Odyssey: Pets & Mental Health
As seen on Odyssey.
I went to counseling the same year as my divorce, but they were not listening. As time moved on, the places he hit me and kicked me were increasing with pain. My lower back (left side) and the left hip area were the worse of the pain. Having trouble bending, walking and standing was getting to be difficult, but I carried on with work. I went from being able to work 40+ hours a week to being unable to work due to the pain. I became a recluse. No longer was I talking to people, I was not wanting to go outside or take part in anything. Even talking on the phone is hard for me. Going to the physicians did no good either.
I went to the doctors for help. I wanted the pain gone so I could go back out and work like I once did. By this time I went from 140 pounds to just over 200 pounds. The doctors thought I wanted pain pills, but all I wanted was to be healed and return to a normal life. The doctors then told me I have PTSD due to the first marriage, along with Social Anxiety and Chronic Depression due to the PTSD and the injuries sustained from the first marriage. They put me on medication for my pain and mental issues such as Baclofen, Prazosin, Lorazepam, Sertraline, Abilify, Cyclobenzaprine, Hydrocodone, Ketoprofen, Mirtazapine, Tramadol and others. I ended up picking at my arms (Exoriation/Dermatillomania) due to all the medications I was on. At this time, I am not on any medications and only pick at my arms with high stress (extreme fear) comes about.
I tried since 2012 to get on disability, but nothing. It feels/felt like no one was/is believing me. But one thing I could get the doctors and counselors to do is to grant me three companion animals. Patches, Lynx and Spooky are my daughter and two sons, at least in my eyes.
“Individual social connectedness, as well as success in school and society, is crucially supported by one’s ability to control emotions and impulses, pursue goals (e.g., by keeping to agreements), and quickly and flexibly cope with changing conditions.” (Kotrschal). Believe it or not all three cats help me in their own way. They all three will take turns laying on my arms to keep me from picking them; Spooky, more than the other two, pays attention. Lynx and Spooky try to get my attention to break me free of my Maladaptive Daydreaming and they cheer me up when feeling sad. Spooky makes sure I focus my attention on him and not to eat too much food, he wants what I eat. Patches keeps an eye on me when I am sick. All three have their parts to play, they help with my depression and anxiety at home. My current husband knows the cats are important, but he feels I should give them a new home and get a service dog. I can understand his reasoning, the service dog will get me out of the apartment and help me when I face being around people.
What’s the difference between a service animal and a companion animal? A service dog/miniature horse helps with mobility impairment, the blind/visually impaired, deaf/hearing impaired, alert if there is a medical problem such as a seizure, and to help with cognitive, psychiatric and neurological disability. A service dog/miniature horse is trained to perform work/task that is for their handler’s disability and is allowed in public places such as grocery stores and restaurants. A companion animal, also known as a therapy animal, can be a dog, a cat or any other domesticated animal. They do not need any formal training. They are there for emotional support and companionship and are allowed in apartments and housing that usually would not have pets due to the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The companion/therapy animals are not allowed in public places such as grocery stores and restaurants. (TenBrink, 2013). I need a doctor to sign off every year when my lease is renewed to state that I need my three cats for my emotional well-being.
Biologist E.O. Wilson believed the human brain, due to humans co-evolving with animals, is structured to pay attention to other kinds of life and this contact with the surrounding life influenced us (humans) with our cognition, health, and well-being. That all life is necessary to think and perceive (Wilkes). I like hanging out with animals than with humans. They give unconditional love and they do not judge you on your past mistakes, how you look, or how much money you have in your wallet. They look into your soul, your heart and connect with you on a deeper level than any human can. If there were not some kind of animal around me, I would not be here.