A Guide Dog for Nightmares

Health Information Lifestyle


When Grace French got her new puppy, Bentley, she began training him right away, but not the usual tricks. “I wanted to teach him to wake me up from nightmares,” she said.

At the center of her troubled dreams was the Olympic doctor Lawrence G. Nassar, one of the most notorious sexual predators of our time. Ms. French, a classically trained ballerina and college student at the time, had recently come to realize a terrible truth: Mr. Nassar had abused her as a child, while pretending to treat her.

The realization that her “treatments” were actually abuse came two years ago this week, when dozens of women stood and confronted Mr. Nassar in a stunning courtroom takedown, sending him to prison for the rest of his life. Ms. French watched online as the women told stories that mirrored her own, helping her to recognize that he had preyed on her, too.

But her acceptance of the truth brought a dark new phase — a spiral of flashbacks and nightmares, with Mr. Nassar emerging from the darkness, ghoulish and pale, saying he needed to “treat” her. “I would wake up and feel like he was coming out of the shadows in the room,” she said. “It was like a blurring of reality.”

The nightmares started coming so often, she could barely sleep, and she struggled to stay awake in class during the day.

An acquaintance who trains support dogs for military veterans suggested that she get a puppy to help her move forward. The trainer volunteered to help coach the dog. Ms. French embraced the idea.

“I always wanted a dog of my own,” she said, recalling how she had grown up with a beloved family dog in Michigan. And perhaps, she thought, a dog could help her get through those dark nights.

ImageGrace French with Bentley
Credit...Judy Walgren

That’s when Bentley, a black-and-white springer spaniel and poodle mix, came into her life.

I first met Ms. French around this time, when I was working on a book about the young women who took Larry Nassar down. She was among many women who told me they had a hard time accepting the truth about their trusted doctor. Mr. Nassar was a master predator, with nearly three decades of experience in abusing young girls.

He zoomed in on Ms. French in 2007, when she went to see him for a schoolyard wrist injury at age 12. He was a renowned professor and doctor at Michigan State University, as well as the doctor for the U.S.A. Gymnastics national team and Olympic team.

Ms. French, an avid ballet student who loved the beauty and poetry of dance, was wowed by photos of Olympians on the wall of his office, girls with beaming smiles and gleaming medals. “My goal was to be on his wall,” she said.

She continued to see him for dance injuries throughout her teenage years, at the Michigan State sports medicine clinic and in the basement of the venue where her dance troupe performed. The “treatments” made her deeply uneasy, but she trusted him; she was a kid, and he was the Olympic doctor. She thought he could keep her healthy, as she dreamed of dancing professionally one day.

While many young girls didn’t realize they were being abused, some did, and they told coaches, counselors, even the police. For decades, the girls were dismissed and disbelieved.

Mr. Nassar manipulated everyone around him, including the parents of his patients. One of his tactics was to have an unknowing parent in the room while he abused the child, strategically blocking the parent’s view. The child would think everything must be O.K. because Mom or Dad was there.

That’s what happened to Ms. French.

When she got her puppy, she began training him to help her get beyond all that. She worked with the trainer on the weekends, and together, they taught Bentley to sense when she was having a nightmare so he could wake her up. “I had to fake the nightmares,” Ms. French said, to help the dog learn when to give her a push with a paw and a lick to the face.

Later she and the trainer added another layer, teaching Bentley to do a sweep of the apartment, to help Ms. French feel safe after waking from a nightmare. To train him, she said, “We hid treats around the apartment and said, ‘Go find the treats!’ We put the treats around the perimeter so he’d go to all the corners.”

During the six months of training, the nightmares began to fade. Bentley, meanwhile, started to recognize other times of stress when he could help. He grew into a loyal emotional support dog.

“He knows when I’m anxious,” Ms. French said, noting that when she takes part in online therapy sessions, Bentley “senses my anxiety and comes running upstairs; he sits with me and helps me calm down.” Bentley also comes bounding if she says the word “lap,” she said. “He knows to sit in my lap, and I can give him a hug.”

The emotional upheaval Ms. French experienced is common for survivors of child abuse.

“Most kids who are sexually abused do not realize it until they’re older, especially if the abuser is a caretaker,” said Shari Botwin, a New Jersey-based therapist and author of the book “Thriving After Trauma.” The realization, when it comes, is devastating.

PropellerAds

“You feel like your whole world is falling apart,” Ms. Botwin said. “One of many struggles people face is that they don’t want to know the truth; they go into denial and fight with themselves to accept it. They lose trust in themselves, and in everyone else.”

Memories typically come back in fragments — in flashbacks, dreams and “body memories,” the physical sensations experienced at the time of the abuse, Ms. Botwin said. “As people start to remember, it’s like it just happened.”

Support dogs are among many ways people seek help. “Some people turn to yoga, or singing or writing. Therapy isn’t enough; you need a way to support yourself between sessions, for those times when you start to question yourself.” A dog, Ms. Botwin said, also “gives people something to take care of, to nurture, which can help them move forward.” Healing takes time. “The process of recovery is lifelong for most, but the process of struggling is not lifelong. You can work through the worst of the feelings and reclaim the things you lost.”

Ms. French, now 24, recently told me that she has come a long way in the past two years.

She has founded an advocacy group, The Army of Survivors, which educates communities and students about the effects of abuse and how to help someone in need, in addition to pushing for laws to protect survivors. She runs the group with the help of fellow survivors who came together from across the decades — from the beginning of the Nassar saga to the end. The group holds workshops and presentations, and enlists college students as campus ambassadors at schools across the Midwest.

Her activism has inspired other survivors to speak about their abuse and begin their own path toward healing. “I’ve had quite a few people come forward and disclose to me,” she said. Using her experience to help others is aiding in her own recovery, and motivating her to continue her work.

“It’s been a beautiful butterfly ripple effect,” she said. “One of the biggest parts of my healing has been taking control of my story. It’s my time. It’s my time to move forward. He can’t control me anymore.”

Abigail Pesta is an award-winning investigative journalist and the author of “The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/well/mind/a-guide-dog-for-nightmares.html, GO TO SAUBIO DIGITAL FOR MORE ANSWERS AND INFORMATION ON ANY TOPIC

Please follow and like us: Share This Post




Take a look at our comprehensive guide to the best and most popular information ebooks and products available today on Detoxing, Colon Cleansing, Weight Loss and Dating and Romance. They are all in one spot, easy to find and compere to make a quick selection for the product that best fits your needs or wants.

So browse through a category and make your  preferred selection and come back here to read  more choice articles and get a few more helpful tips on ways to help your enhancement.



Detoxing Reviews

Best Body Detoxification Guides & reviews





Colon Cleanse Reviews

Best Colon Cleanse Guides & Reviews





Weight Loss Ebook Reviews

Weight loss products really work! Click here





Dating and Romance Ebook Reviews

Looking for Dating Guides? Click here





Free Traffic System - Increase Targeted Website Traffic with Free Unlimited One Way Links

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. “saubiosaubiosuccess.com is a participant in third party affiliate and advertising programs; The Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and other affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees and commissions by advertising and linking to products on other sites and on Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Saubio's Promo Tools

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. “saubiosaubiosuccess.com is a participant in third party affiliate and advertising programs; The Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and other affiliate advertising programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees and commissions by advertising and linking to products on other sites and on Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.”