Category Archives: Encouragement

How a Rescue Animal Rescued Me

Have you seen that graphic on social media somewhere that claims that for only $60, you can add your pet to a registry of “emotional support animals” and then it would be illegal for a landlord to refuse to let you keep the pet or charge any kind of “pet” fee? Well, it turns out that most of that is garbage, but before I break that down for you, I need to introduce you to someone.

Meet Sir Nigel, my emotional support animal.

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Sir Nigel relaxing on the couch a few weeks ago

We suspect that he had a family before us (he had a collar, already knew what the litter box was, etc.) but was dumped onto the street as a kitten. He was so malnourished when we took him in, that his vet assumed he was a month younger than he was.

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Sir Nigel as a kitten the night he was rescued (along with DH making goofy faces)

 

In the time it took for us to realize that his original owners were not coming back for him, we had fallen deeply in love.

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Snuggling with DH’s feet

While I still struggle with symptoms of depression, I noticed a few weeks into Nigel living with us, that I hadn’t had a suicidal thought since before his rescue. In the 10 months we’ve had him, the number of severe depressive episodes I have dropped from as many as 4-5 times a week, to less than 5 times since he’s lived with us. Not only did we save his life, but in a lot of ways, he has saved mine.

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I’m not even sure what he’s trying to accomplish in this picture. It makes me laugh every time I see it though

So if this registry for emotional support animals is nonsense, how come I have one? While no formal registry for emotional support animals exists, legislation regarding fair housing opportunities for disabled persons, include the right to animals in circumstances that a qualified health professional “prescribes” them. This legislation was not intended to be a loophole to force landlords to accept pets on their properties, but rather allows for individuals who have a legitimate medical need for an animal to be able to keep one.

If you suffer from any chronic illness (especially mental illnesses) that you feel could be mitigated with an emotional support animal, you can talk to your doctor or mental health professional (which you should have if you have a chronic condition. Some websites will hook you up with a professional, for a fee, for the purpose of getting a note; be wary of scams though) to see if an ESA would be a good option for you, and get the “prescription” directly from them. However, you should keep in mind that your chronic condition could prevent you from being able to properly take care of your animal, ensure that your ESA does not destroy your home or pose a threat to others (all of those things being legal reasons for your landlord to evict you and/or your ESA), or you may better manage your condition through other means.

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Saturday morning selfies 

Have any other questions about ESA’s? Want to hear about other ways I manage my depression? Please let me know in the comments below!

My Legacy of Fear

Since graduating from college, I’ve been cycling between feeling grateful for how awesome my life is and feeling overwhelmed with fear that I’ll suddenly wake up, 20+ years will have flown by, and I will be still be in the same small town doing the exact same thing that I am doing now.

I recognize that I am doing better than several of my peers. I have a good job that provides us with health insurance and helps us pay for the beautiful little house we rent, and I am married to one of the best men ever. He is also meaningfully employed in a position that could launch his career in a variety of different directions. So, why the fear?

The majority of my most life shaping decisions were motivated by fear. I graduated early from high school because taking a few extra classes was less scary being the new kid my senior year of high school. I settled on my college major because it was the only one of the options I was considering at the time that was available at the small university I attended and that was less scary than risking throwing all of my hard work away by transferring to another school to do something else. I went into banking because that was the only job option I could find that paid enough that I could work it while waiting tables and almost make enough to support DH through the end of his bachelors program, and then I accepted a “promotion” to another branch with a considerable commute and stayed in that position despite being so miserable because “having a better attitude” or willing myself to be happy there seemed less scary than trying to find a different job that may not be any better than where I already was. I don’t want my legacy to be a legacy of fear, nor do I want to wake up in 40 years and realize that I failed to live the life I wanted because I was too afraid. So, what can I do to combat the fear?

Napoleon Hill once said that “strength and growth come only through effort and struggle.” meaning that if I want to become more than I currently am, I need to be willing to be uncomfortable. Most things worth doing have an element of discomfort to them, weather it’s hand cramps from crocheting, muscle aches from working out, or a cut in pay to accept a new job that’s otherwise more satisfying. Obviously maintaining a healthy risk and pain intolerance is important, but I need to start inviting opportunities to learn new skills or do new things even if they make me uncomfortable.

