Thursday, March 31, 2011


Recently, I had a panic attack.  Now in my life, panic attacks are a part of life.  Not normal, but part of my life.  Having a panic attack, a full on panic attack, is a very frightening experience.  Something, and often I don’t know what, but something, will trigger or start the event.  At low levels, I feel uncomfortable, like I cannot quite breathe.  As it progresses, I might start to cry, and hyperventilate.  I can become confused, dizzy and eventually nearly incoherent.  And luckily for me, these events, although part of my life, are relatively rare at the moment.  

The panic attack I recently had came with a known trigger; on a recent Friday afternoon, on my day off.  John went to the bank.  Earlier in the day I had plugged in my Blackberry and it asked me if I wanted to update my software.  It had been tickling me to do this for a couple of months, and I figured, what the heck, yes, let’s download the update.  I have time today for the download, turn off, reboot and what have you that I might need.  So I downloaded my update in the morning and thought nothing more of it.  John went out to do errands, including picking up medications from our vet for Eco who was having another bout of tummy upset.
Shortly after John left, I picked up my Blackberry, intending to call the vet.  I turned it on.  The screen was different, but I didn’t initially clue in that anything was seriously amiss.  And then, I hit my green telephone button.  And EVERYTHING was different.  The phone didn’t look like it used to.  The icons were different.  And the contact software had changed radically.  And I needed to phone my vet to let them know that John would be coming in and that we needed some dog food.  At about that point, I started to feel the familiar feeling of discomfort that signals an oncoming panic attack.  My chest started to get tight.  With a good deal of fiddling, I figured out by accident how to call the vet.  From the standpoint of a panic attack I was in good shape.  That is, I was in good shape until I tried to make another phone call.  And then I couldn’t find my email.  Or my password file.  Or a lot of the apps.  I started to feel like I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs and I started to get really dizzy.

I decided to call Blackberry; I couldn’t think of what else to try.  So I went to my laptop and looked up their main phone number.  It took me about five minutes to get my Blackberry to dial out and I started to get a little hysterical.  I did get a nice lady at their main desk who was very understanding and who confided that she too suffered from panic attacks and who prompted me to take any meds I might normally take.  One of the big problems with panic attacks is that you cannot think straight and you forget to do things that are normally part of your routine; taking medication when a panic attack is setting in is part of my normal routine, but this change in my phone, the single place where I keep my calendar, the only way I can contact emergency services if I am on the farm alone, my database, my contact manager, my livelihood, prompted probably the worst panic attack I have had in over a year.  

The nice lady at Blackberry put me through to a help desk.  The help desk assured me that this new system was “better”.  The help desk lady tried, and failed to convince me.  She did however help me to get in touch with my carrier who helped me to relearn my Blackberry.  And for the next week, I had to discover by trial and error, that every single signal had changed.  As well as panic attacks, I live with Attention Deficit Disorder.  One of the difficulties that comes with that learning disability is that I take a lot longer than most folks do to learn things like ding, ding, ding, pause, ding, ding means that an appointment is going to start in fifteen minutes.  And I am hearing impaired.  So I couldn’t hear the lovely new softly chiming alarm for my alarm clock in the morning-I can hardly hear it with my hearing aids in, never mind from a dead sleep with my hearing aids out (I did get several extra hours of rest, which did not even begin to compensate for the extra stress of being late!).  I lost the ring tone for my husband.  I still cannot figure out how to turn off the alarm that tells me that I have plugged the !#$$!@# thing in, or even unplugged it (This is standard?  You aren’t already aware that you have plugged it in?  You need an alarm to tell you this?  Huh?).

All I can say is that better is not even close to good enough. 

I met with a client and her dog this week.  Nice lady.  She means well.  And she has a dog whose life I hope to make better; at the moment he stares at blank spots on the wall.  I met with a family who have a puppy.  Terrific family, they work hard with their pup.  They come to class, they do their homework.  And the puppy resource guards food, water, his toys, and the kids toys.  I hope to make his life better too.  I met with a colleague who wants to compete in a sport that her dog isn’t really well suited to.  And I hope to make their lives better too.  And some days, I wonder; is better even close to good enough?  I have had enough dogs through my hands now that I can honestly say that some of the time, better is not good enough.  Better may cause a lot of pain.  Better may be like a Blackberry (that used to have a great, easy to use camera, that has been replaced with software I don’t even begin to understand) that is up to date, but not nearly as good as it used to be.  And most importantly, better is in the eye of the beholder.  It is important at every step of the process with each and every dog I work with, I ask the dog-is this good enough?  Is this really, truly, “better”?

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