Pandemic, The Economy, War and Life and Death

Along with American citizens and people worldwide, I am extremely upset about the Pandemic, Ukraine, Russia, and the economy. 

 Many friends, family, and clients say that they believed the Pandemic was over. However, Russia invaded Ukraine, and anxiety rose once anxiety and worry rose again. If these events aren’t bad enough, we have been plagued by rising prices for everything from gasoline, building materials, and food, among many other essential items.

I was born in 1942, in the middle of WW 11. My grandfather’s youngest brother, Uncle Sam, served in and earned the Purple Heart in the first World War. My three uncles served in World War 2. Then, there was the war to establish the State of Israel. Next was the invasion of Israel, the Korean War, Vietnam, invasion of Iraq, Gulf War, and Afghanistan, and more minor wars were between these. And, evermore, nations are gaining nuclear weapons and missiles. In these wars, including the current war in Ukraine, all of us witness acts of destruction. The destruction includes human lives, cities, buildings, and all the things people take for granted in their daily lives.

The great psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, wrote about the issues surrounding war, life, and death after World War 1. 

Freud’s Theories of Life and Death Instincts

Sigmund Freud’s theory of drives developed throughout his life and work. He initially described a class of drives known as life instincts. He believed these drives handled much of our behavior.

Eventually, he believed that life instincts alone could not explain all human behavior. With his book Beyond the Pleasure Principle in 1920, Freud concluded all instincts fall into two major classes: life drives or death drives.

The Life Drive (Eros)

Sometimes referred to as sexual instincts, the life drives deal with basic survival, pleasure, and reproduction. These instincts or drives are essential for sustaining the individual’s life and the continuation of the species.

While we think of life instincts regarding sexual procreation, these drives include thirst, hunger, and pain avoidance. The energy created by the life instincts is known as libido.

Freud proposed Eros was opposed by ego forces (the organized, realistic part of a person’s psyche that mediates between desires). In this latter view, he maintained that life instincts were opposed by the self-destructive death instincts, known as Thanatos.

Behaviors commonly associated with life instincts include love, cooperation, and other social actions. The life drives focus on preserving life, both the individual and the species. This drive compels people to engage in actions that sustain their own lives, such as looking after their health and safety. It also exerts itself through sexual drives, motivating people to create and nurture new life. 

Positive emotions such as love, affection, and social cooperation are also associated with life drives. These behaviors support both individual well-being and the harmonious existence of a cooperative and healthy society.

The Death Drive (Thanatos)

Freud first introduced the concept of the death drive in his essay Beyond the Pleasure Principle. He theorized that the death drive is the drive toward death and destruction, famously declaring that “the aim of all life is death.”

Freud believed that people typically channel their death drive outwards and manifest as aggression toward others. However, this drive can also be directed inwards, which can cause self-harm or suicide.

Freud based this theory on various clinical observations. For instance, Freud noted that people who experience a traumatic event would often reenact that experience. While studying soldiers returning from World War I, Freud observed they had a tendency to repeat the traumatic experiences that took them back to the combat scene.

He noted similar behavior in his 18-month-old grandson, Ernst, who played a game called Fort/Da whenever his mother was away. To deal with his anxiety, his grandson would repeatedly toss away and retrieve a wooden reel with a piece of string tied around it. Freud wondered how “repetition of this distressing experience as a game fit in with the pleasure principle?”

Freud concluded people hold an unconscious desire to die, but life instincts largely temper this wish.

According to Freud, the death drive stands in stark contrast to the drive to survive, procreate, and satisfy desires. In Freud’s view, all living organisms have an instinct” toward death.” in Freud’s view. The compulsion to repeat was “something that would seem more primitive, more elementary, more instinctual than the pleasure principle it overrides.” He further proposed that the death drive extended that compulsion.

As yet another war presents the danger of spreading into a wider conflict. Could Ukraine become the starting point of a third world war? I could not help but ask myself if Freud was correct. Does humanity have a drive towards self-destruction and extinction? What do you believe? I am available for exchanging ideas at

dransphd@aol.com

Trauma and Gaslighting

Gaslighting Quotes That Capture This Emotional Manipulation

  1. “Gaslighting is mind control to make victims doubt their reality.” — Tracy Malone.
  2. “Gaslighting is a subtle form of emotional manipulation that often results in the recipient doubting their own perception of reality and their sanity. In addition, gaslighting is a method of manipulation by toxic people to gain power over you. The worst part about gaslighting is that it undermines your self-worth to the point where you’re second-guessing everything.” — Dana Arcuri.
  3. “It frightens me because I feel vulnerable to attacks, an easy target for gaslighting. Phrases like ‘No, I didn’t say that!’, ‘You don’t remember,’ and ‘You must have forgotten,’ start rattling my brain and making me jittery.” — Ankita Sahani

There are many times of childhood trauma, where family members state it happened a long time ago, and it’s time to get over it. The same people who say that engage in gaslighting the survivor of childhood trauma.