I need to challenge any thought of not being good enough. Most of my negative self-talk boils down to being afraid that I am somehow am not good enough. I don’t know when that started, but I have been paralyzed by my own feelings of inadequacy for years. Knowing for sure that I will never be good enough to accomplish something I want to do will keep me from trying to do that thing, which guarantees that I will actually never be good enough to accomplish that thing in the first place. Embracing failure is an important part challenging these thoughts. Want to know how many very successful people failed at something on their way to success? All of them. Are setbacks or failures  indications that those people were never good enough? Absolutely not. Why then would failure be an indication that I was never good enough? It isn’t. If I’ve failed at something, I’ve just learned how not to do it, which is part of the process to become good enough to actually do the thing.

I need to ask for connections. One of my favorite things I learned in college was that we are not turtles. (Well, yeah, we aren’t turtles. That should be pretty obvious well before college, dummy. Keep reading). Turtles go through their whole lives almost completely alone, but the communities and social connections they lack are an essential part of the human survival mechanism. If we are going to live meaningfully to thrive than we need each other. I was recently moved by this TEDx talk about getting the perfect job without sending in a single resume. Spoiler alert: She landed that perfect job because she overcame her discomfort and asked for professional connections. Networking is pretty important professionally, but this also applies outside of work as well.

I know that inviting opportunities for growth, embracing failure , and asking for connections are much easier said than done, but these can be broken down into more manageable smaller steps like trying out more difficult crochet patterns and food recipes, being more open about my shortcomings on this blog, or inviting someone new over for dinner.

Did this post resonate with you? Maybe you have some other ideas for overcoming your own legacy of fear. I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

A Guide for Those Who Are Drowning (A.K.A. surviving a mental breakdown)

This week, I decided to change up my listening material on my morning commute. Exciting stuff, I know, but hang with me. Wednesday morning, I heard this religious speaker relay a story of a man, who was swimming across a lake with one of his children, that was sucked under water by the weight of the water saturating his shoes. The man was able to kick off his shoes; he and his daughter made it safely to the other side of the lake. The speaker ended the story with this.

“At times we may all feel as if we are drowning…”

I, thankfully, have not experienced drowning in water, but I am too familiar with drowning in life. Since this is a common, but not often discussed, experience, I am sharing this guide, in hopes that it is helpful to you.

  • Be self-aware- most mental breakdowns typically come with some type of warning signs, which can include physical sensations like face tingling, stomach butterflies, feeling “heavy” or thoughts like “I am not good enough” or “I can’t…” Other factors, like being hungry or hot, will make you feel even worse, so keeping track of how you feel can  help you mitigate the impending breakdown.
  • When you recognize the warning signs, get somewhere private and comfortable ASAP- While having a breakdown isn’t something you should necessarily feel ashamed about, embarrassment from melting down in public will probably add to your discomfort. My favorite places to be when I am melting down is on my bed, buried in a blanket or in my bathtub while the shower runs over me, and if I am in public, I will excuse myself to sit either in my car or a private restroom until I can recompose myself enough to finish my work shift or errand.
  • Allow yourself to feel all the feels- If you are having a meltdown, it is safe to assume that you have lost the fight against whatever feelings you were trying to suppress, and that is okay. Your brain needs to process whatever is triggering your meltdown, so you can move past it. It won’t be pleasant, but you will feel better later. This step also includes giving yourself permission to cry as ugly as you need to, which has the added benefit of helping your body relieve itself of stress hormones.
  • Know that this is not the time to make life altering decisions- The likelihood that your brain is in a “fight or flight” resembling survival mode is pretty high right now, which means that the part of your brain that deals with rational thinking is not functioning like normal. If you are having breakdowns frequently and you know that work, relationship drama, etc. is causing them, you may have to make some big changes in order to feel better in the long term, but those decisions need to wait until after you calm down and can think clearly again or you could make a decision that you will regret. I feel the need to explicitly express that this includes the decision to commit suicide (1-800-273-8255 is the suicide prevention hotline number. Store it in your phone before you start feeling bad and call them before acting on any suicidal impulses).
  • You will feel drained after the worst symptoms pass. Make sure to drink plenty of water, eat a simple snack, and be extra kind to yourself. Try to relax for the next few hours and, if you can, go to bed early.

It may take some time and considerable effort, but you will feel better. Hang in there. I believe in you. I’d love to read any other suggestions you have, in the comments below.