School, OCD and prison… I think..? Maybe?

My last blog post was about OCD and in that post I mentioned that I would be writing a separate one on my experience of trying to manage OCD and the school environment. As my OCD type thinking patterns and behaviours began to show at the age of 3-4, it is something that I’ve always had; it is my normal because I know no different. There are times when it is worse and there are times when it is a little easier. The impulsive thoughts and compulsive behaviours have changed over the years, as I have grown up, as I have experienced different events and as I’ve learnt new information. However, it has always been there, locking me into a constant state of anxiety.

So, setting the scene… I was an anxious child that didn’t like to do things without my mum or dad, I wasn’t comfortable with socialising and I didn’t like being left anywhere because ‘what if..?’ Before year one of primary school, we had some time in ‘reception’. My mum would take me to the school and the teachers would be welcoming the children and interacting with the parents. I was terrified. I begged my mum not to leave me, I cried, I screamed, I clinged on to her, refusing to let go and this ultimately led to the teachers/support staff literally pulling me off of my mum. At the time I didn’t know this, but when I was older mum told me that she had walked home crying after many of those episodes.

I became a little more settled over time and whilst I remained anxious, I didn’t scream the place down each morning! For dinner time we had the option of staying at school for a cooked dinner, having a packed lunch, or going home with our parent/carer. I was very particular with food so cooked school dinners were difficult because of the food, the commotion of the dining room and the scary dinner ladies. The rule was that you had to ask to ‘turn around’ before we turned our tray from the main meal to the dessert and then again before we left the table. There were two dinner ladies that I would pick out, but the rest I’d avoid because they were much harsher. If you’d eaten enough of your main meal then you’d be allowed to ‘turn around’, but if they thought you needed to eat more then you’d have to eat more before you could ‘turn around’. I fully accept that I was a picky eater and that many people will be of the belief that children should eat what’s in front of them because that’s what happened when they were young and it ‘never did any harm’… Newsflash; not everyone is the same! I can understand that it’s important for children to get the right nutrition, but some of the dinner ladies seemed to suffer from a slight power complex. I remember a boy crying because he didn’t like peas but he was told he had to eat them, they sat there for ages and he was gagging. My friend taught me how to hide food, which now seems disordered, but it wasn’t in a disordered way at that time. I didn’t really do school dinners, but on the odd occasion that I did, it wasn’t something I ever looked forward to!

Most of the time I’d go home for dinner. My mum would pick me up, we’d go home to munch and then we’d walk back to school. I managed that pattern much better because it broke the day up and gave me a chance to speak to mum – the whole day was horribly scary. Other times I’d have a packed lunch, but that came with it’s own problems. We had an attendance register and a lunch menu where our name would be called, and we’d answer with ‘school’, ‘packed’ or ‘home’. It sounds simple enough, just a quick run through the class and a one word answer, easy right? Well, no… During year 4 this became one of the most difficult times of my day; what if I gave the wrong answer, what if I’d remembered wrongly? Every morning went something like this, ‘Rebecca?’ -hesitation- ‘Er. Er I’m, I mean, I think I’m packed lunch, I think.’ ‘Would you like to go and check you have a packed lunch in the box Rebecca?’ So off I’d go, to look in the big bin thing (which I’d always struggled to get my head around) and sure enough, there was my packed lunch box, with my name on, where I’d left it when I first walked into school. I’d go back to the classroom repeating over and over ‘I am packed lunch, it is in there’, I’d go into the classroom and the teacher would look up and I’d say ‘I’m packed lunch, well I think I am, I might be…’ I knew I was, but what if I wasn’t, what if I was remembering from the day before? One lunchtime I sat at the table with my packed lunch box in front of me crying and a dinner lady approached me asking what was wrong, I tried to explain it to her; ‘It might not be my packed lunch,’ ‘Okay, so it isn’t your packed lunch?’ ‘Well it might be my packed lunch, it is, it might be,’ ‘So it is your packed lunch?’ ‘Yes, well no, I don’t know, because it might not be!’ I was becoming more upset and panicked as the conversation continued. ‘Well don’t eat it if it isn’t yours!’ ‘It is mine, but it’s just it might not be!’ We then discussed what I had in my packed lunch, the way my lunch was packed and the fact that I’d seen my mum make it that morning. Following on from this particular event, mum then added notes in my lunch box each day, to provide reassurance to avoid a repeating cycle, but the lunch register continued day in, day out.

