A Helpful Companion

As I look and research about different treatments and additions to my current antidepressant, I have stumbled upon an idea is not necessarily conventional.

Last week before finals, I was lucky enough to be in the commons area when the university was holding a “Pet the Stress Away” event, local owners bringing in their dogs for students to play and pet. Boy, was I a happy person that day. One dog was just a little puff ball who just sat on my lap without a care in the world. I was so tempted to take him with me.

Right then not only did I remember how much I love animals, but I also realized how much I might benefit from always having one with me. In this case, a pet might be called an Emotional Support Animal, or ESA. Rather than a seeing eye dog or therapy animal, an ESA is certified for those who have mental illness or any emotional need that an outside source of comfort can provide, no drugs required.

Obviously when I’m on my own, I plan on having dogs. And research proves time and time again that pets are amazing for your health, physical and emotional, so it makes sense that those with mental illness might enjoy having that emotional stability without worrying about the side effects of testing out different medications. Unless you count a side effect as feeding a dog or taking it out during the day.

You also have to go into a mental health professional to verify that an animal provides you emotional support, which makes sense. If you can take an animal with you into public places, even an airplane, then it better be for a good reason. Because I have just come across this as an option, when I’ve seen somebody with an animal in public, I automatically wonder, “What is wrong with them? Why do they need a dog if they can see?” Ah, how blind of me.

If I had my way, I would probably require everyone to have a pet in their life. Even if it isn’t certified for any purpose, having that companionship and love is one of the most rewarding and comforting feelings imaginable. Although I cannot wait to travel the world in the future, I don’t want to be too mobile to the point that having a pet isn’t practical. That is where my motherly instincts are drawn. A creature with four paws and a tail. Many of them.

So while I might not necessarily go into the process of certifying a dog for emotional support, they are therapy enough to be there when I need it. A living being who has nothing but unconditional love for me. Who doesn’t see me for my struggles. Obviously having people who think that way about you, too, is also great, but there’s something I find magical about animals.

The role pets can play in people’s lives should not be overlooked or discredited. It’s not like it’s a pseudoscience or some radically different treatment. The extra work put into taking care of them is worth it. If having a pet either at home or with you at all times brings you the support you need, utilize it. The rest of us need to realize that an animal can provide help beyond just sight or sniffing for drugs. As fellow living beings on this planet, we are meant to live among one another. If we show them respect, they will give it back. Just like any other person you meet on the street.

If you are under the impression that mental illness is something that only requires a single medication, some counseling, or “a positive attitude,” it’s time to open your eyes. Just like other physical ailments, people go to different methods of coping and treatment that might be new or quite different. If that method helps, it’s worth it. The fact that is might require another being constantly around to work, then so be it. If anything, having an ESA around at all times is equivalent to taking a medication in the morning to have the effects working throughout the day. A dog is certainly more visible, but it serves the same purpose. While I am grateful for modern medicine, if there’s any way we can sometimes lessen on dependency on medications, especially those that may be accompanied by the side effects we may tolerate in order to feel somewhat better.

I don’t know if an ESA is something I will pursue, but I’m certainly keeping it in the back of my mind while I consider my options. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help me feel my very best. I deserve it. The people around me deserve it. After last Thursday when I had many dogs roaming around, just wanting love and attention, I was on a ridiculous high. If that’s a feeling I can have on a regular basis, I could not imagine how amazing my life would be.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


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