I can't quite believe that I'm about to share this with you, except that everyday I wake up and I'm so grateful to be here, alive and happy. I want to - I need to - share that appreciation. To recognise where I've been, and to celebrate where I'm going.
On my darkest days, I truly believed that the only being in the world who loved me was my dog, Lyra. Depression twisted and mangled my perception of every other relationship in my life and I couldn't see why anyone would want me around. I battled desperately with the inner voice begging me to do everyone a favour and just end it all. But even at my lowest point, I never doubted the love of my sweet, gentle girl. It was something to cling to, when I felt myself drowning.
There were so many days that the only reason I got out of bed at all was for her.
Then there were the days when I felt myself go through the motions of life, zombie-like and unfeeling. Grey, dull days where I wished I could cry because feeling something is better than feeling nothing at all. Where I pasted a smile on my face and tried to pretend like everything was a-okay, but inside I was falling in nothing-ness. But even on those days, she broke through - just a little, but she broke through enough to remind me that I could feel. My little ray of sunshine.
My dog offered unconditional love and acceptance that felt impossible to accept from the people around me. That's not to say I didn't have wonderful friends and family who were trying - it's just my brain couldn't accept their help. I couldn't believe that I deserved any of it, but I could accept that Lyra loved me and that, at least, was something.
Studies have proven time and time again that dogs are amazing for those battling with mental health issues. They give a sense of purpose, responsibility. A reason to get up in the morning. Our blood pressure drops when we pet a dog, especially one that we know and love. They flood our bodies with oxytocin, a stress reducing hormone, and they can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax. They can learn to read our emotions, to know if we're sad, happy, angry or sick.
My dog did not cure my depression - finally finding the right therapist did that. With some big changes and the support of my closest friends and family, I started discovering myself again. Started believing that I was worthy of happiness, deserving of love. I could see, again, that life was so worth living. It was hard work, but I look back on it all now and I am grateful for every moment. It's made me that much stronger and I'm now living life as my true, authentic self. I have never been happier.
No, my dog did not cure my depression. But she was there when I needed her most, and I owe her so much for that. My little ray of sunshine.
Has your dog helped you? I'm currently looking for participants for a video/photo project celebrating dogs who have helped their people. If you are interested in sharing your story, please get in touch.