Could Pets Secure our Mental Health?
I find animals to be a constant source of love and affection—they enrich our lives in a variety of ways, and help us through some of our biggest obstacles without us even recognising it.
After being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) earlier this year, I’m beginning to see how undervalued pets are when it comes to mental health treatment, and the huge difference that they can make in this struggle that 1 in 5 Australians will experience in 2014. BPD is a maladaptive thought and behaviour process that is a disorder of instability; it causes unstable sense of self, unstable emotional regulation and unstable relationships (that is, poor interpersonal skills). Just like any mental illness it makes life really hard, and by the beginning of the year it had taken everyone from my life that I loved.
I was very unhappy for a long time, and it was getting worse; by the beginning of the year I’d left my job, friends and family behind and was growing more and more isolated. I knew that I needed to be saved from myself, but I couldn’t see how that would be possible and I anticipated my life would be short lived, and full of pain.
Enter Frankie, a 4 week old puppy dumped in a shoebox for euthanasia by someone that didn’t want her. By chance I came across her, and knew immediately that I would rescue her, but this made me sad because I felt like I had no one to rescue me; I offered her a deal that day. I would rescue her as long as she would rescue me. I believe that was the day that my life was saved, and we began to fight together…and I haven’t looked back since.
We’ve come a long way since then; Frankie is now my psychiatric service dog and I’m getting ready to throw everything into this fight and start treatment next year (measured in years, not months). Having Frankie by my side is the single thing I can attribute any victory to, she is a reflection of myself and behaviour I can understand like none other, and being forced to consider her needs and motives and helped me to look after myself.
Early in this journey, while walking Frankie (I do all my best thinking and processing while we’re out walking) I realised how much energy I was putting into hiding something that wasn’t my fault. I was blaming myself and denying my diagnosis—and it was exhausting. After realising that, I promised myself I would never hide my mental illness, and I would be open and honest at all times. As soon as I did that, life got a little bit easier and I understood that I wasn’t alone.
So the Out of the Box project was born.
A tongue in cheek reference to the box I rescued Frankie from—and the confines of mental illness she rescued me from—the project is a platform that I use to tell my story of life with borderline, and with Frankie. I want to show the world an honest and personal account of what life is like with a mental illness; so many people who fight this battle think they’re alone when they’re not. I want to help them realise this isn’t their fault, and there is hope—and I want to show them the incredible difference a pet could make in their lives.
By sharing our story, Frankie and I are going to break the stigma of mental health, and change the world.
To follow Jeremy and Frankie on their journey go to "The Out of The Box Project" Facebook page by clicking here
Image courtesy of The Out of the Box Project.