The Furry Antidepressant


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As of this writing on Tuesday morning, I’m unsure which puppy pictured above will join our home tonight.  We don’t care which collie shepard we shall be graced with -we’ve spent time with them and they are both amazing, wriggling fluffs of joy.  

Our family is totally freaking out about our new addition…in the BEST way possible!

And now more than ever, I believe in “furry antidepressants”.  Please allow me to explain:

In my late twenties, a decade before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I suffered the demise of a relationship that sent me reeling into my first full-blown clinical depression.  A Paltrow/Martin-like conscious uncoupling it was not!  My boyfriend betrayed me with a born-again Christian.  (I didn’t think either of them acted in a very Christian-like manner to tell you the truth.)  To be honest, he was literally not in his right mind when that all went down.  This person who I had been faithful to for almost five years turned out to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Life is stranger than fiction.

Thank God I had my two dogs Tara and Shera to see me through during those dark months of despair.  My depression hit so hard that I quit my full-time special event production  job.  I applied for temporary disability to make ends meet.  

I saw my first psychiatrist Dr.C. at age twenty-six.  He was the close friend of someone I knew and trusted. Although he reviewed my family history in which I mentioned my father’s bipolar disorder, he didn’t think I had any tendency for the same mood disorder.  Dr. C. diagnosed me with clinical depression and prescribed Paxil, my very first psychiatric medication.  I took Paxil for about five months and I slowly but surely pulled out of that nightmare depression.  

Aside from Paxil and therapy, what helped me most were my dogs.  While I let just about everything in my life go to the wayside: job, cleaning my studio, cooking, etc. I couldn’t coop up my dogs every day.   I lived close to a beautiful field in Santa Cruz called Lighthouse Field.  This once-dog-friendly state park, bordered the Pacific Ocean and it overlooked the famous surfing point Steamer Lane.  The Mark Abbot Memorial lighthouse, built in memory of a young man who drowned while body surfing, loomed over the surfers.

Lighthouse Field became my second home.  Every afternoon, Tara, Shera and I explored the numerous park trails.  I had plenty of time, and the habit helped to structure my day and give me exercise.  I let Tara and Shera run off-leash to their heart’s content.  They absolutely loved that field and, along with my dogs’ happiness, I appreciated the park’s natural beauty.  

Most of the other dog owners who visited Lighthouse Field were conscientious; the neighborhood in which the field was located consisted primarily of middle-to-upper class residents.  Obviously that didn’t always mean that those well-to-do dog owners knew what they were doing.  Some of them couldn’t care less about picking up after their dogs, which gave me “trail rage”.

In any case, the field became a profound place of healing.  As my dogs were the reason I made the commitment to walk there, I give Tara and Shera just as much credit as Dr. C, Paxil and therapy for helping me recover. Being outdoors in the fresh ocean air contributed to my depression lifting, while exposure to the natural sunlight helped me as well.  

 

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 Lighthouse Field State Park

Ever since Tara died in my arms, and I held Shera as she was put to sleep, I’ve had a void in my life.  I didn’t fully realize this emptiness until a few days ago, believe it or not. Over the years since their deaths it was difficult for me to look closely at anything pet-related.  When I was around other people’s pets, I felt the loss of my dogs, even though I enjoyed petting the animals and being present with them as best as I could.

As soon as I realized last weekend that we were opening our home to a pet once again, my heart soared.  What makes this time extraordinarily special is that it’s not just me who wants a dog so much – my two girls have been begging us for a dog for literally years.  They are beyond excited.  I know that when I see them shower our puppy with their love and learn how to care for a pet, it will be an incredible experience for me and Craig.

One of my best memories growing up was spending time with our two Irish Setters Tanya and Amber.  My Dad loved his dogs, and he passed that love for pets on to me.  I think that when he experienced his bouts of manic depression (as it was referred to when he had it) his dogs really gave him comfort.  I like to think that wherever he is now, he’s really happy to see me bringing a dog into not only my life again,  but his granddaughters’ lives as well.

