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Its not all roses and sunshine, but a little rain helps you grow!

This is a long, emotional brain dump with very few pictures. This one is for those who struggle with mental health and their families and not really about the dogs! It is not a read for everyone, but if it helps just one person then its purpose has been met.


The amount of time I spent considering whether to share this blog or hit delete.......still contemplating......


Whilst I am always very open, probably too open in many respects, I do tend to keep my cards close to my chest, I am not a sharer, not emotionally at least.  However, recently more and more people have opened up to me about their struggles with mental health when trying to overcome their challenges with their dogs. These struggles impact them in their daily lives and their ability to enjoy their lives with their dogs.  It has been very challenging trying to coach people through this as it is not an area of professional expertise. I am also incredibly humbled and grateful to those people for trusting me with their vulnerabilities. I admire you for your strength in sharing. Thank you!


Perhaps my recent dabble a few weeks ago with testing out the heavenly waters has me feeling reflective, but I am hoping sharing some of the more difficult parts of my journey will help you realise how much you have to offer the world and how your dogs can help you, and how one day, you may look back and share your journey in hopes of helping that one person in the same way I am today. 


I think because I always try to keep positive people often think I’ve not really struggled with things.  Staying focused on the positives in life, in behaviour, in people, is my way of navigating the world.  It is my way of coping and trying to find a way through.  It took a while to be able to do it, and mean it. But switching perspectives has genuinely led me to where I am today.  I highly recommend it.  Start with your dogs!


This year, 2023,  has been a year I think overall I want to forget about. It has been a year of loss,  we said goodbye to 3 dogs and one in particular ripped my heart from my chest which I honestly can say I still haven’t dealt with. Although every clear night, seeing those stars smiling at me helps me heal a little bit more.



Gucci
Feebee
Spesh




It has also been a year of new beginnings, a new puppy, Zella who is just gorgeous although in 2 days she has eaten 2 remote controls!  (Should have remembered that one from Siren!) Starting my MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour, me, the non academic doing an MSc…well……surprise!  Also an amazing time away with my best friend whilst she followed (and took me along for the ride) her own intense journey. And one of nuturing new friendships.



It has been a year of self-discovery and growth. The most recent being recognising some personal challenges at university, ones I’d managed to avoid since my late teens except for odd occurrences,  I approached the university and asked for a learning assessment. They were fantastic!  I had my assessment last week (I will be having a medical assessment too as need to access further support) and they identified ADHD, dyscalculia and issues with reading comprehension (that one surprised me, but explains why I have to read things 1000 times if I have any chance of absorbing the information).  Did giggle at the maths thing though, the times tables have been a joke in my family since I was a kid. (Absolutely did stick my tongue out at my heavenly grandad!)


Why am I telling you?  Give me a beat (or an essay) and I’ll get there. 


Well, I hate labels, but without labels we can’t get the help we need.  I hate asking for help (really hate it as many of you know) but at some point we have to realise there are some things we cannot do alone. Since opening up about this, I was blown away by just how many people face the same battles......and have the same superpowers!


But lets go back in time....


This label has me suddenly understanding certain struggles I have faced throughout my life, and bizarrely, not realising I held a grudge against myself has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. Suddenly that label helps me understand all those things that weighed me down.


I have had so many labels in the past, but this one makes the most sense! To be clear the label is not an excuse or a barrier! The label has just helped me understand.

Rumplestiltskin.....since childhood we learn even in fairy tales.....a name gives us power!


There is one time in my life I am going to share.  A very painful time, for me and more so for my family. But I hope in sharing this with you, and you guys knowing who I am now, 20 years later it will help you see that there is light at the end of that tunnel, no matter how long and dark that tunnel may be.


I remember struggling with depression through my teens.  I’d struggle with school, come home angry and lash out at my family.  And yet, they stood by me.  My grandad was my person, and I’d cry to him over nothing at all, and he’d listen, make a joke and snap me out of it.  My depression on the quiet was self hate, but to those I loved -anger.  I really did put them through it, and I am so very sorry to them for this.  My parents are the most wonderful, loving, kind people you could ever meet and still to this day are my best friends.


