranoia, extreme and sometimes prolonged panic attacks that can last for days, become the norm.  Sunday nights I begin to panic around 3pm and the thought of going to work the next day is enough to take my breath away and leave me reeling. I try to hide these feelings from my husband because he is so amazing. He works around 70 hours a week, never calls off, and he is fully supportive of me. Our relationship is better now than it has been ever before.We’ve been together for 18 years and one might think that our relationship would deteriorate after all of the fun my mental illnesses have had, but it only grows stronger.

The other day, Van left me a note. It was so sweet and unexpected that I felt his genuine love through this seemingly simple note. But it was so much more than that. On Monday I sat at my desk worrying about my coworkers and what they think of me and how they probably hate me when suddenly I am greeted with such a genuine “hello” by not one but four coworkers. My self-doubt began to have self-doubt.

And my mom. What can I say? She is an angel. An angel with a sophisticated biker-chic mouth. 🙂 I have it too, but I may be worse than mom. She can handle whatever I throw at her and sometimes it’s a lot. Possibly too much for one person, but my mother is special. She always knows what to say, what to do, how to get me to breathe…what would I do without you, Mom?

To everyone who has smiled at me, seemed excited to see me, made a point to say hello, sent a kind email and so much more…thank you. Mr. Rogers would be proud and  I believe his heart would soar at all of these examples of unconditional positive regard.

So if you feel compelled to say hi to someone, send them an encouraging email or card…do it. You won’t regret it and you never know when you might just change the course of someone’s life with what seems like a simple gesture.

And please be kind to yourself. You are worth it, you are unique, special, talented, and beautiful. And that is from my heart to yours…

 

Thank you for spending time with me,
Brooke