While physical disabilities like blindness more obviously demonstrate the need for a service dog, the animals can be trained to serve a host of people with invisible illnesses as well. These service dogs learn how to respond to mental health issues including PTSD and social anxiety; detect silent conditions like irregular heartbeats or blood sugar levels; and provide emotional support for victims of sexual abuse.
Investing in friendships is part of a finding a healthy balance in life. We care for and enjoy our friends, but sometimes we might forget to think about how we can secure and grow our friendships. Any sort of investment requires some time and thought. Maintaining friendships requires effort, but when we look at the health benefits of friendships, this effort is worth it.
The diagnosis of PTSD requires that a person has "...experienced, witnessed or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others." The traumatic event must provoke intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
Panic disorder is associated with anxiety that continues after the panic attack has resolved. Patients with panic disorder worry about having another attack or that they might lose control. Sometimes they fear they're suffering from a serious medical condition that hasn't been diagnosed. As a result, they change their behavior to avoid situations that might provoke another attack.
When I was going through it, and if I'm being honest, I still am, I felt utterly alone. The symptoms of depression sometimes present themselves as flaws. I kept thinking if I adjusted my attitude or if I weren't such a bad person then I would feel better. Because we think it's something we've done or that it's our fault, we don't seek treatment. Too many of us aren't reaching out for help when we're experiencing these things.
For me, figuring out and seeking treatment for my anxiety has been a healing and affirming process. But I often wonder: how would my childhood and teenage years have been different if I had a vocabulary for understanding my anxiety? If my parents, siblings or friends did? If I had early access to therapy or other kinds of treatment -- or even just a way to talk about my anxiety and resulting depression?
The winter semester has just ended, and instead of feeling relaxed and elated, I feel tense, exhausted and utterly tortured. The last few months of university had proven to be extremely challenging for me. I could barely manage to stay afloat. The pressure felt overwhelming, and the cracks in my life were becoming fissures.
From an evolutionary perspective, anxiety is a helpful and adaptive emotion. For thousands of years, anxiety has motivated humans to act (and survive) in the face of danger. The problem is, though, for some of us, the amount of anxiety we experience in a situation does not fit, or match, the fear -- or threat -- in that situation.
I was verbally bullied about my weight throughout school. The weight started increasing exponentially while I was in high school. That is when it started impacting my moods and the way I looked at life... I did not want to be around my friends and I started isolating myself. I became physically sick with stomach problems, mentally sick and looked down upon myself. I hit rock bottom.
There's no need to list all the ways that many public schools can be inhospitable places for students. Not only is there the physical discomfort of sitting for hours each day but there is also the navigating of a range of emotional gauntlets: the whispered comments in the hallways, the judgements about clothes, the betrayal of "friends" on Facebook.
For me, when I was seventeen, I stood in our garage and looked around to see which beam would hold my weight. I don't know what stopped me. I've thought of suicide since Rehtaeh's death. Being in love has seen me through. If you're a young person dealing with thoughts of suicide, please know -- tomorrow is worth sticking around for. Tomorrow will be better and this will pass. Tomorrow needs you. Find something to hold on to. A pet. A garden. Wanting to see a movie. Find something to hold onto and know life is worth sticking around for. This will pass. You'll be OK. In your darkest moment, say to yourself, "Not today. Tomorrow needs me. I need to see what it brings." Tomorrow needs you. We all need you.
The thing is, I have always been sad and worried. It's stuck on me like gray toned glitter -- it clouds everything I do and no matter what I do it's never fully gone. When I realized I was different from other kids, I didn't know what to do. I was always sad and worried. Worried that people would notice me for being different and make fun of me. Sad because even when I tried to fit it -- I always felt like I couldn't do it right.
It pains me to hear the nonsense my patients are subjected to by sometimes well-meaning, yet utterly uninformed, self-taught mental health experts. Their lack of scientific training is merely a preamble ("I'm no doctor but..."). They speak with enthusiasm and authority as they peddle supplements, homeopathic tinctures, detox enemas and antioxidant smoothies, with the goal of liberating my patients from their evidence-based treatments and dollars from their wallets.
There's been an incredible shift in the way I see myself. Having recently committed to pursuing training as a life coach, I've become obsessed with the nuances of the human condition and the monsters we have the potential to become in our attacks on others, but perhaps even more frightening and universal, in the attacks on ourselves.