My Perfectly Okay Codependent Relationship… with My Dog

Meet Oliver:

Terrible doggie

Oliver Wilkes Dogg (Puggle extraordinaire) is my non-human life partner and we have a codependent relationship. We are not ashamed. Oliver is the literal reason that I get out of bed in the morning (around 9 when he wants to go out after his post-breakfast nap.) Oliver is the reason I get exercise (because I have to race through the house telling him not to pee on something before I can get him outside.) Oliver is my napping buddy. Oliver is a source of joy and laughter and unconditional affection. Oliver is terrible in the best way.

Oliver eats our underwear. Oliver unabashedly goes to the bathroom as a means of punishing us for wrongs we don’t know we’ve committed. Oliver carries the skins of his stuffed animal victims around with him. Except Burnie, Oliver loves his dragon, Burnie, and has left him mainly intact.

Oliver eats like a goat… paper towels, tissues, any kind of food, plastic, money hair accessories, or bath accessories. You name it, Oliver has swallowed it whole and lived to tell the tale in the voice that we use to talk for him.

Oliver sleeps like this:

Sleeping terrible doggie

… especially when we’re upset with him.

Or like this:

Doggie tongue

… because he is a master manipulator and uses his powers of puppy-face against us so we don’t kill him.

Oliver is my best friend. When my head hurts, Oliver says, “Mama and I have a migraine,” and he curls up under the covers and naps all day with no complaints. When I’m upset, or having a really bad pain day, he puts himself across my body like a seat belt and keeps me warm and secure. He isn’t afraid of my meltdowns. He doesn’t mind that sometimes I’m not in the mood for his whimsy. He just carries on being whimsical at me until I am in the mood. He licks my feet when they are freezing. He gets his one kiss a day. Petting him makes me feel nice. I have trouble sleeping when he is elsewhere.

I have a codependent relationship with my dog, and that’s okay.



Bullet-points, for brevity:

  • In a long-term disability dispute and currently without benefits
  • Not going to Jefferson for the time being because I don’t know what more benefit I can get out of it right now
  • Pain levels have been 8-10 for the past 6 months, more? Maybe…
  • Coping with meditation, Art Therapy (at reduced rates), forcing myself to be social, ukulele-ing, art, relaxation, self-hypnosis, doling out pain medication (still no more than 10 times a month) and sheer force of will
  • Suicidal thoughts are fleeting, meltdowns are prominent
  • Familial relationships and atmosphere is gloomy at best. I fear for my husband’s emotional fortitude. My son is… doing his best.
  • We are all doing our best

Loud, Breaky Things

I opened a cabinet and something came at me and shattered into a million pieces. I screamed, grabbed the refrigerator door handle and froze, crying and shaking, then realized I was surrounded by glass. I remember saying I couldn’t move. I remember my husband moving around me. I remember squeezing my eyes shut and my heart pounding. I remember being very very worried about my dogs and asking my son to put them in the living room.

I couldn’t move at all. My face stung from the salt of the tears rolling down my cheeks. My legs and arms cramped from the strain of my body insisting it had to just… stay. And the sweat.

That’s something that I’ve only noticed recently, but I am certain has been an issue all my life. When these things happen. When I have some kind of adrenaline-driven response… I sweat. And it’s not the pretty, girly, glowy sweat like actresses get in action movies. It’s the stench of fear wafting from every pore on my body.

Frozen, in the way of my husband who was trying to clean up shards of what turned out to be a broken measuring cup that had fallen from the top shelf of the cabinet when I opened it, stinking, and cramping. Oh, and crying.

While all of this was going on my husband was trying to quickly clean around me so he could leave to take my son to a lesson on time,  and had no idea how to help me act like a normal human being. I should say at this point that the kitchen is clean and glass-shard-free. The dogs are roaming about freely. I am unglued and have showered, therefore less stinky. My arms and legs, although sore, are no longer cramping. So everything is all clear in the household. We’re all fine. No worries. Except…

My husband didn’t know how to help me act like a normal human being. This isn’t something new. This is something of an issue we’re having and have had and will continue to have. It is difficult to live with a spouse who has things like autistic tantrums and meltdowns, and it is difficult to live with a spouse who has a chronic pain disorder, and it is difficult to live with a spouse coping with depression. My husband deals with all three of these things every day, non-stop, 24-7 on top of whatever issues he has going on internally and externally and the basic pressures of life. His general helplessness when it comes to my meltdowns is something of a conundrum and it’s been very prevalent of late because I had a rash of meltdowns recently.

