The Things I Can’t Control

adithinkMy 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:


legsThis 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.



92 responses to “The Things I Can’t Control

    • Susan, I’m never happy to hear that from someone, but I’m glad we can at least relate to each other. Do you have a puppy with seizures, too, or just understand the feeling?

      • Thanks, Jennie. Yes, I struggle with depression, anxiety disorders. Both of my dogs have had seizures – last one was within the last year. They are 13 and 14 years old, and it is disconcerting at best. They were rescues – the mama should never have had any litters let alone two. She had seizure and nearly died in the aftermath of the second litter.

        • So, you know all about it. The more friends I discover have battled depression, the less afraid of it I become. It might sound counter-intuitive, but knowing that people I find so warm, brilliant, and generally amazing can be that way in spite of currently experiencing depression, or realizing they went through it and came out the other side to be who they are now… it gives me a lot of courage. Thank you so much for adding to that roster of names.

  1. Oh my gosh. This post made me tear up. I didn’t expect that. Give Adi an extra hug from please 🙂 To still see the positive even when you know there’s a little shadow hanging around you. I think the ‘breeze’, is always something to look forward to. You wrote this so wonderfully!

  2. Ahhh Jennie . . . I wish I could tell you what to do . . . or what would work, but depression is a bitch that meets you on a battlefield of it’s choosing and disengages at it’s own timing . . . hold on kid and never give in . . .

    • J.J. – my voice of wisdom – thanks for stopping by. I wish you could tell me what to do, too. I really miss the days when it wasn’t all so heavy. But I promise I’m holding on – I have way too much good and not nearly enough real bad going on in my life to let this shit sweep me downriver.

      • OK . . . look at it like this . . . I fell in love with you (in a good way remembering I am an old man :-)) when I saw the picture of you and your new husband where he had you off the ground swinging around . . .

        you were wearing a long white gown and had flowers in your hair . . . . You looked so happy you drew me in and reminded me of my own daughter.

        Were she depressed I would remind her of that picture and the beauty radiating from it. . . and how much her old man loved her.

        Depression is a leech that would love nothing more than to rob you of your life. Deny it that right.

  3. I think Adi is in your life for a reason; she is meant to teach you this lesson. Us humans can learn so, so much from our canine companions if we just take the time to listen. She’s very lucky to have you, but I think you’re lucky to have her, too.

    • You couldn’t be more right. I’ve had her since she was five weeks old, and I’ve always believed she was my animal spirit companion. She’s seen me through some damn tough stuff, and nothing makes you feel better like a fuzzy warm dog who doesn’t mind getting hugged all night. I am absolutely blessed by her, and she asks for so little in return.

    • Thanks, Trent. Adi and I appreciate that. If only I could run as fast as she can – she’s greyhound material, man – so she can generate a breeze whenever she wants!

  4. I loved this post, Jennie. ღ I’ve battled with depression for the better part of my life. I’m not sure if it’s actually a ‘brain thing’ or if it’s situational since I’ve experienced multiple traumas. Can’t take antidepressants, they not only numb me, and my creativity, but they also caused me to experience Serotonin Syndrome which put me in ICU. So I had to find alternatives. I’m also a square peg who has tried to fit in a round hole for most of my life. Not any more. Not since I did a good bit of research on highly sensitive people. highly sensitive people

    I’m currently working on a post about this in my VNN blog. I believe that understanding this has helped me find the tools to lower the frequency, and even lessen the symptoms when it side-swipes me.

    I was so sorry to read about your baby. He’s one lucky doggie to have you. Do his seizures come on anywhere and at any time, or in particular situations/environments like loud noise, bright lights, sleeping next to anything plugged in, etc.? I should also mention that there is significant evidence of increased seizure activity ‘and’ depression when the geomagnetic field is storming due to earth directed coronal mass ejections.

    Sorry for the ramble. I really, really loved your post. xx


      • This is a short reply, but full of intensity: I cannot wait to read your post. Thank you for looking into things like this!

