Big love to the dogs in my life who helped me with bipolar

emotional support animal bipolar


Affectionate pets like dogs can really help anyone living with bipolar disorder. Emotional support animals like service dogs are now available…

August 26th, 2010, that was a D-Day for me. After my mum spoke to my psychiatrist (whom I had met earlier on), he said it was official: I have Bipolar Disorder Type II. No more confusion, no more speculation, no more doubts.

A part of me was relieved to have an answer to all the madness I have been going through my entire teenage life, possibly throughout my childhood too. Yet another part of me was worried what the future held for me. There was also one more question I felt I needed to ask: “How did I manage it the entire time?”

Then one fateful evening led me browsing through a bookstore, I passed by the self-enrichment section and a particular book caught my eye. It had a Jack Russell Terrier on its cover. I wondered why a dog would be the cover model for a self-improvement book. I flipped through It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump: And Other Life Lessons I Learned from Dogs and then a light bulb lit. For almost a decade, I had had “service dogs” by my side to help me cope! I was receiving indirect therapy! Unfortunately, those “therapy sessions” finally ended on December 14, 2009. The dog I knew for more than 9 years passed on in her sleep.

That would explain why I spent most of the early part of 2010 convincing my parents to adopt another dog. Even after they refused, I wrote an almost 1000-word essay for my mum, explaining why we needed a dog back in our lives again. I remember writing something about “loneliness” and “companionship”. It was an indirect cry for help.

Perdita was an SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) rescue dog and a mongrel. She was calm and relaxed, yet when the time came, she would let out a ferocious deep-toned bark that would scare off any intruders. I will always remember that whenever I was feeling upset, I would spend a good hour just sitting down next to her, stroking her fur and just looking at that cool expression on her face. It kept my mind off any negative thoughts. My only focus in these peaceful sessions would be giving her my time and company, probably a few scratches behind her ear too. At that moment, who would even bother thinking about committing suicide?

Sometime in 2008, my dad rescued a male Miniature Pinscher off the streets from becoming road kill. We chose to name him Rafi (pronounced Ruffy where we live) as he constantly barked at almost anything and everything. To be entirely honest, he was a complete pain to take care of. He was extremely disobedient and an alpha dog (albeit a small one). By that time, Perdita was already a veteran guard dog and very old, so she no longer ran (the closest to that would be a very light jog) and no longer played any games with us. Rafi was now a huge responsibility and my new play-buddy. Whenever I was feeling extremely hyperactive (possibly hypomanic) it was time to play tag with Rafi throughout the house. It was tiring and exciting, and it kept me from doing absurdly impulsive things, which I did on a regular basis before he came into my life.

Sadly, we only had Rafi for 5 months or so. One day the gate was open and he noticed a pack of stray dogs running by, and being the rebel that he is, he sped out of the house and went after those strays. We tried to give him chase and track him down, but it was too late; he was gone. We never did find him ever again. All we hope now is that a Good Samaritan has taken him in and gives him the spoilt luxurious life he always wanted.

Thinking back, I have concluded that these two loving beings were the glue to the broken pieces of my life. That said, I do not think it would not have been a great idea to adopt a dog earlier this year, thus avoiding doctors (and diagnosis) then facing the consequences of Bipolar Disorder once I leave my home to study. It may just have been a blessing in disguise; not having any dogs anymore really led me to realise that I actually had a problem that needed treating.

Maybe, one day – once I have a stable income and a home of my own – I might just get myself a four-legged friend again. It would be my lifesaver and helmsman as we navigated the waters of Bipolar Disorder together.

Further reading on Pets, emotional support animals and Bipolar Disordr: