Mental Health

Animals and Me – Pawprints to health and happiness

Mental health illnesses have a tendency of making you feel unwanted, unloved and a whole range of negative feelings and emotions. You become buried in self hatred and pity, feeling as though you are a huge burden on those around you who love you unconditionally. You become a shadow of your former self. Some days are better than others. You may struggle to get out of bed on some days and you may be able to brave the day on your better days. Either way, you are not weak because of your struggles and you are not defined by your illnesses. We must try our hardest to grow through what we go through.

You hear the word ‘Depression’ and associate it with crying and all things dark. Well, I do anyway. I associate depression with sadness and vulnerability. Loneliness and numbness. A dark hole that seems endless. It’s like you’re walking through a dark forest wandering aimlessly for a way out, but with no luck. Screaming for help in an isolated room with nobody around to hear your desperation as you scream and scream for a way out.

Everybody has their own coping strategies and methods of getting through difficult times, including battling loud, manipulative thoughts and unhealthy behaviours. Some people go down the route of therapy, CBT, psychology and so on. But I feel that, for me, there is no better therapy than being surrounded with something you have an admiration and passion for. Something that puts joy in your heart and a sparkle in your eyes which enables you to feel something other than pain and distress. During your worst times, it’s important to surround yourself with love and things that mean something to you. For example, some people get their source of happiness from art, others from sport or from baking.

There is something about animals that enables me, personally, to feel calm and at ease. When in the company of animals, I instantly feel relaxed and comforted which works wonders for my mood and my low self-esteem. In my opinion, it’s reassuring being amongst beings who don’t judge you for being you. Meaning you may have clouded views of yourself, but animals will help you to see yourself and The World around you in a different light and from a brighter perspective.

With people, there is always that fear of being judged – especially if you’re mentally ill. Because lots of people fail to understand the difficulties we are faced with due to our illnesses; animals detect the smallest of things and it is in their best interest to provide a sense of comfort and therapy. For instance, at home there has been multiple times I have been very low in terms of my depression and my Cat (Tigga) has immediately picked up on it and has come to nurse me by sitting with me and letting me know that I am not alone.

Animals educate you on the importance of caring for yourself and showing yourself the same amount of love and compassion that you show to them. You wouldn’t starve an animal or deprive them of food, so why would you do it to yourself? Would you turn to an animal and throw insults their way, left right and centre? No.

Similarly, I have been in College and have turned to two gorgeous Pygmy Goats (Poppy and Penny) for assistance and for an ear to listen. We are all aware of Goats and their cheeky, unique and loving personalities and I can happily confirm that a conversation with them, and an unlimited supply of hugs, works wonders for reducing the symptoms of Depression. I find expressing my thoughts, feelings and emotions near-impossible at times; I have no problem whatsoever when it comes to interacting with animals which is why they have been proven to work wonders as Therapy, or assistance, companions.

There has been times I’ve struggled to get out of the house, not because I’m ‘lazy’ like people could possibly assume, but because of the high levels of anxiety that cripple me every single day. In addition to this, I have managed to take the bus on my own and have travelled distances to be with animals, during my voluntary work.

In my experience, Anxiety is wanting to do things but being unable to do so because of the endless thoughts swimming around in your head, the doubt and the tight knot in your tummy. But knowing I have a reason to go out of the house and knowing that there are animals awaiting me on the other side, provides me with a sense of worth, need and importance.

Animals have worked as therapy for me, and still continue to do so. I believe that this will always be the case as I work hard to achieve a career within the animal care industry where I aim to save and rescue animals. I also wish to have a positive impact on their lives like they have for me.

Talking isn’t always the way around things – though it does help massively. I feel that simply surrounding yourself with something that allows you to feel alive is enough. Talking can get too much sometimes and too difficult, it can be very draining and tough letting people in but when you are doing something you enjoy you can work at it for hours on end which helps to boost your mood and reduces the thoughts you are experiencing. As a conclusion, doubling up as a distraction method too.

I always feel motivated and enthusiastic when thinking of animals and being with them, I owe my life to them for assisting me in looking at the future and all I have to fight for. My motto is ‘save yourself, save the animals.’

Because when animals are involved, you are never alone. 

Love and hugs,

Laur x

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