My Panic is Real

Rachel Kramer

I have anxiety
I’ve battled with it for 9 years and counting
I go to therapy
I’ve gotten the diagnosis
And I’ve gotten the help

My anxiety causes panic attacks
I can’t breathe and I can’t see
And nasty thoughts fill my head
I was just 15 when I got diagnosed

It wasn’t until 2 years of therapy had passed
that my parents decided to try and help
They got me a dog, a good, strong pup
I named her Cassie, and I loved her

A year after I got Cassie, I decided it wasn’t enough
I would have panic attacks away from home
When Cassie was nowhere near me
in a store where she had to wait outside
or in school every day for years

Still living at home, I depended on my parents
I couldn’t make Cassie an official Emotional Support Animal
at least not without my parents’ money
If I could, she could follow me anywhere
Eventually, my begging paid off, Cassie could be trained

After 2 years of demanding work, Cassie was certified
Finally, she never had to leave my side, I never had to worry
At least that’s what I thought
But so many places don’t allow Emotional Support Animals
They’re treated differently from other Service Animals
Hotels, restaurants, stores, and even my work said no
I felt lied to, tricked into feeling safe

I felt so trapped, missing out because of a dog
I couldn’t go places with Cassie
I couldn’t go places without Cassie
I’ve never felt so held back by an animal
It was so frustrating!

It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t her fault
She was there to help me, not hold me back
It took some patience and understanding
but I knew that Cassie was amazing
I love her
Without her, my anxiety would have taken over my life

I’ve had panic attacks in school
I remember them clear as day

They’re looking at me, I know it
I look crazy sitting here alone
They’re looking at me, I can tell
It’s because I have no friends
They must all hate me
I can’t see clearly, everything is dark
I think my heart is going to fall out
Is this what a heart attack is?
They must all be looking—
I feel the nudge of a cold nose
I dig my hands in the soft fur
I stare deep into the brown eyes
I feel my troubles melt away
My heartbeat slows and color returns
I see backs of heads; no one is looking
It’s just you and me, and now I feel fine

Going to school every day is hard
Meeting people is hard, they only see a dog
She brings in attention, but it isn’t all good

Cassie is my Service Animal
I have anxiety and panic attacks
Yes, I’ve been diagnosed
No, I’m not just looking for attention
Yes, she is trained
No, you can’t pet her
I’m sorry, please stay
She’s working, you can’t distract her
No, I didn’t mean to insult you
I’m sorry, please stay…

Finding real friends was hard
Finding a home was harder
I remember searching everywhere

What a nice house
A good place to call home
Quality utilities, and at a fair price
A cozy feeling, I know lazy Sundays await
I’ll talk to the landlord
Get the papers straight
Oh, that’s a new sign
I must have missed it before
“No Dogs Allowed,” that’s what it says
That dirty old sign, they’ll take my dog
They make no exceptions, even for you
I can’t breathe when you’re gone
I need you
We’ll have to keep looking
We’ll find a real place to call home
Somewhere we’re safe and can live as we please

If people knew how hard it was
Then there wouldn’t be so many problems
Then I could study hard and focus
Then I could live my life alongside others
Then I could find a place to call my own
Look past the dog, see the person

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