Laura Snelling

@laura_snelling | contributor
Laura has struggled with mental illness since she was 12 years old. Several diagnoses have come and gone since then. In the midst of it all, she discovered her passion for writing. Her dream is to use her gift to help destroy the stigma that surrounds mental illness and its sufferers. She is also a service dog team with her better half, Leo, who mitigates several disabilities. Laura is passionate about advocating for both the service dog/disability community, and the mental health community - while also still discussing the laws on service dogs and educating those who are unaware of the laws and service dog etiquette. You can find Laura’s blog below, where you will find links to her personal contact and social media accounts, in addition to more of her writings that have not been submitted/published on The Mighty understandingchaos.org
Laura Snelling

Parents, Please Teach Your Kids Not to Pet Service Dogs

If you’re anything like me, your heart probably skips a beat each time a dog walks by you. They are precious and I want every single one for myself despite it being unrealistic. What I love most about dogs is that some breeds are driven to work and please their owners or handlers. Some dogs were just born to work, which is fascinating to think about. When you think of a working dog, I’m sure you think of the drug sniffers at the airport or the police K-9s that will tear your leg off if you take off running. What if I told you there are countless other jobs that dogs can be trained to do or perform? Despite how common service dogs seem to be these days, people often still act like it’s absolutely shocking that there’s a dog in the grocery store. Before you think of the little fake one in the cart on aisle 3, imagine a real task-trained service dog laying on the floor, out of the way, eyes on their handler and not on other distractions. Imagine that dog having the most important job in the world to their handler. Imagine said handler not being able to function independently without that dog just as a paraplegic is unable to function independently without their wheelchair. Next, I want you to imagine a child running up to you as you are wheeling yourself down the aisle doing your weekly grocery shopping. A child runs up screaming and wailing about how cute your wheelchair is. They ask why you have your wheelchair, they pet your wheelchair without asking permission — they invade your personal space without even asking. That’s what it’s like each time a child sees my service dog walking next to me. Weird, isn’t it? Service dogs have a very important job to do, in the same way a wheelchair has an important job to do for its passenger. We are just trying to go about our day normally, get what we need at the store, and be done with it. But my shopping trips are almost always three times longer than they should be because of the number of people and children that bombard me. I just really want to get my food for the week and go home like the rest of you. But because my medical equipment is a living thing with a precious face, I can’t go about my shopping like everyone else. I completely understand that my dog is cute and that you get excited when you see one. Dogs are my favorite, and I want to pet every single one too. But I also realize that some of them are working, and others just actually don’t even like to be petted. So I respect the dogs and their owners’/handlers’ space and let them be. Please start teaching yourself and/or your children that they should never be running up to a random or strange dog trying to pet it. First of all, service dog or not, you never know if a dog is aggressive. I was always taught to never reach for a dog without asking. Let alone the fact that your child reaching for my service dog without asking, is interfering with my dog’s job. I should also add that interfering with a service dog is actually very illegal and there are pricy consequences for doing so if the dog misses an alert for the handler. I understand it’s exciting to see a cute dog. But please teach yourself and/or your children that some dogs have a special job to do and it’s never OK to run up to one without asking first. If you’re the kind of parent that points out my dog to your child while we walk by saying “honey, look, a dog,” you are teaching your child that service dogs are just like any other dog. When in fact, they are not, and should be treated with respect as they are there as medical equipment for their handler. I can also acknowledge children are not perfect, it’s hard to get them under control sometimes. But trust me when I say that if you sit them down and have a talk with them, they are likely to understand if it’s broken down simply enough for them. My favorite thing is when I hear a parent educating their child on why my dog is in the grocery store with me. I’m also nice enough to understand and accept an apology from a parent for their child’s behavior towards my dog and me. I’ve even said thank you to many of those people because I appreciate them more than they will ever know. However, you would be surprised by how many adults I’ve had that act like a 5-year-old child when they see my dog, too. Each state has different levels of penalties for interfering with a service dog. There are only six states that do not have this kind of law set in place. Depending on the state you are in, you may be fined thousands of dollars and may be required to perform community service as the charge is in fact a misdemeanor. Interfering with a service dog is no joke. My service dog is medical equipment for me just as a wheelchair is my cousin’s medical equipment. There is absolutely no difference as defined by federal law under the Americans With Disabilities Act. There is so much knowledge that needs to be learned and spread about service dog etiquette. It starts with you learning these things, and teaching them to your children if you have any, or even other family members that may just not be aware. Please let us go on our way just like everyone else.