What is meant by gaslighting?

Gaslighting refers to the act of undermining another person’s reality by denying facts, the surrounding environment, or their feelings and memories. Ultimately, the target of gaslighting may doubt their sanity.

The trauma of childhood abuse can have long-lasting repercussions that affect your understanding of yourself and the world around you. For many, the effects of abuse show up in dysfunctional interpersonal relationships resulting from attachment disruptions at pivotal points of childhood development. By examining the impact of childhood abuse on interpersonal relationships and the role of therapy in healing, people can better understand their experiences and the possibilities for recovery.

One result of childhood trauma can be dissociative disorders:

Dissociative disorders involve the inability to distinguish between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions, and identity. People with dissociative disorders escape reality in involuntary and unhealthy ways and cause problems with functioning in everyday life. In one case, a patient dissociated when she had to move from her apartment after many years. Any stress can set off this disorder. 

The Impact of Childhood Abuse on Interpersonal Relationships

In the absence of secure attachments, survivors of childhood abuse often develop dysfunctional attachment styles that disrupt your ability to interact with others in healthy ways. Emotional abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse are more strongly associated with interpersonal distress in adulthood than physical abuse. However, it is essential to remember that any abuse survivor can experience profound interpersonal difficulties, including:

  • An inability to trust: The ability to trust others is a critical part of forming and maintaining healthy relationships. However, when someone has experienced childhood abuse, that ability is often diminished or even removed altogether. As a result, you may be reluctant to engage in honest and open relationships for fear that you will be betrayed or harmed. Staying closed off, guarded, or hypervigilant can make it difficult for others to feel close to you, and you deny yourself the opportunity to form healthy and meaningful bonds. The lack of trust also affects all insecure attachment styles.
  • Avoidant attachment: Some people who do not experience the benefit of secure attachment in childhood must avoid attachment to others altogether. Avoidant people are unable to trust others. It also arises due to extreme self-reliance. Many abuse survivors learned that they could not rely on others to meet their attachment needs early. Those with an avoidant attachment may decide to ignore those needs or attempt to meet them yourself. In adulthood, this typically translates to social avoidance or the formation of emotionally distant relationships in which you remain unresponsive to the needs of others.
  • Ambivalent attachment: Survivors of childhood abuse develop a weak attachment style. People with an ambivalent attachment style desire intimacy. However, they are ever watchful of change in the relationship, sometimes to the point of paranoia, “frustrated and resentful, particularly if you feel misunderstood or vulnerable.
  • Disorganized attachment: People who experience this style are deeply fearful of relationships. However, they crave emotional closeness. You are at once afraid of intimacy and of being alone. As a result, you may lash out if you feel ignored or unloved while being reluctant to show affection for others. These patterns create significant barriers to forming and maintaining healthy relationships. 

People who experience childhood abuse are vulnerable to developing mental health disorders that compromise emotional and behavioral stability, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. These illnesses present additional challenges to engaging in healthy interpersonal relationships, leading to re-traumatization that creates further emotional damage.

Contact Dr. Schwartz at

dransphd@aol.com

Einstein and a Hidden Universal Force: Love

In the late 1980s, Lieserl, the daughter of the famous genius, donated 1,400 letters, written by Einstein, to the Hebrew University, with orders not to publish their contents until two decades after his death. This is one of them, for Lieserl Einstein.…”

When I proposed the theory of relativity, very few understood me, and what I will reveal now to transmit to mankind will also collide with the misunderstanding and prejudice in the world.I ask you to guard the letters as long as necessary, years, decades, until society is advanced enough to accept what I will explain below.

There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us.This universal force is LOVE.

When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force.Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it.

Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others.Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness.

Love unfolds and reveals.

For love we live and die.

Love is God and God is Love.

This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will.

To give visibility to love, I made a simple substitution in my most famous equation.If instead of E = mc2, we accept that the energy to heal the world can be obtained through love multiplied by the speed of light squared, we arrive at the conclusion that love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits.

After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves with another kind of energy…If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.

