Becca R.

@beccar | contributor
Living with mild Cerebral Palsy and multiple mental illnesses, I'm trying my best to live life and be content with the world around me.
Sky Taylor

The Heaviness of My Depression Lifted, but I Still Have Suicidal Thoughts

“Suicidal people don’t want to die, they just want the pain to stop.” I’ve heard that saying countless times, and yet, it’s never really resonated with me. The two have always been synonymous in my mind. The only way for the pain to stop was to die. There was no other choice, no alternative. But did I ever plead for the pain to stop. Curled up in the fetal position, in the corner of my bed, making myself as small as possible. Sheets aside, my sweatshirt sleeves drenched in tears and snot. Arm covering my mouth to stifle my cries as I begged for the pain to stop. The heaviness to lessen. The thoughts to still for just a moment. The intensity to lighten for just a second. There have been so many nights when that darkness swallowed me whole. For over a decade, that daily heaviness consumed me. But recently, since beginning lithium, the suicidal thoughts are less frequent and the heaviness isn’t there. It’s so much lighter. This is exactly what I wanted — what I spent so many nights pleading for. The hope I clung onto so tightly as a lifeline came. And still, I don’t want to be alive. It’s very odd to have felt such heaviness for so many years, and then for that to lift, but the thoughts to remain. Suicidal thoughts and urges without that deep ache in my chest and all-consuming exhaustion in my body don’t make sense to me. Even if I’m not in the pain I was in for so many years, I’m not happy. I’m not enjoying life. And part of that’s on me, I get it — I’m responsible for choosing activities and building my life around things I enjoy. But it’s hard to imagine enjoying anything enough that it would outweigh all the hurt and pain this world brings. The pain has lessened, and yet, I still don’t want to be alive. I don’t want to be here anymore. With the pain or without. But I don’t necessarily want to die, or at least, I don’t want to have to die by suicide. Killing myself scares me. A lot. I wish it didn’t, I wish I had less fear around it, but I’m scared. And that fear has largely been what has kept me alive for so long. I’ve attempted suicide multiple times, but none have resulted in any serious medical concerns. I’m too scared of the more lethal methods of suicide. I’m scared of messing up, of it not working, of the damage I could cause, of people finding me — I have so many fears. I don’t want to kill myself, I just don’t want to live. And yet, I know that fear exists in me for a reason. My therapist would argue that part of me is actually the part of me that wants to live. I don’t know if I buy that, but I know that part of me is the tether that keeps me here, alive. I want to believe I’ll feel happy again someday. I want to believe a dull sense of nothingness or an all-consuming heaviness aren’t the only two things I’ll ever feel. I want to be excited by something, I want to be able to see the future as a world of possibility instead of a lifetime of shackled dread. I suppose I had never stopped to consider what “stability” would feel like, probably because I didn’t believe I would ever make it there. It’s hard for me to tell the difference between feeling numb and feeling “normal” because I don’t know what a “normal” baseline mood feels like. And to feel that, while having suicidal thoughts, is so abnormal to me. I don’t understand it. Is it more dangerous because less feeling is attached? Or less dangerous because of that? Does it delegitimize my experience? It’s so confusing to the point I’d rather take the heaviness back. I’m accustomed to the extreme — the soul-crushing, pounding weight of depression — consuming my days. Not feeling in extreme feels wrong. It feels boring, almost. And I know how much pain I was in, how much I wished that heaviness to lift. I shouldn’t want to go back to that. But that pain is familiar, this is not. I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t have answers or a clear solution. There’s so much unknown, so much confusion. Our struggles may not be the same, but maybe you can relate to the frustration of not understanding what you’re going through, either. So, I’ll leave us both with this quote: “Your struggles are valid whether or not you understand them. Your pain is not any less real without a name.” —TWLOHA Staying alive and continuing to write your story when you don’t want to and don’t understand is brave — and it’s enough. And so are you.

