Pets, PTSD

Miesha and Me (and Battling PTSD)

They say good things come in small packages.

And rightfully so, I cannot argue against that logic. Good things do come in small packages – my university acceptance letters did, my engagement ring (hehe!), and the countless books I ordered off of Amazon.

Good things do come in small packages.

But, there is one thing in my life that came in a giant package. Or rather, a cute black leather carry-on bag.

My baby girl, my drool-bag, my giant-ass English mastiff, Miesha!
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This is a story about how a tiny bundle of fur slobbered her way into my life (and into my heart) like a force of nature. This is the story about how one sooky giant wrecked havoc on my house, destroying everything in her line of sight. This is the story about how after months of training, and destruction, and mischief, a large dog helped change my world.

It’s the story about how my English mastiff Miehsa helps me battle my mental illness.

Miesha Wilson-Thomas was born on November 20th, 2015 in Nova Scotia to a litter of ten other fur balls that were already the size of a small Chihuahuas after birth. It wouldn’t be until Christmas Day that I learned that this little wrinkly tribble (Star Trek anyone?) would officially be joining our family.

But Miesha came into my life during difficult circumstances. I had spent December in the hospital because I was extremely sick. I was due to have surgery in a few weeks and I was worried about bringing – in all sense of the word – a baby into the house.

But she was a gift from my fiancé, and after seeing the joy light up in his eyes, how could I say no? Even though, let’s be honest, he wanted her more than I did, but I wanted a dog. I was just worried about the timing.

But as the next week few weeks wore on, we planned our trip to Nova Scotia to bring home our quickly growing baby and I was getting excited. I was starting to feel a bit better and was released from the hospital until my surgery. Since I was on sick leave, I was looking forward to the chaos of being a stay-at-home fur momma.

And really, how could I say no after the breeders texted us pictures like this?

“She’s gonna have attitude,” I said to my fiancé one day when we went through the recent pictures that were sent to us. “I can see it in her eyes. She’s gonna have a big personality.”

“That’s just more to love,” Zack waved me off, melting over the photos.

But we were still excited. We made countless trips to stores stocking up and preparing for her arrival. The living room had morphed into a giant dog play room. Arty, our first cat, seemed curious and a bit alarmed by the recent additions to the household. By the look on is face, he knew something big was coming, but he had no idea just how big the surprise would be.

And the week before we were due to go to Nova Scotia, I got sick and ended up in the hospital again. To say we were stressed was an understatement. Doctors were talking about airlifting me to St.John’s and talks about doing mini surgeries before my big one were being discussed – and spending eight days drugged up on morphine and painkillers, I began to worry. I was stoned out of my trees, but I was extremely concered about bringing Miesha home while I was sick. Zack scrambled to change plane tickets as the breeders refused to hold her for an extra two days, and I watched the torture on his face as he had to choose between leaving me in the hospital by myself or giving up our girl.

There wasn’t a choice. I told him to get on the plane.

“It’s not like I can go anywhere,” I joked, shaking the hand that had my IV jabbed in it, smiling giddy besides being in a world of pain.

So Zack got on the plane.

img_4798-1 And a few hours later, he texted me a picture of our baby – rather our toddler (because she was already over twelve pounds)! Miesha was finally on her way home. And despite being pissed and upset that I was stuck in a hospital bed, I was happy she was finally on her way to Newfoundland to where she belonged.

I just had to focus on getting better, trying to get my gallbladder in check so I could get out of that stinking hospital and be home in my own bed with my baby mastiff.

I spent the next few days in the hospital, and really I don’t remember much of what happened. But through the hazy memories, Zack did bring her to the hospital – hiding her in a carry-on and covering her with his jacket so no one would be suspicious.img_4811

I spent ten minutes with her, getting teary-eyed over the shivering wrinkly lump that sat next to me on my bed, her chocolate eyes looking at me as if to say, “Who the hell are you?”

Yup, no doubt about it. She was gonna be just like her mudder.