Perhaps we are not yet ready to make a bomb of love, a device powerful enough to entirely destroy the hate, selfishness and greed that devastate the planet.However, each individual carries within them a small but powerful generator of love whose energy is waiting to be released.

When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, dear Lieserl, we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything and anything, because love is the quintessence of life.I deeply regret not having been able to express what is in my heart, which has quietly beaten for you all my life. Maybe it’s too late to apologize, but as time is relative, I need to tell you that I love you and thanks to you I have reached the ultimate answer! “.

Your father Albert Einstein

The Many Meanings of a Smile

A Smile Can Hide More Than it Reveals

1. “smile though your heart is breaking, smile even though it’s breaking….” Nat King Cole song.

2. “Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

3. “Anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.”

Greta Garbo

4. People also smile when they’re lying, a fact not lost on Shakespeare: Hamlet marvels at how “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” Shakespeare: Hamlet marvels at how “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

5. Finally there is The Mona Lisa with her enigmatic smile.

Have you ever been told, “Hey, what’s the matter? Smile, smile!” How can there be such varied quotations about smiling? Much like Thich Nhat Hanh states, aren’t we told that a smile lights up the world, reflects happiness, and gives love to everyone?

In actuality, smiling, like all human nonverbal communication, is highly complex and open to many interpretations. 

A notorious police mug shot of Jared Lee Loughner, the mass murderer and shooter who killed several people and wounded a congresswoman in Arizona is grinning. Revisit the picture on the Internet, and you will observe how wicked that smile is. Yet, his defense attorneys are trying to ban the mug shot because it reflects poorly upon him. “But he’s smiling, isn’t he?” 

Studies show that smiles express many more emotions than happiness or contentment. The basis of a smile can be conceit, embarrassment, shame, deceit, grief, tension, and uneasiness. How often have you smiled when you are with someone who has said or done something that makes you feel outraged? In this type of circumstance, well known to most of us, there is a need to smile to cover the anger. Perhaps we are not comfortable discussing our natural reaction? There can be a multitude of motivations but, the smile is not friendly.

Then, there are cultural variables regarding the smile. I was startled to learn from Russian friends of mine that in places like Moscow and other big cities, a smile is viewed with distrust unless it is personal and meaningful. Americans might smile out of politeness, but that will leave a Russian suspicious. While Americans might smile while walking down the street, the Russians do not. That is why some Russians view American smiling as false.

In Japan, people restrain their smiles. The Japanese control their emotions. When they view a person smiling, they focus on the upper part of the face, especially the eyes, to understand the true meaning of what the person is conveying. Americans focus on the lower part of the face, particularly the mouth. The reason is that, while the mouth is flexible and can take many shapes, including a smile, this is far less true of the eyes. In addition, unlike the Russians, the Japanese smile to convey politeness.

It’s essential not to come to conclusions too quickly when you meet someone smiling. Yes, mainly that person is conveying a happy state of mind. But listen to your instincts when they tell you that something is wrong or doesn’t fit. On one occasion, I asked a friend or family what was wrong, even when smiling. There is something not quite right about the smile. The mouth has the correct shape, but the eyes, eyebrows, and tone of voice suggest something other than all is well.

Finally, are you confident that your smile reveals or expresses what you feel? Perhaps it would be better for you if it did. If you are distressed, why not say so instead of hiding your emotions by smiling? In reverse, are you sure you are smiling when you feel good? Feeling good can also be covered up.

What are your experiences with smiling persons, be they children, friends, family, or people at work? 

Address comments to Dr. Schwartz at dransphd@aol.com

It’s Enough to Make You Pull Your Hair Out

Do you remember a time when you were reading or studying for a school exam or writing a term paper and were quite unconsciously twirling, twisting, and pulling your hair until the strands fell out?

I have worked with people with Trichotillomania. They are also known as “trichsters,” but nothing is humorous about this disorder. It is a disorder also known as hair-pulling. “Trichotillomania is repetitive twisting and twirling of the hair. The hair loss is usually in a well-defined area with shortened, broken-off hairs and early regrowth of hair. The scalp is the most commonly involved site, but eyelashes and eyebrows may also be involved. The hair loss can also be patchy and poorly defined.”*

Some 2.5 million Americans experience this disorder. Hair pulling often begins during childhood or adolescence. For example, studies show that boys who pull out their hair start around the age of 8, while girls begin around twelve years of age or with the onset of puberty. By far, the highest percentages of people with this disorder are women, and they are 4 times more likely than males to engage in hair-pulling.