Laura Snelling

What It’s Like to Date When You Have a Service Dog

I have a disability, but it’s not what you would typically think of when you think of “disability.” I don’t require the use of a wheelchair, walker or insulin pump. My medical equipment happens to be a task trained service dog that is highly trained to assist and alert to my invisible disability. His name is Leo, and he is my best friend and literally my lifeline. I was in a serious relationship for almost three years. We lived together, and he loved Leo and me both very much. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and that’s OK. But I’ll tell you what, going from living with someone for that long, and getting back out into the dating world when I have a dog with me 24/7 has been nothing short of interesting. I have a ton of pictures with Leo in them, obviously. Some of those are on my profile, so I intentionally put in my bio that he is a task trained service dog and that he is not fake, so stop asking. Apparently, I haven’t been clear enough because people still message me and ask if he’s actually a real service dog. Everyone who knows me knows I can joke about a lot of things, but my disability and why I require Leo is not one of those. I have had guys send me messages, mocking Leo and me saying that they want to make their dog a service dog so they can take them everywhere too. Guys have expected me to leave Leo at home if we were to go on a date. They have also just messaged me to find out “what’s wrong with me” in a very disrespectful way. My biggest pet peeve is when people call Leo an emotional support animal, because he isn’t and I paid a lot of money for him not to be. I’ve lost count of how many times I have had to clarify for people that he is not an emotional support animal. I have surprisingly handled all of the negative things really well. I have found my confidence again, and am able to stand up for myself, for Leo, and show them the part of my personality that doesn’t take shit from anyone. They don’t seem to like that, but my condition is not something to joke about and I am not going to let people think it is. On the other hand, I have had some really great responses. Some guys have been really receptive to the idea. Some have messaged me to politely ask if they can ask why I require the use of Leo, but that I don’t have to answer if I’m not comfortable. I am open to that question when asked respectfully, and I have enjoyed explaining why I need Leo and having guys respond in a really positive way. Sometimes I think about how much easier it would be to not have a dog have to go everywhere with me. I could have my grocery shopping done in half the time and my dinner date wouldn’t have to worry about possibly kicking Leo while he lays under the table. But then I also remind myself that I wouldn’t physically be able to do those things without having him with me. That’s always my reminder to myself that I need Leo, and that the right person will be OK with that. I know it’s not as typical to have a service dog as it is to have other types of medical equipment. It’s really not convenient to have my dog go everywhere with me like people think it is. I require special accommodations. It’s definitely “baggage” in some people’s eyes. But those are the kind of guys I don’t want to associate with, let alone date. Leo and I are really enjoying our time together in our new place. I can never leave his sight, as usual. But I think he knows how hard this has been for me, too. He has been the best boy through all of this. He has been on his best behavior and has done his job very well — as he always does. I am so thankful for him and everything he has done, does do, and will do for me through this major life change. I promised him that I would never settle for someone who is going to message me and mock us, and I will keep that promise to him — because he and I both deserve someone better than that.