I had an awesome teacher to begin with, she was kind, caring, gentle and she was good with children. Although, she did have time off when she had her two children which left us with a rather scary stand in who I didn’t particularly like. During the summer holiday between year 2 and 3, whilst on holiday, we witnessed an incident in which someone lost their life. I was 7. My brain was already wired slightly differently, but at the age of 7 my OCD became much more intense and overwhelming. I remember going to a friends birthday party a few weeks after that holiday, which we came home from that night thanks to the boat company helping us with the travelling. Several of the kids were on the bouncy castle with a few parents standing around keeping an eye on us. Whilst bouncing around we were all chatting about what we’d done over the summer holidays which led to a rather awkward conversation and looks from some of the adults that, at the time, I didn’t really understand.

On the first day of year 3 mum came in to speak to the teacher, a new teacher, just to inform her of what had happened and that I probably wouldn’t want to speak about my summer holiday and also to flag up any possible anxieties that may crop up. Now, I believe this was quite a sensible thing to have done but it would appear that the teacher thought otherwise. She told my mum, in the most condescending way possible, that we wouldn’t ‘be chatting about summer holidays’, that ‘this isn’t a nursery class’ and we wouldn’t be ‘sitting in a circle on the floor’. Year 3 of primary school was a complete nightmare and my year 3 teacher seemed to find pleasure in making things even harder for me. I’m going to refer to her as Miss3.

My mum bought me a book with cartoon pigs on it and she told me to write down the things I worried about during the day at school, so that we could talk about them after school. My head seemed to become so full of worries over the course of a school day and this was just an idea to try to ease that a little. I was in the playground and Miss3 took great delight in commenting on my ‘little worry book’; the comments, belittling and embarrassment that she caused during that year made school almost unbearable. Nothing was off bounds, little comments about my OCD in a joking, snide type manner were very common. One incident sticks with me more than the others, we’d been making something with little red beads as decorations, when we had finished we cleaned up and a couple of us went and picked a few up from the floor and put them in our pinafore pocket to make cards for our mums later on. Miss3 found out and she was cross, she was beyond cross, she did lots of shouting and screeching and told me that I was a thief, that I’d end up in prison, be on my own, my mum and dad wouldn’t love me anymore and would never see me because I would be locked away etc. I can’t remember everything that was said, it went on for a prolonged period and it was 21 years ago, but I do remember feeling frightened. When my mum picked me up from school I sobbed, telling her that I was sorry, that I didn’t want to go to prison, that I didn’t want for her and dad not to love me; she had a word with someone within the school staffing team, but very little was ever dealt with. Even now, it isn’t something I talk about because there is still shame attached; I was wrong to do what I did, but I was a seven year old child, the beads would have been hoovered up at the end of the day anyway, and I don’t think a teacher should be speaking to students of any age in that kind of way. She taught us a dance and told us that we’d be performing in the school assembly, so we needed to practice so that we had it just right. We were lined up, waiting to go into the afternoon assembly, excitedly chattering about the dance when she laughed and said ‘you’re not doing a dance’ and made a comment about how we wouldn’t be embarrassing her, she wouldn’t let us embarrass her, or something along those lines.

I’ve always tried to be good, do the right thing, meet the expectations that are placed upon me and those I place upon myself, and I suppose that’s probably partly my personality to a degree, but it’s intensified by how OCD works.