        …and Adi’s seizures don’t have a pattern that I can discern, even after reading through your list. The first one was triggered by heat stroke, and she’s had them ever since. I often wonder how many she has when J and I are both at work.

        • Oh, Adi had a cerebral stroke, sigh. Poor baby. The reason I asked was because I was involved on an epilepsy forum, doing advocacy work, and one lady shared about her dog who had seizures. The info I was sharing was about electromagnetic fields and geomagnetic storms and how they can increase seizure activity.

          As it turned out, after a process of elimination, she realized that her retriever spent a lot of his time in front of the dryer when it was on. He loved the warmth. I suggested that she buy an inexpensive gauss meter and take a reading of her dryer while it was running and other spaces he spent a lot of time in. The dryer was putting out nearly 100 milligauss. The EPA recommends a safe reading for any length of time under 3 milligauss. Now this is the interesting part; when her retrieve was no longer allowed to sleep or lay around the dryer while it was running, his seizure activity was curtailed significantly. There’s so much research on this, but rarely does it get the attention it needs.

          For me, personally, I took a reading of my notebook/laptop, and the milligauss reading went off the meter. It was over 100 milligauss. I was spending a lot of time with my arms and hands in contact with the strongest fields being emitted. I purchased an external keyboard and mouse. I noticed a decrease in my episodes of depression and I slept better. I am certain it wasn’t a placebo effect based on the mounting research. I also never sleep next to a radio alarm clock or anything plugged in, a DECT phone or cell. Many if not most radio alarm clocks emit high EMF’s and if your head is within 3 or so feet of the clock, it most likely is affecting your brain all night. Studies show that high EMFs can interfere with neurotransmitter/hormone production.

          Today, I didn’t get much done on my post. Got too busy, but I thank you for looking forward to the post. I hope the info is as valuable and helpful to others as it has been for me.

          Jennie, I adore your authenticity.

  5. Whew, this brought tears to my eyes this morning. So much we can learn from our four-legged friends. Taking the time to appreciate the simple, expected consistency of nature to restore ourselves.

    • I’m sorry for the tears, but I’m glad to have you here! I’m still adjusting a bit to knowing some “real life” friends read this blog, but it keeps me honest. These things are worth talking about, and if I wouldn’t hide them from my online community, I shouldn’t hide them from my in-person community, right?

      On another note, yes, animals are goofy geniuses and natural zen masters. There’s a lot to admire.

    • I love you, too, Samara. I mean it. I have such a jones to meet you in person – like, more than with anyone else I know online. (Sssssh! We don’t wanna make them jealous!) And I swear to the God of Cake I’m going to answer your email in full very soon! I thought the last week of work before holidays was meant to be all goofing off, but someone fibbed…

  6. I hate reiterating what everyone else has said, but this post is striking. Thank you for sharing and shining a little light. 🙂 Best to you and yours.

    • Ahhh – I just realized you’ve been reincarnated! I hadn’t made the connection to CB, as I’ve been a bit scatter-brained lately. It’s wonderful to have you here, and thank you for letting me know I’m putting a little light out there by sharing this. Adding to this conversation is the one silver lining I can find in the whole damn mess.

      • Yeah, I have been fooling a lot of people with this stunt I’ve pulled. It’s kinda fun. 😉 I’m glad you’re finding a silver lining. {{hugs}}

    • I absolutely, positively will. Side note: in our atheist/questioning household (we have one of each) we generally just reference two gods when we feel the need: One is the N.S.N.C.B. (Non-Sentient Non-Corporeal Being) and the other is Adi… the Fuzzy God.

      • Hahaha! Our house is like living inside Hinduism: every cat is a god, of course, and the dogs are each pretty sure they’re also supreme deities… except when they’re in presence of the cats 🙂

  7. I hope you forgive me for taking up a lot of real estate in your comment section–especially considering this is my first visit–but I HAD TO post this great poem by Bukowski about his beloved cats. Your relationship with Adi immediately brought it to mind.

