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Why Living and Working With Animals Helps Me Manage My Anxiety

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Mental health illnesses have a tendency of making people feel unwanted, unloved and a whole range of negative feelings and emotions. Personally, I can become buried in self-hatred and pity, feeling as though I am a huge burden on those around me who love me unconditionally. I become a shadow of my former self. Some days are better than others. I may struggle to get out of bed on some days and I may be able to brave the day on your better days. Either way, I am not weak because of my struggles and I am not defined by my illnesses. I must try my hardest to grow through what I go through.

Many hear the word “depression” and associate it with crying and all things dark. Well, I do anyway. I associate depression with sadness and vulnerability. Loneliness and numbness. A dark hole that seems endless. It’s like walking through a dark forest wandering aimlessly for a way out, but with no luck. Screaming for help in an isolated room with nobody around to hear my desperation.

Everybody has their own coping strategies and methods of getting through difficult times. For me, there is no better therapy than being surrounded with something I have an admiration and passion for. Something that puts joy in my heart and a sparkle in my eyes that enables me to feel something other than pain and distress. During my worst times, it’s important to surround myself with love and things that mean something to me. For example, some people get their source of happiness from art, others from sport or from baking.

There is something about animals that enables me, personally, to feel calm and at ease. When in the company of animals, I instantly feel relaxed and comforted which works wonders for my mood and my low self-esteem. In my opinion, it’s reassuring being amongst beings who don’t judge me for being me. Although I may have clouded views of myself, animals help me see myself and the world around me in a different light and from a brighter perspective.

With people, there is always my fear of being judged. Because lots of people fail to understand the difficulties people with mental illness are faced with due to our illnesses, animals detect the smallest of things and it is in their best interest to provide a sense of comfort and therapy. For instance, at home, there have been multiple times I have been very low in terms of my depression, and my cat (Tigga) has immediately picked up on it and has come to sit with me, letting me know I am not alone. Animals educate me on the importance of caring for myself and showing myself the same amount of love and compassion I show to them.

Similarly, I have been in college and have turned to two gorgeous pygmy goats (Poppy and Penny) for assistance and for an ear to listen. I believe goats have cheeky, unique and loving personalities and I can happily confirm a conversation with them, and an unlimited supply of hugs, works wonders for reducing the symptoms of my depression. I find expressing my thoughts, feelings and emotions to be near-impossible at times, but I have no problem whatsoever when it comes to interacting with animals.

There has been times I’ve struggled to get out of the house, not because I’m “lazy” like people could possibly assume, but because of the high levels of anxiety that debilitate me every single day. In addition to this, I have managed to take the bus on my own and have travelled distances to be with animals during my voluntary work. In my experience, anxiety is wanting to do things but being unable to do so because of the endless thoughts swimming around in my head, the doubt and the tight knot in my tummy. But knowing I have a reason to go out of the house and knowing there are animals awaiting me on the other side, provides me with a sense of worth, need and importance.

Animals have worked as therapy for me, and still continue to do so. I believe this will always be the case as I work hard to achieve a career within the animal care industry where I aim to save and rescue animals. I also wish to have a positive impact on their lives like they have for me.

Talking isn’t always the way around things — though it does help massively. I feel simply surrounding myself with animals helps me immensely. Talking can get to be too much sometimes for me. It can be very draining and tough letting people in, but when I am doing something I enjoy, I can work at it for hours on end, which helps to boost my mood and reduces the thoughts I’m experiencing.

I always feel motivated and enthusiastic when thinking of animals and being with them. I owe my life to them for assisting me in looking at the future and all I have to fight for. My motto is “save yourself, save the animals.”

Because when animals are involved, I am never alone. 

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Thinkstock photo via YuriyGreen.

Originally published: April 21, 2017
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