Becca R.
Becca R. @beccar
contributor

ESAs and Service Dogs Should Be Covered By Insurance

Last month, I finally moved out on my own after five years of living with my parents due to my mental health. As part of my safety plan due to my intense daily suicidal thoughts, my treatment team and I decided I would benefit from an emotional support animal. Two days after I was out on my own, I adopted my cat, Achilles. Even in our short time together, Achilles has stopped me from engaging in behaviors I could use to seriously injure or even kill myself. He is just as important, if not more, to me as any other one of my psychiatric medications. As an emotional support animal, I am required to have a doctor’s prescription for Achilles that allows him to live with me without a pet fee in my apartment. This provision is considered law as part of the Fair Housing Act. Emotional support animals and service animals allow their humans to live full, independent lives that they might otherwise not have access to. Achilles isn’t my pet. He is my lifeline, my flotation device on the days I’m struggling to stay above water and keep sight of my future. He is more than just a house companion. Achilles forces me up in the morning and into a routine of basic care. He keeps me grounded when I am struggling with intense emotions by laying on me, purring, licking me, and meowing to get my attention. Achilles’ life and wellbeing require me to be alive and functioning on at least a basic level. I cannot kill myself without hurting him and his wellbeing, and that thought keeps me clinging to life on my worst days. Many people with disabilities receiving government assistance, including myself, are in precarious financial situations. We are limited in the amount of income we are allowed and how much we are allowed to save just to keep the healthcare and other benefits we need to survive. Many of us live in poverty, paycheck to paycheck. Often, people with disabilities receive multiple types of support through the government such as SSI, utility assistance, and food stamps. Even with these supports, after paying rent and other basic daily expenses, often too little is left to spend on the health and wellbeing of the animals we rely on for survival. With that said, considering emotional support animals and service animals require a physician’s prescription, I believe the basic care these animals require – food, litter, vet appointments, vaccinations — should be covered as medical expenses just as any other medical procedure, therapy, or medication. I propose that emotional support animals and service animals be considered medical necessities and the expenses that occur to take care of these lifelines be covered by a stipend from insurance companies. When I took Achilles to the vet last week, I was told I should feed my cat wet food twice a day for optimal health and decreased risk of health problems in the future. With my financial situation, I am unable to feed my cat wet food twice a day. I am trying to compromise with wet food once a day supplemented by dry food, but even that is difficult. Food pantries don’t always have cat food available for those in need. While some may say something along the lines of “well if you can’t afford an animal, don’t have one,” I must remind them that my cat, Achilles is keeping me alive. He isn’t an oral medication or injection I take every day that may be covered by insurance such as Medicaid, but he is just as important to my wellbeing as insulin is to a diabetic. Emotional support animals and service animals are lifelines to our health and wellbeing. Socioeconomic status should not be a deciding factor on whether or not we have access to the animals we need to live a life worth living.

Becca R.
Becca R. @beccar
contributor

The Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Dog

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While there are many ways to improve mental health such as going to therapy, self-care, and medication if necessary, one option that is often misunderstood is the importance of animals, specifically emotional support animals (ESAs), to our mental health. What is an emotional support animal? First, an ESA is not the same thing as a service dog. Service dogs undergo specific training and must perform a specific task for their handler. Service dogs are allowed in all areas in which the public is generally allowed. Service dogs are not “pets.” Emotional support animals, on the other hand, are not traditional “pets” in the sense that they are considered more to be an assistive aid such as a wheelchair. They are not required to be a dog. ESAs do not require specific training and are not allowed in public. The only “task” an ESA needs to have is to provide emotional support for the person with a disability. Someone may have an emotional support animal if they have a prescription from a therapist or physician and meets the criteria for being a person with a disability. While I personally believe animals can help anyone, unfortunately, the ease of obtaining a physician’s order for an ESA allows people to abuse the system such as people claiming their pets as ESAs so they wouldn’t have to pay for their animals to travel. The criteria for being considered disabled are, “(1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, seeing, working, learning, washing, dressing, etc.); (2) a record of having such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment.” In the US, having an ESA is covered as a reasonable accommodation under the 1988 Fair Housing Act. This means that a landlord must allow the ESA even when they have a no pet policy, and they are not allowed to charge a fee for an ESA. Once again, ESAs are not service dogs. It is important to make note of this because taking an ESA in public is generally not allowed and could interfere with the work of a service dog. And I can’t emphasize that point enough. ESAs are not service dogs. What is a service dog? If a person needs assistance out in public, specifically trained service dogs may be an option to assist with all types of disabilities. Psychiatric service dogs are an option for those struggling with their mental health who also need assistance in public. Service dogs must be trained to perform one or more tasks to assist a person with a disability, not just provide companionship. For me, my emotional support cat, Kai, has been a lifesaver. My cat creates a routine that requires me to get up and move about during the day. Kai is the reason I wake up in the morning, and the only reason I’ve stayed alive during many of my worst moments in the six months that I’ve had him. Kai cuddles up with me during virtual therapy and makes me laugh when we play together. I can’t imagine having him live with anyone else, so I know I must be here for him. On the days I can’t stay alive for myself, I stay alive for Kai. ESAs can be life-changing and lifesaving. They provide unconditional love and support in ways other humans sometimes are not able to provide. My emotional support cat makes sure I’m feline fine and staying paw-sitive.

