Parrott lives with anxiety, and Bella alerts her to oncoming panic attacks, anxiety and migraines. When this photo was taken, Bella easing Parrott’s anxiety before she walked down the aisle.
“She will do things like lick my hands or lean and put her weight on me to get me to focus on her instead of my surroundings,” Parrott told HuffPost. “Basically it helps me to take a moment away from whatever is causing the anxiety and keeps me from having a panic attack.”
Bella wore a tutu and helped escort the bride down the aisle.
The photographer, Maddie Peschong, originally didn’t realize what was happening in the photo when she took it.
“At the time, I simply thought this was a sweet moment between a girl and her dog,” she told The Mighty in an email.
It was only later, after the photo went viral, that Parrott explained to Peschong that at the time, her heart rate was elevated and Bella used a distraction tactic to calm her down, which is what you see in that photo. Peschong is excited to see the photo raising awareness about the important role service dogs have in the lives of many people.
“I love that this is bringing attention to service animals and the positive impact [they] can have on so many people with invisible illnesses, like Val,” Peschong told The Mighty.
Sometimes it takes every ounce of strength to get out of bed and move to the couch.
Sometimes taking a shower takes a Herculean effort. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. Even when things aren’t that bad, I feel terrible because I feel terrible. It shouldn’t be so much work going about the business of everyday life.
Why? Because I have a number of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.
I’ve had many different types of therapy. I go to group therapy once a week. I learn “skills” as ways of coping with my emotions, interacting with others and improving my quality of life.
I practice mindfulness and meditation. Yoga, aromatherapy, dancing, taking a bath or reading a book. I know what to do to pull myself out of my funk, and I use skill after skill after skill when I feel myself getting low. Many times the skills work. But there are times it feels like all the skills in the world will not help me. My mental health conditions are caused in part by a chemical imbalance in my brain, and without medication to address the chemical imbalance, there’s no way skills alone are going to work for me.
I have one-on-one therapy, and I’ve been inpatient at hospitals as well. And I’ve noticed a viewpoint from the mental health community that really gets under my skin. I’ve heard this refrain in the hospital and among mental health professionals on an outpatient basis. They say people with mental illness have a responsibility to take care of themselves.
To me, this seems wrong. Granted, if someone is a bit sad or down, sometimes there are things that can help. Maybe it’s meeting up with friends and socializing. But there are many times I’m beyond that sort of remedy. I do it anyway, and then feel guilty when it doesn’t work. And then I feel shamed for not wanting to get well, for not doing enough to take care of myself.
Instead of blaming people with mental illness, why not improve their support systems? And if there is no support system, that would be a good place to start. It’s hard to pull yourself up out of the ditch alone. I’ve had to do it time and time again, and it certainly doesn’t help to be told it’s my responsibility to do so, and to feel like it’s my fault if I don’t.
If you see that I’m struggling, ask me what I need. If I tell you I don’t need any help, meals and child care are always appreciated. Anything you would do for a friend with a physical illness, I could probably use help with as well. Laundry, cleaning and errands are impossibly hard when I’m struggling, and it’s great when people step in and get a few of those things done for me. Even if I don’t appear thrilled to have the help, I really do appreciate it. When I feel better I will let you know how much it means to me. And that’s what I can focus on, feeling better, when I just can’t do anything else.
So on the days I just can’t, please don’t tell me to help myself, and instead find a way to lend me a hand.
Music is by no means a cure-all for anxiety, but a quick session of head-banging, air guitar-slaying and full-on belting (mixed with empowering lyrics) can do the body good when it’s feeling particularly anxious. If you’re a classic rock fan who also experiences anxiety, our community has got your back.
When you live with anxiety, it sometimes feels like everyone has an opinion about how you should manage it.
So we asked our mental health community to share the the most cringe-worthy advice they’ve ever received about dealing with anxiety. Warning: These pieces of advice may elicit eye-rolling, head-shaking, sighing and laughter of disbelief. Hopefully, we can all find the humor in these attempts at helpful advice and learn to be patient with those who may not understand anxiety.
