Pets Can Benefit Your Mental Health, I know Mine Did!

I love my dog soooo much!! Hannah, I adopted her from another college student who was moving away.  A border collie mix black lab – a borador!.  Forty-five pounds, not too big, and not too small.


She basically saved my life when I was living in Indiana.  She would cuddle up with me when I was sad, and she knew when I was sad.  I didn’t have to call her over, she could just see me sitting on my couch, or curled up on the futon, and she could come wag her tail in my face, or slowly climb her two front paws up next to me, or simply jump up next to me – pushing her whole weight against mine.  If I was crying, she was immediately there, no time wasted. 

I did attempt suicide, a lot.  I also didn’t attempt suicide a lot – because of her.  I didn’t want to leave her.  I didn’t trust anyone to take her.  I didn’t want the police to come hall her off to the pound. Every time I met with my case manager I begged her, if something happens to me, you have to promise me that you will make my mom take her home (my mom lived in another state).  My case manager refused to promise, cause of course she didn’t want me to kill myself. 

She kept me active.  We went to the parks in the area.  We played in the snow.  I had to get up, I had to take her out.  She gave me a reason to be alive. I slept all day for the most part for a long time.  There were some days I felt really bad that she lived with me.  She didn’t get to do much but lie on the couch with me.  I really think she understood though.  She was a breed of dog that needed lots of exercise, but she was also a breed of dog that was smart – and I think she knew how bad I felt. 

I don’t have Hannah anymore.  She is living with my mom.  When I was in the state hospital, I obviously couldn’t bring her with me, so my mom did take her.  And she is happy there, she has a big yard and another black lab to play with.  So I let her stay while I moved to Florida.  I get to visit her though when I visit Texas.  She remembers me of course, and whines and cries when she sees me.  I cry a bit when I see her too cause I miss her so much.  I wish I had her here sometimes because she helped me so much with my mental health, and one day I think I will get another dog, but I feel like if I get another one right now, I would be “cheating” on Hannah 😉

Animals can help our mental health so much.  In fact according to WebMD, they can help in the following ways:

  • They can provide unconditional love.  No matter how much we might get upset at them, they always love us.  Many times, when we have mental illness, our relationships with others can be complicated.  With animals though, our relationships are simple.  You can talk to them, you can love them, you don’t have to worry about hurting their feelings, you can just tell them how you feel and it is ok to feel the way you feel.
  • Having a pet gives you some responsibility.  Having some responsibility in your life makes you feel like you have value. You are helping to care for someone/something else.
  • You are being active!  When you are depressed, doing anything is a chore and you are rarely motivated to do anything.  Having a pet can really add to that motivation.  You have to take them out and play with them.  They keep you active and it is fun.
  • You get a routine, which is essential to one’s mental health.  You have to get up to feed your pet, take your out to the bathroom, play with it, or whatever daily tasks it might need.
  • You have a companion.  You aren’t alone.  You have someone else to talk to.  So what if it is a dog or a cat?  Or a hamster or guinea pig?  They listen.  You are never alone!
  • Some research even shows that having a pet (dogs specifically) lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increased the level of the feel-good hormones in the brain.



Life Isn’t Always A Straight Line

Word Press Weekly Photo Challenge – This week, share a photo that foregoes the straightforward in favor of the twisting and winding.

untitledMy trip to Mesa Verde National Park, 2007 

Life never goes in a straight line.  It goes left, it goes right, then left, and right.  The straight line is usually the quickest way to the destination (thank you math class), but the quickest way is not always the best way (thank you life for teaching me that, it is not always the easiest or greatest way either and most people hate it). I don’t think my life has ever let me use the straight path, or I should say, it rarely has let me go down that road.  Sometimes, I wish it would, I pray that I could just take that straight path.  Looking back though, I have learned a lot from all those twists and turns – all those zig zags that life has taken me through. 

I hated going through what I went through.  I hated the abuse.  I hated what my teacher did to me.  I hated being raped.  I hated when I got my brachial plexus injury and my arm was paralyzed.  I hate dealing with my nursing school.  I hated being diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorder and PTSD.  Would I wish any of that on anyone else, no.  But would I change what happened to me?  No, because it has made me who I am.  It has shaped me, and I like who I have become.  I would not have said that a year ago, and there are days I still don’t think that. I know that I am going to turn my pasts hurts into something positive though.  How do I know this, well I am already doing it – and I am saving that for a future post, just give me a day or two!

