She goes with me nearly everywhere.
At least everywhere I might find myself in anxiety mode.
The Mall. The Shrink. Social Gatherings.
Pretty much anywhere I feel a lack of control.
She doesn’t wear a vest because, quite frankly, I’m not there yet. That’s a big leap of public acknowledgement that something within me isn’t quite right.
At times, someone will ask for her papers. And I privately produce them with an embarrassing anxiety laugh that sounds a little bit like Santa and a face that turns 50 Shades of Red.
God I hate that.
You see, this all started as what I thought was a joke.
There I am…sitting in my therapist’s office in the usual state. I am so anxious my fingers are tingling. In fact, I am having one of those out of body moments where I don’t even feel like I am there.
You know the feeling.
It’s like being underwater with a splash of outer space and crazy all in one great experience. Big fun!
So Einstein (my therapist) gives me that all-encompassing Budha look. The one that makes me feel like life would be so much easier if I had an advanced degree in Psychology, Neuroscience, or even Underwater Basket Weaving.
Really, in those moments, I feel like a degree in anything but Communications will do. Funny, since communications is all about relating. In truth, I’m just not good with that when it comes to all things ME.
“Why don’t you bring your dog in sometime?” he calmly states.
Seriously, I think he’s trying distract me.
“My poodle?” I say, in state of shock.
“Yes,” he says. He’s serious. So serious I’m not sure what to say. What the heck is he thinking?
Panic is quickly diverted to thoughts of my perfectly dressed poodle walking through the hospital where his office is located-and perhaps taking a quick wee on an elderly woman’s shoe.
A strange laugh comes out of my mouth. It sounds like a cross between a squeak toy and a horse’s winnie.
I guess I’m going to be THAT girl.
Before I know it, I have a handy little letter that I am too embarrassed to show anyone -and my poodle by my side.
At first, it seems strange. Eccentric, wacky, something I definitely don’t want my friends know. (In my mind, I like to think I masquerade as a normal person even though I probably don’t.)
But then I’m in the back of Bed Bath & Beyond and one of those out- of- the- blue panic attacks quickly shows its teeth. I need to get out. NOW.
But I can’t. I’m stuck.
The walls feel like they’re closing in.
I look down in the cart and there she is. My poodle looks at me with those big, loving eyes. It’s as if she knows.
I reach down to stroke her ears, not at all thinking about how this simple reaction will change things. And all at once, a sense of instant calm washes over me.
I’m not alone. She’s with me. She’s in this too.
As Oprah would say, it was an “AHA moment.”
The panic attack subsides in what seems like a nanosecond. Once again, I’m simply shopping. I’m me. Panic free.
“How is that possible?” I think.
In retrospect, it was all possible because I had a companion animal by my side. Loyal, understanding, accepting of my flaws.
That’s the truth about companion animals. They evoke a sense of calm that we sometimes can’t do on our own. And that calm can change everything.
So if your therapist suggests a seemingly strange thing like a companion animal, don’t rule it out.
You never know when your poodle-like friend might step in to save the day.