It has been a tough week. Denial and his sidekicks, Minimalization and Rationalization were running around my office getting in everyone’s head. Those scoundrels wreak havoc wherever they go. Denial whispers prettily, “Why go for that mammogram? You feel fine and it hurts sooo much!”. Minimalization coos gently, “It is not abuse if he only slapped you once!”. And Rationalization explains it away, like you are a child, “Silly you, he does drugs because he had such a rough childhood!”

I work to thwart this trio of bandits at every turn, but they dig in their heels. Meanwhile, they slowly dismantle someone’s well-being, self-confidence and even safety. These three “coping mechanisms” are the nemesis of happiness. By seducing us into believing “their story”, they prevent us from making healthy choices and moving ahead.

Life wreckers.

I am perplexed and frustrated. I cannot seem to figure out how they do it; get such a grip and cling so tenaciously.

Then, as has happened before, my answers come from my dog.

So, Sadie’s had some stomach trouble in the past. The Vet has talked to me about “the long-term plan” and further testing. I have to admit, I thought she was over-cautious. After all, I am not a first-time dog owner and every dog gets an upset stomach now and then. True, not to the point where they have needed an IV or hospitalization. But I know plenty of people who had a one time “episode” that never reoccurred. I apply that “logic” to this situation. (Hear them acting up? “Logic” is the cover story for Denial, Minimalization and Rationalization and I don’t even see it!)

Then, on Friday morning, when Sadie seemed a little off, refusing food, I assumed a good walk would stimulate her appetite. When I scooped up her “mess” in the plastic baggy, it was filled with blood. Lightheadedness squashed Minimalization on the spot. However, on the ride to the Vet, Rationalization showed up and explained, “Relax, this was just a nervous stomach response because you gave her a bath and she hates baths.” Oh, good. The Combo Special- Rationalization brought along a side of Blame. Guilt cannot be far behind.

So, they admitted Sadie, hooked up the IV lines and again we were discussing possible diagnoses and recommended tests and an overnight stay at the emergency clinic. NOOOO. I do not want this to be true.

Denial, wait! Don’t leave me!

Then it became clear. Denial helps us avoid what we don’t want to be true. BIG things. Things that will change our lives. Things that may threaten our lives. Or the lives of people or animals we love. This week, Denial was everywhere, because some truths were just too painful to accept at that moment.

From the outside looking in, Denial is dangerous. But from the inside looking out, it feels like Denial was my best friend. Denial kept me from worrying and from facing the fact that something might be very wrong with this sweet rescue dog who is just two years old and has already faced such hard times. But Denial could also keep me from getting her the care she needs. And there is the truth, Denial IS dangerous!

Overnight Friday, between calls to the Vet, I spent time saying good bye to Denial. It kept coming back- like gum on my sneaker, the sticky feeling remained. But by morning I had pulled free of Denial. In its wake, Worry and Sadness rolled in. I am not too fond of them either. But they are real and I can do something about them. I can research, get her the care she needs, be vigilant and deal honestly and whole heartedly with what may be in the future.

Sometimes though, the heart needs more time to accept what the mind already knows.


 © 2018 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC, LLC is a psychotherapist and addictions counselor in private practice for over 30 years. She is located in Farmington, CT. Her book From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Women’s Journey through Divorce, first published in 2004 won honorable mention from the Independent Publisher Association and continues to resonate with women experiencing the loss of their marriage.





  1. Loriann on the 23. Mar, 2018 remarked #

    I’m so sorry about Sadie. I will be sending you positive energy and hopes for strength and wisdom. I still haven’t recovered from your blog “A Frog Named Loss” about your Joey. I lost my “Tripp” after 16.5 years in April 2016, shortly before that post. He was from Border Collie Rescue and was my heart. That blog paralyzed me, but it was perfect. I could never drum up the strength to comment at that time but now I can…even with a lump in throat and pain in my heart.

    I had struggled with Tripp’s aging and health issues and swore I would never be in Denial because, as you state, Denial is dangerous and I never wanted it to keep me from getting him the care he needed. Instead, when Tripp turned 14 – at the same time those heart wrenching Subaru commercials about the 14 year old dog’s bucket list – Ouch!!, I became hyper vigilant. I watched every rise and fall of his chest, zoned in on any possible odd behavior, brought him to the vet at every sign of distress – even when it wasn’t warranted. I doubled up on his walks, treats, pets, and so much love, and made every day all about him. I did that for nearly 3 years… trying to prepare for the inevitable at every turn. Never knowing if today was his last day. His quality of life was wonderful until the end.

    I still don’t cope with his loss very well, but I am hoping for healing and peace at some point. Maybe this will be the year.

    Thank you for your postings. It is always helpful to read them… especially when they are about a pet. Wishing for a positive outcome for Sadie and you.

    Kind regards,


    • Donna Ferber on the 23. Mar, 2018 remarked #

      Thank you for you thoughtful post. One of the things Joey taught me to do, was to live in the moment. Dogs are never wondering,”what’s for dinner?”, or “where will we walk today?”, They live totally in the present.
      Now with Sadie, as I am past the denial, I also am aware I can become hyper vigilant allowing anxiety to cloud my joy of this wonderful sweet dog.
      It is difficult- holding the place between denial and catastrophe. It is the sweet spot of awareness and presence. Always checking in to make sure I am not veering to far out of the zone, but as you know, it is not easy. But I can’t enjoy her when I am anxiety filled and I can’t take care of her in denial.
      They teach us so much about life.
      Tripp was lucky to have you. May his memories bring you comfort.

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