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My Dogs Are Medicine To My Mental Illness

I have a hard time getting out of bed most days. Unless I have another doctor’s appointment or psychiatry appointment or therapy appointment, I find it hard to get up early. I just want to sleep. I want the day to pass while I am oblivious to it and to my life and to all I have to deal with. Honestly, I get tired sometimes of being so beautifully bipolar and anxious and obsessive compulsive. I just want to dream, to live in a world of make believe where things don’t matter, where whatever happens has no impact. But unfortunately I cannot sleep my days away, as much as I sometimes wish I could.

Over 9 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder so my parents bought me a puppy. I named her Hope because that is what I needed at the time. She gave me a purpose – I had to feed her, let her out, walk her, play with her, clean up her messes, train her. My life became wrapped around hers. This was a good thing because the more I thought about her the less I thought about me and feeling sorry for myself.

At the beginning of my diagnosis I felt so ashamed of myself, like I was defective or something. I wanted to hide in my dark bipolar closet and never come out. I felt quite sorry for myself. Why me? Why did God do this to me? What had I done to deserve this? I wondered what people would think if they found out about my “secret.” So I kept it a secret. I kept it in the shadows where no one would know I was ill.

But Hope knew. I could with her and talk to her as though she was a best friend and in time that is what she became – my very best friend. We did a lot of training and now she is one of the best behaved dogs I know. She has become my Emotional Support Animal (ESA), calming me down when I am anxious, cheering me up when I am sad. She seems to know what I need. When I am crying she will come to me and put her head in my lap, a sign of compassion. We go as many places as we can together. She knows the workers at CVS. She attends appointments with me to my psychiatrist and therapist. She loves her Grandma and Grandpa (my parents) and her Uncle James (my brother). And as sweet as she is she is intimidating to strangers. She is seventy six pounds of dog with a deep bark.

This past Saturday we made an addition to our little family of two. We invited Bailey – a Doberman mix looking dog – into the crew. She is younger than I expected at not quite a year. She weighs 60 pounds so I expect maybe five more pounds full grown. She is well-behaved and besides whining the entire first night, I haven’t had much trouble with her.

So what do this older and younger dog have to offer me? They get my butt out of bed for one thing! Regardless of how much I want to lay in bed, I have to get up to let them out to go to the bathroom. Then I have to wait for them. Then feed them. Sometimes I still try to go back to bed, but they won’t let me. The whine and put their heads on the sides of the bed, eyeballing me. I simply must get up or THEIR day will be ruined, Heaven forbid. They listen to me yell and to cry and they don’t judge. Ever. That is love.

Hope is now a senior citizen so everyone encouraged me to get another younger dog. I didn’t want to because I felt like that was already starting to say goodbye to Hope and I don’t know how I will live without her. I don’t want to say goodbye. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. But I know that someday she will go and that without another dog in the house I will have no reason to get up at all.

I guess all this is to say that a pet can do so much for you if you are mentally ill. It will always love you back, even on your “ugly” days. It doesn’t know the words bipolar or depression or mania or anxiety, it only know how good it feels to be pet by your hands.



My Dogs Are Medicine To My Mental Illness

Elaina J. Martin

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APA Reference
Martin, E. (2018). My Dogs Are Medicine To My Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Mar 2018
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