The Dog that Saved Me

Like a true perfectionist, depression has stripped me of my lust for life on enough occasions. There are a couple of moments I look back on as particular low points. June 2016 was one of those. It was that month when a dog I’d never met changed everything.

It was a bleak, overcast Friday. At least that’s how I remember it: not how you’d picture a mid-June morning. I was concluding another roller-coaster week: having set my hopes high with a promising job prospect, the rejection I received triggered a spiralling moment, fuelling my feelings of low self-worth.

It was Father’s day at my daughter’s nursery: a new experience for me and a painfully difficult one. My daughter was not even two years old and I was desperately worried about the impact her biological father’s absence would have on her life as she grew older. The scene at nursery that day was picturesque: happy, dedicated dads doting on their excitable children. I felt heartbroken for my darling angel as I left her to play alone. I walked away from the nursery feeling crushed, a deep pain in my chest and a hollow sense of helplessness. Since my marriage, career and finances all took a hit at the same time during early pregnancy, feelings of low self-worth made regular appearances. Being the best parent I could be was my priority, but the vision I had set myself had crumbled and I didn’t know what to aspire to.

On this day, my partner was abroad, the one person I could and would turn to when I struggled emotionally. I tried calling my mum, but no answer. I was out of options, felt desperate and could not cope with the the darkness that was clouding over me. I just remember walking along the river in a blur, desperately not wanting to exist. Then… thwack.

It was a huge Alsatian that hit me. I was lifted up off my feet and seemed to twist around in slow motion before being thrown flat on to the ground. I couldn’t move, perhaps more from the shock although I could feel the pain across my body. The dog’s owner was clearly concerned and checked me over. I was somewhere between dazed and humiliated. My blazer was ripped and I was aware that my speech was not entirely clear, but I insisted on continuing my journey home.

My head hurt and my mind was blank. My focus became the concern that I might have concussion, so I went to see my GP. Once in the surgery, I completely broke down and confessed how I had been desperately hiding these feelings. Feelings of not wanting to be around were not new, but I had no control over them. I knew I needed to do something now, for my daughter’s sake. It was time to change.

So I took advice, I welcomed support. It turns out anti-depressants weren’t for me and I couldn’t balance therapy, but something had changed. I had become aware. I had started to accept help and I was no longer alone. Perhaps it’s ironic that the worry of concussion displaced my low feelings, but if it took a dog knocking me over to realise that action was needed then I’m grateful.

Life brings us great times; it sometimes brings us hard times. This is normal, but we needn’t suffer alone. This isn’t a post I write with ease and it certainly isn’t a topic I’d bring up on a coffee break, but I’m sharing this because I want anyone who is going through a difficult time to know that actually help is out there and it does make a difference. It comes in many forms and at our lowest times we can’t even imagine it, but it is there. Speak to someone and if you don’t want to do it for yourself, please do it for someone else.

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