Our Journey so Far – Me and my Psychiatric Assistance Dog

 

This is our journey so far…

Amadeus is a 13 month old standard poodle who is my psychiatric assistance dog and he is helping me gain some independence, access to the outside world, exercise and he also gives me things I can not get from human interaction. The conditions and illnesses which Amadeus aids me with are Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Agoraphobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Psychotic Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

The requirement for me to have an assistance dog was in fact my last hope in having a more fulfilled life, in this able focused and neuro-typical world. Due to sever mental illnesses I have been unable to lead a “normal” life for over 11 years and some things have never been achievable.

When using the word “normal”, I use it in the sense that many things achieved by able people are taken for granted, such as being able to leave your home with ease everyday, crossing roads, being outside independently, going into shops and other establishments, speaking to strangers or service people, taking public transport, being able to drive, listening to music on headphones, meeting friends, going to hospital/doctor appointments…

the list goes on…

Very kindly a close friend of mine started a GoFundMe page and raised enough money for me to get Amadeus and all the things we needed to get the show on the road. People from all over the world donated and before I knew it, we were taking Amadeus home and the rest is history.

So in under a year I have achieved a great deal with Amadeus; starting with simply stepping outside my front door with him and closing the doors behind us whilst no one else was home – this was my first and most challenging of exercises.

Then we walked up the road and started with the closest cul-de-sac, completing this for up to two weeks at a time, then moving onto the next. Eventually mastering  three and staying in this comfort zone until I was ready to go past a busy pub and cross a small road by a large cul-de-sac. By this point I genuinely was astonished by my progress and felt a sense of freedom which would make me promise myself to never let go or go back – a lot of pressure but I have no “happy” medium abilities, it is black and white or nothing.

After this achievement my sights were set on going further up our road to a small green in front of an old Victorian prison, knowing this would be ideal for Amadeus to do his business and for me to be near some kind of nature – with trees and grass (even though it is next to a main road and very busy roundabout). This feat was very challenging, managing to do this once a week and slowly progressing to be able to do it more regularly over several weeks, before committing this as the place we would walk everyday.

By this point Amadeus was getting to be almost one and a feeling of rebirth flowed through my veins. So one day impulsively I decided to go the other way from my front gate, up the road and over a busy bridge to the cemetery behind my house, as this was something I could do without crossing any main roads  – plus it would give me an abundance of nature, things to look at and a longer walk for Amadeus.

We did it!

However this was impulsively done which was me jumping up my ladder and not safely stepping up one rung at a time, which is a trait due to my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This meant I was wiped out for almost two weeks due to the exhaustion of doing something so outside of my comfort zone, which of course made me have sever anxiety symptoms – even though at the time it was enjoyable, but when you get the same adrenaline from walking up the road to a cemetery as someone bungy jumping or sky diving – it can be a really surreal feeling.

My next challenge is crossing a main road in front of my house which luckily has a pedestrian crossing and then walking straight down small residential roads to a beautiful pond and recreational field. My plan is to try and achieve this, this summer, which will be my greatest achievement so far. Amadeus will be able to go off lead in the field, we can walk around the pond, watch the wildlife, sit and read or listen to music; it is something I dream about constantly.

Even though this has changed my life, there are still days I can not go out, there are days when being outside is like being assaulted by every piece of sensory information at once, leaving me unable to process details and all I can do is rest and recover.

So if you have never thought of how privileged you are to leave your home in a carefree manner and when interacting with the outside world and its tasks it is no big deal to you; then I challenge you to think of what your life would be like if you were unable to do these things?

 


As a small art project I documented my journey so far with Amadeus and distorted the images to show the different sensory issues I encounter when outside. This was challenging as simply taking the photos by busy roads was disorientating, however with Amadeus keeping me grounded and helping me feel present and real I was able to do a lot more than I thought I would. There is a slide show, all images underneath and some videos.

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If you have any feedback on this article please fill in the contact form below:

Amadeus the Poodle with a Purpose and his First Week – Psychiatric Assistance Dog

As you may be aware in the recent months a campaign has been launched for me to have a psychiatric assistance dog through GoFundMe.

Well on the 21st of May 2016 we finally went and got our puppy Amadeus, a standard black male poodle.

Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog

However…

We are still fundraising as Amadeus needs lots more stuff!

  • pet gates and pens for safety
  • specific training
  • pet passport
  • neutering
  • car safety equipment
  • agility toys
  • leads and harnesses
  • psychiatric assistance dog vest and badge
  • training toys
  • food and treats
  • dog clicker
  • dog whistle
  • grooming

Our target is £2000 we have raised £825 which has paid for Amadeus himself, his starter essentials such as toys, food etc. his jabs, chip and crate.

