My dog Adi has frequent seizures. I don’t know why, and I never will. I don’t think they’re doing her too much damage, and I know the medicine to prevent them would cut years off her life. When you’re talking about dogs, years are whole life stages.
The thing about Adi’s seizures is, they are one of the few things in my life that I have no control over. Some of you will laugh at my arrogance, but besides the obvious exceptions — a tragic illness; the too-late scream of red brake lights in the rain — I have things in my small life pretty much on lock. I don’t run the dryer when I’m out of the house, because I heard there’s a chance it could catch fire. I choose between a new top or dinner out, because I know I can’t afford both. These are the rules I understand.
When my fuzzy little Adi-puppy starts kicking and writhing, teeth bared, there’s literally nothing I can do to make the experience less scary for her, or to end it sooner. I hold her, and make sure her head doesn’t bang into chair legs. I stroke the curls on her neck, and whisper mindless consolations in an endless loop while she drools:
This comforts me, though, instead of her. While I massage and murmur, her eyes toss in a mindless frenzy and her teeth lock into a snarl. Not at me — never at me — but at the unseen enemies causing her to feel this way. Then it’s over. I know because the jerking eases into twitching, her eyes re-focus, and her tongue laps at my hand. We sit for another few minutes, and then she always wants to head outside for a walk. When we get to the porch, though, instead of running down the stairs like usual, she just stands still, turns her face into the breeze, and lets it ruffle her hair. Every single time.
I’ve realized that going through depression is, in some ways, like having emotional seizures. In the middle of an episode, very little can comfort me, no matter how lovingly I am handled. There’s almost no warning of when a bad day is coming, and when it — mercifully, finally — passes, my first instinct is to get away, find a refreshing distraction, and pretend the fit never happened. See? We’re just going for a walk. Like we do every day. Everything is fine now.
It’s not avoidance. I’m doing the work to try and figure this depression thing out. But when it first hit me, I tried so hard that, in Adi-terms, I spent every day either barking nonstop in fury or hiding, exhausted, under the bed.
These days, I’m taking my cues from her. Adi’s smart enough to know, somewhere in her instinctual brain, that she will keep having seizures, just as she anticipates trips to the vet. Yet she fills the weeks between attacks with her patented mix of napping, tennis-ball-nudging, and gleeful sniffing around the neighborhood. I’ve come to believe emulating her is the best I can do. When I catch the scent of some new understanding, I track it down. Otherwise, though, I sleep, I play, I move through the world, and I take it one day at a time.
There are just some things I can’t control.
When it gets really bad, it’s terrifying.
The breeze on my face still feels wonderful.