Terry Martin Ph.D
Reflections on Life
THEY'RE NOT LIKE CHILDREN
January 18, 2019 Part of the appeal of having a dog versus a child is they walk right away and you don’t have to add a room to the house. Dogs figure out where to sleep using the Columbus System: they find a spot and land on it…usually near a cool air vent in the summer and a warm one in the winter.
Golden retrievers are my favorites, there’s a certain charm about the way their tails wag like windshield wipers when approached by strangers. I had a golden named Gus who always acted like he was running for office. He would have handed out business cards.
Gus was seven-weeks old and the size of a golf club head cover when I got him from the breeder. He didn’t make a peep on the way home. In fact we weren’t sure he had a voice box because he never barked. After he was housebroken he’d sit by the door to go out with his legs crossed until somebody saw him. I thought about teaching him to ring a little bell with his paw but it wasn’t necessary–he held water like the Hoover Dam.
Knowing that Gus wanted to go out was one thing. Sooner or later he was ready to come back in. He’d sit quietly on the front step until one of us realized he was missing.
Early on Gus chewed up a pair of slippers and gnawed through a potted ficus tree stem. The day he went after the TV remote like it was beef jerky was a forty-two dollar snack and the final straw. We put him in a kennel and went to Florida where I wrote dog-for-sale ads on the beach. But Gus went through puberty while we were gone. He was a model citizen after we picked him up.
I took Gus everywhere, often without a leash. We walked around the neighborhood and he would find fallen tree branches two- and three-feet long and carry them home.
I took him to a small lake in our community and threw a tennis ball as far as I could. He’d plunge into the water, paddle out, bring the ball back, turn around and get ready to do it again. There was no quit in him; the exercise was therapeutic.
At home I’d whisper, “Anybody want some ice cream?” and Gus would bolt for the refrigerator. Sometimes I tossed an ice cube on the tile floor and he chased it around the kitchen. He raced to the garage door when I said, “Anybody want to go for a ride?”
He leapt into the back seat and put his front paws on the console so he could see where we were going. Besides he liked to push my right shoulder and I’d push back as we drove. There was one small problem a golden retriever in a Chrysler with navy blue velour seats is a nightmare. The seats turned blond with dog hair. I wrapped duct tape around my hands to get it up.
One day a new neighbor called to say, “Gus is on my porch. We have a female show dog in heat and Gus won’t leave.” Another neighbor who lived next door called in a rage. “I just got back from the store,” she fumed, “When I put an armload of groceries down to unlock the front door Gus ran off with a roast.”
Well, he was a retriever.
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LEGOS AND ANXIETY
Why is That?
January 18, 2019 Anxiety attacks may come out of the blue or they may build up over time depending on your life stress, genetics, brain chemistry or your environment.
Have you ever stepped on a Lego in your bare feet? Shocking, isn’t it? That’s what a panic attack feels like.
The first panic attack makes additional episodes and general feeling of anxiety more likely. In other words, watch out for that stray Lego.
Anxiety also builds gradually due to emotional issues or negative past experiences. The reasons are endless. The process is based on a few key things: confusion, fear, sensitization, suggestibility, apathy and depression. As they add up, so do the Lego blocks underfoot.
Things can zigzag going from bad to worse to just okay and back to bad bringing about new symptoms, new thoughts and new things to be anxious about–like hopping through scattered Legos.
There are several levels of anxiety and depression:
Confusion: The beginning stage. You are bombarded by weird symptoms and thoughts. You seek the advice of a medical doctor. But anxiety is not always diagnosed immediately. It may take time. In the meantime you are confused about what you have, why you have it and how to make it stop.
Fear: You are confused and the physical symptoms may be alarming throwing you into a state of panic and fear.
Sensitization: The most critical part of anxiety development. Your body and mind become hypersensitive to every physical and mental bump, pop, or irregularity. When you become sensitized panic and anxiety come easy and don’t lift quickly.
Suggestibility: After becoming sensitized anxious people may start to believe their frightening thoughts are real. Some become more susceptible to self-destructive behavior and thoughts.
Apathy: Feelings of passivity and indifference can build over time. You see no light at the end of the tunnel. Your passion for life, fun activities and even positive emotions may disappear. After a while you may get tired of being scared all the time and shut down.
Depression: You feel helpless, worthless, and deeply sad. This is more than feeling blue this is a clinical state of sadness that can lead to many health and mental problems if left untreated.
You may ask is there a positive to any of this? Yes, there is. If anxiety can be constructed vertically it can also be deconstructed.
But demolishing what builds over years is not easy. It is lined with obstacles, but achievable. Look at the various levels and think of ways you can undo them.
Anxiety usually comes in two waves. The first comes out of nowhere and you can’t control it. The second wave is all the stuff you add on.
Practice calming the second wave, you will reduce the anxiety you feel when you are anxious or panicked. Ideally, this will desensitize your overactive nervous system. Although we can’t always control anxiety we can change how we react and how we think about it.
Keep the Legos in your life under control. Better yet, wear shoes.
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