Posts Tagged 'fibromyalgia'

Tip for Tired Trainers: KPCT Podcasts

There are a lot of ways to handle dog training and stewardship when you have a fatiguing illness. I have generally focused my tips on training. But sometimes you are just too sick to train. In fact, taking training breaks is not only inevitable, but useful and necessary for both human and dog. More on that another time.

You may have noticed that it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a Tuesday Tip for Tired Trainers, and that my posts have been less frequent lately, overall. This is due to a dip I’ve experienced in my health and functioning. I hope I will pull out of it soon. Meanwhile, though, Barnum and I train when I can, and I try to support our efforts even when we’re not training. How? By keeping ahead of him in my learning.

I have a feeling I’m not alone in this. Have you gone through times where you have not been able to do much training, and you are feeling restless? If you’re training a service dog, a lot is riding on your training, and you’re probably fighting impatience as it is. While latent learning can help both you and your dog — that’s the learning that occurs when you’re not actively training/studying, when your brain is organizing all the information you’ve taken in, so resting is actually a form of learning — you may also find ways to support your sense of accomplishment by other forms of passive learning.

It’s a fact that people have to learn a lot more and work a lot harder to train their dogs than the dogs do. Every time I ask someone to help me train Barnum, I describe in detail exactly what they should do. They almost always respond, in a surprised and joking way, with something like, “This is really human training isn’t it? You’re training me more than him!”

I usually say, “Yes, of course!”

In fact, when it comes to dog training, I find people much harder to train than dogs! The hardest person to train is me. I’ve learned the same lessons dozens, maybe hundreds of times, and I still do the wrong things sometimes! Sometimes even while I’m doing it, I will say to myself, “Why are you doing this?” Or after I’ve done it, and it has failed, predictably, I’ll ask myself why I didn’t see that coming. Well, that’s just human!

So, what if you’re in a position like me? Training is important to you, but you are too darn sick to do much of anything. If you don’t have a lot of mental fatigue or cognitive issues (whatever you want to call it — brain fog, chemo brain, fibro fog, CFIDS brain, Lyme brain, etc.), you might be able to read a dog-training book. I find re-reading my dog training books very helpful, especially because of my memory problems. The same holds true for watching dog-training DVDs.

However, most fatigue-related conditions also seem to affect mental acuity. And chances are good that if you’re reading or watching a dog-training program, it’s important to you to remember it. You might be following a structured program, such as Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels: Steps to Success, in which case you are trying to follow each “recipe” exactly. That’s not very restful! Too much pressure for a tired brain and body.

Recently, I’ve been listening to the podcasts on Karen Pryor Clicker Training (KPCT). These are usually podcasts by individuals or groups of trainers who have graduated from the Karen Pryor Clicker Academy (KPA). They cover a wide range of subjects, from typical dog-training issues (fear, aggression, games) to training other species (cats, fish, marine animals, other people, and oneself), as well as theories of training and behavioral psychology. Benefits of the podcasts are that they are available anywhere and any time you have a computer, and they don’t require a fast internet connection (the way video does). They are also free, which is a real benefit over buying a gazillion training books or DVDs. You do have to be a member of the KPCT mailing list to listen to them. If you aren’t already, it’s a relatively short, easy process to sign up, and the monthly articles you receive in your email are more than worth it.

I found this episode on the Power of Context Cues to be especially relevant at my current stage in training Barnum as a service-dog-in-training. Even though they weren’t saying anything I didn’t know, there are a lot of lessons it helps to learn repeatedly. This was a great reminder of the importance of keeping contextual cues in mind, and manipulating them to my benefit. Indeed, among examples relating to veterinary visits and aggression issues, examples are also presented that relate to guide dogs. (These comments came from guide dog trainer and KPA graduate and international freestyle champion, Michele Pouliot.)

The most recent podcast is this one on “Wow!” Moments by ClickerExpo Faculty. This page also contains a listing of all the podcasts to date, so you can start here and work backward, or pick and choose what interests you most.

These podcasts provide entertainment and education that is not too mentally taxing for me (usually). So far, they have not been on topics I felt I needed to take notes on, so I can just let the information wash over me and feel like I am still doing something to support my work with Barnum, even if we can’t shape behaviors.

If there’s a podcast you particularly like, please mention it in the comments!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SDiT and lately lead latent learner

Signal Boost: Migraine and Suicide

Kelly of Fly with Hope just posted Migraine and Suicide: What to Do when You Are in Crisis (Suicidal). Here’s the beginning of her post:

This week, September 4th through September 10th is the 37th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week. September also happens to be Pain Awareness Month.  In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week and Pain Awareness Month, I will be continuing the series I started with the post Migraine and Suicide. Please check in every day as there will be posts with contribution from the chronic Migraine and chronic pain community on topics related to chronic Migraine/chronic pain and suicide including how to cope when you are close to the end of your rope, personal stories from those who have been there, on suicide and faith, a post especially for loved ones (family, friends, caregivers) and links to other blogs/articles on Migraine and suicide.