Mind you, I have this theory that there is a way to 1. prevent me from melting down in the first place and barring that 2. talk/ soothe me down from a meltdown once there or at least 3. shorten the duration/ lessen the damage or the toll the meltdown takes on me in some way shape or form if it gets that far. I believe it’s a group effort sort of endeavor, and that if we all work together we can have a harmonious household where I’m not bat shit crazy all of the time.

Therefore, after he left to take my son to his lesson. I took a long hot shower. While in the shower washing off my fear-stench I had this revelation: I couldn’t let go of the refrigerator door because I was afraid and felt helpless and I didn’t know what to do or how to fix it. My husband cleaned up the glass because he was afraid and felt helpless and didn’t know what to do or how to fix it. He knew how to clean up the glass, so he did.

I’ve been worse lately and I attribute it to high amounts of stress and higher levels of Mexiletine. The house has been a hot spot of negativity and snipping and arguments and we’ve had several bad things happen and did I mention I’m stressed and I hurt all the time?

I’m trying to come up with a way to help my husband cope with my meltdowns. I want to say, “There are tons of articles on the internet, perhaps you could read some of them.” But that makes me feel bitchy and like I’m taking my problem and putting it in his lap. But it is really our problem. I want to help him deal with me. I don’t know how to go about it effectively, and I’m fuck all at saying these things to him in person so I’m going to   have him read this blog entry. Perhaps he’ll have some suggestion, or perhaps he will embark on some research of his own while I’m busy with school work. My fear is that he is going to respond by saying, “Perhaps instead of the Angel marathon you could have looked for some solutions to our communications problems since it’s obviously weighing heavy on your mind.”

It is weighing heavy on my mind, and I do want to fix it. But I’ve also been in a great deal of pain for the past few days and I have been trying to keep things as low-stress as possible. Tonight I have to focus on school-work and avoid being distracted by things that cause intense emotional responses. My worries about how he reacts to my freakishness cause me a great deal of distress that I have trouble articulating vocally.

We’ll just see how things go. Everything can wait until tomorrow. For now… relaxation, scented candles, and a little homework… then sleep I think. I’m exhausted. That stupid measuring cup wore me out.

From Anxiety to Meltdown – An Interview with Deborah Lipsky « JKP blog – Jessica Kingsley Publishers

What are some causes of meltdowns that ‘neurotypical’ people often don’t pick up on?

Meltdown triggers vary from individual to individual. Some big ones include sudden changes, vague questions or commands, not getting understandable answers to questions the autistic person asks, and being stopped from stimming when they are trying to stay calm.

What is the worst thing for a family member or other caregiver to do or say when an autistic person has a meltdown?

By far the worst thing a person can do when someone is escalating into a meltdown is to ask questions like, “What have you been taught to do in these circumstances?”, or to offer vague, non-concrete choices to diffuse a meltdown like, “Do you want to go out and play?”

What should they do or say instead?

Always use the person’s name repeatedly. Use short phrases that convey that you are there and will help them: “Deborah, it’s OK. I’m here to help.” Nothing wordy or complex as the cognitive functioning is decreasing by the second and they can barely process what is being said. Repeating these phrases acts like an echolalia that also helps in calming them down if used in a calming tone. Again what to do is covered in my first book in detail so I recommend anyone who is involved with autism to read that book.

How can understanding why meltdowns happen improve the lives of people with autism?

Mainly once people understand meltdown triggers and why they occur the enviroment can be modified to help reduce the number of meltdowns. And more compassion instead of critism can be offered to us because we feel awful afterwards; feelings of remorse and regret are common because we didn’t want it to occur. It isn’t like we have a “quota” of so many meltdowns we need to have in a day. It just happens due to overwhelming factors beyond our (the autistic person’s) control.

via From Anxiety to Meltdown – An Interview with Deborah Lipsky « JKP blog – Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Meltdown Update

  • My husband really helped to calm me down 
  • Today I am utilizing quiet time alone to play music… moving my keyboard into the bedroom
  • My hackles are still up, but I’m not experiencing my “RUN AWAY” feeling
  • I couldn’t sleep last night, but managed a nap from 5 to 8 this morning
  • I feel better with the celing fan on rather than off… it has a hum that I find pleasing apparently. If I turn it off it is too quiet and I am more aware of my tinnitus, which makes me jumpy