Becca R.
Becca R. @beccar
contributor

The Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Dog

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While there are many ways to improve mental health such as going to therapy, self-care, and medication if necessary, one option that is often misunderstood is the importance of animals, specifically emotional support animals (ESAs), to our mental health. What is an emotional support animal? First, an ESA is not the same thing as a service dog. Service dogs undergo specific training and must perform a specific task for their handler. Service dogs are allowed in all areas in which the public is generally allowed. Service dogs are not “pets.” Emotional support animals, on the other hand, are not traditional “pets” in the sense that they are considered more to be an assistive aid such as a wheelchair. They are not required to be a dog. ESAs do not require specific training and are not allowed in public. The only “task” an ESA needs to have is to provide emotional support for the person with a disability. Someone may have an emotional support animal if they have a prescription from a therapist or physician and meets the criteria for being a person with a disability. While I personally believe animals can help anyone, unfortunately, the ease of obtaining a physician’s order for an ESA allows people to abuse the system such as people claiming their pets as ESAs so they wouldn’t have to pay for their animals to travel. The criteria for being considered disabled are, “(1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, seeing, working, learning, washing, dressing, etc.); (2) a record of having such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment.” In the US, having an ESA is covered as a reasonable accommodation under the 1988 Fair Housing Act. This means that a landlord must allow the ESA even when they have a no pet policy, and they are not allowed to charge a fee for an ESA. Once again, ESAs are not service dogs. It is important to make note of this because taking an ESA in public is generally not allowed and could interfere with the work of a service dog. And I can’t emphasize that point enough. ESAs are not service dogs. What is a service dog? If a person needs assistance out in public, specifically trained service dogs may be an option to assist with all types of disabilities. Psychiatric service dogs are an option for those struggling with their mental health who also need assistance in public. Service dogs must be trained to perform one or more tasks to assist a person with a disability, not just provide companionship. For me, my emotional support cat, Kai, has been a lifesaver. My cat creates a routine that requires me to get up and move about during the day. Kai is the reason I wake up in the morning, and the only reason I’ve stayed alive during many of my worst moments in the six months that I’ve had him. Kai cuddles up with me during virtual therapy and makes me laugh when we play together. I can’t imagine having him live with anyone else, so I know I must be here for him. On the days I can’t stay alive for myself, I stay alive for Kai. ESAs can be life-changing and lifesaving. They provide unconditional love and support in ways other humans sometimes are not able to provide. My emotional support cat makes sure I’m feline fine and staying paw-sitive.

Becca R.
Becca R. @beccar
contributor

How Ketamine Helped Me Realize My Suicidal Thoughts Weren't Accurate

This past week, I started having ketamine infusions to manage my depression. While I’ve only finished one week of the 2x/week for three weeks protocol for initiating ketamine before moving on to the maintenance phase, it’s already been an eye-opening experience. Honestly, when I began the infusions, I had no clue what to expect. I never experimented with drugs or drank alcohol, so I had no clue what it would be like to have a mind-altering experience. The first infusion felt like a Novocaine shot to the whole body mixed with being in a room of swirling colors. The second infusion was way different. I felt like I was inside a “Planet Earth” filming with David Attenborough’s voice narrating in an ocean full of whales. I thought about my aunt in her last days before passing from brain cancer. I imagined her last days felt like I did in the moment influenced by ketamine — relaxed, peaceful, pain-free, and able to hear the soft music playing in the background. While I used to imagine my aunt was uncomfortable, I now have hope that maybe her last days weren’t as painful as I’d imagined. I thought about my cousin who died by suicide and had a bit of an epiphany about my own suicidal thoughts. Perhaps I’d been told about this concept in the past but unable to appreciate it in its entirety until now. This is when the thought came to me that maybe my constant suicidal ideation isn’t really accurate, but rather a habitual thought that I’ve been conditioned to turn to whenever I get uncomfortable. So, what do I mean suicidal ideation became a habitual thought and may not be accurate anymore? As I began ketamine, the advanced practice nurse prescriber (APNP) described the treatment as having to forge a new sledding path while the old one seemed to be running smoothly. This is how I think of my suicidal ideation — whenever things get tough, I immediately take the “I need to die” path because that’s what I’ve done for the last 11 years living with my depression. For so long, I thought “I need to die” was an accurate thought because I heard it over and over in my head to the point I believed it with every fiber of my being. But my experience during ketamine this week pointed out that “I need to die” may really have just turned into a habitual, comfortable thought. And now, I know I need to work on reframing that thought and carving a new path for my thoughts to evolve into. I know my suicidal thoughts will likely come back and I will believe them to be accurate thoughts. For now, I think “I need to die” is my default thought by habit when life gets tough and I have a lot of thought challenging ahead in my future to try to alter these thoughts to be more accurate, such as “I don’t want to live like this.”

