Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron. So one man sharpens another.” (NASB) And the footnote in my Bible says, “Social contacts have a stimulating effect on the mind and personality.”
I recently saw that played out in very dramatic terms here in my home through the interaction of our two pups. Duke is a nearly nine month old boxer, Labrador and ???? mix. We got him when he was about eight weeks old. Shortly after he came here, he developed a serious limp in his right hind leg. So, we took him to our veterinarian who examined him and found that he had a torn anterior cruciate ligament–that ACL thing which plagues so many athletes. He needed an operation.
After surgery, we kept him kenneled most of the time for six weeks so that he would not run and jump, and possibly reinjure the knee before healing had progressed. The problem was that he held that leg up and would not put any weight on it. So, the muscles in the back of his thigh drew up into a tight knot. Once the knee had healed, it was impossible for him to extend it normally.
The vet demonstrated some therapeutic exercises my wife and I could do with him, but they helped only slightly. If we were not able to get him to extend his leg, the vet would have to anesthetize him and forcefully stretch it out, leaving some residual pain and suffereing for Duke.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. Our daughter called us and said there was a cute stray puppy that had come to her door. So, we brought her home to keep while we tried to locate her owner. No lost dog notices appeared in the newspaper ads about a lost husky/Australian cattle dog puppy, so we decided to keep her.
Almost as soon as we got her in the house, Sweetie and Duke began doing what puppies do best. They romped and wrestled and rough-housed all over the place. That was about five months ago.
The vet had warned us that Duke would probably walk with a noticeable limp for the rest of his life. Today, he runs and walks with only the slightest hint of a limp, and he can extend his leg to its full limit.
What our veterinarian could not do without more discomfort and expense, and what my wife and I could not do with manual therapy, another healthy puppy did through the normal interplay that puppies do.
So often, those of us with life-limiting mental illnesses allow ourselves to be isolated and alone. Sometimes through undeserved feelings of shame due to our illnesses. Sometimes due to fear of ridicule or criticism. So, we take our medications, go to our therapy and then withdraw into ourselves. But medication and therapy do not work alone, and isolation is counter-productive.
I have written on this subject several times before on another website, and I always come full circle to the same point. There are people out there who will love and accept us, and who will be encouragements to us. And churches are good places to start looking.
Just as Sweetie was Duke’s best therapy, so too is getting outside ourselves to socialize and be friendly. I know, because I have lived with depression for most of my life.