The ancient origins of the word, Trichotillomania come from Greek root terms meaning “hair,” “pulling,” and “mania,” or madness. Actually, there is nothing mad or crazy about this little-understood disorder. Today, psychiatry and medicine define it as an impulse control disorder. The implications are that it is medical in nature and specifically neurological in origin.

*Symptoms:

  • Constant tugging, pulling, or twisting of hair
  • An increasing sense of tension is present before the hair pulling
  • Sense of relief, pleasure, or gratification is reported after the hair pulling
  • Hair pulling leads to an uneven appearance
  • Bare patches or diffuse (all across) loss of hair
  • Hair regrowth in the bare spots feels like stubble
  • Some individuals may develop a bowel obstruction if they eat the hair they pull out
  • Other self-injury behaviors may be present
  • People suffering from this disorder often deny pulling out their hair

*(Information is from U.S. National Library of Medicine)

Many mental health specialists define this disorder as impulse control because those with this disorder cannot resist the urge to pull their hair. The impulse to tear one’s hair is so overpowering that it cannot be controlled. Once the habit has reached those dimensions, there is no way to resist the urge. The result is that bald spots emerge on the scalp. 

The presence of these bald spots becomes a source of great distress, particularly for teenage girls when they are at the height of concern about their appearance. In fact, the impact on one’s appearance and its social consequences have the most significant impact on the social and emotional adjustment of people with this disorder.

One of the most essential facts for sufferers and their loved ones to know about this behavioral disorder is that it is not a bad habit. People can learn to control or alter patterns with little difficulty. The overwhelming urge to pull hair places it outside of the category of a learned and bad habit.

It is said that there are two types of Trichotillomania: one in which the individual is aware that they want to pull their hair and another: in which the person is so involved and absorbed in an activity that they are unaware of what they are doing.

Among those who know they want to pull their hair, there is a feeling of extreme distress, depression, and anxiety, leading them to pull their hair out. The result is a feeling of relief or an end to the emotional numbness experienced by these individuals. However, there is no awareness that they have started to pull their hair for other people. Among the second group, the process of hair-pulling seems to be much less open to attention much of the time, until sometime after it has started. In all cases, once the person attempts to stop the behavior, the worse it becomes.

Reports about the prognosis of this disorder are that most children will outgrow it within a year. However, if this does not happen, it can and does last into adulthood.

There is no one accepted and proven treatment for this disorder. The commonly tried treatments are medication for depression, psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and behavior modification. One form of behavior modification is referred to as reverse habit conditioning. The patient is made aware of the behavior and when it will happen and then explores alternative coping mechanisms to the hair-pulling.

The Story of An Emotional Support Dog Team

Juli and Lily:The Story of an Emotional Support Dog Team By: Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. and Juli: 

One year ago, a desperate, young twenty-two-year-old woman was brought to my office by her grandmother. She was tearful and depressed but her major complaint had to do with acute anxiety. Her grandmother was present because Juli was at the point where she was fearful of leaving the house unless accompanied by another person. In fact, her grandmother drove her to the appointment because Juli was now fearful of driving.  Although she never experienced an auto accident, never had a traumatic experience outside of her home, and had no logical reason to feel so extremely fearful, Juli was paralyzed with fears and phobias about the outside world. In Juli’s own words, “I was suffering from severe agoraphobia and social anxiety. At the same time, I experienced severe depression.” In sum, her life was at a standstill.

 

Anxiety disorders are like infectious diseases. If left untreated, they spread like germs, causing an ever increasing amount of sickness and disability. Juli had tried therapy before but without success. Now, she could no longer sit in a restaurant and enjoy a meal with family or friends. She couldn’t attend basketball games, go to the gym to workout, go to work, make purchases at the grocery store, or take a stroll down the block. Because she could not work, Juli lost the ability to support her self and was too paralyzed with fear to go to the welfare office or to social security to apply for financial benefits. Without the active financial support of her family, Juli would have been in even more dire circumstances.

Whenever Juli tried to summon up her courage and do the normal things that others take for granted, this is what she experienced: “I became overwhelmed with nausea, dizziness, and panic. I had numbness and a tingling sensation in my hands and feet and my vision became blurred. I even felt like would pass out and that was terrifying. I was especially afraid I would faint while driving or walking in the street.  I would have the petrifying thought that I would lose control and die.”