Community Voices

What To Keep In Mind While Talking to Someone In Mental Health Crisis

Part 1 of 2 This past week, I had the opportunity to sit down with a couple police officers to talk about what to keep in mind when they deal with #MentalHealth situations as part of a week-long course on the subject. The conversation went well and I realized that making my ideas available for other officers or people responding to #MentalHealth crises can greatly benefit the community.

So, what do I find important for #MentalHealth calls?

1.    Make sure the person is grounded before proceeding with any detailed conversation – Many people dissociate during periods of high #Anxiety and will not be able to respond effectively unless they are grounded. Being able to help the person feel grounded will allow for better communication. Being grounded means that a person is fully present and aware in the moment of what is happening around them.

2.    Grounding techniques to know – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 helps people connect to the room they are in. What are 5 the person sees, 4 things they hear, 3 things they can touch, 2 things they can smell, and 1 thing they can taste? Ice packs, weighted blankets, white noise machines, music, and pets all work well.

3.    Speak slowly and calmly – People in a heightened state of #Anxiety may take longer to process information. Also, repeat the intention of the visit and that the person being helped is not in any trouble.

4.    Communicate effectively – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy provides an effective framework for communication called a DEARMAN script. DEARMAN stands for Describe, Express, Assert, Reinforce, Mindfully, Assertively, and Negotiate (if possible). People will be more open to accept help if they feel respected in all forms of communication.

5.    Check biases – Are people of all race, ability, sex, etc. being treated the same? Don’t assume someone is on drugs if they are unresponsive and not cooperating. The person may be dissociating and are unaware of what is being requested of them.

6.    Know who you are working with and adjust accordingly – #MentalHealth affects people both with and without disabilities. It may be necessary to accommodate for cognitive disabilities or for someone with hearing, visual, or other physical disabilities.

7.    Validate – It is important to validate both the person’s experience that got them to the point they required intervention as well as the emotions that they bring. Even something “small” could be a big deal for a person struggling with their #MentalHealth .

8.    Be aware that law enforcement being called is a #Trauma in and of itself – Keep in mind that the person will have memories associated with the event that may lead to mistrust of the system. Although law enforcement may see these calls all the time, it is likely the first time for the person they are working with.

9.    People will lie – especially in the situation with law enforcement being called in, it’s possible that the people who are most likely to harm themselves will be the first ones to lie and say they are ok because they’ve made up their minds and don’t want anyone to stop them. Careful detective work is needed to tease out whether or not the “ok” person is truly safe.

10.  If possible, bring a female to the call – if going to a call with a known female or of someone of unknown gender, try to have a female officer (or any female that can ride along) come with because a woman (or man) may have a history of #Trauma such as sexual assault and will feel more safe with a female present.

11.  Avoid talking face to face and keep the person engaged with something – If possible, go for a walk or sit on the couch with the person to eliminate the pressure of being face to face. Engaging in a simple activity can also help a person stay calm and open up.

12. Speak in concrete terms and offer hope – It took me over 10 years of therapy to finally understand how to look for the positives. I was told to look for yellow cars. Since they’re rare, the only way to notice them is if a person is actively looking for them. Yellow cars represent positive things. During a nasty storm (or depressive episode), cars (or positives) don’t just disappear off the road until it’s sunny out. Good things are out there even when a person can’t see them.

