PTSD is an ugly, devitalizing, and enervating disorder. Sometimes you just want to hide and avoid people completely. It is difficult to do the things you once loved and PTSD symptoms have adverse and detrimental effects on relationships. When one considers what it means to be well, what it means to be mentally healthy, it is essential that we interact with others have compassion not only for other people, but for ourselves.
Compassion, companionship…. That’s what a service dog provides for their battle buddy. In 2018, I was blessed with the opportunity to receive a service dog from a non-profit organization Healing4Heroes. The process started with choosing a dog. I think Wiggles actually chose me. She is super loving and energetic. I thought to myself “This dog will force me to get out of bed,” even on days when I’m severely depressed and have zero motivation.
Wiggles presence has changed my life for the better. I have a reason to get out of bed, even on the days where the depression is consuming, and I don’t want to do anything. Even if the only thing she does is lay by me on those days where I don’t want to get up, her unconditional love is unfailing. In a world where it is hard to find compassion and unconditional love, my service dog is an exact reflection of those human needs.
I can walk into Walmart with her by my side without feeling panicked or overwhelmed by the excessive amounts of people. PTSD symptoms have caused me to be excessively situationally aware, to the point where I create danger in my mind that is not physically present. My service dog can post and make me aware of when someone is coming up behind me. She can put space between myself and another person so that I can maintain my personal boundary bubble. When I have mobility issues, wiggles gives me a brace to get back up on.
Wiggles senses my anxiety and puts her paw on me to put me in check and make me aware of my mood. She just looks at me and with her big brown eyes, tells me that I’m ok and I need to take a break. When I experience seizures from conversion disorder, she will place pressure on me and relieve some of the thrashing from the muscle spasms. I have an extreme aversion to touch, but that has not stopped Wiggles from giving me a hug every time I walk through the door (hug is actually now a command). In being affectionate with my service dog, I have slowly become more comfortable with human touch.
Having a service dog has made me a better person. I’ve gotten pieces of myself back that PTSD, depression, and anxiety stole from me. I am less withdrawn. I am more confident. I feel like me again.
Getting a rescue dog for a service dog actually rescued me.