The fact that she could no longer earn her own living filled Juli with guilt because she was relying on her family for financial support. Juli’s father, a warm and loving man, paid all of her bills since she stopped working. However, this was a drain on his finances as he needed to apportion money for her younger sister and brother who were of college age. Besides all of this, the inability to earn a living added to Juli’s fears about her ability to function as a normal and independent woman in the future. In short, her anxiety disorder caused her pride and dignity to take a severe beating. As she describes it, “It was a viscous cycle. I panicked about not being able to work and I couldn’t work because I panicked.”

Psychotherapy: 

Two major approaches were taken to help Juli recover from her debilitating anxiety and panic disorder. First, she was referred for psychiatric evaluation and medication treatment. The psychiatrist to whom she was referred prescribed a combination of anti anxiety and anti depressant medications to help alleviate her major symptoms.

Second, Juli and I began a course of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In this treatment, Juli kept a record of her thoughts prior to, during, and after her panic and anxiety attacks. She was then taught to examine the extent to which these thoughts were unfounded and helped to cause her bouts of anxiety and panic. She learned to replace her fearful and unrealistic thinking with assessments based in reality and fact. In addition to this, Juli and I practiced deep breathing and muscle relaxation in the office in order that she could learn how to reduce the damaging effects of fear and anxiety on her body. She practiced at home and elsewhere, particularly if she felt her anxiety increasing. Lastly, Juli and I practiced meditation, which she learned to use on a daily basis so that she could develop a calm and relaxed mindset.

Gradually, Juli made minor improvements and she could do more things with her life. She began attending therapy sessions on her own without her grandmother. She was able to drive herself to the sessions and gained a hard earned sense of improved self esteem.

However, the work was painfully slow and fraught with setbacks and relapses. When Juli was too fearful, she was unable to drive to the sessions. “There were times I would call Dr. Schwartz from my cell phone frenzied, pulled over on the freeway and he would have to talk me down just to get me back home safely.” Her social life remained limited because she could not go to restaurants and concerts with her friends. She was afraid of crowds at concerts and sports events, and avoided restaurants because her anxiety led to the nausea that robbed her of her appetite. Finally, the mere thought of work led to spasms of fear and the wish to avoid.

Impasse: 

Juli was becoming increasingly desperate. Her parents were complaining that she was not improving. Juli was living and had been working in Colorado, while her family with the exception of her maternal grandmother, lived in California. Each parent was pressuring Juli to return to
California. Juli was resistant to this idea. It was important to her to assert her independence and to prove that she could care for herself. Yet, her financial situation was reaching crisis proportions and the family was complaining about the cost of maintaining her in
Colorado while she could not work. Juli’s father was becoming increasingly frantic about finances and was pressuring his daughter to either return to
California or get a job. He was losing patience. It seemed as though her therapy and progress were at an impasse and might end in failure.

Mingo, the Co-Therapist: 

For several years now my wife has been involved in training service dogs. This was of particular interest to me because I had read about the value of using dogs and other pets as co-therapists in the consulting room. Clearly seeing how distressed Juli was from the moment she entered my office, I asked her if she would like to have one of my wife’s service dogs present during the session. I explained that she could hold and pet the dog, which might help her to feel calmer. An animal lover, who once had a dog that her mother gave away, Juli, was excited by the idea of a dog being in the office. I excused myself and invited the most special dog I have ever met, Mingo, into the room.

Mingo is a Golden Retriever and a fully trained and certified emotional support service dog. She is warm and loving and has an instinct about when people are in need. From the moment I brought Mingo into the office to meet Juli, a tight bond was formed between the two of them. Mingo went right up to Juli, put her snout into Juli’s stomach and pressed as tight as she could. Juli wrapped her arms around the dog and another important step was taken toward Juli’s recovery. Every session thereafter, Mingo was present and available to Juli, who derived great pleasure and relief from her stress by stroking the dog’s thick, soft fur. As Juli describes it, “There is something so reassuring about having a dog in your lap when you panic. It’s like all your anxiety melts right off and onto them.” There was no question in my mind that Mingo was my co-therapist during these sessions.

But, how could this help Juli in the outside world? When she left the office to go home her fears returned. She did all of her therapeutic homework, including cognitive work, deep breathing, meditation, and muscle relaxation exercises. She was fully compliant with her medications, which had been modified by her psychiatrist in the hope that the right combination of medicines would resolve her symptoms. While there was slight improvement, it was not enough to improve the quality of her life. Something more had to be done to break the deadlock and help Juli get on with her life.

