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What My Dog Taught Me About My Anxiety

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A few years ago, we adopted a rescue dog named Butter. We immediately noticed he had anxiety, but it wasn’t until this year I was diagnosed as well. Ever since then, I have felt connected to my dog in a strange way. Im not sure if it is because we calm each other down, or if we just have similar struggles. Either way, he calms me down and I hope I do the same for him.

Last week, my dog panicked because he missed my dad. I was home alone, which meant it was my responsibility to calm him down. When I was holding him in my arms, I finally realized something. My dog is a happy dog even though he has anxiety. He is goofy and weird and I think the reason why is he doesn’t care about labels, or even understand what they are.

As people , we are so focused on labels that we use them to define ourselves which can augment the problem of not feeling good about ourselves. In my experience, ruminating about anxiety doesn’t give me peace and understanding the way I expect it to. Instead it makes me feel like less of a person.

My dog however, doesn’t know what anxiety is. All he knows is he is scared. He doesn’t think about the opinions of the outside world. All he focuses on is breathing.

In my case and many others, the words “generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)” have defined me. It wasn’t on purpose. It just became my excuse and eventually my reason for not loving myself.

After watching my dog go from panic to my sweet little boy, I decided I had put way too much thought into my illness. My anxiety won’t ever get better if I don’t learn to separate my character and my disorder.

I am not my anxiety. No one is.

If you had asked me a week ago how I define myself, I would have told you that I struggle with anxiety and depression. Now, I’m striving to grow and become a separate person. My name is not anxiety. My name is Vicky.

This is my new challenge and I hope it can become yours too.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

Originally published: April 12, 2017
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