Laura Snelling

What It's Like to Be a 'Happy' and 'High-Functioning' Depressed Person

Depression for me has always been concealed. I’ve always been what they call “high-functioning.” I’m able to hold down a job, go about my day just like everyone else, and — for the most part — maintain healthy relationships with those around me. Every single person I’ve come across has told me they never would have guessed I was depressed if I hadn’t told them. I have what they call smiling depression. I love the concept of laughter and smiling at people; brightening someone’s day is what my goal is every single day. I don’t like sulking in my own sadness 24/7, and I sure as hell hate bringing other people down because of my depression. I speak about it publicly. But that’s to help end the stigma. When someone asks me how I am that day, I’m never honest. Because in reality, they don’t actually want to hear about how incredibly sad I am on a regular basis. On the outside, people see the happy, bubbly, carefree woman. But in reality, they have no idea. I don’t know if it’s ironic, but within the last three weeks, I have had two different people tell me I look so happy with life. My response to them was a little laugh, and “if only you knew my friend, if only you knew.” Neither of them know of my history with mental illness, and I wasn’t going to bore them with putting down their statement and explaining to them that it’s really the complete opposite. My depression — in reality — is this: It’s pretending like nothing is wrong. It’s not anyone screaming for help; it’s actually the person staying silent. It’s the tears I cry without anyone knowing because I have no other way to express the overwhelming amount of emotions. It’s the plans canceled last minute because I can’t seem to muster up the strength and energy to go do anything. It’s the two days off spent in bed instead of doing something fun because I’m too exhausted from pretending all week. It’s that dark cloud that hangs over my head and never seems to go away. It creeps up on me during the most unexpected times. It lurks and waits for something great to happen, just so it can ruin it and convince me it’s actually something terrible. It’s the fear of happiness because I know that at some point, it’s bound to fade away just like the memories. It’s faded memories and a cloudy mind, unable to recall important things that have occurred in my life. It is numbing and leaves me unable to function on the really bad days. The truth is, I’m not happy with my life… at all. Nothing inside of me wants to continue living a life riddled with anxiety and consumed by depression and trauma. I think about death on a regular basis, yet I’m not technically suicidal. I have those few genuine moments in which my laugh or smile is real. But for the most part, even when I’m smiling or laughing, I’m breaking on the inside. Even when I try to have those moments of happiness and pureness, depression still lingers; reminding me that the sadness is greater. I wish I could just tell people that. I wish I didn’t have to pretend. In all honesty, it’s the most exhausting thing I have ever done. I’m so tired when I get home each day and it’s not because of lack of sleep or working all day. It’s from pretending to be happy and bubbly all day long. No one understands what it’s like to be trapped in such darkness, with no way out and appear to be happy. No one understands how exhausting it is to put that mask on every single day. No one understands how badly I just want them to genuinely ask how I’m doing — and be ready to listen to me talk about sad I am. Because sometimes, talking about it and sulking in it aren’t always the same thing. On the bright side, smiling depression has its benefits. I’m not the stereotypical depressed person that you see on the commercials for antidepressants. People have a positive view of me instead of judging me for constantly being sad. My stepmom has always told me I light up any room I walk into. Other people have told me the same thing, and that’s comforting, because I don’t want to bring them down with my sadness when I walk into the room. Maybe I do it to try to give myself a glimpse of what it’s like to be happy. Maybe I do it to try to convince myself I’m not actually depressed (even though we all know that’s a lie). Who knows why I do it. All I know is I’ve been like this since I was diagnosed at 12. Here’s to you thinking I’m the happy girl. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via Lauren Roberts

