I’m sitting in my living room, watching my dog play with his brothers. They are wrestling and playing tug of war with a now unstuffed toy, growling and just having fun with each other.
I rescued Finn from the dog pound 4 months ago. I’ve watched him grow from nervous all the time to feeling comfortable and confident. He is everything I ever wanted in a dog and more. He was perfect for me the minute I saw him.
Let’s start from the beginning.
For a long time now, maybe a year, I’ve wanted a service dog. I didn’t have the means or money to afford one; it ranges from $1,000 to even $30,000 for a service dog from a professional service dog trainer. Obviously that is way out of my price range.
I did some research. I learned that I could train my own service dog! I went months trying to convince my parents to let me have a dog so that I could train him. They would say no, and I would try again later. In November of 2016, my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I, of course, told her I wanted a service dog. She didn’t say anything, but I assume it was because she didn’t know her answer yet, or that she wanted to surprise me.
All of a sudden one day, she told me I would get a service dog.
On December 8, 2016 (yes I remember the date), my dad and I went to the Alexandria Animal Shelter. My parents both said that I could get a male dog. When we went in, the shelter employee showed us the male dogs. I, being an animal lover and wanting to save all animals from the animal shelters, wanted to rescue all of them. But of course, I could only have one.
I loved all of them, but now I had to decide which one to adopt. Behind me, the females were all barking, trying to get my attention. I was an emotional wreck, having to pick one dog out of all those adorable, yet unhappy, dogs.
I turned around to try to console the females, thinking it was a realistic task to perform. At the very end of the female side, closest to the wall and right behind me, was a dog that I instantly fell in love with. But the dog was a female, right? The shelter employee surprised me and said, “We ran out of room on the male side, so we had to put that one on the female side. It’s definitely a boy, though.”
The dog and I locked eyes, and I knew he was the one. His name was Henry. I told the shelter employee that this dog was the one I wanted to adopt, so we got the paperwork done, I paid, and we were on our way.
I renamed him Finn, a name I had picked out a few days prior, despite what the dog I would adopt looked like. It turns out the dog I adopted looked just like a Finn.
Finn sleeps in my bed right next to me, and if he decides I move around too much in my sleep, he goes to his own bed. When any of us come home, he has the most adorable little growl/bark that he only does when he’s super excited. He cuddles up to me on the couch, and lets me kiss him. In the beginning, that made him nervous. But now, he accepts it and even sometimes kisses me back.
When he rides in the car with us, he will put his head on the shoulder of whoever is driving, and he trusts us enough now that he knows he’s not going to the shelter again.
When I put his service dog vest on, he knows he’s going somewhere with me, and that alone excites the heck out of him.
He’s in training right now to be a full on professional service dog, and I will talk about that in part two of his story.
I love this dog more than I could ever describe.
I didn’t rescue Finn, he rescued me.
Depression is a demon. It lives inside of us. Sometimes it’s sedentary, but when it’s awake, it holds a death grip on us. A chokehold.
Is there any way to get it to truly let go?
True, medicine helps. But we have to stand strong. We have to get up, look it in the face, and say, “You hit like a punk.”
We don’t run away. We stand up to it and spit in its face!
You’re saying to yourself, “But what if I can’t?”
You can. You’ve done it before because you’re still here. You’re alive. You’ve beat it. You can do it again. You’ve made it so far and I’m so proud of you!
Keep fighting. Keep staying strong.
You take the hits, but you’re not defeated. You’re not weak. You’re stronger than a lion. Get up and fight back! Get up and stand strong!
You can do this. We can do this.
We are an army. We are warriors.
Depression is our enemy, and it’s strong, but together, we’re stronger.
Stay strong. Put on your armor.
If you have ever had a panic attack, you know how big or small the trigger can be. Something big like a death of a loved one, but even something as small as a spider on the wall.
Recently, I had one and it was a big one. Big panic attack from a small situation.
I was in my therapy group and every day I sit at the end of the table so that I won’t be in between two people. I was doing fine until a man in a wheelchair came and sat next to me at the end of the table.
I don’t mind sitting next to anyone, but I have to be on the end. I have to. Otherwise, I have a panic attack.
So I was sitting there, trying not to pay attention, but then he started pacing back and forth in his wheelchair right next to me.
That’s when it started happening. I started breathing hard and it got to where I couldn’t breathe. I spiraled into an attack.
Before you keep reading, I want you to say what you would do in my situation.
Okay, did you say “deep breaths” or “fresh air”? If so, you’re right. Although there are many ways to calm yourself down during a panic attack, those are the main two that I did.
After that, I went to the bathroom to wash my face and tell myself, in the mirror, that I was okay. There was no danger. I was okay.
When I have a panic attack, my entire body goes numb. I breathe hard and I cry hard. After it passes, my bones hurt to their core and I have pain in my bones for 2-3 days after the attack.
It helps that there is always someone there to help out, even if it’s just getting me some ice water (thanks, Megan!). Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Panic attacks can be small or huge, even emergency room huge.
Now it’s your turn. Tweet me at @ali_vercher and tell me about the last panic attack you had. We’ll talk about it and it’ll help me understand others’ perspective during a panic attack.
On January 4, 2017, I went to a mental facility…again.
I learned new coping skills and met some troubled but great people.
For the first three days or so, I was angry at my therapist for making me go. I had been feeling very depressed for a couple weeks before, and had even asked my mom to bring me to the hospital. The Prozac had stopped working, and I was in bad shape. I tried my hardest to get through it, but it was just too much.
I didn’t try to kill myself, but I wanted to.
There were situations that I was in that were truly getting to me mentally, and I just couldn’t handle them. My best friend and I stopped talking, my sister and nieces moved away to Texas, and the holiday blues were setting in.
Mentally, I was a train wreck. Every little thing was getting to me, whether or not I showed it. I got through the holidays, but I was still broken.
On January 3, I met with my new therapist, and I told her I wanted to die. She immediately told me that I had to go to the emergency room to get checked into a mental hospital.
I went, and on January 4, I was driven to Beacon Behavioral Hospital in Bunkie, LA and it was my home for the next six days. I hated it there at first. I would call my mom crying that I wanted out immediately. There was nothing she could do. So I stayed. I had to.
I was discharged on the 10th of January, and the next day, I started going to group therapy in Alexandria, LA. This was my second time in group therapy. The first time didn’t go so well, but I like this group. There are too many people at times, which leads to me almost having panic attacks. So far so good though.
The people are so sweet to everyone and to me. I’m on new medicine and I’m feeling great.
Please know that it’s okay to ask for help. Be honest with yourself. Going to a mental hospital is nothing to be ashamed of.
You are worthy of help.