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How Bernadette Peters Changed My Life

**TW: Suicide


I was suicidal during my last show. I didn’t tell any of my castmates.  I didn’t tell my Mom. I kept it hidden. I did eventually tell a few of my closest friends, and one of them was my sister. None of them were in town with me, so I think they felt helpless, and so did I. I would go and live my BEST life in the show every night, and then come home and weep on the floor, knife in hand. Sometimes pills were my poison of choice. I soon realized it was Lexapro, the anxiety medication I’d recently switched to, which was making me suicidal. I contacted my doctor and slowly got off of the medication. The downside was that I had nothing to replace it.  No psychiatrist would see me. Being suicidal made me a liability. I spent months unhappy and barely functioning. I was grateful to be alive but didn’t feel like I had any real place in the world.


In a way, the show saved my life. I kept thinking, “Well if I die, how will they do the show? Everyone will be SO MAD at me.” I am so grateful for friends and castmates that, although they had no idea, saved my life too. 


I knew I needed help, and a lot of it. I also quickly realized that my mood would dramatically shift every time I spent even a few minutes with the 2 dogs that my castmates/friends brought with them to the show (Shoutout to Rocky and Olivia!) By the time our contract was over, I knew that I would be a happier person with a dog. *Fast forward to being back to NYC* 


SHELTERS:


I strongly recommend animal shelters. There are so many sweet animals just waiting to be loved, please give them a home. As soon as I got back I went to BARC Shelter in Williamsburg. It’s a cute no-kill shelter close to a cupcake shop. (Obviously, that’s vital information.)


I met a cute little mixed breed named Gizmo, and started telling the world that I was about to be Gizmo’s new mom. I applied, and played the waiting game. I went back 2 weeks later to visit Little Giz (Yes, I had already given him a nickname), to find out that I’d been beat out by someone who applied right before me.  I just sat there, stunned, heartbroken, and teary eyed.


Then, in walks Bernadette Peters.


I said, IN WALKS BERNADETTE PETERS!  *Dramatic music plays*


Ya’ll.


This Broadway LEGEND walks right up to me, hugs me (she must have seen my pain) and starts chatting about the dogs in the shelter. I told her about Little Giz, and she is now determined to help me find my new best friend. We walk to the back together and look at dogs, one-by-one until we find the perfect match.


I LOVE SNOW!


We found Snow, my sweet Emotional Support Animal.  Snow is a rescue pup from Hurricane Harvey. She is a 1-year old maltipoo, and my new best friend. So yeah, she’s a rescue, but to be honest, we actually rescued each other.  Now we make dance videos together, like this one: 


I brought Snow to my acting class because I was feeling helpless and she calms and makes me feel confident. It’s interesting that she calms me, because Snow has anxiety. She is afraid of her own reflection. Ya’ll, I’m for real. When she sees her reflection she runs and hides. It’s hilarious, but it’s also good reminder that the things that give you anxiety don’t have to be as scary in real life as they are in your head. I’m incredibly grateful to have found to perfect support for emotions that seem like too much to handle sometimes. Now let’s help you find yours!


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: 


An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is for those who suffer from an emotional or mental disability.An Emotional Support Animal is NOT a Service Animal. ESA owners are subject to a number of ‘reasonable accommodations’ as afforded by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. (Your landlord must allow your ESA.)

THE PROCESS:

-Talk to your Therapist or Psychiatrist about wanting an ESA. Tell them you think you’d benefit from one, get their opinion. Get a letter from your licensed mental health professional. It must include:

Their license name & number, the fact that you’re under care from them and that you require an ESA. You don’t have to include personal info about your diagnosis. 


- Keep a copy of your letter on your phone and in print.


- Consider your situation. What’s best for you? A super chill animal or a super playful one?

Living with depression? A playful pup might be a great choice. They help you get out of bed, find excitement and random giggles. 

Living with anxiety? Super chill might be the way to go. Try an animal that loves to relax, snooze and cuddle. This helps calm you down when you need it most.

Or get you a dog who can both. Ayyye!


-Research! Read ALL the things. Here are some helpful links:


https://usaservicedogregistration.com/services/emotional-support-animal/

https://www.certapet.com/faq/how-to-get-an-emotional-support-animal/

- Ask the shelter and/or previous owners about the animal’s behavior. Does the dog bark often? How does the dog interact with humans and other animals? Is the dog trained? Your ESA must be potty trained and behave well while in the airport and flying. 


-Check the ESA process of the airlines you fly most often. For most airlines you just need to call before your flight to alert them about your ESA, then show paperwork the day of your check in. Get to the airport early! You can’t do online check-in when flying with your ESA.


-Register your ESA on this site. It’s not a must, but it’s definitely prevented me from getting thrown out of a few stores for bringing my ESA with me. You get: An ESA certificate, ID card(s), and ID tag.


-Cuddle, enjoy, and spread the love!



Just to be clear, if you don’t require an ESA, I do NOT support or advise you to pretend your animal is an ESA just because love your pet and want them with you. It takes away from those who sincerely require an ESA. Do you NEED a peacock or a boa constrictor to make it thru your flight? For real? 


ACTORS: In terms of taking your animal on a contract, some theaters can only allow a certain number of pets. Please be honest with the theatre about your animal’s status. It would be unfair to take that right away from a person who needs their ESA. 

Send me pics of your pets or leave them in the comments!


AFFIRMATION: “I let go of all the lies I tell myself.” 


If you or a loved one need help, please call the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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©2020 by Darkness RISING: A Mental Health Awareness Project