I became quite skilled at hiding behaviours, although some were still noticed some of the time. Middle school came with suffocating anxiety about awful things happening to those I cared about, whilst I was at school. The pay phone in the school reception became a common feature in my day; panicked phone calls to my mum to check everyone was okay, needing that reassurance, that bit of oxygen. I spent my lunch time and break time participating in clubs and doing ‘office duty’. My school work needed to be perfect, and when I was given a detention my world felt like it was ending although the detention ended up not happening because the teacher told me that I’d learnt my lesson, I’m assuming he came to that conclusion from looking at the mess I was in.

The overwhelming need to be good, make sure I’ve not endangered anyone, keep people safe, obliterate any risks, please people, get good grades, avoid germs, protect from contamination and all of the other bits that create the crunching pressure that OCD brings, all whilst trying to pretend that you’re just like everyone else, is utterly knackering. It’s as though you have normal life, and then you have a constant barrel of thoughts and anxieties that you’re having to deal with whilst appearing not to be dealing with anything other than what others can understand or see, every day and it’s incredibly draining.

There’s a lot of talk about providing mental health support in schools, there are positives and some very concerning negatives to this and in my own personal experience, I think kindness could have gone a long way. (There are many amazing teachers – high school will be a separate post – out there who do a great deal of good, but there are also those that taint an experience and cause harm.) A general understanding would be a good place to start, before we become entangled in a discussion around teachers becoming specialists and having to do that on top of their usual work, if they had an understanding and awareness and an ability to be kind, then that could make a difference to many; and even if a positive change impacted only one person, that’s one persons family and their future, and I can’t see anything negative in that.

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School, OCD and prison… I think..? Maybe?

A dog is for life; unless it isn’t…

RufusSmile Rufus!Rufus7 Rufus6

This is Rufus and he’s our miniature schnauzer; he has saved my life many times over and I cannot even begin to explain how much I love him. If he is unwell, I will look after him and reassure him and when we had to sleep in the living room as he’d been sick on my bed in the early hours, I slept on the floor and he slept on the sofa. If he needs to go to the toilet, we will go out for a walk, regardless of the time or the weather. If he wants to play, we’ll play and when one of his favourite toys broke, I replaced it several times over. When he wants to snuggle, we snuggle. I want to just add in here that he doesn’t have total control, nor is he spoilt; he knows right from wrong and whilst he can sometimes choose to know right from wrong but ignore right from wrong, his behaviour is corrected! I’m not the worlds best dog owner and Rufus isn’t the worlds best behaved dog; but I do the best I can, as does he and he is loved – he seems pretty happy with that.

On twitter this afternoon I came across a link to a daily fail article, usually I’d have ignored it like a spam email, but it caught my eye as it had been linked to the Dogs Trust and the RSPCA. The article I am referring to can be found here. If you suffer from high blood pressure and are an animal lover, I’d approach with caution!

Shona Sibary, who writes for the daily fail, has spent the last 4 years taking dogs into her home and then getting rid of them. We all know that the Dogs Trust believes that ‘A dog is for life’ and I think the majority of animal lovers would agree with that, or at least I would hope they do! It would seem that Shona sits in the minority, unfortunately.

In February 2011, Shona took in Juno from a dogs home in London but in April 2012 she’d ‘had enough’ and after ‘much soul searching’, she made the ‘heart breaking’ decision to rehome her and placed an advert online for a new owner. When her 3 year old daughter sobbed and clung to her asking, ‘why can’t we keep her mummy? She wants to stay with us, I know she does.’ Shona said that she almost changed her mind, but that when they drove away, Juno looking back at them, she ‘felt nothing but relief’. She picked her ‘hysterical daughter’ off the gravel and told her that they’d look at pictures of puppies, having admitted that she’d already had her ‘eye on another puppy.’

