Depression And Failure

Hello everyone. If like me you suffer from depression (and anxiety and social phobias) you will experience success and failure for many different things. Things that people without these conditions probably don’t think of in terms of success or a failure. Being able to get out the house, being able to order a drink in a pub, making a phone call.
With other things that a mentally healthy person could view themselves as succeeding or failing in, people with these conditions will often feel a disproportionate sense of shame if they fail.
Yesterday I failed in the task of adopting a rescue dog.

As you may know if you are a regular reader, three weeks ago the hubster and I adopted a Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Gibbs.

It wasn’t a decision we made lightly, we discussed it for several months before deciding to proceed, and it took another 6 weeks after to find a suitable dog and have all the checks done.
For the first two weeks he was with us we had no problems with him at all, but the last week he was a complete nightmare which led us to make the decision to return him to his foster home yesterday.

Today I am looking at the events of the past few weeks. Despite my knowledge of what happened over the past few weeks, I feel I’m very much to blame for the failure to give Gibbs a forever home. Further more I fear other people will agree the responsibility lies with me.
Am I right to feel this, or is it just the negativity of my depression talking? This is a very difficult question for me to answer. I’m a very intelligent woman (yes, even with all my lack of self confidence, I can still believe this) but find it very difficult to judge my own behaviour.

What Happened With The Dog?

I guess the first step in working out if my sense of shame is justified is to look at what actually happened with Gibbs. So here is a brief rundown of what happened.

1) When we filled in the form to apply for a dog, we explained we had a cat who lived indoors. We also said we did not want a dog with behavioral problems.

2) When we were first told about Gibbs, they said he was living in a home with two cats.

3) On our first visit to him, his foster family told us he was a quiet relaxed boy most of the time, but could get a bit ‘chopsy’ in the evenings. They attributed this to the fact that he was often left on his own during the day, and again in the evenings. They also said he was inclined to bark at dogs on the telly.

4) For the first two weeks we had him his behaviour was fine. Then one afternoon he saw a dog on TV, but instead of barking at it, he began to bark at me. I ignored him and he stopped, but it happened again several times over the course of the evening.

5) The next few days his barking got worse. He didn’t need any visual trigger on the TV, he would bark at us for no reason. This escalated to barking and growling.

6) We followed the basic training tips. Stopped him going the sofa, made him walk to heel, fed him after us. Basically asserting our own dominance over him.

7) This worked some of the time, but he was gradually becoming more aggressive. The crunch point came when the hubster came home from work one evening and Gibbs first attacked him, then went after the cat. We had to shut the cat away to prevent her getting hurt.

8) We believed the cat and ourselves were at risk of harm from him, so we made the decision, contacted the rescue society and took him back.

Am I Right To Blame Myself, And Expect Others To Do The Same?

A few years ago I did an Open University degree in psychology, so I can answer this question from a psychological viewpoint.

Two factors come into play when attributing blame. First is what psychologists call the ‘Locus of Responsibility’. This is the extent to which people think they are responsible for things that happen in their lives. At one end of the scale are people with an external locus of responsibility. They don’t believe they’re responsible for anything that happens to them (we all know someone like this, always an excuse for why things go wrong for them, never their fault).
The other end of the scale are people with an internal locus of responsibility who feel responsible for everything. If someone is unhappy it must because of something they have (or haven’t) done, if they fail at something its because of them. People with depression or anxiety often have a strong internal locus of responsibility.

I am definitely this was inclined. I think I am responsible for wrongly believing it would work having a dog and a cat living in close proximity with no easy access to the outside, I think I should have somehow been firmer with the dog, I’m responsible for giving up to quickly and in giving up am responsible for wasting so much of the hubsters hard earned money.
However it is possible I’m being a bit too hard on myself. Although I blame myself for this failure, I also look at what is written above and don’t see anything obvious I could have done differently.

A second factor about the attribution of blame is who we are judging. When looking at the actions of others people are more likely to attribute success to outside factors (he passed the test because it was really easy) and failure to personal factors (he failed the test because he didn’t study enough).

Taking this into account, I am probably correct in thinking other people will blame me for my failure to make things with Gibbs work.
This is a tough one as condemnation from other people if and when it comes will act as confirmation that my own criticisms of myself are actually valid and justified.

So in answer to the question ‘am I right to blame myself?’ my answer is a rather rubbish one, I still don’t know. This is the problem with conditions like this, you can spend hours questioning yourself, and never come to a proper answer.

Do you blame yourself whenever something doesn’t work out as you planned? What would you have done differently if you were faced with a similar situation to mine?

Scientific Fact* Anxious Dragons feed on blog comments. Please help keep this dragon well fed. Thank you Xxxx

*Possibly not true


  1. DomesticatedMomster

    October 6, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    From the perspective of a dog person…like I have had a dog in my life my entire life…I would have put a bullet in that dog’s head the first time he ever snapped at me or anything. I truly believe that when it comes to dog there are some that are just bad seeds and should be put down. I also feel this way about harmful humans but somehow humanity saves them and locks them up. Whole other topic. Anyway, I think you did was best for you and sometimes that’s how it has to be. Thank you for sharing with #momsterslink.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      October 6, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      Im not sure I would go that far (with dogs anyway). I think most dogs can find a suitable home for them providing (and this is where the charity let me, the hubster and the dog down badly) they are totally honest with the prospective adopters, and that they take the time to find suitable placements rather than ‘that will do’ placements.

