I have an Emotional Support Animal.
I was signed off by my physician to register her because I deal with depression and anxiety & panic attacks. It’s mostly the anxiety attacks that I need her around for, but she and Diego both keep me level headed on the low days with my depression.
The first time I encountered a major depressive episode I had no idea that was what was happening. My grandmother passed away when I was 12 and I no longer understood life. I remember hearing her scan through music on her radio in her bedroom while my cousin and I played cards across the hall in the living room’s entryway. We were less than 25 feet from her bed. My father went in to check on her. An ambulance came. My cousin and I watched as she was rapidly wheeled out of her room on a stretcher hooked to oxygen and an I.V.
I remember holding my cousin as she sob. I remember her screaming in pain when we heard our grandmother wasn’t going to come back. I clutched her as I watched my Grandfather cry. The family was shattered. My cousin’s sobbing echoed through the house as I staid silent, still, and collapsed.
I don’t remember much of what happened for almost two years. I began to come out of the fog of depression when I was 14. By then I had spent a summer as a student ambassador, graduated from the private Catholic school, and moved to the giant public school closest to be to attend Jr. High and High school. My memories of those two years are scattered and shattered pieces.
I believe friends were what pulled me out of it back then.
But ever since then, I’ve learned to function with the cesspool of tar-like depression spilling around me. I walk a stony path in life. Sometimes it takes all of my effort to concentrate on each step; wobbly yet specific. I don’t want to fall. Other times the path feels like it’s a foot ball field wide and I can sprint along without any fear of the edges splashing onto me. There have been a handful of times that I’ve fallen from the path, or been dragged into it, and it has taken a cosmic act of will to climb back out.
I never climbed out alone. There was help on the path.
My anxiety attacks started after my mother’s horse riding accident. We were riding out of a horse camp together to run another trail. She slipped from her saddle and hit her head on a slate rock. I was the first person at her side. The horses obeyed my verbal and physical cues. I had to make a split decision...
She was face down in a growing puddle of blood. I had to turn her to the side so she wouldn’t aspirate blood. When I did I saw blood coming from her nose, mouth, ears, and eyes. I held her still as other people came running up. Everything was a blur. I remember running and screaming for people to call 911. I remember the helicopter couldn’t land because the camp was too far into the woods. I remember chasing the ambulance in my parent’s car to a baseball field in the nearest town. Eric Clapton’s “You Look Wonderful Tonight” played on the radio and the length of the song was how long the drive took. I remember sleeping in the hospital. I remember living out of the R.V. for a week or so. I remember the fights between doctors and family. I remember being sent back home, alone, to manage things.
Every now and then I still have the same nightmares.
Personally, I believe once the mind breaks in a certain way it never forgets that process of thinking. The negativity roots down hard and forever alters brain chemistry. I had an anxiety attack so bad while at one of my jobs I passed out in the bathroom. A customer found me laying in a stall.
My panic attacks are a result of PTSD from a relationship gone very wrong.
All three of these things are different functions and reactions of my brain. I try to control them, but sometimes life is too much and the path sinks into the tar and I have no where to go except to wade through it until I find new stones to step up onto. The latest round of a major depressive episode was instantly accompanied by panic and anxiety attacks. I needed constant companionship and had no one available to always be with me 24/7.
Please do not misunderstand - I had a handful of phenomenal friends stay with me and keep an eye on me. They checked in often and kept me talking through the anxiety attacks and calmed me down when I was panicking and trying to run away. But people could not be at my side constantly; an ESA could. I had adopted a kitten right before things turned south and I was looking at registering her vs. Diego, my senior kitty. (Diego has acted as emotional support since day one. However; I never exposed him to traveling or public spaces in a way registered ESAs are allowed to be in. He is set in his ways and I love him exactly as he is. He is my introverted side and my familiar.)
My Kitten passed away suddenly while she was being spayed.
This sent me into a tailspin.
Then I found Nova.
And she was perfect.
I waited for her and the woman who allowed me to adopt her was ( and still is) an angel in disguise.
Nova is perfect.
She is the best dog for me. Her temperament, personality, size, energy, etc. are my match. She is extroverted in a similar way that I am. I stay calm with her around. I savor moments more. I have less extreme emotions and make better decisions.
She isn’t a year old yet, but she has transformed my life so much already. I will be grateful all of my life for having the opportunity to raise her and have her as my fluffy curly tailed companion.