Category Archives: Disorders
Last week we were outside doing some yard work and letting my dogs run in the yard. We have a Chihuahua we recently rescued and a Stafford shire terrier named “Colo” that I got a few months after leaving me foster home. I noticed the amount of gray hair she has now and it made me realize she’s now 7 years old. It also made me realize how much she has been through with me and how she has helped me through it. From leaving my foster home and aging out of foster care into becoming a man, struggling to overcome emotional, financial, and social struggles. I’ve gone from being alone renting a house that was falling apart to buying my own home and now having a family. The only living thing that has been around and constant this entire time was her and I don’t know if I would have made it without her.
Animals can make an impact on a child’s therapy process. At Coyote Hill, the foster home I stayed at, we sometimes did animal therapy with horses. Though mainly dogs, horses, and dolphins are the most talked about when it comes to animal assisted therapy many animals can be used such as fish, hamsters or even farm animals. I never really understood at the time where the therapy came into play, but after doing some research and taking a step back to examine the therapy process more, I seen that not realizing where therapy comes in is probably why it works so well.
I think that anyone that has owned an animal has caught themselves talking to them or maybe even having a conversation. It feels safe because you’re not going to get any negative feedback, but you do get a reaction. The same way we have to build up trust so do animals. The thing that makes the relationship work so well is that animals are non judgmental and they remember their trust. My dog has seen me in my highs and lows, times that I will never talk about and dark places, but no matter what, when I get home she runs up, jumps up on me ( something I could never break) and lets me know how much she missed me the only 9 hours I was gone.
Using pet therapy can also reduce depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Petting a dog that you have been bonded with helps with relaxation, releasing stress, increasing morale, increased calmness, decrease anxiety, improve a persons outlook, reduce the need for medication, reduce fear and anxiety in people with a psychiatric conditions. Looking back I can see how my dog helped me with these things. I was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety which has made a major impact on my life. Often times I find myself unable to sleep, paranoid, or anxious. When I had Colo next to me all of that decreased. I knew I had someone that I could trust that was keeping an extra eye on me and willing to protect me just like I will protect her. I built up bond and trust neither of which I thought I could muster up after abuse and foster care.
I try to keep things simple when I analyze something. To me a lot of my therapy has been retraining my mind out of bad habits. When your mind is constantly under fear and worry you unknowingly train your mind to be on constant alert, vigilant and you become untrusting. You can learn to build that back with some good therapy and maybe the help of animals. If you’re a former foster kid or have foster kids, are in the financial place to take care of a pet, and would like a companion, check out your local animal shelter. Many of our four legged friends need a forever family too!
Unfortunately through my abuse I learned that many things can be used as a tool in abusing. Even things that don’t seem that important to a kid can be made important by the abuser and used against them. For example my parents were very materialistic and would use clothing as punishment. Even though it doesn’t really matter what type of clothes you wear my parents made believe that they were important and if I didn’t wear certain clothing I would be made fun of. This can be even worse when the tool that there using is a necessity to life such as shelter, water and food. My parents used food as a control method and punishment for me and my brothers. This lifestyle caused us several food issues that lasted through foster care and some stick with us today.
My step mom had convinced my dad that my brothers were ADHD and they needed to be on a special diet. Long story short my step mom had lied about going to the doctor and she made up some special diet for my brothers and me consistently of “no sugar foods” such as beans, spam, raw vegetables, and really any other horrible thing she could pass. They tried this with me to. Me being the stubborn one that I am and just know that I would throw up their concoction anyway, I just refused to eat their food until I got something regular. I would miss a couple days of eating but eventually they got they point that I wouldn’t allow them to go to that extreme with my diet. My brothers were a different issue; they were young and didn’t understand what was going on. They did what they were told even though they didn’t like it. I remember many issues over food and them eating.