So if you would like to donate please follow this link:

https://www.gofundme.com/PsychiatricDogFund


This is our first week together…

Here is Amadeus in the car on our way home after picking him up from the breeders.

Charlotte Farhan and Amadeus
Charlotte Farhan and Amadeus

First real cuddles with Amadeus xxx

Amadeus and his favourite cuddly toy, Blue
Amadeus and his favourite cuddly toy, Blue
Amadeus
Amadeus learning about his surroundings

 

He is not much of a barking dog but he loves to say hello…

 

Amadeus and Mohammed love their sleep…

 

Logan our Bengal cat loves puppies and has been taking his time to get closer to Amadeus, they love to play fight and roll around.

 

Our other cats Omar and Isabella are teaching him boundaries – not his biggest fans!

Omar is the alpha and Isabella the Beta in our pride/pack, obviously Mohammed and I are the Alpha pair that sit right at the top.

 

Amadeus on a two hour road trip
Amadeus on a two hour road trip

We went on a car journey and then went to visit Amadeus’s God Mother and trainer Bex Smith. Amadeus and Bex got to know one another and he loved the garden.

 

Bonding with his trainer is very important!

Mohammed (Daddy) is having some play time with our little dude.

 

Amadeus also met two other cats at his God Mothers house, Toulouse and Twigglet.

And last but not least before we went to see my two little surrogate nephews on Sunday we gave Amadeus his first bath/shower so he was all clean for his first visit.

Amadeus and Charlotte
Amadeus and Charlotte

If you would like to find out more about my disabilities, illnesses and neurodiversity then please follow this link —–> HERE

And read my survivor story —–> HERE

Also please check out Bex Smith’s (Amadeus’s trainer)

website and blog —-> HERE

 

GO FUND ME - Charlotte Farhan

 

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: Donate to get an original piece of art by Charlotte Farhan

As you may already be aware a close friend of mine Lisa Reeve, has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for me to get a psychiatric assistance dog as I have not been able to leave the house on my own for over 9 years now due to sever mental illness and neurological damage from trauma.

To find out more please click HERE 

To help raise money for this I have decided to sell some of my paintings from my old collections for a limited time only at MEGA low prices, so that people can donate and receive an original piece of my art in exchange.

 

I can only offer FREE POSTAGE & PACKAGING to those of you who live in the UK / Europe.

However if you are from other countries you can still donate and get a piece of art, but I can NOT offer FREE postage and packing and will have to charge you for this.

To take part you need to fill out this form below with your details, tell me which one of the paintings you are interested in. I shall then allocate the painting to you and confirm this, then you follow the GoFundMe link, donate the correct amount for the painting to the campaign, once I get the confirmation of your donation I shall ask you for your address and send you your painting.

This is a Firstcome, firstserved deal.

Here are the prices:

Small paintings are £10.00 each:

  • She is the Sky,
  • Cat Among the Flowers,
  • Isabella,
  • She is a Warrior,
  • True Colours,
  • L’été À Ma Fenêtre,
  • With Flowers in her Hair,
  • Autumn Flowers,
  • Omar,
  • Feeling Love, 
  • Sitting Pretty

Medium Paintings are £20.00;

  • Escapism,
  • Body Positive,
  • Amman (Rainbow Street),
  • Autumn Tree,
  • Just to Make Your Smile,
  • Summer is Coming,
  • Amman at Dusk

Large Paintings are £25.00 each:

  • Dans les rues de Grasse,
  • Laying in Flowers,
  • Earth

X-Large and Framed is £50.00:

  • Maison des ville, Grasse, France

Here is the form:

 

Escapism - By Charlotte Farhan
Escapism – By Charlotte Farhan
She is the Sky - By Charlotte Farhan
She is the Sky – By Charlotte Farhan
Cat Among the Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan
Cat Among the Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan
Dans les rues de Grasse - By Charlotte Farhan
Dans les rues de Grasse – By Charlotte Farhan
Isabella - By Charlotte Farhan
Isabella – By Charlotte Farhan
Body Positive - By Charlotte Farhan
Body Positive – By Charlotte Farhan
True Colours - By Charlotte Farhan
True Colours – By Charlotte Farhan
L'été À Ma Fenêtre - By Charlotte Farhan
L’été À Ma Fenêtre – By Charlotte Farhan
Autumn Tree - By Charlotte Farhan
Autumn Tree – By Charlotte Farhan
Amman, Rainbow Street - By Charlotte Farhan
Amman, Rainbow Street – By Charlotte Farhan
Maison des ville, Grasse, France - By Charlotte Farhan
Maison des ville, Grasse, France – By Charlotte Farhan
She is a Warrior - By Charlotte Farhan
She is a Warrior – By Charlotte Farhan
With Flowers in her Hair - By Charlotte Farhan
With Flowers in her Hair – By Charlotte Farhan
Amman at Dusk - By Charlotte Farhan
Amman at Dusk – By Charlotte Farhan
Autumn Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan
Autumn Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan
Summer is Coming - By Charlotte Farhan
Summer is Coming – By Charlotte Farhan
Just to Make Your Smile - By Charlotte Farhan
Just to Make Your Smile – By Charlotte Farhan
Feeling Love - By Charlotte Farhan
Feeling Love – By Charlotte Farhan
Earth - By Charlotte Farhan
Earth – By Charlotte Farhan
Laying in Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan
Laying in Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan
Omar - By Charlotte Farhan
Omar – By Charlotte Farhan
Sitting Pretty - By Charlotte Far
Sitting Pretty – By Charlotte Farhan

