I never really believed in the potency of pet therapy, and I didn't really like animals much either. I never had a pet growing up, so I wasn't able to understand the bond that people have with their pets is actually powerful.
I had been battling with anxiety and depression for almost three years. I was seeing therapists and psychiatrists, and I went on and off several different antidepressants. I was drowning in the most irrational fears and obsessions that made me feel like I could never have a normal future.
Because of all of my anxieties, I was convinced I was mentally ill and needed to be institutionalized. I was afraid of death and loss of control. But at the same time, I also struggled to find a purpose for my life. I felt unlovable. I believed I didn't deserve to be cared about. Since I was blessed to have the necessities of life, I believed I hadn't gone through real hardships.
As I was sitting in class one evening, my mind was zoning out and wandering into dark places.
“No one cares about me, and I am a waste of space,” I thought. "If I died, would anyone care?" These thoughts made me question my purpose of being alive, and I was afraid of them.
After consulting my parents and therapists that night, I changed medications again. But, I was tired of relying on doctors and medicine. I wanted to feel like I mattered to someone. I was living away from home at my university. I had a few friends, a boyfriend and roommates, but I constantly felt alone. I didn't know how to help myself feel better anymore.
One day, my parents suggested I'd get a dog to live with me at school. I was very surprised because my parents had never allowed pets at home. As a result, I never had a desire to take on that kind of responsibility. At first, I thought it was a ridiculous idea. How could a dog help my mental health?
But, the more I thought about it, the more I became open to the idea. I researched dog breeds and started visiting shelters to learn more about taking care of dogs. My family and I went to a bunch of shelters in Los Angeles to find a dog I could connect with.
I went to a park where a few shelters came together to bring dogs for adoption. That's where I finally found the one. It was like love at first sight. I saw him from a distance, and before meeting him, I instantly knew I would adopt him.
I took my dog back to school with me the day I adopted him. The first few days with him were difficult, as I had never cared for a pet before. Then, I created a routine, and every day, it became easier. We built a tight bond. He was dependent on me, and I became very attached to him as well.
Every time I'd come home, he would be at the door to greet me. I felt the unconditional love, and it was as if a void inside of me was filled. My dog enabled me to find a sense of purpose. I also became more social and approachable because people wanted to pet and learn more about my dog. I started making friends at school and finding happiness.
It almost felt like I was starting to become a new person. I was becoming a better version of myself by being more social and open to trying new things. My dog, Aristotle, helped me learn to appreciate everything I have. He showed me how to allow myself to be loved. Aristotle saved my life, and I am grateful for him every day.