Psychiatric Service Dog for Maren

Today begins a difficult quest. I need to ask my friends and family for help, something that has always been hard for me to do. As many of you may know, I’ve struggled with an array of issues most of my life.  Depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, OCD and agoraphobia are the most prevalent. What most of you don’t know is how these have worsened in the last few years. It’s often said that “not all disabilities are visible” and these illnesses cause significant challenges for me every day. My mental health is still somewhat difficult for me to be open about due to the strong negative social stigma surrounding mental illness. This stigma has kept me mostly quiet for years. Now I’ve decided I must be stronger than this stigma and be open about what I need. At the advice and encouragement of my doctor I’m pursuing this next step in taking control of my issues and working to regain my life and independence. This process both scares and excites me but I’m ready to take a leap of faith. I am asking you to take this leap with me.

Three years ago my issues became severe enough that I had to quit a job I loved and go on Social Security Disability. Things were at the point where my disability was approved in 4 months when the majority of people fight for long periods of time, even years, just to get approved. I then began working with an amazing doctor and two awesome therapists. I feel I’ve found a good combination of medications to get my depression mostly manageable. Also some of you know that I went through a long series of ECT (electric shock therapy) for depression. This is a highly controversial subject; however after going through it, I’m a very vocal advocate to its positive benefits. It helped my depression immensely but has no effect on anxiety, panic, OCD, etc. In seeing how hard I’ve been working on myself, my doctor thinks the next logical step for me is to get a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD).

 Most people are aware of Service Dogs for the blind and physically disabled but don’t know that Service Dogs can help with mental impairments too. These dogs can help change the lives of people struggling with conditions like mine. These dogs don’t just change lives, they save lives. Once fully trained, my service dog will help me combat the negative effects of my disabilities. PSDs can learn the following tasks as well as be an emotionally supporting presence:  redirecting negative OCD behaviors, thorough searches if a person is anxious about entering a home or elsewhere, assist handler in creating a “safe personal space” in public, serving as a physical buffer/barrier to calm handler and reduce feelings of anxiety and panic in crowded places, and alerting and grounding when handler is starting to experience anxiety and panic to name just a few. My PSD will be trained specifically for my needs,

Even though my doctor has deemed that a PSD would be an integral and important part of my treatment, no insurance covers any part of obtaining a service dog. My projected goal of a minimum of  $ 8,000 would allow me to buy a dog; it would cover travel and lodging expenses so my dog and I could go to Wisconsin to stay for approximately 2 weeks while participating in a very intense training program. It would cover the training fees of an experienced PSD trainer and possibly even allow me to start up a prepaid health and wellness plan at the vet for my dog’s health care needs. If by some chance I were to be fortunate to go over my goal, any extra monies would go to care and upkeep of my dog. I’m not going into this unknowingly, I’ve had many dogs throughout my life and know the commitment, dedication, care, love and affection they need. After extensive research and talking to different PSD trainers about my personal needs, an ideal dog for me would be a medium sized Golden Retriever or Goldendoodle, around 1 year old, spayed/neutered, housetrained, non aggressive and able to walk fairly well on a leash. If anyone knows of a possible candidate I would love to check them out. I am open to other breeds as well because a very important factor to help make this whole process successful is the ability to have a strong initial bond between my dog and me.

I thank any and everyone in advance for not just any donation made, but simply for reading my story in the hopes I can spread some information and raise some awareness regarding mental illness and the use of PSDs. If you’re unable to donate, a simple share of this campaign would mean the world to me. Not only could just one person sharing bring me closer to obtaining my goal, but it could very well bring some information to someone who needs it. To anyone who finds it in their heart to donate to my cause, thank you, thank you, thank you!
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Maren Chrismen 
Avon, MN
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