Keeping this list in mind can alter and effect positive influence on a conversation with someone struggling with their #MentalHealth . It

Community Voices

What To Keep In Mind While Talking to Someone In Mental Health Crisis

Part 2 of 2 could mean the difference between life and death.

Becca R.
Becca R. @beccar
contributor

Using the Yellow Car Metaphor to Find Positives With Depression

Last night at wheelchair rugby practice, I had a conversation about depression with an assistant coach because I was having a really hard day and needed to talk. While we’ve had some conversations on this topic in the past, this conversation stood out to me. When the assistant coach asked if I liked life, I told him “no.” He followed up by asking if I liked some of the things I do in life. And I surprised myself by saying “yes” – after all, I was at wheelchair rugby, and it’s one of my favorite things to do. Then he told me a metaphor about looking for a yellow car. In all my years of treatment for depression, I’ve been told to look for the positives in life, and that’s been super hard. Why look for positives when all you want to do is die and constantly look for proof that dying is the best thing for you? Looking for positives never made any sense to me because there were so many negative things happening in my life. And then my assistant coach mentioned the “yellow car.” I’d never been good at looking for the positives, but when my assistant coach told me to look for “yellow cars,” something “clicked” in my head. I won’t easily find yellow cars unless I’m actively looking for them, and I won’t find positives unless I’m actively looking for them either. The metaphor of the yellow car reminds me of games I’ve played on long car rides where I scan signs and license plates for certain letters, numbers, or colors. It seems as though once I find a certain letter, all of a sudden it feels like they are popping up everywhere — even though they were there all along. If I don’t look for the “yellow cars,” then I will just continue to see the sea of green, blue, silver, and black cars that my depression steers me toward. I’ll constantly be reminded of all the negatives in my life because I won’t be intentionally looking for the positives — the “yellow cars.” To be fair, my life is full of negative things — especially this week. It’s the anniversary of my cousin’s suicide, which reminds me of my past attempts and all the hospitalizations I’ve had since then. It’s also the week my nephew is having surgery, which reminds me of all the medical procedures I’ve had and how they affected my childhood. I’m feeling burnt out both mentally and physically. I’m in pain constantly. The only thing I want to do this week is curl up in bed with my cat. So this week is hard. But when I deliberately look for “yellow cars,” I realize there is a pretty full lot of “yellow taxi cabs” in the distance. I have wheelchair rugby and sled hockey. I have my cat. I have my crochet and art therapy groups. I have people who care enough to talk to me on my bad days. Even on my worst days — when the storm is raging and I can’t see more than 10 feet in front of me — I’m going to have to remind myself that even if I can’t see “yellow cars,” they still exist. Even when I struggle to identify any positives happening in my life, they are still out there. I’ll find “yellow cars” on less stormy days and collect proof they exist as something to watch for when I can’t find them right in front of me.