    My Cats

    I know. I know.
    they are limited, have different
    needs and

    But I watch and learn from them.
    I like the little they know,
    which is so

    They complain but never
    they walk with a surprising dignity.

    They sleep with a direct simplicity that
    humans just can’t

    Their eyes are more
    beautiful than our eyes.
    and they can sleep 20 hours
    a day
    hesitation or

    When I am feeling
    all I have to do is
    watch my cats
    and my

    I study these

    They are my

    Charles Bukowski

    • You, sir, can have an ocean-side lot. There’s always room for (good) poetry and animal lovers in my comments section.

      I’ve printed that one out and added it to my wall at work. I love the idea that watching his cats gave Bukowski — of all things — courage. I completely understand.

    • Hello, Courtney! Thank you so much for sharing this. A friend’s mom asked me the other day how I can feel comfortable sharing this kind of personal story online. And I get the question, I really do. But then someone wonderful like you finds value in it, and passes it along, and I think of how it might reach someone else like me who looks for stories mirroring their own experiences online, so they won’t feel so alone… and I’m just really glad to be part of an online community that is so open. xoxo

    • Randee, this comment made me cry. My beautiful, understanding mother knows exactly what is going on with me, and reads this blog, but I know it’s still hard for her (or anyone outside the mess that is depression) to really grasp what’s happening to me and why. If this helped you with your daughter, I am so, so glad.

  8. I love your raw honesty. You are just beginning to examine this ebb in your life and you do it without expectation of the how and why (just yet). Letting go can help us to the answers. ( I am sure that I am going to post about something like the latter soon). XO

    • How and why are pretty far beyond me at this point – you’ve got that right! I’m on small questions and even they seem hard to answer. But thank you, thank you, for being one of the people who encourages me to work through it on this blog, and know that I am extremely interested to read how you let go and where it led you.

  9. Adi sounds like a smart pup; and you sound like a smart mama to her – and to yourself. Here’s to learning to go with the stream of life instead of fight it – but to always appreciate the breathers and breezes when we can catch them.

    • Adi and I do our best. 🙂 She definitely teaches me a lot. You should see the amazing positions in which she falls asleep – and here I struggle to catch shut-eye reclined on a plane! Perhaps I should create a new yoga flow from her sleep poses.

  10. That’s really tough about your dog :-/ I get upset just when my dog has a bad dream and starts whimpering and kicking around in her sleep. Adi is most definitely lucky to have you there to take care of her… And learning that there are things in life which we cannot control is the absolute worst. I will probably stop running my dryer when I’m not home now, by the way.

    • Oh, I hear you! I wake up for that too, and have to calm them down. Although, for all I know, they’re happily chasing squirrels in dream-land. What kind of dog do you have?

      And YES to not using the dryer, or the washing machine, or really any big electronics when you’re not home… my husband’s family apparently has horrible luck with their appliances catching on fire while they’re out. It’s annoying not to start a load before running errands,, but with pets in the house, I’m going better safe than sorry!

      • That’s very true! Perhaps she is dreaming of Africa– she’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback 🙂

        Okay, that’s scary. I’ve had a fair amount of fires in my past. The other day I actually smelled plastic burning and opted to stop my dishwasher mid-cycle because I was headed out the door. When I was able to do a little CSI later I found this totally melted and burnt plastic thing at the bottom of the machine… so… your advice is sound! Will live by it from here on out!

  11. Poor sweet little pumpkin, I’m sorry Adi has seizures. I know what you mean about the control thing, and the meds thing. One of the Weeblettes, Cupcake, has asthma, and she gets attacks every so often, especially during allergy season. She will absolutely not submit to using a nebulizer, so the only other option medically would be oral steroids. And I said HELLZ NO. The vet said her asthma isn’t life threatening but I still worry like crazy about her because it CAN be. I have a rescue inhaler that I will cram down her throat if I have to, but on a daily basis, I just worry because I can’t control it. She seems totally fine with her coughing fits, though, she goes through them and then she’s back to her usual, no lasting issues, no freaking out, no anxiety. I know I could learn something from her.