 

We have already raised £750 of our £2000 target and I am so grateful for all the love and support offered.

To read about why this is so important to me and for my health please read my article on this:

Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog – Please help me have a better, more independent life.


Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog


Thank you for your support xxx

GO FUND ME - Charlotte Farhan

 

Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog – Please help me have a better, more independent life.

Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog

 

My friend, surrogate sister and colleague Lisa Reeve has very kindly started a fundraiser for me to get the assistance psychiatric dog which I desperately need so that I can live a more independent life and access more help for my sever and complex mental illnesses.

Lisa Reeve and Charlotte Farhan
Lisa Reeve and Charlotte Farhan

 

Here is what Lisa had to say:

Help us raise money for Charlotte Farhan to get a psychiatric assistance dog so that she can lead a more independent life as a sufferer of C-PTSD.

 

 

Hi I’m Lisa I am writing this having battled a long term mental health condition since childhood. I am passionate about recovery and believe in helping others and the cause.

My best friend Charlotte not only has been my rock, she has been my life line through some terrible years in which I am starting to see the light again. Unfortunately for Charlotte she suffers from C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) from sexual abuse in childhood and sexual violence and assault as a teenager, due to this Charlotte has not been able to live a “normal” life and has progressively got worse, which has led to several mental illnesses such as psychotic depression, borderline personality disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and OCD. This has meant Charlotte has no independence and has not been outside alone for over 9 years, as well as not being able to leave the house at all at times even with a carer.

I feel it is now time I give back to her some of the hope she held for me. Since being told the NHS can’t do anything more for Charlotte she has grown more isolated.

I really want to help her out of this and this is why I want to ask the world to help raise money for Charlotte to get a psychiatric service dog. Charlotte responds very positively to animals and with a dog she could in time, adapt the skills to be independent and manage her symptoms with a more fulfilled life.

As we know service dogs help people both mentally and psychically and help reduce unwanted symptoms that have a disabling impact on one’s life. Unfortunately this service is not given to people like Charlotte here in the UK, even though many places round the world do, in the UK service dogs are only given to those with psychical disabilities, children with autism and war veterans with PTSD.

We plan to take direct action with the donations raised. A puppy has already been chosen for Charlotte, a little male poodle puppy called Amadeus who is only 3 weeks old but will be ready for his forever home with Charlotte at the end of May 2016. Charlotte has a team of friends who are helping her with this as well as her husband. We have a dog behavioural trainer who is offering her time and skills, called Rebecca Smith, I shall be on hand as well as Charlotte’s other friends: Lesley and Anna, we will be helping Charlotte with exposure work and getting her used to being outside with the dog. Money raised helps towards costs for: the purchase of the puppy, veterinary care, vaccinations, a dog passport, insurance, food, leads, a dog crate, car modifications for the dog, training etc.….

Research in pet therapies reveal that a service dog can help manage symptoms by helping you feel less stressed and alone. As Charlotte spends her days working non-profit as the MD of Art Saves Lives International from home, a visual artist, the editor of ASLI Magazine, a feature writer for OTV Magazine, and she is also about to enetr her last year of her degree in Philosophy, Psychology and Creative Writing with the Open University. She is alone at home with no human contact or ability to go outside, she often feels abandoned and scared, reinforced by the fact that she cannot go outside by herself at all. She would love to be able to do what ‘ mentally able’ individuals can do and carry out simple tasks such as crossing the road and walking to the corner shop to buy milk, as well as exercising more (which will help Charlotte as a diabetic), meeting people for her charity work and as Charlotte is an artist she dreams of painting outside in the summer.

A suitable dog would be a dependable companion, helping aid her confidence and give her more freedom. Dogs are great lovers of affection and their unconditional love can help overcome self-loathing problems and inward negative thoughts.