Laura Snelling

'Freedom to Breathe Agency' Face Mask Card Is Fake

At this point you’ve probably been made aware of the countless reasons people are giving to get out of wearing a face mask. Now, “Face Mask Exempt Cards” are making their way around the internet, citing the Americans With Disabilities Act as the reason people shouldn’t be “forced” to wear a mask. Many of these cards and flyers include a logo for the Freedom to Breathe Agency (FTBA), which is not a real government agency. In fact, the real FTBA (which stands for Florida Transportation Builders’ Association) had to release a statement clarifying they weren’t associated with the FTBA that’s distributing the fake cards. It has been brought to our attention that a “Face Mask Exempt Card” with our acronym has been circulating on social…Posted by FTBA on Thursday, June 25, 2020   The main issue with is that a very important law is being abused. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was passed to allow individuals with disabilities to be provided with reasonable accommodations. These accommodations are to be provided in public areas and in the workplace to allow individuals with disabilities to be provided and granted the same service and rights as those living without a disability. These accommodations can include a store having to install a wheelchair ramp to allow it to be accessible, a job providing limited hours to accommodate an individual who may not be able to work full-time and allowing a service dog/miniature horse and their handler into an establishment despite having a no pet policy. People have found a “loophole” in the ADA and are claiming they legally don’t have to wear a mask because the ADA says so. But let me just let you in on a little secret, This is incorrect because there is no “loophole.” The ADA was put in place to protect those of us with disabilities and/or medical conditions that require reasonable accommodation. Simply not wanting to wear a mask is not a disability or medical condition. If you do not have a disability or medical condition that hinders your ability to wear a mask and/or remove it, the ADA does not apply to you — it’s as simple as that. The Department of Justice’s office in North Carolina released a statement regarding the increase of individuals claiming the ADA protects them from having to wear a mask, and has deemed these cards and flyers as fraudulent. A statement on ada.gov says: The Department of Justice has been made aware of postings or flyers on the internet regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the use of face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of which include the Department of Justice’s seal.These postings were not issued by the Department and are not endorsed by the Department.The Department urges the public not to rely on the information contained in these postings and to visit ADA.gov for ADA information issued by the Department. COVID-19 ALERT: Fraudulent Facemask Flyers, “Exempt” Cards not Authorized by U.S. Department of Justice https://t.co/pTa64ILFZK pic.twitter.com/4A1wKvDpCK— US Attorney MDNC (@USAO_MDNC) June 26, 2020 In an Issues Brief , the Southeast ADA Center listed some examples of real challenges people with disabilities might face when it comes to wearing a face mask: “Individuals with respiratory disabilities such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cystic fibrosis may not be able to wear a face mask because of difficulty in or impaired breathing. People with respiratory disabilities should consult their own medical professional for advice about using face masks. The CDC also states that anyone who has trouble breathing should not wear a face mask.[7] People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe anxiety, or claustrophobia (an abnormal fear of being in enclosed or narrow places).[8] may feel afraid or terrified when wearing a face mask. These individuals may not be able to stay calm or function when wearing a face mask. Some people with autism are sensitive to touch and texture. [9] Covering the nose and mouth with fabric can cause sensory overload, feelings of panic, and extreme anxiety. A person who has cerebral palsy may have difficulty moving the small muscles in the hands, wrists, or fingers. Due to her limited mobility,  she may not be able to tie the strings or put the elastic loops of a face mask over the ears. This means that the individual may not be able to put on or remove a face mask without assistance.” But, all of these conditions require reasonable accommodations (some examples are listed here). Allowing someone to enter a store without a mask is not a reasonable accommodation during a global pandemic. The people using these cards clearly don’t care about the ADA, but are looking for any excuse to not wear a mask. It makes it seem like the ADA is for getting out of something you don’t want to do, which totally waters down and disrespects the law’s purpose. The best example I can give of this is the fake service dog issue. You’ve all seen that “service dog” with a vest and ID card barking, running in circles around their handler’s legs, riding in the cart, etc. All of which the ADA states are reason to ask the handler and dog to leave the establishment. I am a service dog handler to the best boy. I have been kicked out of stores and denied access to restaurants because the business owners automatically assume my dog is fake, when in fact, he is highly trained to perform multiple tasks for me. I’ve been asked to show ID for him, which I legally do not have to do, and will not do, because I am not required to have any kind of certification for him, per the ADA. This is one common way people abuse the ADA, which can lead to the perception that service dogs aren’t actually necessary. If you are not disabled and do not have a medical condition that hinders you from wearing a mask, the ADA does not apply to you. Not wanting to wear a mask is not a disability or medical condition, and therefore the ADA does not apply to you. Stop abusing the laws and resources the disability community has been given and granted with. Stop trying to get out of things you do not want to do, and hurting other individuals in the process. Stop abusing the system that was never put in place for you to begin with. Related: Stop Using the ADA and HIPAA to Get Out of Wearing Masks What to Do If You Can’t Wear a Face Mask The Rage of Watching Everyone I Know End Quarantine as Someone With Chronic Illness Follow this journey on Understanding Chaos.