    Holler if you want me to do reiki on Adi, it would be my pleasure and an honor.

    • Please pet Cupcake for me, and tell her that her namesakes are delicious and she has to live long and prosper in their honor.

      Also, I am hollering at you so earnestly about the reiki. My understanding of it is limited to what one acquaintance who practices it has shared, but Julie, it would mean the world to me to have you sending good energy Adi’s way. We need to talk, I have a very persistent itch to know more about this powerful thing you do.

  12. This was beautiful and insightful… It reminded me of the seizures my dog Sophie started having a couple of weeks before she died. I would pet her and try so hard not to be afraid of the teeth that she would never consciously bare at me…
    Depression is a nasty monster; I’m proud of you for taking lessons from Adi. She sounds like a smart dog, and you sound like a very smart human.

      • She was a chocolate Lab/Shar-Pei mix that my mom picked up off the streets. She was the best dog I ever met.
        I’m learning too — I’ve found that the kindness of others makes it easier for me, so I try to pay it forward. That sounds kind of condescending over the computer, but that’s not my intent.

          • I also want to say… aren’t rescue dogs just the best? Not that all dogs aren’t amazing, but there’s something about a lovable mutt. I’m glad you had Sophie in your life.

          • Yes! My current pup wasn’t a rescue per se, but she needed a new home. She’s no Sophie, but she’s a good dog. 🙂
            I take it you got Adi from a rescue?

          • I got her on a beach in Mexico. She was there with her mom and siblings, but the owners didn’t have enough food for all of them. She was maybe less a rescue, and more of an “elevation in lifestyle.” 🙂

  13. So here’s a thing – or maybe two (and you can feel free to discredit them as you wish – they’re just recycled wisdom I’ve picked up along the way) – those abyssal moments where everything’s terrible; they’ve happened before and they’ll happen again, and although everything completely sucks from in the middle, a powerful thought is that you’ve come through it and out of the other side before. Another is that “In 2 weeks time you’ll be 14 days past this.”

    The other (and I know depression affects different people in different ways) is that in spite of never really being able to control our feelings (only our behaviour, and sometimes not even that…) just because we feel something, doesn’t mean it’s true. (the inverse is equally true – that just because we don’t feel something, doesn’t mean it’s false (equally I know that in the midst of depression, logic is usually not a strong point, though ‘reason’ from a skewed logistical point often takes precedent *sigh*) Especially where brain chemistry or ingrained negative thought patterns are taking over.

    I’m sorry your dog’s having siezures, but I guess the good thing is that she won’t be undergoing the same mental/emotional stresses as a human in that same situation would be. And she has you to look after her well 🙂

    • Isn’t pretty much everything good (and bad) recycled? Doesn’t make me any less attentive!

      The line you wrote about two weeks from now made me gasp with relief. My muscles actually eased. Two weeks sounds like nothing, but somehow 14 days is an eternity.

      And I’ve had many conversations with J about how me not seeing the incredibly specific gesture I want in a moment when I’m feeling really weak DOES NOT MEAN he wouldn’t give it to me if he knew I needed it. It’s hard to be so close to someone yet still not share a brain… sometimes you forget that you don’t. And I am particularly bad about having a selective memory (well, it’s the depression that does the stupid selecting, I should fire that bitch), leading me to have amnesia about all the amazing ways he and other people have showed me that I’m valued.

      I will try to hold onto these words if another wave of deep sadness ever comes… or for any life challenge, really. Lizzi, you’re good people.

      • And of course, you can’t tell him what specific gesture you need to receive from him, because then it wouldn’t count because he didn’t come up with it and clearly doesn’t love you enough to think of it himself?

