Me, Dog and My Depression
My dog’s name is Dog.
He came with the name and it seems to be working for him. He is a mutt, about 40 pounds, orange with a little white on his chest and different color toenails. One ear sticks straight out, like Yoda, and the other flops over.
Dog is my best friend. I have human friends but I am not as comfortable with them as I am with Dog. I am not a hermit or wallflower. I am a good listener and friend. I am great at parties – telling stories and listening. People say I am a nice person and funny. For the most part, with the exception of a couple of people, I would rather be alone with Dog than with you. I know that sounds horrible, but it’s true.
To put it bluntly, I like dogs more than people. If we ran into each other on the street and you were walking your dog, I would kneel down and say “hi” to your dog before I would say a word to you.
I would rather talk to Dog than to a human – even a friendly human – on the phone. My phone conversations are awkward. I often start a sentence at the same time as the person on the other end. I would rather listen than talk.
I have gone entire weekends without speaking to anyone but the cashier at the grocery store or the sales clerk at Home Depot who wants to know if I need help putting bags of mulch in my trunk: “No, thanks.”
I have been told over and over that isolating is not good for my depression. I need to get out among the living. So, I go to church, a movie or museum where I am not expected or supposed to talk. I am around people all the time at work.
I had a different dog when I was in my last major depression. A Weimaraner name Bella. When I could not sleep she and I would roam the neighborhood in the middle of the night. She slept beside me and didn’t judge me. She didn’t tell me to pull myself up by my bootstraps or that antidepressants are bad. She didn’t tell me to read this book or that book, write, exercise, eat or call friends. She didn’t tell me I was weak or lame or a loser. She was just there – always.
Last year I went to a fancy dinner in Boston honoring actor Glenn Close and her sister Jesse – who is dual diagnosed – for their efforts to fight the stigma of mental illness. The sisters attended a private reception before the dinner. In attendance were some of the world’s top mental health experts on the staff and faculty at McLean Hospital, affiliated with Harvard.
I saw a women cradling a small dog under her arm and I thought, Oh Lord, it’s one of those rich women who think that dogs are fashion accessories. Then I saw the little service-dog vest on the pooch and realized what was going on.
Later in the evening Jesse spoke at the podium with her little chihuahua-esque mutt, Snitz still cradled under her arm. The dog was oblivious. Jesse explained that Snitz helped her deal with her anxiety and then she went on to tell her story. I thought about Dog and how much more comfortable I would feel if he was with me.
I need Dog as much as I need my antidepressants. Dog doesn’t have a little service vest but he is my service dog. Critics would say that Dog is my enabler – making it easier for me to isolate. To that I say, yes, Dog is my enabler.
He enables me to step away from the edge of my black hole.
Stapleton, C. (2010). Me, Dog and My Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 28, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2010/10/me-dog-and-my-depression/