But a few days later, I was released and finally got to be home with my fur baby, finally understanding all the chaos Zack had explained to me during his visits.

“She snores. A lot.”

Great! I thought to myself, shooting Zack a look of dismay. Another snoring body in the house. Just what I needed.

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But even though I was still sick and recovering myself, I got to spent a lot of time cuddling on the couch with my new baby girl. She loved armpit snuggles, and I soon learned she slept a lot. A dog after my own, lazy heart.

And as the weeks wore on and I started to feel better, I fell into my mother role pretty easy, even though the first day Zack left me at home, alone, I was terrified that I would suck at this.

“What if I accidentally kill her?” I looked at Zack worried, staring down at the wrinkly lump in my lap, who stared back at me with worried eyes. Really Dad? You’re gonna leave me alone with her?

img_4866“How will you kill her? It’s not like you can roll over a squish her to death.” Zack kissed my forehead and left for work.

“Ok, princess!” I smiled down at Miesha, “We can do this!” I cheered myself on, even though she seemed less that thrilled. She had imprinted on Zack first and I was the new kid on the block. We had some work to do.

She slept for the first three hours of official mommy duty.

Jeez. This seems to easy.

And boy was a right!

The next few months was a constant battle of understanding what twitches of eyebrows meant, and recognizing the signs for poops and pees. She was a chewer and I fretted that she would never grow out of this terrible habit. Our old green couch had fallen victim the first three weeks home and I wondered if I would ever be able to buy brand new furniture.

But it was exciting to be home and spending every day with her, watching her grow, learning her quirks, and training her myself. Zack had dubbed me “Mean Mommy” within no time and I became the disciplinary in the household.

It was controlled chaos. My couch lost its stuffing, she chewed through at least three full packs of toilet paper, she was gaining five pounds every week and hadn’t quite figured out just how much strength she really had – which resulted in several split lips on my behalf.

 

I cried a lot, I got mad a lot, but I enjoyed watching her explore her newfound world (even though she refused to go beyond the perimeter of the driveway). She loved Cheez Whiz and peanut butter, and I soon learned I was going to have a counter surfer on my hands. Nothing was safe, including a beautiful cake I baked one afternoon, which suspiciously had a huge chunk missing from it when I left it unattended for less than two minutes.

I was right. She had personality…and attitude…and way too much spite in her bones.

But damn did she look like a cute little baby moose when she got a bath!

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Miesha had drooled her way into my heart and despite all the chaos and yelling, I was glad she was a part of my life. She kept me from being bored and loved to sleep in my lap while I wrote or read. She was Dad’s girl but she was Mom’s sook. Dad was easy to give into treat begging but she loved to cuddle.

She gave me purpose.

And then April came.

Nothing could prepare me for the bad depressive episode I sank into because of my PTSD. Within a matter of days, I had crashed and starting losing control over my anxiety. The flashbacks came back. The night terrors resurfaced. I was filled with intense anger and frustration that had no rhyme or reason. And then the terrible thoughts came back. The worthlessness broke my wavering confidence and I thought about death. The suicidal thoughts were back and worse than before.

I wanted to die.

And there was no amount of dog cuddles or wet kisses in the world that could snap me out of it.

I was consumed with my dark thoughts. I never wanted to leave my bed and I had barely any energy to shower, let alone make effort to doing anything to keep my mind preoccupied. I was on a self-destructive path that I was quickly losing control over. I was pushing Zack away. I refused to speak to my family. I cut off all ties with my friends. I refused to answer my phone. I wanted to disappear. I wanted the world to swallow me up whole and put me out of my misery.

It wasn’t until one day that I was sat in the tub, the water having gone cold two hours before, that I stared at my pills on the counter and thought: I could end this. I could make this all go away. I could make all the pain and hurt go away forever.

And somewhere in those twisted and tormenting thoughts, my last bit of sanity broke through.

“Run, Amanda. You need to run.”

