This past year has been a rough one for me. From trying (and failing) to have a family to losing one of our best friends to cancer to multiple stays in the hospital, life has beaten us up quite a bit and my anxiety has been through the roof.
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder when I was in high school. In short, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (or GAD) is "characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things."
Yup, so it's just a whole lot of worry about a whole lot of stuff.
Day in and day out, I cope and compromise with myself and practice mental (and physical) exercise to try and keep my anxiety at bay. And most of the time, I'm successful. I can get through the day and worry like a "normal" person. I'm not paralyzed by the "what-ifs."
And then there are the other days…
The days when I am bedridden. The days when I can't think straight. The days when the possibility of failure and destruction and defeat consume my thoughts to the point where I enter into panic attacks. Panic attacks used to leave me exhausted and insecure and stalled in life — and then I met Miles.
Miles is my two and a half year old rescue dog. He's a mix (we don't know what of) and he's kind and calm and friendly and fun. He has been by my side this year as my furry companion and my friend.
He can sense my panic before I even do. The moment I start to breathe a little quicker, he's right up in my face, sniffing and staring deep into my eyes. His concern always wakes me up. He catches me before I really fall into a hole.
After my stint in the hospital, I was posted up in my bed for over a week. I was in a lot of pain and the recovery process was brutal. But there was Miles right by my side, snuggling up next to my feet, licking my face, and loving on my broken heart. He laid in bed with me and made sure that I was okay. He gave me space when I needed it (though never too far away. See below.) He brought me joy. He made me feel safe.
It's been proven that dogs can help those who are coping with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Rover wrote, "Anxiety and depression involve emotional turmoil and negative internal 'self-talk.'" Dr. Katie
Dogs help break that cycle by providing comforting companionship and a sense of purpose for their owners. Dogs can provide us with something that is often times difficult to get from other humans — unconditional love and support. They don't want us to pay them back later. They don't want us to thank them over and over. They don't play games. They don't keep score. Our pets wants us to love them. They want us to know that they love us. They are the best kind of friend — true until the end.
Miles gave me compassion and comfort and a sense of safety. He was there for me. He literally licked my tears away when I felt myself spiraling. Now, my GAD is still there. And I don't think it will ever really go away, but with Miles, it's been better. He brings a smile to my face and a glimmer of hope on the darker days. And that's all I can ask for.
Has your pet helped you through tough times? Tell us about it in the comments section.