Mental Health Warrior Kelly, who has become my friend through the blogosphere, often writes about the wonder of her dog Molly and how she has helped Kelly with mood challenges.  Apart from that, Kelly won me over in a heartbeat when I discovered she created  beautiful mental-health-based e-cards for depression , anxiety, and hope & support.   She offers these cards for free through her website!

http://mentalhealthwarrior.com/send-a-mental-health-ecard/

Here’s the link to Kelly’s popular, classic post 31 Powerful Life Lessons I Learned From My Dog:

http://mentalhealthwarrior.com/2014/04/31-life-lessons-i-learned-from-my-dog/

It’s time for me to reluctantly move on to the more mundane part of my day.  I’ll end with writing that if you, dear reader, have bipolar disorder and you have a pet, please give yourself a LOT of credit.  It’s hard enough to take care of ourselves, isn’t it?  But when you add a dependent creature into your world, your life becomes more challenging.  I believe that anyone with bipolar disorder who has a pet, be it a fish, a rabbit, a chicken, a cat, a dog or whatever (but not a pet rock!) is helped by that pet very much, in all kinds of ways.

I really do believe that having and caring for a pet is more therapeutic than most of us realize.  Pet stewardship is not all honky dory – I didn’t miss cleaning up dog poop during my pet-less years, and I didn’t miss the other pet “liquid emissions “and stressful trips to the vet.  But this time around I know it will be worth it to have these inconveniences if it means having more love in our home.  I know my Dad would want that for us.

 

The author/artist SARK wrote and illustrated her bestselling poster called “Dogs Are Miracles with Paws”.

(Yes, feline lovers,  there’s a cat poster too!)

“A dog’s nose in the palm of your hand can cure almost anything, dogs are made of love and fur, let your dog take you for a walk, dogs are a sure thing, here’s a little known dog secret: dogs have no secrets, dogs are like vanilla ice cream – reliably delicious, dogs are wise agents directly from heaven, if you had a tail, wouldn’t you wag it?, there are no bad dog’s, be your dog’s best friend, dogs like dancing, drive-in movies and dreaming, God made dogs and spelled his own name backwards, dogs make great therapists, kiss your dogs all the time, some dogs are nap dogs, dogs invented unconditional love, dogs are party animals, apply dog logic to life: eat well, be loved, get petted, sleep a lot, dream of a leash-free world, live your dog’s life!”

 

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21 thoughts on “The Furry Antidepressant

  1. What a well written and wonderful post! I’m glad to see that so many people understand the joy a pet can bring. The little doggy paragraph you added to the end made me emotional. A dog is so faithful in you even when you can hardly have faith in yourself. Which puppy did you chose ? Best of luck to you. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Kennedy – it meant SO much to me that the end paragraph made you emotional!!

      We wound up bringing home Lucy, who I think is the cutie in the top photo. Now she’s almost eight months old…my sweet baby! She’s an extremely aggressive puppy, however. That’s just how she is. We visited her mother, father and brothers last weekend and every dog had a very distinct personality. While we’re faced with challenges in terms of her trainer ( & I splurged on a private trainer although I don’t really have the $ for it) she’s worth it. Thanks again for reading and enjoy your gorgeous, loving dogs!!! (I know you will! 😉

      1. Aww, it’s funny how animals really do have their own personalities ! Good luck with her, maybe as she gets older she’ll mellow out a bit 🙂

  2. Both of those puppies are beyond cute! I got Prince when he was older and started training him right away to get him licensed – he’s so smart! Furry antidepressant is the best way to put having a therapy animal. I just got out of one of the worst bipolar depressions I’ve ever had in my life and he was there the whole time, forcing me out of the house at least once a day and always responsive to my moods.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I’ve been REALLY enjoying your blog and promoting it – you are a gifted writer with an eye for detail, a refreshing honesty about you and what you do, and there’s a cadence to your posts that make them a pleasure to read.

      Sorry I haven’t commented as much as I’ve wanted to – all weekend I was zapped energy-wise from ending a friendship on Friday. It was with someone who has bipolar and most likely borderline + a few other maladies. I became her target at long last. I knew it was coming, but still. Ugh.

