I treat people who have panic attacks severe enough to trigger a seizure. Many are hesitant to travel; afraid their stress will trigger a medical emergency.
I was interviewing for an administrator one day and an applicant, Sarah, arrived with a black lab named Luna. Sarah said, “Luna helps me manage my anxiety. She gives me joy. I can work without medication.”
Sarah had been in the throes of deep, dangerous depression and taking antidepressants. She said she wanted to “accidentally overdose or be allowed to exit the earth quietly and gracefully.”
Then she met Luna whose joy when they played tug-of-war with a hand towel was contagious. Luna made her laugh. “Petting her eased the pressure in my chest,” she said. “It prevented a panic attack.”
Luna didn’t erase Sarah’s depression. She wasn’t magically better. Luna gave her moments of joy. Sarah said, “She gave me joy that I hadn’t experienced before.”
Most importantly, Luna made Sarah stop thinking about dying. “Even on the hardest days Luna neededme. I was responsible for my own life and the life of a pet that I loved desperately. She needed me as much as I needed her.”
Sarah had tried countless things to ease her depression and make life better, to learn to love her self and learn to manage her anxiety. “Now Luna gets me out of bed,” Sarah said. “She gets me to work, even if I want to sleep forever.”
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) give U.S. residents several benefits. Just like full-fledged service animals, ESAs are about the freedom and health of a disabled person. Landlords can’t deny them housing. U.S.-based airlines allow them to fly with their dogs in-cabin, without a fee.
ESAs draw criticism. People say, “If you are such a baby that you need your pet maybe you shouldn’t fly at all,” or, “Pop a Xanax.” Why is medication always the answer? Invisible disabilities case people to roll their eyes and think, “What a faker; another selfish, system-player.”
“I want you to know how Luna saved me, “ Sarah said. “I want you to know I might not be here today if Luna had not entered my life.”