In my late teens or early 20’s a series of events led me to the darkest of times and I wanted it to end, and yes, I did try to end it.  My 2 collies (my brief attempt to escape dachshunds), Gypsy and Skye were my saviours.  I suddenly thought of them, not the humans I loved, but my 2 dogs and the guilt of what I had done was immense.  This had me literally crawling to my mum and telling her “I [had] done something stupid.” I think this was probably the worst day in their lives.  In hindsight I can only remember feeling angry.  At what? I don’t know.  I had no reason to be depressed or angry but I was.  I was loved, I had everything I could need.  I think this fed the depression. What reason did I have to be so unhappy?


Hitting rock bottom, the only way was up.  I didn’t want to go back there, and I won’t lie and say it gave me the kick I needed, but it certainly gave me something.  The next few years are a blank if I am honest. I genuinely don’t remember them.  I do remember taking my dogs to dog training classes, and this is where things changed for me.  I found my purpose in life.  I loved it.  I loved training my own dogs, and then starting to help in classes I absolutely found where I was needed and wanted in life.  From here my passion grew, as did my number of dogs, to 5.  Gypsy, Skye, Shadow, Chance and Sunny.



Gypsy, Shadow, Sunny, Chance, Skye (left to right)

I’m going to skip through the years again, to getting married, losing 2 grandparents, having a baby, getting divorced, moving 90 miles away from the city I grew up in to a very different life all in 2 years and finally beginning the journey of becoming me or maybe finding me.


I took some time out to be a single mum, again thanks to my parents for giving me that time to just be a mum and I must mention that 6 months after moving, my grandad, my person moved in with us.  We discovered he had dementia after my wonderful Nana died and as always with the circle of life, the child became the parent.  Me and my parents cared for him as he did for us when we were young until he took his last breath at home.


Always wanted to sit in the sun, even if it was freezing!

During this time I started studying after having several failed attempts earlier in life.  This time I started with short courses, child psychology, psychology, health and social care.  Then I took a break again feeling lost with no direction.  I then found PDTI (Pet Dog Training Instructors) and started the Level 5 diploma with them and Harper Adams. I found my professional family.  A wonderful warm community of supportive people who all had the same goals.  This community has supported and encouraged my growth over the years. They have seen me blossom from a scared, insecure trainer into who I am today, although I still have so much more to learn.


They started a whole ripple affect for me and kick started my eagerness to learn.  From here I started another diploma, then the law degree (not bad for someone with reading comprehension issues), and of course everything else.  Thank you to my purple and pink family. You guys are just wonderful and I love you.


Forever grateful to PDTI (especially Sue Evans for always being on the end of the phone)

The point of this blog (told you I'd get there):


I wanted this to be more than an inspirational post, more than just words, I wanted to share a piece of me being vulnerable in hope it helps and inspires just one person who is struggling to find a way through.


I am hoping giving you this insight into me may inspire you to find that one thing that lights your fire, like dog training did for me to lead you to paths you never would have imagined. 


I am here to tell you that despite saying repeatedly “I’m too old for this shit” that you are in your prime and you can do whatever you want, the only person stopping you is you. If you find an obstacle in your path…..I’ve had many…..kick it down, walk around it, get an axe and break it down.  Do not let anything stop you achieving and developing. Do not ever let anyone, including yourself, tell you you are not good enough! You are!


Mistakes are there to help you learn.  They are not failures! They are opportunities.  Yea it sucks if you don’t do as well as you’d have liked…..but there’s an opportunity to grow.  Life would be boring if you never had any challenges.


For me, rather than focusing on the ultimate goal, I focused on small parts, one module at a time.  One part of an exercise at a time. Sometimes the goal feels unreachable, especially if you have those whispers saying you can’t do it.  Just focus on one bit at a time, and it will create ripples. And like me right now, if you can't work out how.....ask the right person for help.


