Yesterday Mum and I, and the two dogs, went to dog agility training. We’ve been going for about 15 months with TiLi, and Rupert started more recently.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this when the title of this post is “mental illness, an invisible illness,” but there is method in my madness! See, yesterday, TiLi excelled herself: For the first time since I started training her she did things off the lead. She did a recall over 2 jumps, she did the dog walk, tunnels, more jumps and the tyre, all off the lead, she was generally a complete super star, and I am so proud.
Here is where the invisibility of my illness comes into play though; the whole time I was anxious, my heart was pounding, when she turned around on the dog walk and did it three times instead of one I panicked, but no one saw, no one noticed. In fact, in the car on the way home my Mum commented on how calm and relaxed I seemed. It fascinates me because, to me, it is blatantly obvious the state I am in, because I feel so anxious I assume it must be showing.
After the session we stay and have a cuppa with the other owners and the trainers, normally it’s a wind down time and a chance to catch up. However, yesterday Rupert, our docile, anxious, 6 year old Bichon who has never hurt a fly (but has been attacked previously) decided to go for the Spinone puppy. For those non-dog people, a Spinone, even a pup, is huge! Rupert is not. Anyway, for whatever reason, Rupert decided the Spinone was too close, or too playful, or whatever, and went for him. It was totally out of character, but it happened. And I shook. I panicked. All the good that TiLi had done during the session was wiped from my mind for hours after as I panicked about Rupert’s behaviour.
That is the power of depression; it focuses your mind on the negative, no matter how amazing the positives might be. I spent the time in the car on the way home trying to remember TiLi’s achievements, telling myself how great she’d done, trying to focus on those good memories, but they were so distant, and the emotion had left them. The only emotions I had were negative because of that incident.
My point is this: mental illness is uncontrollable and powerful, and even if you can’t see it, it’s still there.