Becca R.
Becca R. @beccar
contributor

The Link Between Childhood Medical Trauma and Emotional Regulation

Recently, I reread the book “What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing” written by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey. The book explores how childhood trauma affects behavior later in life regardless of whether or not a child was old enough to remember those experiences. When I was younger, I had multiple medical procedures due to my cerebral palsy ranging from ages 2-16. Although I don’t have complete memories of the procedures from when I was very little, reading this book helped me realize that I still experienced trauma that would forever change who I would become. As a child, I had horrible temper tantrums until I was in middle or high school. My mom tells me I would throw plates of food and that yelling at me just would not work. Now I know why. Although we’ll never know 100 percent for sure whether my medical trauma was the specific cause of me being a highly dysregulated child and cause my temper tantrums, this book explains that there could be a link. Maybe I wasn’t just a “horrible child” as I viewed myself. Rather, maybe I was just unable to regulate myself. As the book explains, yelling at me would not work because yelling at a dysregulated child will only dysregulate them even more. As a child, I did not know how to properly calm myself and deal with my overwhelmingly intense emotions. Instead of having adults know to help me calm down and talk to me when I was in a more regulated state, I was left with feelings I could not fully understand. This history of medical trauma and being unable to regulate my emotions makes my adult diagnosis of borderline personality disorder make a lot of sense. I currently struggle to regulate my emotions in a healthy manner, possibly as a result of never being taught how to do so as a child. But that doesn’t mean my situation is hopeless and I will never be able to feel in control of my emotions. To me, being in control of my emotions doesn’t mean not having emotions. Instead, it is feeling my emotions in a healthy way without turning to self-destructive behaviors such as self-harm or eating disorder urges. When I was in middle school, I would often call my mom up to my room at night to talk about my emotions about my CP, but when she would arrive, I would clam up and not be able to talk. As the book explains, those moments were me trying to “dose” myself with talk about my cerebral palsy in order to help me process it in a manner I could control in manageable bits. However, when I would clam up, I was often met with responses of “other people have it worse” or “I don’t have time for this” if I couldn’t speak at all. These reactions were out of frustration of me not talking. These conversations were a way of trying to regulate my emotions regarding my cerebral palsy even though I did not have the understanding of what that was at the time. The messages I received while learning how to view my disability were ones of “stop complaining and just deal with it.” I didn’t learn how to accept my body for what it is. Even with the messages I received as a child, I’m not mad at my parents for how they handled my situation because they did what they knew and what doctors suggested at the time. As the book explains, parents cannot give what they themselves do not have. My mom came from a family where her dad became disabled when she was 5 and continued to push through life raising the seven children. Also, my mom’s younger sister lives with cognitive disabilities and as a child, my mom was taught to just let her be who she is. As a result of rereading the book “What Happened to You?” the causes of my behavior as a child become clear. I no longer view myself as a “horrible child,” rather I was a child dealing with trauma that was unsupported in a way that would help me learn to manage my emotions in a healthy way.

Becca R.
Becca R. @beccar
contributor

ESAs and Service Dogs Should Be Covered By Insurance

Last month, I finally moved out on my own after five years of living with my parents due to my mental health. As part of my safety plan due to my intense daily suicidal thoughts, my treatment team and I decided I would benefit from an emotional support animal. Two days after I was out on my own, I adopted my cat, Achilles. Even in our short time together, Achilles has stopped me from engaging in behaviors I could use to seriously injure or even kill myself. He is just as important, if not more, to me as any other one of my psychiatric medications. As an emotional support animal, I am required to have a doctor’s prescription for Achilles that allows him to live with me without a pet fee in my apartment. This provision is considered law as part of the Fair Housing Act. Emotional support animals and service animals allow their humans to live full, independent lives that they might otherwise not have access to. Achilles isn’t my pet. He is my lifeline, my flotation device on the days I’m struggling to stay above water and keep sight of my future. He is more than just a house companion. Achilles forces me up in the morning and into a routine of basic care. He keeps me grounded when I am struggling with intense emotions by laying on me, purring, licking me, and meowing to get my attention. Achilles’ life and wellbeing require me to be alive and functioning on at least a basic level. I cannot kill myself without hurting him and his wellbeing, and that thought keeps me clinging to life on my worst days. Many people with disabilities receiving government assistance, including myself, are in precarious financial situations. We are limited in the amount of income we are allowed and how much we are allowed to save just to keep the healthcare and other benefits we need to survive. Many of us live in poverty, paycheck to paycheck. Often, people with disabilities receive multiple types of support through the government such as SSI, utility assistance, and food stamps. Even with these supports, after paying rent and other basic daily expenses, often too little is left to spend on the health and wellbeing of the animals we rely on for survival. With that said, considering emotional support animals and service animals require a physician’s prescription, I believe the basic care these animals require – food, litter, vet appointments, vaccinations — should be covered as medical expenses just as any other medical procedure, therapy, or medication. I propose that emotional support animals and service animals be considered medical necessities and the expenses that occur to take care of these lifelines be covered by a stipend from insurance companies. When I took Achilles to the vet last week, I was told I should feed my cat wet food twice a day for optimal health and decreased risk of health problems in the future. With my financial situation, I am unable to feed my cat wet food twice a day. I am trying to compromise with wet food once a day supplemented by dry food, but even that is difficult. Food pantries don’t always have cat food available for those in need. While some may say something along the lines of “well if you can’t afford an animal, don’t have one,” I must remind them that my cat, Achilles is keeping me alive. He isn’t an oral medication or injection I take every day that may be covered by insurance such as Medicaid, but he is just as important to my wellbeing as insulin is to a diabetic. Emotional support animals and service animals are lifelines to our health and wellbeing. Socioeconomic status should not be a deciding factor on whether or not we have access to the animals we need to live a life worth living.