        I’ve spent life (since age 7) kowtowing to the bastard Saboteur, Depression, in one way or another. I have been entirely scathed by it. It has shaped my everything and I hate it. Hate it in myself, in the people I love, hate seeing its effects, hate seeing its pain and rage poured out on innocents. Hate seeing the incredible fuckup it made of my family, almost from the offset.

        Hate. It.

        I once wrote a post where I got one wish, and in the end, I decided that I couldn’t be selfish and cure it, or cure all the diseases, or cure social injustice or make everyone’s dreams come true, or wish for more wishes, instead I found the one thing which might have a chance at combatting all the crap – I wished that each person in the world would have HOPE.

        And amidst depression, I can think of nothing more powerful, because love is rarely enough, and hatred only fuels it.

        • That first paragraph – HA! – you couldn’t possibly get it more. That is exactly the terrible, unsolvable dilemma my brain builds for me.

          I am so sorry depression has its claws sunk so deep into your family. And speaking of family, I sometimes feel like everybody on WordPress is depressed. I’m not trying to be snarky, but I do wonder… is it just because bloggers are an introspective bunch, so we fess up to it and share… or is there something else going on?

          I think the best thing about my bad bout with it was that I came out of it. I won’t be nearly as scared if it happens again… it’s an ugly road, but I know how to drive it. HOPE, indeed.

          • HA! indeed. I have lived it and lived with it for entirely too long to not know exactly what it looks, sounds, tastes, feels and even smells (yes, yuk! don’t go there!) like. Right down to the sick clench in the pit of my stomach because I know I can do nothing.


            I wonder, too. I know little of the WP world (YET! I AM joining soon) but it would make sense to me that people try to write their wrongs here, and share and find solace in one another in a once-removed and place-of-safety kind of way. Absolute sense. Not to mention a public-self-healing/validation kind of way.

            (or as the Gunmetal Geisha puts it ‘blogging can be almost rather masturbatory at times…’)

            It doesn’t surprise me that a particular ‘type’ of person ends up blogging. The secure, fulfilled people are all out there LIVING. You know, in reality…not in their heads.

            As to the driving of the road. Yes, but it’s a tiresome drive. I shall hope you don’t have to endure it too often.

          • “The secure, fulfilled people are all out there LIVING. You know, in reality…not in their heads.” <– I don't want to believe this bit. Boooooooooooo. Writing is living, for some of us! And for others of us, we live deeper because we pay attention so we can transform experiences into words. 🙂

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  15. mother of god, I love you so hard right now. What a gorgeously introspective post. How insightful of you to learn from your sweet doggie’s behavior.

    I want to put you in my pocket ever more now.

    • I can totally fit! I’m wee!

      This reminds me of when I tried to convince my parents that a horse could totally be stabled in my closet, no prob, Bob.

  16. I love you more because you love your dog so much. I have a chocolate lab and she may as well be my child (even if she loves my husband best). She is utter and complete love and I would move the moon for her.
    Aside from the puppy love, you hit depression right on the head. I get the days. They are exhausting and as many times as I tell myself they pass, they last for what seems an eternity. Then there are days like today, when I’m outside, in your breeze, watering my plants and breathing in the sunshine. The bad days are very, very distant in this moment, Today is a good day.

    • There is no difference between dog love and human love, for me. There’s a gorgeous book called “Pack of Two” where the author talks about how her dog got her through overcoming alcoholism. I love Adi like she is a piece of me – we’ve been together since she was five weeks old, and “bonded” doesn’t begin to describe it. Sometimes on walks, she knows when I’m going to turn before I make a move or a sound. Oh, dogs. 🙂

      And yesterday I had a day just like the one you described! There was sunshine and gardening and homemade bread and apple cider. Is it just me, or do the good days make you feel very fresh and young, while the hard ones make you feel ancient?

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