On Anxiety & Emotional Support Animals

me and benny

Here’s everything I’ve tried over the past few years to manage my anxiety and panic attacks:

  • Breathing exercises.
  • Yoga.
  • Praying.
  • Meditation.
  • Running.
  • Marijuana/CBD.
  • Xanax.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Diet changes.
  • No alcohol.
  • Sleep.
  • Fidget cubes.
  • Thyroid tests.
  • A new job.
  • New roommates.
  • Red wine.
  • Magnesium.
  • Stress gummies.
  • Writing.
  • Coloring.
  • Mental health days.
  • Tea instead of coffee.
  • Aromatherapy.
  • Deep tissue massages.
  • Long talks with friends and family.

Some things have worked—temporarily, at least.
Some haven’t worked at all.
Some have made things worse.

But none has been quite as effective as the 12-pound ball of energy curled up next to me right now.

His name is Benny, and he’s a mini poodle/miniature pinscher mix. I adopted him in November 2017, and he’s since made my life exponentially better. Though he’s an expensive little booger (carpet cleaning supplies, vet bills, toys, treats, and new sheets add up), he adds so much more to my days than he takes away.

I’d been talking about getting a dog for years, but I couldn’t make it work for one reason or another. I worked too much, my apartment wasn’t dog-friendly, my commute was too long, I wasn’t financially ready, etc. A product of an irresponsible breeding situation, Benny was worth the wait. More than a pet, more than an exercise partner, more than a cuddle buddy—Benny is family. Yes, it’s cliché, but hear me out.

To avoid a hassle with my apartment complex and to make travel to see my family on the East Coast easier, I asked my doctor to write me a letter, essentially prescribing me an “emotional support animal.” I didn’t have to make up a mental health issue—as she had already been treating me for anxiety for over a year—but I still felt like I was cheating the system. It’s a term that doesn’t mean much; your animal doesn’t have to be trained or certified in order to be called an emotional support animal.

This squirrel-chasing, leaf-eating, sock-stealing little weirdo demonstrates unconditional love every day. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been in the shower for 10 minutes or on vacation for a week, he’s always overjoyed to see me. When he curls up against me at bedtime or sneaks a wet kiss when I’m not looking, the tightness in my chest loosens up. My thoughts slow down. The muscles in my face relax.

The other day, I counted how many pills were left in my bottle of Xanax—an as-needed prescription drug for when my anxiety attacks are too much to handle. There were 12 left. It was filled at the beginning of November—just a couple weeks before I got Benny—with 25 pills. To put things in perspective: I used to have to take one at least once a week. Since Benny came into my life, I’m down to one every other week. It may not seem like much, but, to me, it’s a significant improvement to my well-being.

So, here’s to you, Benny Boo. 💛

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