Friendships as an Adult

According to WikipediaFriendship is a relationship of mutual affection between people.[1] Friendship is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association. ” According to Dr. Suzanne Degges-White “Friendships require reciprocity – of admiration, respect, trust, and emotional and instrumental support.” Finding friends when you’re younger seems easier, you have a classroom full of possibilities, peers to play with on the playground and within days you have a new friend.

From this How Stuff Works article “Friendships develop as each person reveals a little bit more about herself and the ‘friend-in-the-making’ matches the self-disclosure with disclosures of her own. It’s how trust is built between people – through mutual sharing of increasingly intimate or personal information,” says Degges-White. In fact, research has revealed that it takes about 50 hours’ worth of face time for a mere acquaintance to become a casual friend, then 90 hours to upgrade to the status of a standard friend. Then, it takes about 200 additional hours of interaction for a “close friendship” to develop!”

It’s no wonder why finding friends as an adult is so much more challenging, 200 hours is a long time when you have a family and full time job. For me, personally, I think it’s less time. I have found a group of several ladies who I consider my tribe and another whom I met who fostered my service dog. They are women that I trust, whom I feel safe sharing information about my life without being judged, who will not tell my story to other people. For them, I will be a fiercely loyal friend, I will hold their secrets in my heart and never betray them. I will offer advice from my personal experiences and help them however I can. In return, I expect the same level of loyalty and trust, a place I can be myself without judgement or fear of them sharing my personal story to people outside of the friendship.

At the same time, friendships with a chronic illness makes everything a bit more difficult. There are days when I have to cancel or withdraw because my body and brain betray me. When I need someone to understand that I am having a bad day or that my words aren’t working and but still need a safe, non-judgmental space.

From the same How Stuff Works article, close friends are  “the people you trade secrets with. Degges-White elaborates: ‘There’s not just a strong level of trust between these friends, there’s also a whole lot of unconditional regard and affinity. You may not like a close friend’s choices, but you’d defend her right to make them.'”

Best friends are the greatest friends, “”Best friends are the rarest type of friend and the kind of friend that we all need to have in our lives. It’s the friend who gets you without you having to explain yourself. It’s the type of friend who loves you no matter what,” Degges-White says. And they’re not necessarily people you talk to every day. “You might go weeks or months without connecting, but when you do re-connect, it’s as if no time has passed at all.” I have two of these, my husband and a woman whom I have known since I was 16.

The Training of MY Service Dog

People always ask me how long it took to train my service dog. Before answering that question I always be sure to let them know that I was NOT the one to train him. Freedom Service Dogs (FSD) did all the hard work to get him ready for me and I am always sure to tell people that first.

Training of a service dog is tricky, how long it takes depends on the dog (their learning ability) and the person (the tasks required). From my understanding, FSD adopted my dog from New Mexico when he was about 8 months old. He was the only dog for one trainer so she worked with him every day, 5 days a week. He then went home with his foster mom on the weekends who reinforced his tasks before going back to work the next Monday.

Training requires consistency, really exciting treats and minimal distraction when learning a new task. Once the task is understood through action and command, distractions can be brought in to ensure commands can be followed under different circumstances.

My service dog came ready with a lot of commands, easy as sit or as complicated as helping me off of the floor. People are most excited when he picks his leash up off the floor and brings it to me, every dog should come with that one it’s very handy.

He practices all of his tasks every few weeks if they are not ones I use daily or frequently to make sure he practices them. He also has to learn one new task a year. This keeps him busy, learning and not bored. The new task he learns can be a useful command or a fun one, as long as it is something new.

I am the one that teaches him the new commands each year so it helps us both, connecting and using our brains. The first year I taught him “kisses” because his foster mom, whom I am now friends with, said he never gave kisses. I started teaching him this by using his “touch” command and touching my cheek so he would touch his nose to my cheek. Sometimes he still only gives kisses with his nose instead of a lick but I respect that, I would not want to be forced to give a kiss every time someone told me to. Once he touched his nose to my cheek I would press the button on the clicker and give him a treat. Once he had that down then I used the command “kisses” while pointing to my cheek and repeating that with the clicker and treats. Eventually the command alone was all that was needed and he knew what to do.

Some tasks are a bit more complicated to teach, for me anyhow. “Scooch” was something we say when we want him to move his butt a little but not actually get up and move his whole body (this is mostly used at bedtime because he sleeps next to me in case I need him). Since I am frequently asked if he can shake that was the task he learned this year. For us it was putting his paw in my palm, saying the command and pressing the clicker, followed by a treat. Eventually we both figured it out. He likes the easy tasks because it’s a quick way to get a treat.

For more complicated things, like some PTSD tasks, we get to work with a trainer at FSD who helps walk us through what it looks like. At the start, she took Oak and was working with him so I could just see, she was less stressed out about the situation then I was so he was able to focus completely on her. Since I live locally to Freedom it makes it really easy for me to get the extra help I need when it. (I am not getting anything from FSD for writing this blog.) I love Freedom Service Dogs, what they do and their ability and desire to help the service dog/client teams to succeed in life. They are amazing and I can never say enough good things about them.

Update on Stem Cells

My first post on this page was about the stem cells I got for my MS. It’s a very expensive process and a personal choice because as of right now it still is not approved in the US so insurance does not cover it.

Ideally you have this procedure, you see improvement and you don’t have to do it again. Looking back I realize that the stem cells probably gave me a boost in energy during the first few months in addition to the other pleasant changes.

15 months later though I am seeing decline in the changes I originally saw. Whether this is due to my MS re-damaging the areas or what I am not sure. I am not a scientist, though I do love my research.

Originally, before my stem cells I hadn’t been able to feel my feet for nearly three years and then less than a week after the stem cells my feet magically reappeared, at least that’s how it felt. I also had moderate back pain in my spine since 1999 or 1998, honestly it was 20 years ago so I am not sure anymore, that was gone as well.

I thought this back pain was from the first car accident I was in but now that the pain is coming back after being gone for almost a year I am wondering if it is actually from the lesion on my spinal cord in the same area. I know I have an old lesion there because they told me that’s probably the reason I had severe MS “hugs” for several months in 2011.

That’s the kicker, so much money spent, so much hope put in because the pain was gone for the first time in 20 years and now, after a little more than a year it’s coming back. The feeling in my feet is slowly going away too. There is still enough there at the moment that I can sense them, but enough lost that I know what’s coming.

Would I do it all over again knowing? Probably, if I had to do it all over, it was a nice break from pain while I had it. Though I feel terrible that support I received to pay for the procedure ended up not being long term.