Laura Snelling

Viral Video Shows Police Officer Detaining a Woman's Service Dog

In a viral video that began circulating in Canada, a police officer is seen holding onto the collar of a woman’s dog while demanding to see the dog’s service animal registration. The owner repeatedly tells the officer, “Let go of my f*cking dog!” and explains she is on her own private property. The officer says he will arrest her for obstruction and threatens to confiscate the dog. You can see the video below: ‘Let go of my f*cking dog’ — This woman’s service dog was detained by police on her own property pic.twitter.com/n4evsPDewr— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 29, 2020 As someone who uses a service animal, I saw this police interaction as completely inappropriate. First and foremost, it’s important to mention this incident occurred in Alberta, Canada where service dog registrations are common. If this was in the United States, where t he Department of Justice does not recognize animal certification or registration documents as proof that a dog is a service animal, a police officer wouldn’t be able to ask for this kind of documentation in the first place. Still, this officer was way out of line. Before I get called all kinds of names, I would also like to clarify that I have and always will be a devout supporter of our first responders and officers serving and protecting us. However, that does not mean there are lines that can and will be crossed by some, such as this one. In this video, a girl lets her service dog outside. The officer wanted to know if it had tags and came onto the woman’s property to find that out, grabbed her dog by the collar, pet her dog like you’re absolutely not supposed to do to a service dog without asking its handler first (whether it is on or off duty) and demanded to see its tags that were not on its collar at the time. Once he found out it was a service dog, he demanded to see documentation. Again, outside of the United States, documentation for service animals can be common. However, this officer is on her private property and harassing her. He is clearly crossing boundaries in many ways, including having a hold on her dog’s collar nearly the entire length of the video of seven minutes. Let’s talk about this situation as if it had happened in the United States for a moment. Behavior like this is 100% illegal in the U.S. whether they were on her private property or out in public, where her service dog has legal rights to be with its disabled handler. Even more so, this situation occurred on her own private property which makes it all the more disturbing — regardless of what country it happened in. For our United States readers, please remember that we legally do not have to have our service dogs registered. All registries are considered a scam and the American’s With Disabilities Act does not require us to register them in any way. You can literally register a jar of Nutella on any registry’s website. And yes, that has been done to show how much of a joke they are. I have been kicked out of stores and restaurants and denied access to others, all because people think they can ask for documentation in the United States showing proof that a service dog is a service dog. I would like to make one thing clear — business owners are only allowed to ask two questions: 1. Is this a service dog?2. What tasks is the dog trained to perform? They cannot ask any further questions beyond that. Asking for documentation in the United States to show a service dog is a service dog is illegal. It might sound silly to all of you who do not require the use of a service dog, but in all actuality, it is discrimination to do so, and is the reason why the ADA exists in our favor. My heart hurts for this poor girl and her dog. If you are familiar with canine behavior, you know the dog is clearly distressed in this video. The girl had her rights invaded by the officer coming onto her property, when the dog never left it, which means that Alberta’s public access laws do not apply to this situation. Please, for the love of God, just treat people with respect. It does not matter if we are disabled or not, we deserve respect. Our medical equipment deserves respect. This is the equivalent of an officer walking up to a woman in a wheelchair in her front yard, grabbing hold of it, and demanding to see its serial number to prove it is a legitimate wheelchair. As she kept saying in the video — you know your rights and I know my rights. So, let’s start following them and stop harassing those of us with legitimate service dogs. Know the law, no matter what country you are in and no matter what position you hold within your job or community. Follow this journey on Understanding Chaos.

Laura Snelling

The Disability Restroom Stall Is Not for Able-Bodied People

To those who don’t understand why it’s important to leave the disability stall open for people who need it: You need to use the restroom just like anyone else. There are six stalls as you walk in, one of which is the disability-accessible stall. There is no one else in the restroom, and yet you still choose the stall made big enough for those with disabilities who are unable to use the stalls made for able-bodied people. You come out and wonder why there is a disabled person waiting patiently for you to be done when there are five other stalls vacant. Don’t get me wrong, if the restroom is packed and it’s the only stall available, I am not going to get mad about it. I know the changing station is often located in that stall, so if you have a child, I am not going to get mad about that either. But if there are more stalls in the restroom than there are people, and you choose the only stall I am able to use, I am not going to be happy. That large stall is not there for your convenience to change in or to have extra room while you pull your pants up. That stall is there for people who need it. If you do not have a legitimate reason, please consider this before you use it. I have a task-trained service dog that is trained to mitigate several disabilities. He is my medical equipment in the same way someone who is paralyzed uses a wheelchair or an elderly person uses a walker. Unfortunately, he and I both do not fit in the small stalls I used to fit in before I became disabled and got him. We have to use the stall designed for people with disabilities. It is humiliating to stand in the restroom with five other stalls, waiting for the only one I can use to be available. People who don’t get it often look at me like I’m weird for standing there waiting when there are five other stalls. I have had to stand in line when in reality there is no line, just me standing there while everyone else gets to go who came in after me because they are able to use the small stalls and a non-disabled person is in the only stall I can use. Not all disabilities are visible like mine — and there’s no way of knowing from the outside who actually needs an accessible disability stall. Maybe someone has chronic pain and need to utilize the bars for help sitting down and getting up. I do not look at someone and try to pass judgment on whether they have a right to be using the accessible stall. But you know if you really need it or not — and if you knowingly use it while there are countless other stalls available, you could be accidentally contributing to the disability community feeling shunned and lesser than. Sometimes we can’t even use the restroom in a timely manner because we have to wait for someone who just wanted the extra room to come out. My problem is with the people who come walking out acting like there is nothing wrong with a disabled woman waiting for the only stall that is taken out of six total. Let me be honest in saying that before my conditions became disabling, I used the disability stall, even when others were available. I saw nothing wrong with it and I always got irritated when the woman in the wheelchair waiting for me to come out would give me a dirty look. Now I know why she used to give me a dirty look. There was absolutely no reason for her to have to wait for that stall. If you are able-bodied and don’t need to use the disability stall, please think twice before using it. It is not there for you, it is there for the people who need it. The disability stall is there for us, not for your convenience. Editor’s note: Based on feedback from The Mighty’s community, this piece has been edited to better reflect the author’s message.

