As the summer of 2015 faded into fall, my ability to cope with the problems in my world seemed to drop right along with the daily temperatures. I was quickly approaching a mental breakdown. I stayed in bed, mostly sleeping all day everyday. I could not summon the energy to move to the living room or eat a meal. I was so tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. I literally could not summon the will to want to live. It was pretty much as “rock bottom” as I had ever been.
If we rewind and looked at my life up to that point, it would be little wonder that I had reached this low. I had been referred to a psychologist by my pediatrician when I was just eight years old. Years of therapy, treatments, and doctors visits had gleaned a number of diagnoses which included post traumatic stress disorder, major panic disorder, severe and recurrent major depression and anxiety, and autism spectrum disorder.
On top of this, my body was also physically sick. I had fibromyalgia, lupus, arthritis, celiac, and blood cell abnormalities, and a host of other illnesses.
My life has also been full of traumatic events that caused and/or aggravated these
conditions. Getting out of bed had always been a challenge for me, but by October of 2015 it was impossible. I had spent time in the hospital because of my nervous breakdown and was literally at my wits end. I medically withdrew from college because I could not even complete online courses. My world was black and sorrowful, and I literally felt like I would never see the light again. I was doomed to live in darkness for the rest of my life.
It was at this time that I was blessed to find a doctor who understood more about my conditions than any before. He suggested I get a trained service animal. I could not see how a dog, no matter how cute, was going to fix anything and besides, service animals were very expensive and I had not been able to work for years.
My mom thought that I should ask for help from other people. I have always been on the shy side and while I was more than willing to give help, I was reluctant to bother anyone to ask for help for myself.
Laying in bed on Thanksgiving day, I decided to give it a try. I felt like I was already failing at life, so what would it hurt to fail asking for help? Still, in order to ask I needed to share my story with the community and being that vulnerable was scary. I remember writing and rewriting my story on a GoFund me page and finally pressing post. I shut my computer and went to sleep.
When I woke up, I was almost afraid to look. What if I was being ridiculed or worse
completely ignored? I finally turned on my phone and was immediately frozen in shock. My inboxes were flooded with messages of sympathy and hope. The link to the page had been shared by so many in my social media community. The donated money was flowing into the account, even from people I did not know.
As the days went on I received letters with incredibly sweet messages and checks, again often from anonymous donors. Even more than the money, the messages changed my life. They gave me the strength I needed to make it through medication changes and therapy while waiting for my dog.
I had felt like such a failure that I could not see that my life had touched others, so many others. I cried every time I read a message from another that spoke of how my values had driven actions that made a difference in someone's journey. I have added some of them here:
"This GoFundMe page is for one of my sweet friends that I met here in NY. Paige is one of the most giving, and kindest people I know. I am a huge believer in the help, healing, and comfort that service animals can provide. If you can support her in receiving this service dog, please do!! Love you, Paige!"
"I worked with Paige years ago and she is so nice and willing to help everyone around her. Please help her to get the help she needs. The money is for a service dog that would help her get back on her feet. Thanks!"
"Some of you may remember Paige Mather from when she attended some births with me last year but had to stop because of health concerns. She has an amazing spirit. Please donate if you can."
"My wonderful, beautiful niece is one of the most service-oriented women I know. Paige has suffered for years, and quite honestly, the world is missing out on the fullness of her gifts due to her illness-- which is predicted to improve with the aid of a service dog. This is a great way to share something really special this holiday season. Please donate so that sweet Paige Mather's needs can
In January 2016 I found my Lady, a golden retriever with a bit of poodle. She spent
almost three months in training before coming home to me. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without her. She accompanies me to many places. She is trained to interrupt negative patterns such as panic attacks and nightmares. In fact she is so good at her job that if I become frustrated doing homework, she will close the screen and lay on top of my computer! She is my miracle and has enabled tremendous progress in my life.
This is my story, but it is not mine alone. The characters in this story give it meaning and value and I will forever be thankful for each one. Because of my experience, I am more aware of the needs of others around me, in my communities near and far. I hope that sharing this story will inspire you to seek opportunities to offer service in any form.
Every time I look at my Lady girl, I see the love and support of my community, and the selfless demonstration of the human values that unite us all.