      Luckily I had my furry antidepressant Lucy at the ready to cuddle with and take my mind off my woes. I’m so sorry you had such a terrible bp depression, and I’m glad you pulled of it….and I want you to stay out of it!!!!! Prince sounds amazing, and that’s wonderful he was there for you through thick and through thin. I’ve been hospitalized 7 times for bipolar at 2 different hospitals, and animals weren’t part of either program – it would have been tremendously comforting to have that opportunity!

      Take good care of yourself and keep writing!!!!!!!!
      Dyane

      1. Thank YOU so much! Never thought I’d have a fan or promoter so fast! I have enjoyed doing this a lot. It’s a great outlet, the content is interesting, and I can use time creatively.

  3. Wonderful entry. I read the 31 Powerful Lessons…. as well.Very, very wise and true. I’ve tweeted and Facebooked this post. The unconditional love of a dog is the greatest antidepressant.

    1. Thank you, thank you! I’ve been grumpy with a nasty cold all weekend that has kept me indoors during my fave time of year. (Luckily my husband & girls took Lucy out for her walks) so you’ve totally brightened my day. 🙂

      Kelly, author of the 31 Powerful Lessons (@MntlHlthWarrior) is great to follow. She tweets beautiful pics of her gorgeous dog Molly and also shares awesome puppy and cat pics to cheer up her followers! I’ll let her know that you helped spread the word and enjoyed her lessons…

    1. My husband had a husky too – he loved him very much & his name was Czar. Czar had some challenges, such as eating a neighbor’s chicken. I don’t think I need to worry about that happening with our little Sheltie mix. :0

    1. Thanks so much for reading, commenting & the follow! I look forward to getting to know you @ your blog. I’m very happy you have your lovable husky & cats with you – there are few things better in life than our pets’ love. take care! 🙂

    1. Thank you, dear Tony – I’m enjoying cuddling up to Lucy as I write this to you. I am blessed. That’s all there is to it! 🙂 take good care!!! Dyane

  4. Dearest, how exciting!! They are both so adorable. I can imagine how jazzed you all are! I remember your two beauties so well from the old Santa Cruz days. I could not live without my kitties (I’d love a dog again but my other half doesn’t share the same enthusiasm). It’s going to be a great journey for the girls, too, to learn how to care for a pet. Lucky, lucky you!! xoxo. Nina.

    1. Thank you dearest Neen – you understand how important it is to have beloved beasties of some kind with us. I know how much you love those gorgeous, extremely photogenic cats of yours! They cannot take a bad photo!!! 😉

      Lots of love to you and please be sure to check out photos/videos galore to come on this blog/FB, because I’m having a field day with Mademoiselle Lucy and love taking pics of her! xoxoxoox

  5. Hi Dyane! I’m so excited to see which puppy you get to bring home today. They are so adorable. I wish I could bring one home with me. Thank you so much for including Molly and me (and my e-cards) in your article. I’m honored, grateful, and moved beyond words. You are a burst of sunshine in my world and I look forward to reading all your posts. You are an inspiration, a creative genius, and a brilliant writer. I adore you and I’m so happy to have you in my life. Here’s to you and your new puppy adventure!

    1. Glorious Kelly, what a rockin’ comment you bestowed upon me! I’m going to put that up on my bulletin board since I love it so much! :)))))

      It was my ***absolute pleasure*** to include you, Molly and your website/amazing mental health support e-cards in today’s blog post.

      Guess what? You’re appearing again in tomorrow’s blog post, woo hoo! I might as well call it “Mental Health Warrior & Puppy Week”! 😉 I’m celebrating you all!

      lots of love and thanks for being a ray of sunshine yourself!
      xoxoxoxoxoxo Dyane

    2. Kelly, your comment means the world to me. I want to print it and frame it! :))) Your generosity of spirit, your creativity and your compassion are so needed during these times, not just to me but to all your followers.

      Molly is one lucky gal to have you as her loving mama! I’m SO glad we found each other and I am grateful to know you are “out there” and in my heart!

      xoxoox lots of love, Dyane

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