Stress, anxiety, depression…these are all things that over 75 percent of young adults in college feel, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. In a survey by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, 10.9 percent of students took prescribed medication for mental health before and since college and 12.9 percent since they started college.
College is filled with so much pressure and many young adults fall under this weight and end up in a dark place. Sometimes nothing is done, sometimes medication is taken. But for me, and a lot of students with this struggle, animal therapy is the solution.
When I was 16 years old I was diagnosed with bipolar depression and anxiety, both of which made every day a struggle. Getting out of bed, getting involved in school and making friends was an emotional roller-coaster I couldn’t control.
When I was young I had been in foster care and was abused mentally, physically and sexually. It wasn’t until after I was adopted that I knew what it felt like to be truly cared for.
Unfortunately, a lot of the fear, anger and abuse I carried with me. I finally admitted I had a problem once I realized I couldn’t hold a relationship with people my age. I wanted more to be angry then happy and because it was easier to hate than to accept the fear of getting hurt.
High school was hard and I thought once I went to college everything would change, I would be around different people and I could be a different me.
Once I came to college I felt like I could change who I was and be a better version of myself, but the stress of school, work, fitting in and the future took over. I fell into old habits, I pushed away all the new friends I had made and I was in an even darker place than before. I wasn’t sure what I would do or what was going to happen. I felt absolutely hopeless.
On Easter 2014 I was gifted the most beautiful four-legged creature I never knew I needed, a 12-pound beagle with ears as soft as silk and more love in her little heart than I have ever known.
Her name was Sadie, and she was mine.
I now had a reason to get up in the mornings, a reason to go outside, a reason to go to work and a reason to be happy.
After having Sadie for about a year, I decided to talk to my therapist about getting her certified as an emotional support dog. So over the course of a few months, I took her with me to sessions and my doctor would see how we interacted together. Most of her habits of taking care of me came naturally but some were trained. She knew to stay close in high-stress areas, she used her love and worth to comfort me when I was upset and she would never let me get too far away from her when she knew I wasn’t supposed to be.
She was my angel and she saved me from myself.
Sadie knows me better than I know myself. If I have an anxiety attack and end up in my bathtub, she will follow me and jump in with me, get really close and remind me I am not alone. If I am in a situation where there are too many people and I start to get anxious, she will jump on my side, make noise and bring my attention to her.
My favorite habits of hers is when I have days where I cry a lot, don’t want to get up and I’m stuck in depression, she does everything she can to change it. She will drop her toy in my face, “Play” or scratch the door to go outside. And if I am crying she will put her face on mine, as if to push the tears away and remind me of how much she loves me.
I have had Sadie for three years now and she is still helping me every day. College is a hard time for a lot of young adults and for those with mental health disorders it’s even harder. I never believed in taking medication to help me, but I fully believe that if you give an animal the chance they can be the reason your life is changed. Animals are used in all sorts of heath cases. Why not use their love for yours?