In September 2011, Shona found Albus, an 8 week old pup that was advertised as a pure Rhodesian ridgeback. She states that he was from a council estate and she was slightly suspicious as the ‘tattooed owners’ wanted £350 for him, when the usual cost is £700 – £900. She drove along the M25 with the pup ‘attacking the gear stick’ and wondered if she’d made the right decision. I have to ask why a puppy of that age was loose in the car? A pup that doesn’t know you, with no one else in the car? I’m guessing that no one else was in the car, because surely they’d have stopped him from ‘attacking the gear stick.’ It’s a risk I wouldn’t be willing to take. Shona writes about an experience in which Albus ‘took instant and aggressive action’ towards a neighbours westie. ‘The westie just about survived, after I’d forked out hundreds of pounds to pay his veterinary bill.’

When Juno was rehomed, she said, ‘I knew Albus had to go too – but not until I’d found myself another puppy’, which is when she came across Pippa. Pippa, a little sausage dog, had come from Lithuania and her owner had said that she ‘couldn’t cope with the dog.’ ‘Obviously, once I had Pippa, I had to get rid of Albus as quickly as possible, not least because he might actually eat my adorable new charge.’ I find this woman’s attitude really difficult to comprehend because to me, it is just wrong. However, not only does she seem to be totally irresponsible as an owner, uncaring, immature and keen to cause her animals great distress, it would appear that she is also not concerned about other people either. As she ‘quickly found him a new home’ which included 5 children and 2 cats, they were ‘overjoyed to be getting a free dog’ and ‘didn’t anticipate any problems’ , Shona was ‘so relieved to be rid of him’ that she thought ‘Who am I to disabuse them?’ I wonder if she told that family the reasons why she was getting rid of him, including the incident with the other dog?

Pippa, the sausage dog, then became a problem, so in July 2013 they got an 8 week old Labrador x collie named Cookie. However, Cookie didn’t stop the problems with Pippa, it just made them worse as they ‘would disappear for hours, rampaging across fields and worrying local sheep.’ After killing a breeding ram, a farmer threatened to shoot them and Shona adds, ‘Frankly, I was tempted to hand him the gun.’ A year ago Pippa, who was then 3 years old, was rehomed. She thought that getting a puppy might help Cookie, even though that clearly hadn’t worked out with Juno, Albus, Pippa or Cookie; but hey, why learn a lesson when you can carry on screwing up? So, along came Clover and 3 months ago Cookie went to a different home… How long will it be before Clover is ditched too?

She, somewhat proudly, states that ‘While they’re with me, they have a perfect life. I trawl pet shops choosing comfy baskets and colourful collars. I have debates with my children lasting days over what name we should give the new addition to the family.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the dogs had comfy beds and colourful collars but those things are so far from a ‘perfect life’ for a dog, and I find it very sad that she believes they are. She thinks that she may have a ‘condition’, ‘maybe I’m like this because I was never allowed a puppy as a child’… So, instead, she’s decided that her children will grow up with various puppies, but will then have to go through multiple rounds of processing the grief of losing their dog? What is that teaching them? That you can have something but give it up when you’re bored? Not to stick with things? Not to think about your decisions because you can just change your mind? Not to ever commit to anything and to avoid responsibility? She goes on to say, ‘I admit there must be something mentally wrong with me. Why else would I keep buying dogs only to wave goodbye to them a year or so later?’ Well, because you’re a douche? Behaving in a stupid manner, or doing something idiotic doesn’t equate to having something ‘mentally’ wrong. I am SO fed up with mental ill health being chucked around and tossed into categories that it just does not belong in. This isn’t a mental illness, there isn’t anything mentally wrong, she is just one of those humans who shouldn’t be allowed to own a dog. Unless ‘mentally’ in this context is a synonym for stupid, disrespectful, irresponsible and unthoughtful? She talks about Juno scaling the fence and escaping, Albus showing aggression towards other dogs, Pippa and Cookie disappearing for hours, killing pheasants, ducks, doves, a breeding ram, sheep and a heavily pregnant sheep that was carrying 2 lambs; what measures were put in place to prevent these things? She chicken wired the fence, but what about putting in a taller fence? What about a fence with a top that has a slight tilt or overhang? If Albus was showing aggression towards dogs, was he wearing a lead and harness? Was he muzzled when he was around other dogs? Why did they go near the westie if the risk was there? Pippa and Cookie kept escaping, again, changes to the fencing or garden area? I’d be interested to know what steps, if any, were taken before the decision to get rid came along, maybe it was a case of get rid and not bother to try to change things? I mean, that’s easier, right?