An assistance dog would help Charlotte feel more comfortable with the idea of being able to stand closer to strangers and have more contact with others. This is a fear of Charlotte’s, brought on by her trauma, she feels unsafe and in danger around others causing extreme anxiety and emotional regulation problems. This would also positively encourage her in new situations without scanning for danger. As we know dogs are particularly vigilant and are able to assess whether this danger is real or fantasy, something Charlotte is unable to do, offering a form of logical determination and protection. The dog will also help with grounding exercises in situations that are overwhelming due to too much sensory information which will stop Charlotte from detaching as much and having debilitating anxiety attacks.

If you would like to make a donation, please follow the link HERE

GO FUND ME - Charlotte Farhan

As well as Lisa’s support, my Friend and other surrogate sister Bex Smith is a behaviourist for animals and will be doing the specific dog training needed.

Bex Smith and Charlotte Farhan
Bex Smith and Charlotte Farhan

Here is Bex’s New website: CLICK HERE

Sign up to her blog as we will be documenting the training and the story of how this will help me.

Also my amazing friend Lesley who I have been best friends with since I was 11 years old, who is like family to me, is going to be helping me with exposure work and supporting me.

Lesley Hallett and Charlotte Farhan
Lesley Hallett and Charlotte Farhan

And not forgetting the lovely Anna (we call each other brain twins) who has said she will help taking me to locations for long dog walks.

Anna Bispham and Charlotte Farhan
Anna Bispham and Charlotte Farhan

Being able to be independent is something I dream of daily. I know my neurological damage from severe trauma will mean I shall be different and neuro-diverse forever, but I also know that just because we live in a Neurotypical world that I do not have to accept this fate. I want to be as functional as possible, I am a victim who survived which is why I know I can do this.

I feel uncomfortable asking for help and am so grateful for Lisa doing this fundraiser for me, for Bex who is giving over her time to train our puppy and help me be independent, for Lesley and Anna who have agreed to help me with my exposure work, and for my husband who helps me every day in so many ways.

Together I know we can do this, I can see me and our new member of the family, Amadeus – I can see us waking side by side into our future.

Mohammed Farhan and Charlotte Farhan
Mohammed Farhan and Charlotte Farhan

We have already raised £410 out of our £2000 goal. (29/04/2016)

All the donations have been from my amazing family in Jordan and the Isle of Man, my supporters and followers from around the world and dear friends as well as some anonymous lovelies.

Thank you for your support.


Facts on Psychiatric Service Dogs

Medical Alert

Just as a dog can be trained to alert to seizures and other medical conditions, a dog can also be trained to sense the changes in a person’s body when they are beginning to have a panic attack, flash back, anxiety attack, or other psychiatric condition. The dog is able to paw at the leg of their disabled recipient and interrupt what would otherwise be a debilitating and destructive behaviour for the individual. This helps the handler to refocus on their dog and work through the problem.

Deep Pressure Therapy

Just as medical wraps are used to alleviate anxiety in persons with psychiatric conditions, dogs can be trained to put the pressure of their body weight on their handler’s lap and abdomen to physically, and then mentally relieve anxiety and induce a sense of calm.

Boundary Control

When the individual suffers from anxiety due to the close proximity of others, or due to claustrophobia in a crowded room, the dog can be trained to stand in between their handler and others to gain more personal space. The dog is not being protective, but is simply following a simple cue from their handler to move their body into the space surrounding their handler.

Corners

A frequent problem for those suffering from PTSD is to negotiate corners without the fear of what is waiting on the other side. Our dogs can be trained to go around corners in front of their handler and then alert their handler if there is someone waiting on the other side. Over time this form of therapy can assist the disabled recipient when becoming more comfortable with going into public.

Signal Alert

There are many situations when a recipient will need to excuse themselves from a classroom or meeting due to personal psychiatric concerns. With a discrete signal to the dog the handler can command his dog to paw at the leg, making it look like the dog is seeking attention. The handler is then able to comfortably leave the situation with the excuse that his dog needs to relieve itself.

Companionship

It goes without saying that any service dog’s greatest assistance is the emotional support they can offer their handler. Most disabilities present trials than can be relieved on a mental level simply by the dog’s presence. A well behaved dog can help to lower blood pressure and give a sense of ease to anyone who is near.

For further information:

C-PSTD – what is it?  http://outofthefog.website/toolbox-1/2015/11/17/complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-c-ptsd

Agoraphobia – what is it? https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help-now/anxiety-information/anxiety-disorders/agoraphobia/

Borderline Personality Disorder – what is it?http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/#.Vxd50TArLIU

Psychotic Depression – What is it?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychotic_depression

OCD – What is it? http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/#.Vxd6UzArLIU


 

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