One Cannot Endure Mental Illness Alone
I’m Lucky to Have the Support of my Human and Furry Family
*Disclaimer: the large dog is in the kennel because he’s very sick and we needed to minimize his activity level.
Living with mental illness isn’t easy. Besides being painful, frustrating, and confusing, it’s disruptive and unpredictable. You never know how your day is going to go when you wake up in the morning and no two days are the same.
This may not seem much different than the average person without mental illness dealing with the unexpected flat tire, traffic jamb, or bad day at the office. But it is different. These types of inconvenient incidences are more difficult to handle for someone with mental illness. And it’s more than that.
For example, today I began my day like every other day. I took my medication, gave the dogs their medication, and then fed them. I put last night’s dishes in the dishwasher and sponged down the counters, sink, and appliances as usual.
As I ascended the stairs to take a shower, I was suddenly overcome and overwhelmed with sadness. My breathing increased and tears spilled from my eyes like a waterfall. Before I could get to the tissues to blow my nose, I was openly sobbing. It was a gut-wrenching sob, as though someone had died. I don’t know why I was beyond upset and I couldn’t stop.
I crawled back into bed and the dogs rallied around me. One began licking the tears off my face. I held her tight as I soaked her fur with tears. About twenty minutes later, my crying was reduced to sniffles and my breathing returned to normal.
Hours later, I still don’t know what caused this. Since this happens a lot, it’s unlikely I’ll ever know what causes these sudden outbursts of tears and sadness. All I know is, it’s all part of my mental illness and my faulty wired brain. When it happens, there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it. I’m at the mercy of my condition and can only wait for it to pass.
I’ve tried every technique in every book I’ve read and those I’ve learned in outpatient classes. Sometimes I am successful in preventing a panic attack, but that’s because with those I have some warning. I don’t know what to call this type of incident, but nothing I’ve tried works.
My husband has a full-time job and is gone all day. Sometimes he works overtime and is gone even longer than expected. I am at home all day by myself until he comes home from work. I’m agoraphobic and only leave the house to attend doctor and psychiatric appointments.
I am enormously grateful to our dogs who follow me around the house and lay wherever I’m at. I’m especially grateful when I’m in crisis and they sit at my feet, on my lap, or in my arms. Without them, I would likely not be here, as I could not go through this alone so often.
Whatever the requirements are to become a licensed therapy dog, I’ll bet our dogs would pass with flying colors just from being around me. Stating that does make me feel guilty, as they have their own illnesses and I can’t help but wonder if I’m taking away from their quality of life. I play with them every day and they seem fine and frisky, but I still worry about the effect my mental illness might have on them.
I spoke to our veterinarian about my concern and he stated the only way I could hurt our dogs would be if I verbally or physically abused them, and I certainly don’t do that. He went on to say that dogs aim to please. If licking up my tears and letting me hug them makes me happy, it makes them happy. He’s been a vet for a very long time and I trust his judgment, so I guess I’ll have to take his word on this issue.
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My husband and I began rescuing dogs over 20 years ago. They are our furry family and we do everything we can to help fill their lives with love, health, and happiness. We rescue the old, sick, unwanted, damaged, and on death row. Each special soul we save changes us and remains in our hearts long after they’re gone. I am an aspiring indie-author and also create and sell jewelry and metal bookmarks and we have a Go Fund Me campaign (https://www.gofundme.com/tr796d-dog-haven?member=1560512 ) open in hopes of raising money to help pay for their veterinarian expenses.