She finishes her piece with, ‘What’s worse is that I dread to think of the kind of message all this has sent out to my long- suffering children. Just the other day, Dolly said to me: ‘If I’m naughty, Mummy, will you re-home me, too?’ This is so, so horrifically sad. If I am lucky enough to be blessed with a child, if I heard those words as a direct result of my attitude and actions, it would break my heart. I am not doubting she loves her children, I don’t know enough about her to make any assumptions, and I wouldn’t anyway, but I really hope that Clover stays with them until she crosses to rainbow bridge. I hope they don’t get another puppy, I hope Clover is loved and wanted, I hope that Shona is able to see that she cannot continue to treat animals like a throw away item that can be upgraded or replaced when it’s going wrong, or it’s gotten boring. When we welcome a dog into our lives, we accept responsibility for that animal; to provide the food, care, love, shelter, security, medical treatment and all the other little things that are needed. If you can’t commit to a dog for life, I’d suggest you get a soft cuddly toy, because it’s unfair to screw a dog over because you’re a selfish human.

 

HOWEVER..!!

I then came across an article written by Shona for the daily fail back in January 2012 which is very different to the article that is written above, but includes some of the same images… Odd, right? This article is about rescue centres and the attitude of the staff.

In this article Shone states that she ‘found a rescue centre in the South of England, advertising 6 Rhodesian ridgeback x boxer puppies’ and ‘they were 12 weeks old – young enough to adapt to our family and still impressionable enough to train and fit into our way of life.’ When she called the rescue she was told that due to there being children under 8 in the household, they wouldn’t rehome a puppy with them as per their policy. ‘I called back the next day pretending to be someone else with 3 children over the age of 8. And no toddler.’ She then goes on to discuss the process that followed, visiting the rescue to build a bond with the dog, whom they named Albus; ‘several expensive train journeys for all of us, and of course, on each occasion, I had to find childcare for the toddler who didn’t exist.’ During a visit to Albus, they ‘fell in love with another stray in the rescue centre’ a husky pointer cross named Juno. ‘At the age of 1, she was still deemed to be a ‘puppy’ and we were still ‘officially not allowed to have her – but having lied once, we were on a roll so we decided to take both dogs.’ She writes about a home visit which she had to remove ‘all evidence of the toddler from the house’ and that during the ‘lengthy process’ the dogs home had requested letters from the landlord and veterinarian and ‘they even insisted that we pay for a whole term of puppy training classes – and show them the receipt – before they would consider releasing Juno and Albus to us.’

A line which struck me as quite funny was, ‘Their stance throughout the entire process was one of distrust.’ Ironic? She writes, ‘In fact, I can’t imagine our lives without them, which is a shame, because they still don’t legally belong to us’ and goes on to say, ‘if the rescue centre finds out we have broken any terms of our contract (ie that we have a two-year-old), they have the right, with police force, to remove Juno and Albus from our care.’ Most rehoming centres will have some form of a contract that is signed when a dog is adopted, the information within that contract will differ between rescues, but those rules are in place for a reason. Shona writes, ‘If for any reason we are unable to continue to look after the dogs, we are not allowed to give them away to family or friends — they have to go back to the rescue centre,’ and ‘Juno and Albus are micro-chipped back to the dogs’ home, so if they do ever find a gap in a fence and decide to run off, the dogs’ home will always know.’ Now, I’m sure there are positive and negative points for both of those rules and I can see both the pros and the cons, but when you’re dealing with such a mixture of people I’m guessing you have to have the basics set as a foundation to build upon. She’s rather indignant at the fact that she was required to go through this process, and then that they ‘still needed to pay £120 per dog for the grilling we’d been subjected to,’ but that ‘Albus and Juno couldn’t be more loved.’

