Animals are my therapy
Sharing our personal journeys to start conversations about mental health helps to break down the stigma and eradicate any misconceptions.
The complexity of mental health problems can be difficult to understand without experience. I reiterate that this is based on my own experience, we all see the world through a different pair of eyes.
I have endured the ups and downs of different services over the past few years, but animals are my therapy. My four-legged friends provide more comfort and happiness than any therapy or groups ever could. I ultimately found a goat herd that turned my life around. I became the girl I dressed up as in primary school for world book day- Heidi.
So here I am one year later, with my own Golden Guernsey herd, writing this blog post to show that there are alternative therapeutic paths of recovery.
”Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis” Brené Brown.
My English teacher once told me that my perfectionism is a double-sided sword. Numbers became my only focus in life, I needed 100% in exams and for the number on the scale to drop to feel like I had a purpose because I could not let myself fail. This instilled the anxiety of being unable to do anything but revise, surely sleep was an unnecessary waste of time? I could not even step foot in a classroom, so a rational mind can see that this drive for so called success was illogical.
Maisie, my terrier, would be disregarded by breeders as one of her ears sticks out. I would argue that it is a unique characteristic that makes her adorable. She will never be triumphant at Crufts, but her imperfections give her character- I do not condone the practice of gluing a puppy’s ears.
”Escape and breathe the air of new places”
The change of scenery from four walls and a pile of revision, to picturesque open spaces is an immense stress reliever. My mind focused on the present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I know how impossible it feels to get out of bed in the depth of depression, your mind warps the world outside of your bedroom into something threatening and sinister. An escape. I could have the freedom of being outside without the daunting aspects of social areas.
”I reached out my hand and found a paw”
Animals show you what unconditional love is. If you are kind, then they will not hurt you. Their inability to speak means they can’t say the wrong thing, as in a fragile frame of mind, people can walk on egg shells. They are company when you cannot spend time with people and they diminish the overwhelming feeling of loneliness. My four terriers never left my bed, I have spent days, weeks, months unable to leave the house with a reminder that I mattered when I was woken up by a dog scratching to open my door to sit with me. Animals give people a reason to live because they reconstruct your decaying self worth. When maintaining human relationships is a rocky road, the bond with our pets remains unscathed. For me, my dogs were a constant in a very turbulent world.
”Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create”
Caring for animals gives you a sense of achievement that is not a graded % or measured in kilograms, but wagging tails and kisses. The healing is mutual. For some eating disorder sufferers, the fixation on declining numbers is a desperate grasp onto a form of validation. Therefore, in order to begin to let go, having another constructive release for the drive to succeed, is paramount. Simultaneously with my childhood favourite story, my aspirations of becoming a vet re-emerged. The prospect of being responsible for difficult cases with challenging complexities and succeeding makes for an extremely fulfilling life. You cannot be a successful vet with your head buried in a textbook 24/7 and controlling large animals requires strength, it helped me to restore a healthy balance again.I would never shut my dogs in a dark room without food and water for days, and take their company away from them. So animals teach us to be kinder to ourselves as well as establishing a daily routine.