Community Voices

What was your favorite moment of 2019? 😄

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Laura Snelling

Service Dogs Do Not Have to Be 'Registered'

For the past two years, I have been trying to obtain my own service dog. It was only in August of 2018 that I came across someone who was actually willing to train one for me. Although my first prospect didn’t work out, it was for the best because Leo and I both adore each other. Leo isn’t just a pet, nor is he considered one; he is literally my lifeline. Leo is a task-trained service dog specifically trained to help mitigate disabilities specific to my mental illnesses and no one else’s. He is not an emotional support dog, because emotional support dogs are not task trained and just provide comfort to their owners. He is not a therapy dog, because therapy dogs are trained specifically to help provide comfort to multiple people – you typically find them in hospitals or courtrooms. The Americans With Disabilities Act only recognizes two types of animals as service animals – dogs and miniature horses. Service animals are the only task-trained animals as well as the only animals that legally have public access rights. While most people know of guide dogs – which are wonderful and allow people who are blind to live independent lives — they are not the only type of service dogs. Service dogs can help alleviate the effects of mobility impairments, seizure disorders, and mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. On paper according to my psychiatrist, my mental illnesses include major depressive disorder, panic and generalized anxiety disorders associated with paranoia symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, and borderline personality disorder. They interfere with my daily lifestyle and have kept me from living independently for many years. Shortly after high school, I developed an extreme, irrational fear of going anywhere in public by myself. I could only bring myself to go to the bank, get gas (on the condition that I paid at the pump) and go to work. I had to order daily living necessities online, and if I had to go to the store, I had to be accompanied by someone. Eventually, at a routine visit, my psychiatrist brought up the possibility of me getting a service dog. Even though I was responding to treatment, my symptoms weren’t improving, so a service dog was my last resort. Although Leo wears a vest with visible patches identifying him as a service dog, people still don’t seem to understand that he is considered medical equipment and what to do or not to do when seeing him. Up until a week ago, I had never experienced any public access denial from any store or business owner. Most people just seemed to think that he is an emotional support animal or wanted to talk to him while he’s working. But at a routine grocery store outing, Leo and I experienced discrimination for the first time. We didn’t make it more than five feet into the store before a man stopped us and said, “Sorry, but no dogs are allowed in here.” I responded that Leo is a service dog, so he was permitted in the store. He asked if I had registration papers, to which I responded “no,” because by law you are not required to register your service dog. He said if I did not have papers, I could not come inside. I told him denying Leo and I access is illegal and an ADA violation. He walked me outside to show me the section of the ADA they had posted stating that service dogs are the only dogs allowed in their store, which coincidentally was the exact law that allowed Leo and I to shop together. He repeated that if I didn’t have papers, I had to leave. We came back shortly after with an information card I typically carry with me to explain what the law actually states for incidences like this. The lady up front said she had just spoken to the man, who was misinformed and very sorry. I asked her to please give the man the info card so he could educate himself. She asked what tasks Leo was trained to perform; I answered her, and then asked if I could please get what I needed. She let me shop as if nothing had happened. The man came out shortly after and genuinely apologized. He said he had just started working at the store and was completely misinformed. I told him that I accepted his apology, but that what he did was completely illegal, and he cannot continue to deny other service dog handlers who come into the store. He again said he was sorry, and then walked by me to get behind the counter to check us out. While he walked by me, he pet Leo without asking, which you should never do to a working service dog. Service dogs are working dogs. Someone petting them or talking to them to get their attention can interfere with the work the dog is trained to perform. It is also illegal for anyone to interfere with a service dog while it is working. Anyone who harms a service dog can be sued for damages. All of this was as a result of someone who was completely uneducated on the law. I don’t know how the misconception of registered service dogs came to be, nor do I understand how common it seems to be. But I was denied access simply because I did not provide paperwork that is not even required by law. Leo is as important to me as a wheelchair for someone who is paralyzed. When you see such a person enter a store, you wouldn’t dare ask them to provide proof they need their wheelchair, would you? I don’t know why people see service dogs any differently, and quite frankly, it’s very frustrating. It is pure discrimination to deny someone like me access to a public place simply because my medical equipment happens to be a dog.

