Dogs And Mental Health: The Perfect Pair

It's basic math, isn't it? If you're feeling emotionally fragile or fraught, you get a dog. Not just for Christmas, but for your mental health.

They're man's best friend. Companionable. They get you out in the fresh air for walkies. You get to buy them expensive frivolous nonsense that they don't really need. The step before a baby but still some responsibility to keep you from one day to the next.

Don't put all your mental health eggs in one basket, but dogs could be the solution you're looking for. Even if not, think of all the cuteness! Nothing like a bit of canine action to release some endorphins.

But I do have to clarify a few things…

I'm going to level with you, guys. Being sad is hard. Like, super-duper lemon difficult. Did that make sense? It didn't need to. It rivals the likes of heartbreak and grief in terms of the way that it seems inescapable and suffocating. Like you're at sea and can't even get your lungs clear of water long enough to cry for help. You can see the waves coming and coming and breaking and crashing down on you, but you're never beached or released and deposited to the sandy beaches. Go figure.

But real talk. Sadness. It creeps and lurches and mottles and an all manner of other unsightly adjectives. We don't love it. We even fear that we can't love. Yeah, it gets dark, we know.

It sneaks up on you, that's the troubling part

You can be minding your own business, thinking you were fairly content in your life situation, and suddenly you have an off day at work and stub your toe on the door and you're crying in the bathroom stalls at the gym. How did we get here? Why do we continue to get in this position every Friday night?

Questions, questions. I mean that's a great starting point for identifying what's happened. Or, as the case may be, not happened. Let's try to unpack the emotions that we're feeling and check them in as they pass through the threshold. Add a 'Why' to each example and reason it out. Sometimes we need to hear things aloud, or in a funny accent, or very slowly for them to actually register. It's a way of getting out of our own headspace and trying to gain a little perspective.

People change, least of all us. I should hope so, otherwise, it would make for a pretty uninteresting 80 or so years.

Change is scary but so is staying in the same place

Stagnating emotionally. We can't be sad forever, and we won't. Love that journey for us.

Despite all of this, I do appreciate that in the moment of feeling trapped, there is no escape. Well, there is. There just doesn't feel like there is. Here's where you need to know yourself. Normally, you need to try to not force certain emotions to emerge – you can't be happy through sheer force of will, unfortunately. Don't believe me? I've tried.

Here, you have to try to push yourself, though. Don't expect to be able to run a marathon for charity the next day for an endorphins kick and moral smugness. That is a great thing to do, but it isn't necessarily what you need or should be focusing on. You don't need to worry about the outside world and what the people around you will think. Instead, focus on how you interact with the people you care about, and how they can help you. You deserve their attention and you need to allow yourself to be vulnerable and not close yourself off to people who are trying to help you struggle through.

A letter to my anxiety

First of all, rude.

Second of all, please leave me be. Just for a minute.

I know that I'm not alone here in suffering from anxious moments, but it really can feel alienating, bewildering, and frankly out of control to not know what's happening from one moment to the next.

There will always be a 'what if' moment. Why not convert that into a 'thank you, next' moment? Or a dog moment?

Everyone gets it slightly differently, and it jars differently with each person's individual personality. It's difficult to diagnose young, particularly in girls as it manifests in much less typical ways than people generally know to look for. It's limited attention span, inability to focus, constant need to fidget – you can't sleep, you spiral, basic tasks become impossible. The feeling as though you have constantly forgotten something. Or like you have a To-Do list as long as your arm and no way of making an inroad to it. It can be ultimately summed up as the feeling of your stomach drop on a rollercoaster. Except you aren't convinced that you will ever reach the bottom and level out again.

That's the terrifying thing

It's not just mental, emotional, or psychological, either. It manifests physically in a big way. Twisted stomach, indigestion, vomiting, and all manner of bladder-related complications. These are things that we learn to live with as part of life – we never stop to think of them as symptoms that manifest as part of anxiety – something that might be treatable. Something that the everyday person doesn't have to think about – it can consume us.

As with all forms of mental health, it deteriorates, often without reason or cause, and that can be the most frustrating. When you look around yourself and on paper, life is good.

You have a job, a partner, a selection of hobbies that you're pretty sure satisfy you. And yet.

You might surprise yourself.