My dog saved my life. I know that’s going to be hard to comprehend. He didn’t physically rescue me from some natural disaster or chase of intruders trying to break into my home. He might not be a hero in the traditional sense, but to me, my dog is my hero. It’s because of my dog that I’m still standing and living today.
But how you might be asking yourself.
Well, that story starts before he was ever born. I was standing on a platform in London thinking about how the tube was so hot, and that people were pushing me to get into a transportation device, I loathed more than anything in this world. It wasn’t the tube’s fault though that it was transporting me to a place that I felt less than fulfilled and was surrounded by people just as miserable as me. I’ve always believed unhappiness breeds more unhappiness, and that was extremely evident in my office.
Every day I shuffled onto that tube and back off of it. The monotony of it all was slowly pushing me into a depressive state I was going to battle (and still battle with to this day). I didn’t know it then, but I was suffering from depression. Major depression as my doctor would go on to call it. To be honest, I didn’t know there were varying degrees of depression, just you were either depressed, or you weren’t. I realize now how wrong I was. Depression has such a different scale, and it’s difficult to know at times where you fall.
The truth is that on that commute every day I wondered how easy it would be for me to step off of the platform and if the impact of the tube would kill me or merely injure me. While these thoughts might be frightening to think of, they never really bothered me. They almost made me feel like I had some weird control that if all of this pain and suffering got too much that I could just end it without another thought. The fact that the idea of dying didn’t scare me should tell you how far gone in my depression I was.
One day, while traveling with my parents in Scotland, I started crying while walking down one of the streets. There wasn’t a reason behind it, I was just so broken on the inside and smothering it to keep it deep down that finally the depression exploded out of me like a faucet I couldn’t turn off. And I really wanted to turn it off.
That was the start of a long journey of healing. That journey brought me to the star of this story, Roscoe. Roscoe is a clumsy, lovable Bernese Mountain dog who since the day I got him was a bundle of snuggles. Even though he weighs over 90lbs, I still hold him like he was that little tiny pup who weighed only 16lbs. The second I saw his picture I knew. I knew he was meant to be mine. I bought him off a breeder but got a mega discount because he was in the breeder’s eyes, ‘defective.’ How this dog could be referred to as defective is beyond me. He was perfectly imperfect, and he was mine.
As someone with mental health issues as severe as mine can get, there were definitely people worried about me getting an animal, let alone a nine-week-old puppy. There were comments about if I can’t even take care of myself then how am I supposed to take care of something else. How am I going to be able to handle the stress that was raising a puppy? How was I going to be able to look outside of myself and realize that something is relying on me?
Well, it was pretty simple actually. When I got Roscoe, my life changed. It sounds dramatic I know but it’s true. I had to become the person that this living thing could rely on. I had to take care of myself in order to take care of him. I had to get outside of my own head and live in the now instead of my own anxieties. I started to remember to take my antidepressants at the same time I scheduled Roscoe’s breakfast in the morning. I asked people to watch him and let people help me; something that was so difficult for me to allow before. I opened up to them about my struggles because allowing people into my life to help me with Roscoe made me feel more secure that I could talk to them too.
Since I’ve gotten Roscoe, I’ve worked so hard to be healthy mentally because he needs me. And to be honest, I needed him too. Thankfully our paths were destined to intertwine together, and I get to love him for his entire life.
The reason pets have been such a huge success with mental health recovery is because they have a calming presence. When you’re suffering from depression you often feel lonely and it’s easy to isolate yourself, having an animal changes that. You can’t be alone and there’s a lot of comfort in that. Having a dog forces me to get out of bed and take him for a walk outside. This helps me get a new perspective, remember that there is incredible beauty in the world and sometimes even just a smile from a passerby can change everything for me.
My dog saved my life is so many ways, and he continues to daily.
If you’re suffering right now with mental health of any kind, know that you’ll get through this. Know that you are completely loved. Know that reaching out to someone for help in this crisis is the best thing to do.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.