Let’s just compare the stories for a moment…

January 2012 – Juno was one when they adopted her from a dogs home in London – seen whilst visiting Albus at the same place and so decided to adopt both. (June.)

August 2015 – Juno was 12 weeks old and came from a dogs home in London. (Feb 2011.)

January 2012 – Albus was 12 weeks old, a Rhodesian x boxer who they adopted along with Juno from a dogs home in London. They saw Albus first, but the two went home at the same time. (June.)

August 2015 – Albus was 8 weeks old, advertised as a pure Rhodesian ridgeback for £350 from a tattooed couple on a council estate in London.

January 2012 – Every family member had to visit the dogs home and bond with the Juno and Albus. Many different phases and rules that needed to be completed and kept to for them to have the dogs.

August 2015 – Juno was from a dogs home in February 2011 and Albus was from a council estate. She drove to get him, was suspicious, but took him anyway and drove home.

So, we have Juno who was 12 weeks old and a year old. Albus who was 8 weeks old and 12 weeks old. Juno who came along in February 2011 and in June. Albus who came along in September 2011 and June. Juno who came from a dogs home on his own and Juno who was adopted with Albus. Albus who came from a council estate and Albus who came from the same dogs home as Juno at the same time. Not forgetting that Juno came first and 7 months later Albus joined them in the hope that it’d prevent Juno from straying and also the story of adopting Albus and seeing Juno during a visit and adopting both at the same time, from the same dogs home. Albus who is a Rhodesian x boxer but was also advertised as a pure Rhodesian ridgeback and she had doubts about that. She talks of how loved the dogs are and how she can’t imagine life without them in January of 2012 and yet by April 2012 she’d had enough of them. She speaks of paying for their vaccinations and microchips, but if they were rescued isn’t that usually included in the adoption fee? When she wrote her article in January 2012 was everything fine? Did they do that much in 4 months that she got rid of them? If they were homed from a dogs home then she shouldn’t have advertised them online, the article from January 2012 is, in part, about her annoyance over the rules given by the dogs home. Rules that included rehoming..? When asked, in 2015, where her dogs are she states that she is ‘ashamed to say I have no idea.’

She moaned about the way the dogs home conducted themselves, but the reason they have to be rigorous is because of these type of situations. What is real and what is made up? Is Shona a wannabe Katie Hopkins? Is she trying to cause upset and stir up trouble? Will she say anything to get the publicity? If you want an article to be read then you have to be slightly controversial, right? Yes, to some degree, but this isn’t controversial because it’s not true, at least, a lot of it isn’t true! These are two totally contradicting articles, written by the same woman, with inconsistencies that cannot just be explained away with a simple – I forgot about that bit! Either you got both dogs at the same time, or you got them separately. It was either a dogs home or a tattooed couple. It was either £120 per dog, or £350 for Albus. None of it makes sense. Oh, also add in here that the ages she gives for when the dogs were gotten and when they were given away don’t add up either, nor do the periods of time which she states they have been with her and nor do the amounts of money she has given with one article stating it was £120 per dog and another stating that she’d spent over £1000 on the dogs over the last 4 years. (Yes, one may have been more expensive, but it still doesn’t make sense as Albus cost £150 AND £350 in each article.)

If you are someone who has a dog and thinks ‘I’ll probably get rid of her too’ when looking at the future, or planning to rehome your dog whilst planning the new puppy coming home; just don’t. A dog is an animal and whilst many people throw the ‘it’s just an animal’ line out there, they are so much more than ‘just’ an animal. They deserve to be treated with love, care, kindness and loyalty, because that’s what they give us, along with so much more. If you can’t give a dog that, then you don’t deserve to have one as a part of your life, period. Humans seem to think they have the right to do whatever they want and I think that’s one of the main things that the world is in such a state; newsflash, they don’t!

 

10 canine commandments    Dog never

Dogeyes    DogLove

Dogsdospeak    Animals are for

Dogswhole    DogWholelife

 

live like unless

 

A dog is for life; unless it isn’t…