Charlotte Farhan is a local resident who suffers from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of child abuse and sexual assault, which has left her agoraphobic and unable to leave the house alone for nine years. Here, Charlotte writes about why her best friend Lisa started a crowdfunding campaign for a psychiatric assistance dog, Amadeus, how he might change her life, and the many friends who support her.
My friend, surrogate sister and colleague Lisa Reeve (see right) has very kindly started a fundraiser to get me psychiatric assistance dog, Amadeus (see main image). Amadeus will help me live a more independent life and enable me to access more help for my severe and complex mental illnesses.
In her crowdfunder, Lisa explained why she started the campaign and what she hopes I will get from life with Amadeus.
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.
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 a MD of Art Saves Lives International from home and is alone, 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 abled’ individuals can do and carryout simple tasks such as crossing the road and walking to the corner shop to buy milk, as well as exercising more, meeting people for her charity work and as Charlotte is a visual 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.
You can read more about the campaign and donate over at our GoFundMe page.
My friend and other surrogate sister, Bex Smith (pictured right), is a behaviourist for animals and will be doing the specific dog training that Amadeus needs. You can find out more about Bex and follow our story over at her website. We will be documenting the process of training Amadeus as an assistance dog and will be sharing the story of how he will help me.
Another person supporting me is my amazing friend Lesley (pictured left), who I have been best friends with since I was 11 years old. Lesley is like family to me, and is going to be helping me with exposure work.
Exposure work is a type of therapy commonly used to treat PTSD and involves exposing the sufferer to the situations or things they are scared of in a safe way, in order to overcome their phobia or anxiety.
My friend Anna – we call each other brain twins – has also said she will help me by taking me to places for long dog walks with Amadeus.
Being able to be independent is something I dream of daily. I know my neurological damage from severe trauma will mean I’ll be different and neuro-diverse forever, but I also know that just because we live in a neurotypical world, 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 walking side by side into our future.
Thank you for your support. We’ve raised over £600 in the first two weeks of our campaign. I’d love it if you can help us spread the word and share our campaign with your friends on social media.
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.
You can find out more about psychiatric assistance dogs below.
Facts on Psychiatric Assistance Dogs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Main image credit: Charlotte Farhan.