Miesha was curled up against the frame of the bathroom door when I pulled open the door and she looked at me with curious eyes.

“Come on, girl. Let’s go for a run.”

And we ran. We ran until my lungs were burning and I had a stitch in my left side and I wanted to vomit. We ran until I finally exhausted my chaotic mind into a numbed sense of being.

And a few hours later as I sat on the couch, Miesha (who was over sixty pounds by now) trying to squish her way into my lap, I made a decision.

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April 2016. You can see how exhausted and tired I was.

I made a decision to keep fighting.

This was just another battle with my PTSD. This was just another tough stalemate that I had lost. I came out bruised and battered, but the war wasn’t over.

The was would never be over, but I knew I couldn’t raise my white flag yet. There was so much more I needed to do.

 

So I made the decision to keep fighting.

The next day I went through the bathroom and tossed every spare razor in my house and got rid of anything (including painkillers left over from my surgery) that could give my suicidal thoughts intention. The first step to fighting my PTSD? Protect myself. And maybe it seemed strange or unreasonable, but I “Amanda-proofed” the house.

The next step? Get active. I was barely back to work since I was still recovering from surgery so I had a lot of idle time on my hands. With my mind on a precipice, I had to physically force myself to keep my thoughts from going haywire.

And that’s where Miesha came in.

If it was one thing we had in common, it was we both hated being stationary. Moving forward and keeping busy helped exhausted us into lazy couch potatoes. It was time to get to work. We went hiking, we went to the dog park, we lounged around in the city’s park. We did anything and everything to keep us out of the house, even if it meant going for long drives or sharing timbits from Tim Hortons.

 

And as spring bloomed into summer, and the days grew hotter, and the evenings grew longer, I was finally feeling better – I was feeling like myself again. Miesha was growing herself – she was still putting on weight, but she was slowly morphing into an adult dog. She was becoming tamer and friendly. She was my partner in crime, in everything we did, and even though she was outgrowing my lap, she was overflowing my heart.

She was helping me get better. She was making me stronger. And above all else, she was protecting me. And without question, she stayed by my side at all times, keeping a close eye on me – nudging my hand to get my attention to remind me to not stay idle too long. She kept a close eye on the both of us and she took her role seriously.

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“Mudder. I’m sick of selfies! GAWD!”

But not everything was serious. Sometimes her attitude got the better of her and we had moments of indifference. She was still a puppy and had the devil in her. She had her defiant moments and had soon expressed her distaste for selfies.

And we had our quiet moments, too. Sometimes there were days the dark thoughts did win. Sometimes there were moments we needed to stop and just keep breathing  – to remember that it was just as bad day. Bad days had their times, but they weren’t in abundance anymore. The dark thoughts were slowly retreating back from whence they came.

And on those bad days, I had Miesha. I had my guard dog and protector. She would nudge my arm with her drooly snout and snap me out of the hard moments. And on the days I didn’t have the strength to venture outside or to go for a run, “Not today, girlie. Not today.” Miesha would simply wiggle her way into img_7055my lap as best she could and squish me with her hundred-plus pound body and remind me that it was ok –  to remind me she was there whether I needed to cry into her droopy ears or just needed a mastiff hug.

She would always be there with endless love in spades and countless kisses to share.

Looking back, it’s funny how life has a way of reminding us that there is still good out there. I had battle PTSD for five years before Miesha came into  my life. I thought I had it all figured out. I knew my illness like the back of my hand. I had fought the dark thoughts and had resources on hand. I thought I knew everything I needed when it came to throwing all my efforts at recovery – therapy, journal keeping, staying active, writing, support from loved ones.

What more did I need?

But they say the best things come in giant-ass packages.

Because what is a dog anyway? Man’s best friend. A faithful companion. A cuddle buddy. A lump of fur that creates chaos in our organized lives. We get dogs for pets, but they end up being so much more than that. They become family.

And if you’re really lucky, they become your protector.