      1. DomesticatedMomster

        October 6, 2015 at 7:13 pm

        It’s sad that they do this with our foster children too. Just too much corrupt in so many of our systems. But really don’t beat yourself up so much. It’s clearly not your fault.

        1. The Anxious Dragon

          October 6, 2015 at 7:19 pm

          Yeah, I could tell you some tales about the foster system in the uk myself having gone through it as a kid Xx

  2. Lewis@Dadwhoblogs

    October 3, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    In my opinion, definately did the right thing. I see many people have behaviour issues with dogs and give them up and I completley disagree with it. BUT, when it becomes a dangerous situation it is completely the right thing to do.
    Telling you not to be so hard on yourself won’t stop you from doing that but be assured by this and the many comments before me. You did the right thing for your family and that makes you a great human being

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      October 3, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Thank you. I have had an overwhelming amount of supportive comments this week, and looking at it a week on I can see we did do the right thing for not only us but the animals too. Xx

  3. Shaz Goodwin (@shazjera)

    October 3, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Our actions would have been exactly the same as you and we would have returned the dog. I don’t think you are at fault.

    We rescued a dog 8 years ago (he’s still with us) and spent many days at the rescue centre, just being with him and walking him around the dog exercise field. We had to take our cats to the rescue centre to meet him before they would consider us as a forever home. I think we got to know him quite well during that time. He wasn’t socialised and is still threatened/anxious by other dogs and still has other hang ups. I believe that time before he came to live with us was really important.

    I hope you have all recovered from the experience now!

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      October 3, 2015 at 10:22 am

      A week on we are a lot happier and relaxed, especially the cat. It was the right decision xx

      1. Shaz Goodwin (@shazjera)

        October 3, 2015 at 10:41 am

        Fabulous 🙂

  4. Becky (And Then There Were Two)

    October 2, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Aww it is not your fault – we often joke that getting a dog was harder than having the children. You can’t control it if it doesn’t want to be controlled and if it becomes aggressive then you have to react for yours and your family’s safety.
    It is not your fault for believing it would work – he was living with cats already.
    Sometimes there is no real rhyme or reason for dogs behaving differently – but you have to prioritise yourself and your family over your feelings for Gibbs. He will find his forever home – but perhaps he is just more suited to a different environment. That is not your fault and it is not his fault. It is environmental, external factors which determine that – not your treatment of, or relationship with, him xxxx

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      October 2, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      We are all far more relaxed now (especially Ziva the cat) it was the right decision Xx

  5. Kirsten Toyne

    October 2, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Rescuing an animal is never easy and you have to work out what is right for you and your circumstances. Dog that growl and bite are scary and a lot of work to retrain and sometimes that is not possible.
    I understand your explanations about self blame and of course with depression people are more prone to it anyway. I have found that looking at our individual beliefs is more helpful when dealing with self blame than just understanding the mechanism. I wrote a post on it which I can leave a link to if you would like.
    Be kind to yourself.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      October 2, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Yes, please send the link Xx

        1. The Anxious Dragon

          October 2, 2015 at 4:24 pm

          Thank you. I am going to book mark this, so I can come back to it at times when I need a reminder that im not to blame for everything Xx

  6. mummuddlingthrough

    October 1, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Oh dear, what a shame. I personally think you acted appropriately and responsibly. I understand that you will always question your judgement (god knows I’ve been there – I’m sure we can all relate in some way). Don’t beat yourself up, you tried and you did the right thing. x MMT #coolmumclub
    PS. Notice the #coolmumclub badge hasn’t worked on your posts – Abs prabs pointed out to me it had a glitch which I’m frantically trying to resolve! For now, the side bar code works – I’ve deleted the code you used xxx

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      October 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      Ah, because im using a tablet, I can only see the mobile view of your blog, minus the sidebar.

      1. mummuddlingthrough

        October 1, 2015 at 10:11 pm

        I think if you scroll down it appears underneath? Such a pain, I think its a wordpress glitch.

        1. The Anxious Dragon

          October 1, 2015 at 10:12 pm

          Ive seen people say wordpress is a bit akward with badges and stuff

          1. mummuddlingthrough

            October 1, 2015 at 10:13 pm

            It’s a headache. Off to bed I think! x

          2. The Anxious Dragon

            October 1, 2015 at 10:17 pm

            Ah, ive found it and replaced them all now Xx

          3. mummuddlingthrough

            October 1, 2015 at 10:25 pm

            Ah thanks you didn’t have to do that x x much appreciated x x

          4. The Anxious Dragon

            October 1, 2015 at 10:27 pm

            I’m a bit obsessive about these things. Have to get them right lol

  7. Laura @ Life with Baby Kicks

    September 30, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    I don’t think it was your fault at all, you specified what you could and couldn’t deal with and you were misinformed. I think if you had a dog that you “just got bored of” for want of a better word it’s a little bit different but aggression is a complete no in my book so you did the right thing. Dogs want to be good, they just need to find the right pack to fall in with #bestandworst