My dogs really did save me then and everyday now, they give me my purpose. My parents enable me, and will forever give me strength. My son, can always make me crack a smile....even when I'm really really cross! I am blessed and grateful.


I wish I had asked for help sooner, maybe I wasn’t ready.  But there are things we cannot do alone.  And I don’t want you to struggle through the darkness that mental health issues can bring like I did.  There is so much support now, so much more knowledge and acceptance and even if you feel it wasn’t right for you at one time…..try again……and again. 


And for anyone else who does not have these struggles, but has had the empathy to read through to the end, thank you. I hope my story helps you help someone else who needs your strength and patience through their struggles.  But remember, those of us who have struggled or do struggle with mental health cannot see how challenging or demanding we can be whilst we’re in that cycle, so always ensure you give yourself time too.


Everyone, be kind to yourselves and each other.



Here's hoping 2024 is a better year for everyone!







List of contact numbers taken from MIND website. Please ask for help!

 

Anxiety UK

03444 775 774 (helpline)

07537 416 905 (text)

Advice and support for people living with anxiety.

 

Beat

0808 801 0677 (England)

0808 801 0433 (Wales)

Offers information and advice on eating disorders, and runs a supportive online community. Also provides a directory of support services at HelpFinder.

 

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)

Professional body for talking therapy and counselling. Provides information and a list of accredited therapists.

 

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

0800 58 58 58

Provides listening services, information and support for anyone who needs to talk, including a web chat.

 

Carers UK

0808 808 7777

029 2081 1370 (Carers Wales)

Advice and support for anyone who provides care.

 

Disability Rights UK

Information and support for people living with a disability.

 

FRANK

0300 123 6600

Confidential advice and information about drugs, their effects and the law.

 

Hafal

Information and support for people affected by mental health problems in Wales.

 

Hearing Voices Network

Information and support for people who hear voices or have other unshared perceptions, including local support groups.

 

MindOut

Mental health service run by and for LGBTQ+ people.

 

NHS UK

Information about health problems and treatments, including details of local NHS services in England.

 

No Panic

0300 7729844

Provides a helpline, step-by-step programmes, and support for people with anxiety disorders.

 

Papyrus HOPELINEUK

0800 068 41 41

07860039967 (text)

Confidential support for under-35s at risk of suicide and others who are concerned about them. Open 24 hours, 7 days a week.

 

Samaritans

116 123 (freephone)

Freepost SAMARITANS LETTERS

 

Samaritans are open 24/7 for anyone who needs to talk. You can visit some Samaritans branches in person. Samaritans also have a Welsh Language Line on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).

 

Sane

0300 304 7000

Offers emotional support and information for anyone affected by mental health problems, including a helpline.

 

Student Minds

0808 808 4994

Mental health charity that supports students. Runs Student Space, offering online information and helpline support delivered in partnership with The Mix.

 

Time to Change

National campaign to end stigma and discrimination against people with mental health problems in England and Wales. The campaign for England ended in 2021, but its resources are still available online.

 

Turning Point

Health and social care services in England for people with a learning disability. Also supports people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse or unemployment.

 

YoungMinds

0808 802 5544 (Parents Helpline)

85258 (text the word 'shout')

Provides advice and support to young people for their mental health, as well as supporting parents and carers.

 

 

 

 

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I can identify with some of this Sharon, and like you worked through it bit by bit .There is always a bit of light shining through the dark tunnel, we just have to look. It was a relief for me to know that I too am not a stupid person for my hopelessness in maths and anything to do with numbers! What a relief to find out it has a name , which 50 yrs ago didn’t exist. Yet I actually managed to teach students how to work out drug dosages correctly much to my complete amazement!

Like you I did some very challenging courses later in my 40’s and was so thankful to have found a second passion in…

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Sharon, thank you for sharing. What a beautifully written article. How lucky we are to have supportive and loving parents As well. X

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