With all the pressure put on students to succeed academically, participate in extracurriculars and maintain a social life, it’s no wonder more than 80 percent of college students reported feeling overwhelmed by all they had to do this past year. For students who live with high anxiety or anxiety disorders, this pressure can be amplified and more difficult to manage. According to Active Minds, “Mental health issues in the college student population, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, are associated with lower GPA and higher probability of dropping out of college.”
But when the pressure’s on, teachers have an opportunity to make a difference. Active Minds and The Mighty asked students who live with anxiety what they wish their teachers understood.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Iwish they knew when I lacked in participation, it wasn’t because I didn’t care. I often enjoyed the subjects I was learning. I just physically couldn’t handle the assignments thrown my way. I wish they knew how often I vomited and shook knowing I’d have to face them the next day and let them know I hadn’t completed my assignment, yet again.” — Marissa Lynette Berube
2. “I wish they’d tell students it’s OK to come to them if they’re struggling because of anxiety. Because there’s such a stigma surrounding talking about mental health, I never know which professors will be understanding and which will think I’m just making ‘excuses.’” — Emily Prather
5. “I wish my teachers understood putting me on the spot to answer a question, when I didn’t have my hand raised, isn’t helping me gain confidence. Confidence and competence have nothing to do with the situation. I am smart. I am paying attention. I don’t need to have a spotlight over my head to prove it.” — Tricia Rathgeber
6. “I wish it was easier to have absences excused. I’d much rather stay home than go and cry in class. That’s not an exaggeration by the way. I’ve had panic attacks in the classroom where I just couldn’t stop crying.” — Lee Dralling
7. “I’m finally graduating this semester after six years, but I feel like everyone thinks I’m making up excuses or I’m lazy. I literally get paralyzed with anxiety, and I can’t even get out of bed. I wish people understood it’s just as real as the flu or… anything else. It’s not something we’re making up because we procrastinated.” — Jessica Sprayberry
8. “When you put me on the spot to stand in front of the class, my performance is absolutely not an indicator of what I’ve learned. As you can see my by tests, quizzes and paperwork grades, I’m learning a lot. All of that goes straight out the window when you ask me to demonstrate on the spot.” — Alex Wickham
9. “My 12-year-old son who has anxiety said, ‘I sometimes wish they would just give me a moment to collect my thoughts. I know the answers but I need to take a breath before I give it.’” — Becky Burrier
11. “When I abruptly leave the room, please don’t make it a big deal.” — Paige Johnson
12. “Sometimes I’m going to need to ask you to repeat instructions for an assignment several times. Please don’t make me feel bad about it. I just need to affirm to myself that I heard you right the first time.” — Nichole Cherin
13. “I’m not lazy. I try my hardest. I’m not lying. I do everything I can. Anxiety isn’t something I just made up one day.” — Lexie Sittsamer
14. “Usually it strikes out of nowhere and I have no control over it. I’m not trying to get out of anything or trying to get attention. I feel like I’m going to die when my panic starts and can only calm down if allowed to escape to a quiet spot. Then I can calm myself down and return to class.” — Anita Contreras Munoz
15. “I wish they knew how much time, dedication, tears, breakdowns and energy it can take to get an assignment done. But also how great it feels when you succeed!” — Jennifer Scinto
16. “I have an intense fear of giving the wrong answer to a question out loud. So if I get it wrong, please realize how much courage it took to say anything, and don’t laugh at me.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober
17. “When I got in trouble in school, I wasn’t trying to be a ‘bad kid’ and it wasn’t a ‘phase.’ I needed help, and I needed someone to recognize that.” — Liv Raimonde
18. “My inability to function at times is not a result of laziness, procrastination or sheer lack of willpower.” — Christian Cochran
19. “I might be too scared to come to you. If you see me struggling, please say something.” — Ashleigh Young
*Answers have been edited and shortened.
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When you’re having a rough moment, a rough hour or an entire anxiety-ridden day, one friendly reminder may help turn it all around, or at least remind you that you’re not alone. To find out what people who live with anxiety need to hear in tough moments, we asked our Mighty readers who live with anxiety to tell us one text message they’d love to receive when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
If you have a friend or loved one who lives with anxiety, this may be exactly what they need to hear right now: