Hi there, I’m Dremulf, which is Norwegian for Dream Wolf (thank you google translate for the help). I am a sufferer of Schizophrenia and also a dog owner. I have decided to start this blog as a way to help other sufferers of mental illness understand the benefits of owning animals. But this is not limited to the effects they have on those with Mental Health woes. Anyone can improve their life by taking in an animal, From the single parent who works too many hours to put food on the table and keep a roof over their family’s head, to the homeless woman who was kicked out by her boyfriend after years of abuse.
Some people may not be all that big on dogs, guess what? there are many animals that can used for therapy, from rats and mice, to horses and llamas. Even if you can’t OWN a pet, you can usually find people who have animals trained specifically to help people. And of course Shelters and Independent Rescues are always looking for people to help with their animals.
I should probably tell you a little about myself. I am young by most standards, in my mid 20s, I am the oldest of several children, and own three dogs of my own, while also fostering for a dog rescue that is close to my heart and is practically family. I was first diagnosed with Schizophrenia at age 18, but denied my diagnosis out of fear for many years. It took a severe episode of depression and a mild psychosis to make me admit to the fact I had this illness.
For those of you who know about Schizophrenia or ‘SZ’ It comes in several forms, including Schizo-affective, and some doctors believe it to be a spectrum of Bi Polar Disorder. For those of you who don’t know much about the illness let me explain it the best way I can.
SZ is an illness of the brain, it is not like other mental health issues in that it actually has Neurological signs, meaning the brain of a Schizophrenic does not work the same as a normal person. It actually shows up so different on an MRI or other Brain Scan, that it is actually classified as a Neurological condition, not a mental or emotional one. However! There are so many mental health aspects of the disease that it is still treated as a mental illness.
One of the many misconceptions about people with this disorder is that we are violent or dangerous, when in fact, most Schizophrenics would leave you alone rather than interact with you. It is a sad fact that some with our illness become violent, in the midst of an ‘episode’ but these people are in fact the minority. Most people with SZ are mindful of their condition, and the majority of us seek medical help.
Now I am not going to say we are just like you. We aren’t, but, we are still people, and many seem to forget that. They cast us out, or treat us like rabid animals. Some of us are lucky, our communities or our family come to our side in this time of need following diagnosis, but many are left alone, in the dark, with no one to turn to.
In the US where I live, there are good program in place, though it is hard to get into them sometimes. I am one of the lucky ones, I have a good therapist, a group that I meet once or twice a week, and good friends who help me with my problems. But in some places, people like me are treated worse than actual criminals.
Had a bad day? feel depressed? If you have SZ and you confess this to a police officer or medical professional, they will put you in a hospital for ‘your safety’ yet in the hospitals, not all but more than enough mind you, the treatment is worse than the illness. Many mental health facilities lack funding, particularly public ones, you may think that things like locking people up in small rooms or drugging them into virtual comas is something you only see in old movies or third world countries, but it happens right here in the US of A. All too often people with mental illness get caught in the wide net of fear cast by the public and made worse by certain groups. There are some in the government, the people who are supposed to stand up for our rights as human beings, who would rather we all be locked up never to see the light of day.
I don’t mean for this to turn into a rant, This blog is to fight for the rights of the mentally ill, but we have to address the issues to make things better, you can’t change things with wishful thinking.
The first step to changing things would be to acknowledge that mental illness is real, just like homophobia made people want to dismiss that homosexuality was happening, fear of the mentally ill has made people ignore us, and our needs. Many people out there still insist that mental illness is not real or that its an excuse for people to be lazy. Still others believe it is either entirely curable and that the suffers make the choice to suffer, or that its incurable and the people should be kept away from others so that they don’t pass it on to their children.
Then you have the people who are stuck in the dark ages, who believe that mental illness is either Gods punishment, or demons possessing you. These people tend to be the most violent towards the mentally ill. Not out of bad intentions but because in some countries, the ‘cure’ is exorcism. If you want a good shock on how mentally ill are treated in third world nations that practice Christianity, look up mental illness exorcism on google. These ‘cures’ can lead to severe disability or even death.
This is not an attack on Christianity, I was raised Baptist, and while I have my own issues with ALL religions I do not hate or rant against any one in particular. I believe that what someone believes is what is true for them. No single religion is perfect, despite what its fanatical followers might say, but if you listen to the more realistic folks who believe, you will find that they acknowledge the problems with their faith.
As you can see it is easy for me to get off on a tangent, the length of this post is something I intended to make you realize that people with SZ have many problems to deal with, Focus is one of them.
I will end this now, on these final notes. Mental Illness is NOT a joke, and animals are NOT things, they are living creatures who have the most wonderful power to heal even the most fractured heart and soul.