So our food issues began. Since food was used as a punishment and it was made into such a big deal it set my brothers apart from my step moms kids. The other kids were even allowed to comment on how gross it looked and make fun. My brothers would then become anxious when it was time to eat. They weren’t fed enough and would try to sneak food whenever they could. We would also hide food wherever we could. Anytime I got some extra food I would have to find a place to hide it. I also had to find a place to hide the wrappers and get them out without being seen. Our food hoarding became an issue when the food and wrappers would attract mice. We would get caught, punished but I never wanted to go without food when they wanted to use food against me. I knew they would use whatever weakness I had so I tried to limit my weaknesses.
Going into foster care one I could tell right off the bat the food issues one of my brothers had. In the beginning every meal he would devour and eat himself sick. After eating he would always want to know what we were having to eat for each meal, the rest of the day and into the next day. He would even check in to make sure the meal plan was still on throughout the day. Food hoarding did still go on. I also had some food issues of my own on top of hoarding. I wouldn’t eat very much. First it was awkward being at someone eles home eating someone else’s food. We didn’t go over to people has much and it made me feel really uncomfortable being in that situation. The second was I still didn’t ever want to let food be a weakness. If I was ever told to go to bed hungry then I wanted to be able to survive without being able to give in to whatever they wanted me too. I would not eat as much and train my body to go on less. I felt it was a survival tool.
I’m happy to say that both my brothers and I have improved on some of our food issues. My brothers are now adopted and my one brother doesn’t need the meal plans like he used to. He still loves to eat but it’s at normal amounts. I now eat normal amounts and often myself, but the hoarding still goes on for all three of us. They still hoard food the old way of hiding it away from their parents. Since I’m an adult I can keep things in plain view. I keep the cabinets stocked and there are some things in there that just sit there and don’t get eaten.
Food issues in your childhood can affect you when you’re an adult. It affects kids in different way but it’s all a method of survival. If you are a foster parent who has a child with food issues this is normal. If you have food issues you’re not alone. The issues my never go away completely, but with some mental work and time it can and will get better. for more information on different food issues
I often find myself avoiding social situations. I don’t like crowded places and I don’t like going to places that I’m not familiar with. I know why I do it but I don’t know why I do it. I’m afraid of those awkward situations, making a mistake and being embarrassed. I know the things I’m thinking are exaggerated but at the same time I’m unable to overcome it. I started to get hot, start sweating, and my heart starts beating faster. Even before I get where I’m going I start to feel it and I’ve been worrying about it. I with about an estimated 19 million other Americans have social anxiety disorder.
Looking back I had always felt anxiety in social situations but contributed it to being a teenager. It started with just worrying a lot about what my classmates thought of me. It started affecting my life in small ways. I had a public speaking class in middle school that I failed because I refused to get in front of the class. During high school I felt anxiety in a lot of social situations but felt like that had more to do with my situation. When I was with my parents I was living this lie that everything in my life was great. I was embarrassed for people to know what was happening. When I was in foster care I felt like the anxiety was due to me being in foster care. That stigma of being a foster child, I felt, was somewhat embarrassing at time. I didn’t really think into it too much until I was an adult when I had to get out and do more and it was really noticeable.
Social anxiety affects my adult life in many ways. It affects how I go about my routine, my job, or simply just going into public. I have anxiety about eating in front of others, being the center of attention, or making a mistake in public. I don’t go out as much unless I’m really familiar with the place and the people there. It is tough to deal with but facing it head on is the only way to make things better.
Social anxiety is treatable. It is the most common anxiety disorder in the U.S. To diagnose if social anxiety symptoms are occurring the doctor will ask several questions and give a physical exam. Often times you are referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Many believe the most effective therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy. It teaches people to react differently to the situations that trigger their anxiety symptoms. Often time just pushing yourself to do it and get it over with is the best cure for me. Getting it out of the way makes me less anxious about it the next time. I also take medication to help with my anxiety. The combination has taken a little bit of time to get down but gradually things can improve.
What are some techniques that have worked for you to overcome anxiety or even times of stage fright?