First, I want to acknowledge that today is a holiday and for many, holidays are hard. I’m alone today and instead of dwelling on the fact that I’m not with my son enjoying the festivities of the day, I’m going to keep it a bit light.
I used to get so mad when people who I felt understood nothing of the serious anxiety and depression I was experiencing would say, “just go take a walk. Fresh air will help”. I wanted to roll my eyes and yell at their lack of understanding, but would be complicit and thank them for the advice that was just so absolutely insightful.
Taking a walk will not cure your depression or anxiety, but getting out and getting gentle exercise and leaving the confines of prison (how I felt about my house those days I could never get out), is one piece of healing that is composed of a complex matrix we must all figure out on how we heal.
Most people I have found with trauma, PTSD, introversion, or anything not completely normal think dogs are better than people. I’m going to write about the benefits of taking a walk from how it affects my dog, Napoleon.
A bit of background on my sweet little guy is that he spent at least 3.5 years of his 5 years in a shelter, to be rescued just before his scheduled execution. I adopted Napoleon from a local rescue organization. It’s said he’s a chihuahua, but everyone says he looks like a min pin. I don’t know, I just love him. Napoleon is extremely insecure and has to be on a human at all times to the point it gets a bit annoying. He is always laying on me or my son or the tiny amount of humans he has let in his circle. He also loves to snuggle to the bottom of the bed underneath the covers and stay there if I’m too mobile for him to lay on. I think it’s his sulking place.
When I come around jingling the leash, I swear Napoleon rolls his eyes at me and will try to hide deeper under the covers. I can hear him thinking “mom, I can’t face the world”. As Napoleon is a dog, he doesn’t get much choice in his life, so he walks anyway, and usually because I need to. Napoleon will often park himself and make himself as heavy as possible to not go outside once the leash is attached. He’s not so great at it is seeing as he only weighs 9 pounds and even in my weakened state, I can overpower his unwillingness. Please remember, my dog has serious trauma, which is why I’m taking the time to bloviate about this.
The sweetest thing happens once we actually get out the door, my sulky, dependent dog turns into a master of the universe. His confidence grows with every rock and bush he lifts his leg on. He wags his tail as he sees the other dogs out in the world. He will happily give the leash a little tug in hopes of chasing a nearby bird or squirrel. He just turns into pure joy! The transformation of “just taking a walk” makes Napoleon come out of his shell, and he loves being out in the world.
Upon return of home, he again tries to become very heavy to not have to go back in. Napoleon loves being out. Getting Napoleon to get out isn’t easy. I think his anxiety sky rockets when he hears the leash. I can’t force all of you to take a walk or get a breath of fresh air, but just ponder for a moment the reluctance Napoleon has EVERY time and how he also loves it EVERY time.
So I encourage you to “just go take a walk”, but I also encourage you to eat healthy, get good therapy, talk to supportive people, engage in all kinds of good self care, and if you are lucky to have a pet, spend lots of time with them. I can’t tell you what will make that heavy cloud that weighs you down lift, but it’s complex, and it’s work. Work at it though. The life you can live will be incredible.