Laura Snelling

What It's Like to Be a 'Happy' and 'High-Functioning' Depressed Person

Depression for me has always been concealed. I’ve always been what they call “high-functioning.” I’m able to hold down a job, go about my day just like everyone else, and — for the most part — maintain healthy relationships with those around me. Every single person I’ve come across has told me they never would have guessed I was depressed if I hadn’t told them. I have what they call smiling depression. I love the concept of laughter and smiling at people; brightening someone’s day is what my goal is every single day. I don’t like sulking in my own sadness 24/7, and I sure as hell hate bringing other people down because of my depression. I speak about it publicly. But that’s to help end the stigma. When someone asks me how I am that day, I’m never honest. Because in reality, they don’t actually want to hear about how incredibly sad I am on a regular basis. On the outside, people see the happy, bubbly, carefree woman. But in reality, they have no idea. I don’t know if it’s ironic, but within the last three weeks, I have had two different people tell me I look so happy with life. My response to them was a little laugh, and “if only you knew my friend, if only you knew.” Neither of them know of my history with mental illness, and I wasn’t going to bore them with putting down their statement and explaining to them that it’s really the complete opposite. My depression — in reality — is this: It’s pretending like nothing is wrong. It’s not anyone screaming for help; it’s actually the person staying silent. It’s the tears I cry without anyone knowing because I have no other way to express the overwhelming amount of emotions. It’s the plans canceled last minute because I can’t seem to muster up the strength and energy to go do anything. It’s the two days off spent in bed instead of doing something fun because I’m too exhausted from pretending all week. It’s that dark cloud that hangs over my head and never seems to go away. It creeps up on me during the most unexpected times. It lurks and waits for something great to happen, just so it can ruin it and convince me it’s actually something terrible. It’s the fear of happiness because I know that at some point, it’s bound to fade away just like the memories. It’s faded memories and a cloudy mind, unable to recall important things that have occurred in my life. It is numbing and leaves me unable to function on the really bad days. The truth is, I’m not happy with my life… at all. Nothing inside of me wants to continue living a life riddled with anxiety and consumed by depression and trauma. I think about death on a regular basis, yet I’m not technically suicidal. I have those few genuine moments in which my laugh or smile is real. But for the most part, even when I’m smiling or laughing, I’m breaking on the inside. Even when I try to have those moments of happiness and pureness, depression still lingers; reminding me that the sadness is greater. I wish I could just tell people that. I wish I didn’t have to pretend. In all honesty, it’s the most exhausting thing I have ever done. I’m so tired when I get home each day and it’s not because of lack of sleep or working all day. It’s from pretending to be happy and bubbly all day long. No one understands what it’s like to be trapped in such darkness, with no way out and appear to be happy. No one understands how exhausting it is to put that mask on every single day. No one understands how badly I just want them to genuinely ask how I’m doing — and be ready to listen to me talk about sad I am. Because sometimes, talking about it and sulking in it aren’t always the same thing. On the bright side, smiling depression has its benefits. I’m not the stereotypical depressed person that you see on the commercials for antidepressants. People have a positive view of me instead of judging me for constantly being sad. My stepmom has always told me I light up any room I walk into. Other people have told me the same thing, and that’s comforting, because I don’t want to bring them down with my sadness when I walk into the room. Maybe I do it to try to give myself a glimpse of what it’s like to be happy. Maybe I do it to try to convince myself I’m not actually depressed (even though we all know that’s a lie). Who knows why I do it. All I know is I’ve been like this since I was diagnosed at 12. Here’s to you thinking I’m the happy girl. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via Lauren Roberts

