Updated: Jul 10, 2020
| This is the 108th story of Our Life Logs |
My life began with a sweet calmness. Until age five, I lived with my parents in a city north of Los Angeles. But soon enough, my mom got a new job that took us to Cincinnati, Ohio. Our home in the new city was on Spooky Hollow Road. As a little girl, I thought, “Oh my god, this place must be infested with ghosts!” Thankfully, my fear didn’t have to last long because we stayed there only as long as it took for our new house to be built.
In 2004, about a year and a half after living in the new home, the sweetness of life was broken. When I was around seven years old, my mom moved out of the house without warning. I remember waking up to moving trucks and cop cars outside. They hadn’t told me about the divorce; I just had to piece the clues together on my own. My mom moved into another place, and I began splitting time with my parents—Monday and Tuesday with mom, Wednesday and Thursday with dad, and alternated weekends between them.
Even after the divorce, the fighting didn’t stop. If they weren’t fighting about their own differences, they would fight over me. My mom had only moved down the road, so many times one parent would pick me up too early, or drop me off too late, causing the other parent to settle the score. I remember one time when I was eight, there had been some miscommunication about when I was supposed to leave from my dad’s house. I remember watching their fists sail into each other before I ran up the stairs. I locked myself in my dad’s office and looked for the phone. My little hands trembled as I tried to remember how to call 911. That was the worst of it, but it was terrifying. I remember going down to the station with them to document where their black eyes were for a police statement.
I did sometimes have happy days during my childhood when there wasn’t fighting. There were days when one parent would drop me off and neither of my parents would say anything to set the other off. Another memory was when my mother bought another house to renovate and build her own that sat atop a hill, overlooking Cincinnati. Moving around to different houses was upsetting me, so my grandpa installed a device at my mom’s house so that she could turn a jump rope for me by herself without needing another person. Trying it out for the first time was a moment of pure joy. When I told my dad how much I liked it, he installed one at his house too. Things like that remind me that my family really loves me, despite how they treat each other.
Another happy memory from that time was during the first grade when my dad got me a puppy, whom I named Joey. I loved that dog, and as an only child, I treasured the companionship. I remember one day I brought him in for show-and-tell at school on a day that I’d be going to my mom’s after class. I asked her if Joey could come to her house with me, and she agreed, thinking that Joey was a friend from school. To my surprise, my mom ended up really loving Joey, and spent a couple hours playing with us before taking him back to my dad’s. It was sort of I developed a deep love for dogs from an early age. They made me happy and forget about things going on with my parents.
If I had to estimate, I think I started having anxious feeling around age nine or ten. It began as a nervous, sloshing feeling in my stomach that I got while my parents fought. Fortunately, when I was about eleven years old, my dad got us another puppy named Cory (short for Coriander). He became something more than just my best friend. We cultivated a special bond that I didn’t make with my other dogs. Cory was always by my side as my touch-point to calm me down when I felt anxious or uneasy. He’s always been very relaxed and great with other people and dogs.
Because Cory stayed at my dad’s house, I got by with other kinds of coping mechanisms while at my mom’s or when I was at school, and it worked—for a while. In hindsight, I can see the progression of my anxiety as an exponential graph. As a teen, my anxious feelings progressed into OCD-like tendencies. I would wear the same rings every day and when I took them off, I had to take them off in a specific order, so they would be lined up the same way each time. I also refused to use the hair ties on my wrist to put up my hair. I would have to use different ones, so they could stay on my wrist. By the time I was finishing high school, the anxiety attacks began to come.
Once an anxiety attack begins, it’s difficult to stop. They also vary in length. Some come fast and are gone within a couple minutes. Others can last for an hour before you begin to feel completely okay. During an attack, my thoughts obsessively race around one thing like one word someone said or one thing I saw. And my mind focuses on it, even if it seems insignificant to anyone else. I remember once having an attack after getting a text from someone that seemed like they were really mad at me. This triggered something in me. I didn’t want the person to be mad at me, and I couldn’t stop reading the message and thinking about if I had hurt another’s feelings. Why some things trigger me, I’m not sure. They just do. The best thing for me to do during an attack is to cross my arms across my chest and slowly wait as it passes, and everything comes back into focus.
As I neared the end of high school, college was on my mind. I got accepted to Northwestern in Illinois about five hours away from home. While at first, I was excited to be attending such a prestigious school, I quickly found out that it wasn’t a good fit for me. It was too cold, too far away from my family, and just too gray on campus. I guess there were too many reasons that made me want a change. My only solace came every other weekend when my dad brought Cory with him while he was doing business near my school. He gave me something to look forward to while I was enrolled there.
At the end of my first semester, I transferred to Ohio State University. The difference in atmosphere was astronomical. Everything on campus was red and vibrant, everyone seemed happier, and I felt much more in my element. Five days after moving in, I decided to rush for a sorority and joined soon after. I quickly made friends with fellow sisters. As an only child with divorced parents, I always felt a bit secluded from my classmates. The sorority was great for me because I felt like I was a part of something for the first time. My dad would still bring Cory to my new school every few weekends. I would sneak him in and out of my dorm. I liked having him there, not because I was unhappy, but just because I wanted my dog. I felt more at peace around him.
Coming home the first summer after college made me realize how bad my anxiety had gotten, as my anxiety attacks became more frequent and less predictable. That’s when I looked to Cory. I loved being around him and he was the most well-trained of all my dad’s dogs, so I decided to train him to become an emotional support animal. He was taught to crawl on my chest to help bring me back from an attack. The difference in having Cory at all times was astounding. It helped so much just to have a living thing that I can put my hand on to bring me back from a pit of darkness.