Enter Lily: 

I began to entertain the idea of Juli purchasing an emotional support dog of her own that could accompany her and be a comfort when she needed to leave the house for any reason. However, to my dismay, I soon discovered that purchasing a trained emotional support service dog is prohibitively expensive. I was beginning to feel as desperate as Juli and her family.

Then an idea occurred to me that just might be able to work in Juli’s favor. What if Juli adopted a puppy from the humane society that could be trained to be an emotional support dog?  When I proposed this idea to Juli she became very excited.

As Juli expressed it:

“The idea of having a dog appealed to me because of my experience with Mingo and because I thought I might feel safer, like someone would be able to look out for me all the time. Maybe this potential dog could alert someone if I did run into trouble and that thought seemed to put my mind at ease.”

 Juli always missed the dog her mother gave away, loved dogs in general, and welcomed the idea. I suggested that she give careful thought to this idea since caring for a dog is a major responsibility and expense and she might not have the necessary inner and outer resources to adopt and raise a puppy at this time. However, there was no restraining Juli. She was so excited about the idea that she recruited a friend to go with her to pet stores and the humane society.

I began receiving excited phone calls from this young woman on the weekends when she would be out with her friend looking at puppies. Juli would ask me about one type of breed or another and its suitability for her purposes. Usually, her choices were of very cute puppies that were destined to grow up and become large and ferocious canines that would be difficult to train. Besides that issue, there was the simple fact that pure bred dogs were extremely expensive.

One fine and quiet Sunday afternoon while I was out shopping at the mall, my cell phone rang. I answered the call to the irate voice of Juli’s father who wanted to know if I was aware that his daughter had just adopted a puppy from the pound. He was convinced that his daughter had completely lost her mind and should be sent home immediately. I assured him that, while I could not discuss his daughter with him due to issues of confidentiality, I was certain that she was not crazy and that I would look into the situation. He was skeptical but somewhat re-assured that I was willing to check it out.  That phone call left me feeling very much like I had made a serious blunder in suggesting what now seemed like a hair-brained idea. Ten minutes after this conversation the phone rang again. This time it was Juli who reported to me, with great excitement, that she had just adopted a puppy from the humane society. She also complained about her father, whom she had told so he could send her some extra money to adopt the dog. I then understood why her father was outraged. He feared the puppy would be an additional drain on his fragile budget.

Juli and I met Monday morning as we were scheduled to do. Accompanying her was the cutest puppy I could ever imagine. Juli named her Lily and often referred to her as “Miss” Lily. Lily was brown with big floppy ears and very large paws. Clearly a mix between a Labrador retriever and some other large breed, Lily was going to be a big dog. More than anything, Miss Lily was as friendly and cuddly as could be desired. She seemed to have the perfect temperament to be an emotional support dog.

Needing to solve the next problem of how to get Miss Lily and Juli trained, I gingerly approached my wife, the executive director and founder of Golden Kimba Service Dogs. Why did I approach my wife gingerly? Well, I knew that Juli could not pay for training sessions and that there was no way anyone could approach her father about adding more financial aid. Like the trooper she is, my wife took Juli and Miss Lily on for free and began training both of them.

Major Changes: 

Although the going was not easy, adopting, training, and being with Lily utterly changed Juli, her life and her ability to cope. As her constant friend and ally, Juli felt reassured with Lily’s presence. She began leaving her apartment to go on walks with Lily. On the streets or in the park, Juli met many people who came up to her wanting to pet the cute little puppy. Juli began taking training lessons with my wife. Eventually, Lily earned herself an official service dog in-training vest and Juli, an official I.D., which allowed them to enter stores and restaurants without being hassled by management wanting them to leave.

As Juli grew in confidence, she started to work, socialize, and feel terrific about herself.

Juli and Lily are now a spokesperson team for the use of emotional support dogs for people who are disabled by emotions they cannot seem to control. Even that is a major break through for Juli who, previously was so fearful she never would have spoken to strangers.

Lily is still in training and she and Juli and Lily continue to learn a lot about how to work together in public. But the main idea is that Juli is able to live her life again with the help of her friend and companion, Lily. As Juli sums it up:

“Lily is my best friend. I feel safe with her. She has been a  blessing in my life. Having a service dog is crucial for someone with my kind of illness. I have to take her on walks, I have to go to the store to buy her food, and it forces me to get out. It’s a win-win relationship. I do for her and she does for me, without even knowing it. My life would never have been the same without her.”

The story of Lily and Juli continues, but now there is hope.