I’m so glad to see this happening. The people I know who are chronically ill who committed suicide were people who were living with chronic pain. I think that when you live with uncontrolled severe and/or chronic pain, a sense of desperation and unbearable suffering is more common than not. I know many people who live with chronic or severe pain who are or have been suicidal, and of those I know who have killed themselves, most were in severe, chronic pain.

There are a lot of reasons to discuss suicide in conjunction with chronic pain and/or migraines. One reason is that the actual  physical  suffering can be so severe that people can become desperate enough to want to end their lives, or more accurately, to end the pain they’re in.

Another is that there are harsh, judgemental attitudes in our culture about both suicide and chronic pain/illness. When someone is suffering emotionally or physically or both, they may have internalized cultural messages that they are “weak” or that they are alone or that they are “selfish” to feel the way they do. This creates a barrier to reaching out for help and support. It’s crucial that we remove the stigma from talking about both suicide and chronic pain so that when we are suffering, we can receive empathy and kindness which will hopefully ease our suffering and provide options other than (or at least, in addition to) suicide.

Another reason is that chronic pain rewires our brains. It affects who we are and how we think and feel. Migraines, specifically, are a form of neurological disease. Migraines are thought to be a form of slow seizure. So it makes sense that often, during a migraine, emotions are altered or heightened. I know that during severe migraines my moods and thought patterns are altered. I often become weepy and anxious and think strangely. When the migraine has lifted, I often don’t even remember what I was thinking or feeling, or if I do, it doesn’t make sense to me anymore.

Flying with Hope will be posting links and resources for migraineurs, those with chronic pain, and those who are or who have been suicidal. She’ll be talking about feeling suicidal herself and linking to others with chronic pain who have. I wanted to let you know about these resources for any of my readers who are or have been feeling suicidal, as well as for those who want to pass resources on to others, or for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one to suicide.

Kelly is asking those who have felt suicidal to blog about it. I’m quite sick and exhausted right now, so I’m not up to saying much, but to try to help reduce the shame and isolation you might be feeling if you have struggled with thoughts of suicide, I want to let you know that I have been suicidal. I am not suicidal now, but for several months, when I was at my sickest, I was in excruciating physical and psychological pain, and I did research ways to kill myself. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing that because I didn’t want them to stop me. I was having pretty much round-the-clock migraines at the time, but I think the primary reason for my suicidality was neuropsychological damage caused by Lyme disease and bartonella infection. I did not know at the time that I had these diseases and that they could be causing these symptoms.

There have been other times in my life when I thought about suicide, but that was the worst time. I feel very grateful that I am not chronically psychologically altered and depressed anymore. I hope I never feel that way again. At least I have lived through terrible, terrible times and know it is possible for life to get better.

If you are feeling suicidal, please talk to someone who will be kind and supportive. If you don’t think you have anyone like that in your life, you can talk to these people any time of the day or night, for free, who are dedicated to providing support to people who are feeling suicidal:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline contact info:

Voice/English: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)*

En Espanol: Red Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio:  1-888-628-9454

You can also get support and information at their website, suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

*When I was suicidal, most of the time I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t use my computer, so the only way I had to communicate was by TTY. I would really have liked to have known there was a dedicated TTY line for a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline. The only hotlines I found, I had to use relay, and you really don’t want to use relay when you’re in that state, believe me! People with speech or communication disabilities, Deaf people, and deafblind people experience suicidal feelings, too. Please pass on all the links!

A different, and unique, approach to the discussion of suicide is at Write Me! Leah Petersen’s blog, where the 5 Minute Fiction challenge is held. Another part of her blog is called Suicide Notes. Leah says:

Prompted by many debates on various internet boards, my own experiences, and the comments of others, I have decided to take on the topic of suicide.

I’ve been on both sides. I’ve lost someone very dear to me that way, and I’ve looked it in the face myself.

It’s an ugly, horrible, scary place to be. And it’s almost impossible to understand if you haven’t been there. So people hurt. And people get angry. And they get judgmental. And people don’t get the help they need. And people make attempts and…

Anyway, it’s hard even for me to articulate in cold, clinical terms this particular issue.

So naturally I’ll retreat behind a fog of fiction.

Therefore, I’ve taken on a new project. A collection of flash fiction pieces called Suicide Notes.

Please keep these resources for yourself and pass them on to others.

One note: Fly with Hope’s tagline refers to Jesus, but there hasn’t been anything remotely religious or Christian in the two blog posts of hers I’ve read about migraines, pain, and suicide. So, if you are not Christian, please don’t let this get in your way; I didn’t find anything “Jesus-y” in her discussion or in the resources provided.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (my best suicide prevention treatment), and Barnum, SDiT and antidepressant


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