Sometimes, the zig zags are good things too though, those twists and turns aren’t always bad.  They can be great adventures.  They can open our minds and our eyes to amazing and beautiful things.  I have had plane delays and trips turn out to be completely unexpected adventures.  I have taken the longer way, the zig-zagging path, to reach a goal – and it was much more meaningful and fulfilling than the easy way. 


Jenga at Christmas, 2009


Daily Post – Memories in a State Psych Hospital – Chocolate Cake, Flip Flops, and The Wise One

Word Press Post A Day – Time for another Odd Trio prompt: write a post about any topic you want, in whatever form or genre, but make sure it features a slice of cake, a pair of flip-flops, and someone old and wise.


I was stuck in the state hospital.  Well, pretty much stuck.  I had reached level 4, so I had some freedom.  See, when you reach level 4, you can leave the hospital.  If there is a field trip or outing, you are eligible to go on it.  For example, we took a trip to the Indiana Pacers game – it was amazing!  It was actually my first time to a professional sports game and I had a blast. Who would have thought I had to get sent to a state hospital to go to a professional sporting event? 

As time gets closer to your release, you are actually able to spend a few hours outside of the hospital with family and/or friends and even weekend visits out – yep you can leave the hospital for a whole weekend and spend the night at home!  My family didn’t lie in Indiana, so this didn’t even seem like an option for me, but for one week, both my parents (who lived in different states), came up for a visit!

I was due to be released in 2 months if all went well.  I would be off of my commitment and we were still figuring out where I would go – a treatment facility, group home, independent apartment, back with my family, etc.  Ok ok, so where do these flip flops, cake, and someone old and wise come in?  Well, I was free!  My family was there and I was level 4!  At first, I would only be out for 4 hours for the first 2 days, then 8 hours the next two days, then I got to spend the night at the hotel for the next day and didn’t have to be back until 8pm the next day! 

You can’t have shoes with laces in a psych hospital.  Nope.  You might just hang yourself.  So flips flops!  Yep, you bring flip flops or house shoes, or my favorite were my converse shoes that they make now that have elastic and no strings (I make sure to always have those around in case I get sent to a hospital).  But the days I was out with my parents, I just wore my flip flops, easy to put on, light, and freeing!  It was like going on a vacation to a beach – you just have to flip flops on. 

Chocolate cake!  We met up with my friend and his family from my city I was from.  State hospitals are rarely going to be in the city you actually live in.  I was in one that was 1.5 hours away from where I was from.  My friend and his family was amazing though, they had come to visit me about 2x a month, bring me food (yep you can also bring food into the state hospital) and basically being my second family. So my family and I met up with them at Applebees! This happened to be my friend and my favorite restaurant!  We always ordered chocolate cake for desert here when we went to ate – so to celebrate my freedom (even if it was just for a few hours) – we had some chocolate cake!

Tech M – he was old and wise.  He made sure to tell me what to do and not to do on my outings.  Of course I knew.  I knew not to drink or do drugs.  I knew not to do anything crazy or get out of control.  I knew that anything illegal or out of control would get me to not be able to go out, lose a level, and perhaps even delay my release.  But he sat me down and really explained the gravity of it.  He spent time telling me how proud he was of me.  He spent time telling me how important it was to spend time with the people who loved me.  He spent time telling me how hard I had worked to get to the level I was at.  I left for my outings with a sense of pride for being able to go on my outings, a sense of responsibility – more than I had before. 

I still think of psych hospitals when I wear flip flops.  My friend from Indiana, he still will text me pictures when he goes out to eat (anywhere) and gets chocolate cake – “Remember Applebees?”  Tech M, I will always remember him.  He was kind and caring.  He actually got very ill while I was still in the hospital.  He took some time off, and never came back.  A week or so before I left, we were told he had passed away.  He was a wise soul and I think he gave a lot of good advice to a lot of people – he touched a lot of lives. 

People have a lot of misconceptions about psych hospitals.  I know not all are good.  And I know not all state hospitals are like the one I was at.  I definitely went to one that was beyond amazing and got incredibly good care.  I have a lot of fond memories there.  I wanted out of the state hospital so bad when I was there especially the first three months. The last past of the 6 months, I just wanted out because I thought maybe I would be stuck there forever otherwise – and yet when I left, I actually missed it.  I missed the friends that I had made there.  I missed the groups that I had gone to.  I missed the support that I had.  Even the stupid roommate situation – I missed it.  Being on my own was hard, incredibly hard.  Thinking back on these memories actually make me smile.  There were some bad ones, but there were a lot more good ones than bad ones.