  8. The Blog Centre

    September 30, 2015 at 9:23 am

    It is really sad that it did not work out with Gibbs, but yes it does seem that giving him back was the best solution and the Rescue Centre can find him a home without other animals. You shouldn’t blame yourself because imagine your cat being killed whilst trying a bit longer with Gibbs
    Thanks for linking with #ShowcaseTuesday

  9. Mary @TheHeartyLife

    September 30, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Great post and I am sorry to hear that things didn’t work out how you hoped they would. I honestly don’t think that you should feel bad or blame yourself, not at all. Yes maybe the circumstances weren’t ideal, but maybe despite your pre planning the timing just wasn’t right for any of you. I have learn’t in life that often we have to go down the wrong path thinking its right to realise it was the wrong path and then we can save time and energy wondering “what if” now you know “what if we get a dog, id really like one” that the answer is, “thats not right for us right now, but perhaps in the future, under different circumstances thats a really nice goal to have”. Don’t take it from me, just life experience no quals hahaha

    I am under a lot of anxiety from the grief from loosing my daughter, I tend to see failure as something I did, I often think I have done something wrong for things to be the way the are, not sure how you break that thought pattern, but this is very motivating xx #bestandworst

  10. Sarah Howe (@RunJumpScrap)

    September 30, 2015 at 7:56 am

    No it wasn’t your fault at all. You are doing such a lovely thing adopting a dog and sometimes it doesn’t work out. I would have done exactly the same thing. Any form of aggression to your family (including animals) is just not right. Something must have been wrong with Gibbs.It is a shame but you need to feel safe at home. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst and hope you feel better about it soon xx

  11. mummyshambles

    September 29, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    You did the right thing. The dog obviously has behavioural issues. You gave it your best but you can’t ignore being attacked. You have to be realistic, not just for your sake but for the dog’s as well. It doesn’t always work out with rescue dogs. The next family might be the right family for that dog and that’s not a failing on your part. it simply means that dogs, like people, react differently in different situations and with different people. My lurcher, having been so mild mannered, now woofs her head off at any man who looks like the vet since she’s been spayed.
    Don’t give up on the idea altogether as so many dogs out there need a second chance and the right one for you is out there. Be kind to yourself and understand that you did your best but on this occasion it wasn’t to be.

    Much love X

  12. nightwisprav3n

    September 29, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    I think you did the right thing. It is tough as I have been in that position too where I’ve had to give an animal back and it’s heart breaking because I did feel that I was failing another living creature but I also knew I wasn’t the right fit for the animal. In this case, I would say that you are being too hard on yourself. I am guilty of this too though so I understand that someone telling you this and you feeling this can be two completely different things. I’m sorry the dog didn’t work out for you but the right dog will come into your life when the time comes. Visiting from #showcasetuesday

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 29, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      Thank you Xx

  13. Marie thomas

    September 29, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    It wasn’t his first home trace, there are obviously some underlying issues with that doggy 🙁 it’s not your fault xx

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 29, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Yeah I guess Xx

  14. Moipone

    September 29, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Wow I am guilty of blaming myself for weeks sometimes months until I reach a point of realization that there was nothing I could have done. You put yourself first that’s the most important thing

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 29, 2015 at 11:13 am

      Thank you Xx

  15. bustythewench

    September 29, 2015 at 8:29 am

    I think you did the right thing. This dog was not a good fit with you and your home.
    No point persevering and becoming more scared as this would escalate the situation.
    Better for you and the dog to go back to square one and have a fresh start.

    Massive hugs and much love xx

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 29, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Thank you my dear Xx

  16. bumbismom

    September 29, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Tough situation. Hugs my friend.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 29, 2015 at 6:08 am

      Thank you my dear Xx

  17. Tracey

    September 29, 2015 at 12:39 am

    Here’s what I think.
    When it comes to adopting an animal, all bets are off. I don’t we are being fair to judge ourselves or anyone else when it comes to something as unpredictable and often volatile as a rescue dog.
    Lord knows we have the best intentions. We want to do right by this poor animal, we want to give it a better life. Of course we want that, but let’s be real, people! It’s a dog! A rescue dog at that!
    They need the kind of expert care that people like us need with therapy and medication! So we shouldn’t beat ourselves up so damn much bc we aren’t the dog whisperer, not a dog specialist, or trainer or expert. We are just people trying to be good people for good animals.
    So the right thing to do in your situation was to return the dog to its foster home, so that they may find a better home better suited for this particular dog. That’s why foster homes exist.
    Does that mean you suck as a human being? No! Does it mean you can never try to adopt another dog? Of course not! It is very admirable that you tried as hard as you did with this dog.
    Don’t be so hard on yourself. It wasn’t a good fit. Period. Maybe try again sometime! You’re a good person!!!!

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 29, 2015 at 6:07 am

      Thank you xx

    2. The Anxious Dragon

      September 29, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Thanks. I think we will probably not try again, as I really wouldnt want to upset our little cat any more Xx

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