Laura Snelling

What It's Like to Be a 'Happy' and 'High-Functioning' Depressed Person

Depression for me has always been concealed. I’ve always been what they call “high-functioning.” I’m able to hold down a job, go about my day just like everyone else, and — for the most part — maintain healthy relationships with those around me. Every single person I’ve come across has told me they never would have guessed I was depressed if I hadn’t told them. I have what they call smiling depression. I love the concept of laughter and smiling at people; brightening someone’s day is what my goal is every single day. I don’t like sulking in my own sadness 24/7, and I sure as hell hate bringing other people down because of my depression. I speak about it publicly. But that’s to help end the stigma. When someone asks me how I am that day, I’m never honest. Because in reality, they don’t actually want to hear about how incredibly sad I am on a regular basis. On the outside, people see the happy, bubbly, carefree woman. But in reality, they have no idea. I don’t know if it’s ironic, but within the last three weeks, I have had two different people tell me I look so happy with life. My response to them was a little laugh, and “if only you knew my friend, if only you knew.” Neither of them know of my history with mental illness, and I wasn’t going to bore them with putting down their statement and explaining to them that it’s really the complete opposite. My depression — in reality — is this: It’s pretending like nothing is wrong. It’s not anyone screaming for help; it’s actually the person staying silent. It’s the tears I cry without anyone knowing because I have no other way to express the overwhelming amount of emotions. It’s the plans canceled last minute because I can’t seem to muster up the strength and energy to go do anything. It’s the two days off spent in bed instead of doing something fun because I’m too exhausted from pretending all week. It’s that dark cloud that hangs over my head and never seems to go away. It creeps up on me during the most unexpected times. It lurks and waits for something great to happen, just so it can ruin it and convince me it’s actually something terrible. It’s the fear of happiness because I know that at some point, it’s bound to fade away just like the memories. It’s faded memories and a cloudy mind, unable to recall important things that have occurred in my life. It is numbing and leaves me unable to function on the really bad days. The truth is, I’m not happy with my life… at all. Nothing inside of me wants to continue living a life riddled with anxiety and consumed by depression and trauma. I think about death on a regular basis, yet I’m not technically suicidal. I have those few genuine moments in which my laugh or smile is real. But for the most part, even when I’m smiling or laughing, I’m breaking on the inside. Even when I try to have those moments of happiness and pureness, depression still lingers; reminding me that the sadness is greater. I wish I could just tell people that. I wish I didn’t have to pretend. In all honesty, it’s the most exhausting thing I have ever done. I’m so tired when I get home each day and it’s not because of lack of sleep or working all day. It’s from pretending to be happy and bubbly all day long. No one understands what it’s like to be trapped in such darkness, with no way out and appear to be happy. No one understands how exhausting it is to put that mask on every single day. No one understands how badly I just want them to genuinely ask how I’m doing — and be ready to listen to me talk about sad I am. Because sometimes, talking about it and sulking in it aren’t always the same thing. On the bright side, smiling depression has its benefits. I’m not the stereotypical depressed person that you see on the commercials for antidepressants. People have a positive view of me instead of judging me for constantly being sad. My stepmom has always told me I light up any room I walk into. Other people have told me the same thing, and that’s comforting, because I don’t want to bring them down with my sadness when I walk into the room. Maybe I do it to try to give myself a glimpse of what it’s like to be happy. Maybe I do it to try to convince myself I’m not actually depressed (even though we all know that’s a lie). Who knows why I do it. All I know is I’ve been like this since I was diagnosed at 12. Here’s to you thinking I’m the happy girl. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Unsplash photo via Lauren Roberts