Depression and the voiceless love of an animal
I had a different blog ready to go this month but could not wait any longer to discuss depression. I have hesitated to write about this for a long time now. Thankfully times have changed on this subject since I was a younger man. Today it is out in the open as athletes, actors, soldiers, first responders and others are opening up about their own personal struggle with depression. People no longer need to keep feelings bottled up, it is safe to talk about and seek help to cope. I too have battled depression for most of my adult life which has made things more difficult than it needed to be. But for me, I discovered refuge in our residents. They are my therapists, all of them. When I am having a particularly bad day and am finding the easiest tasks difficult to accomplish, the animals unknowingly give me just what I need. You see, no matter how bad of a ‘funk’ I am in, I made a commitment to care for them every day, and during that time and interaction I find my comfort. They seem to know I am hurting. And because I am hurting, I stop my chores and just love on them. I pet and groom the animals but most of all, I talk to them, explaining why I am hurting. Just yesterday, the animals heard stories about my mom who I lost a few years ago. It was her birthday which is always a particularly challenging day. Obviously, they do not talk back, but respond in other ways. They just sit/stand at attention and let me ramble on, which truthfully was a similar reaction from my counselor when I was in therapy years ago - although much cheaper! My pain is not always eliminated after my time with them as I do not expect it to be. But they give me relief, which is exactly what I need. An escape for that moment in time. Because without that temporary escape, I am capable of spiraling into a deeper, longer depression. I always know, right outside my door is relief from pain - no appointment necessary! And I am not alone. Through my reading of other sanctuary founders, I am finding they too have personal battles. We also have several volunteers that come here for their own therapy sessions. I’m sure there are many dog and cat owners who are provided comfort from their personal struggles as well. I believe there is a connection between a person going through a mental episode and the voiceless love of an animal. These wonderful beings know we are hurting because when we show love and compassion, it is returned right back to us in our time of need. I have accepted that I will always have depression, yet I am thankful that I have found such great therapists.