If someone were to ask me when my anxiety started, I wouldn't have an answer for them. Usually my anxiety presented itself as anger, for which I usually got in trouble because we didn't know enough about how anxiety presented in children. Of course this lead to depression. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember.
It wasn't until my freshman year of college (Fall 2010) that I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder. From then on, I was diagnosed by multiple doctors with these disorders and was put on countless amounts of medications to try to manage the symptoms. At first the medications would seem like they were working, but eventually they all would stop. Throughout this time, I struggled with suicidal thoughts and ideation because I wasn't happy, couldn't feel happy, didn't feel like I could ever be happy, and constantly thought there must be something wrong with me.
About three years ago I got a new doctor. That doctor diagnosed me with anxiety, social anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, panic attacks, PTSD, and bipolar II disorder (which includes depression episodes and hypomania - basically I feel like I can accomplish anything and feel on top of the world). While this may seem like a good thing, sometimes the depression and hypomania come in what's called a mixed episode - both happen at once - and it can be really dangerous. It was during one of these episodes that I attempted suicide. I thankfully failed, but it is something I live with on a daily basis - these thoughts are constantly in my mind. While my diagnoses are still changing, these are the ones that have stayed the same and will stay the same.
Everyday is a new struggle for me. There are some days that I can't even force myself to get out of bed, shower, or eat. This has always affected work performance and attendance, as well as school attendance. There are days that I can drive all the way to school, but my anxiety and panic attacks won't let me physically walk in the building. There are days that I have to call out of work because I can't bear the thought of leaving my bed and having to see or associate with other people. While these things have always been in the background, over the past few years they have gotten significantly worse - I don't follow through with plans, I barely see my friends, I don't spend time with my family, I spend the majority of my time in my room in my bed. Sometimes it physically hurts to force myself to do anything but stay in bed.
To combat this, my doctor has tried countless combinations of medications. Medications sometimes work - but they don't always work the best they possibly can. Medication is always trial and error. At this point, we're running out of options for medications. Some of these medications can actually be physically harmful. Others are highly addictive and aren't something I want to have to rely on to live a normal life. Sometimes I can't recognize an oncoming panic attack and can't take my medication in time to prevent one - or even if I can, it doesn't work. Other times, it just takes too long for them to work.
The bottom line is: I need something that medication can't give me. I'm 25 years old and I need my life back. Service dogs can be trained specifically for these purposes and can give me the independence and freedom that I so desperately need. Having a service dog will break the figurative shackles that I feel so attached to in my everyday life. And this is where your help is needed!
At GOFI, we work to empower our clients to live independently, unencumbered by the challenges of daily living associated with medical disabilities. We match each client with a service dog that meets their individual needs. It is our goal to be flexible with the time needed for the recipient to take their service dog into their lives and provide training services for the life of the dog.