And looking back, I can’t say for certain that Miesha did save my life that day. Was she in the right place at the right time? Most definitely, but the day I contemplated swallowing a bottle of pills, she (along with everyone else I loved) was the furthest thing from my mind.

So maybe I saved myself in that moment, but Miesha guided me through the following days. She proved to me something that I truly needed to understand – that I was needed. She relied on me for everything. And at the end of the day, I needed her too.

Because she’s family and family doesn’t let their love ones give up without a fight.

So maybe there are days she’s a little weird.

Sometimes there are days she’s an attention seeker.

And other times, she truly disregards any sense of privacy or personal space.

 

But she’s a good big sister to Arty and Daeny (even though Arty begs to differ most days).

 

She understands that being lazy isn’t necessarily a bad thing (but a necessity).

 

Because life is not just about the big things, but enjoy the small moments. And even though Miesha could draw a crowd with her beauty and loving personality, she knew the best moments were the quiet moments, and we had lots of those days.

Because Miesha has taught me many things in less than her two years of life.

Maybe she turned my world upside down. And maybe she has truly tested the limit of my patience (and made me question my decision to have children). She has created chaos and stolen one too many chicken bones from the kitchen garbage. There are days her slobber and drool has caused my OCD tendencies to skyrocket out of control and other days drained my bank account with expensive vet bills.

There are times she’s so lazy my anxious mind contemplates if she’s sick and I’m misreading the signs. There are times she has almost broken my arm by trying to chase other dogs on our walks and there were times she convinced me she had squished Daney to death when she body slammed her, and has kept me up countless nights with her loud snoring just outside our bedroom door.

And there are times when I get angry and she refuses to cuddle me that I question if she even likes me at all and there are times when she’s snoring away of my office floor that I wonder if she loves her home. And on countless occasions she has made be gag when I hace to clean up vomit or wipe boogers from her nose or when her farts are so loud she scares herself with the sound.

Miesha is a lot of things and has done a lot of things. She has scared off strangers and drawn the attention of one too many dogs at the dog park. She sometimes instigates fights with the cats or gets on my last nerve, but when she sits next to me, panting away, I truly understand just how much I am thankful for the 130 pound dog that crashed into my life like a bat out of hell.

She’s got a big personality and a no-nonsense attitude just like me. She’s sometimes bad and impy but truly makes up for it in kisses and drool. Above all else, she loves and protects us with her big body and her large heart. Because she protects me from the bad days and relishes in the good days with me too. She’s a force to be reckoned with and is quick to give you a warning bark if you get too close to food dish.

And when all else fails, she knows how to tell a hilarious joke that can go a long way.

Because at the end of the day my big dog plays a “mastiff” role in my life. She may not have asked to take on the heavy burden of helping me through the bad days. She may not understand what PTSD actually is or why I have it, but she’s quick to the rescue when I’m crying and she knows how to snap me out of my intrusive thoughts.

And while the good days are winning and it’s been a while since I dragged her along with me on a run, trying to escape my damning nightmares, I know that when my PTSD decides to take up arms again, I know I’m prepared – because I have a secret weapon at my disposal. And it comes in the form of a very giant-ass dog.

And when the time comes that she can no longer be here to fight along next to me, when the day comes that my heart will be a bit broken and a little more empty, I will always remember the brown-eyed beauty that sat shivering on my hospital bed that night, looking at me with wide eyes that questioned my intensions.

But until that day comes, I will enjoy every waking moment I have with the drooly face dog that also relies on me. Because for now, her story is still being written, and she has many more chapters of chaos and adventures left before the epilogue ends. She has countless days left of begging for peanut butter crackers and snoring on my feet while I write novels.

Because good things don’t just come in big packages.

They come in the form of a happy, drooling, 130 pound English mastiff with a heart of gold.

And forever, I will always be thankful for my mastiff guardian angel. ❤

And as always,

Fight the good fight.

-A xo

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