The Nervous Breakdown, Pt. II: Philip

posted in: Sicky 62
Not Philip, but what a good boy. Photo: Wikipedia.



It’s time for The PaperGirl Sunday Evening Post. Tonight, the continuation of the grim story I began last week. Descend into torment with me, won’t you?

But first: It was staggering to see the amount of love shown to me and the identification so many readers had with the first installment of the story. Many PaperGirl readers have experienced a major depressive episode, themselves. Many more have loved ones or friends who have. Nearly everyone is acquainted with depression somehow. How, exactly, can there still be a stigma around getting therapy or getting on (the right) meds to treat mental illness? Help me understand.

There were five events that combined to cause my nervous breakdown. The only way to illustrate the full misery is to illustrate the full misery piece by piece. When you’re having a nervous breakdown, time makes no sense — but let’s go chronologically, anyway.

It started with Philip.

If you don’t know about a little dog named Philip Larkin, click the “Philip Larkin” category tab over on the right hand side and you’ll see all the posts I’ve written about him. The story of Philip is long and it is about to get longer.

About nine months ago, a PaperGirl reader put me in contact with a Maltipoo breeder in Arkansas. This breeder was kind, certified, transparent, and above all, ethical. Filling out my Puppy Application took at least an hour to complete. I detailed the dog of my dreams, signed an agreement to be a good dog owner, and sent all that off with a not-insignificant deposit check. I was approved and put on the waiting list. The breeder said that two of her mama dogs whelp particularly small dogs, so this meant Philip’s mom would be either Ginger or Elsa.

“I think Ginger will probably have puppies toward the end of summer,” the breeder said. “You’ll be the first to know!”

But neither dog gave birth; the summer was too hot, the breeder said. No problem, I told her: I can wait. I had waited this long, hadn’t I? Besides, so much had been put in motion. Finding the breeder, getting on the waitlist, sending the deposit … Philip Larkin was getting more real every day. Soon, I wouldn’t feel so alone all the time. Soon, he would wriggle and roll and pounce on me and lick my nose with his tiny pink tongue … I’m comin’, Philip, I thought. We got this.

In November, the breeder emailed me that Ginger had given birth. There were five puppies in the litter: four girls … and one boy. This was it. That was Philip. I got the email while on a Quiltfolk trip and when I read about Ginger and the puppies to the girls in the car, we all screamed and freaked out and I flapped my hands and cried. Everyone hugged. Philip wasn’t just my dog at that point; we all wanted him.

When the breeder asked me if I’d like to see pictures of Philip as he grew, I told her that I would like that very much. It would be around eight weeks before he could come home, and this was the perfect amount of time to get things in order. I immediately began all the legwork for my petition. It hadn’t made sense to do all the stuff it before that, since a) I didn’t know if there would be a dog with this breeder; b) what if the dog wasn’t the right one, etc.; and c) I had looked at Illinois law and knew all the pieces I needed to proceed to get my companion pet in a no-dog building. I was ready for this paperwork.

The breeder sent pictures of Philip at about six weeks. He was exquisite. Downy and sweet. His dark eyes had that new puppy, sleepy, bleary look; he still had so much growing to do! His belly was pink and I liked to think I saw a lil’ milk gut.

Toward the end of November, I handed my building manager my 26-page petition, asking for permission to obtain Philip. This petition did not have to be 26 pages but like I was going to screw this up? Hell no. That slipcovered binder had a table of contents, a cover letter, letters from my doctors, a packet of resources (e.g., vets in the area, boarding outfits, etc.), information about the breed, information from the breeder, and all the blog posts I had written about my future pet, printed off. I wanted to make sure that my condo board understood this was not an impulse thing, that getting my small, hypo-allergenic dog was something I had been longing for and planning for for at least two years. I was following the rules. I was doing the work. I was going above and beyond.

On Black Friday, I bought a dog bed. On Cyber Monday, I bought a treat jar. At night, I actually fell asleep thinking of my dog. I had been feeling so poorly over the past couple months with bathroom stuff and it was a happy place I went to in my head.

On December 6th, I got a certified, one-page letter from my building’s attorneys retained by my building that under no circumstances would I be allowed to obtain a dog for the purposes of emotional support. Unless I had a service animal license, the answer was no. Adding to the shock, the lawyer wrote that the blog posts I included in my packet showed that I had tried to get my blog readers to give me tips on how to game the system. I am still not sure what blog posts she was reading, but I guess lawyers are real busy and stuff. She just got mixed up.

My heart got shot.

That’s how it felt. Someone pulled out heavy gun, placed the barrel flush to my breast, and shot me through my heart. For a few moments, I sat there at my table. I guess it was like in the movies when a gangster is playing cards or something, and he gets shot, right there at the table, and he’s still for a moment before he topples over. I looked down at the letter in my hands. I read it again. Then I put the letter on the table. And I began to cry.

That’s how the breakdown began. It began when my dog died.

Next week: The Breakup.

62 Responses

  1. Sam Faeth
    | Reply

    My heart hurts for you. Love and prayers.

  2. Donna
    | Reply

    I’m weeping knowing how sad you were, dear girl.

  3. Annie W
    | Reply

    Dear, dear Mary.. my heart is breaking for you.
    Biggest hugs

  4. Diana
    | Reply

    Sending you lots of hugs and prayers. May you find comfort and healing as you go through this healing journey.

  5. Mary
    | Reply

    That hurts my heart for you . Such a hard hearted person you had to deal with.

  6. Sheila
    | Reply

    Dang, I’m so sorry. How heartless!

  7. Jeannie Simon
    | Reply

    I’m so saddened reading your story. Love and hugs to you ❤️

    • Terri
      | Reply

      I’m so sorry! Can’t believe people can be so heartless!

  8. Mary Floyd
    | Reply

    So hurt for you. EVERYONE deserves the love of a dog. My heart breaks for you.

  9. Linda
    | Reply

    Mary , I’m so sad. About your Phillip ,, God bless you both

  10. Patty Setlock
    | Reply

    I am so sorry. Time to move? I know you have had your share of moving but it is for your mental health. I have learned in the last year to do things that make you happy. Hang in there you will conquer this mountain. I know you will. Hugs

  11. Susan
    | Reply

    Oh, Mary…

  12. Penny Arnold
    | Reply

    Sweet Mary, thank you for sharing your heart. Mental health can be so fragile, sticks & stones that break bones will heal but words spoken are forever. I hope & pray for the day when your beautiful smile reaches your heart & eyes. I get through many moments saying “help me Jesus”. God Bless.

  13. Pam
    | Reply

    I’m so very sorry with what you have been going thru BUT you don’t need a license for a service or emotional support dog because there is none to have. I have central vision loss and my dog is training with me. I realize emotional support is a bit different but I’m sure you would train your dog to know proper commands as sit, stay, potty etc. I believe you could and should appeal this decision and find an organization that would help you. But I have your story is more and your have been scammed by this breeder and she had no puppies just got your sizable deposit Know we are in your corner and prayers and hugs ❤️

  14. Sue
    | Reply

    My heart breaks with yours. No medication can numb that shock.

  15. KimS
    | Reply

    My single daughter lives in Chicago and got a puppy last year. It is not easy to have a dog in the city, let alone a puppy. It almost became our puppy many times, but she persevered. Chicago is such a dog crazy city, it is hard to believe your condo does not allow. So, move. It really isn’t about your little hypoallergenic dog, it is the next person who is not as responsible as you. I do think a rule is a rule and all of these emotional support pets are a little much. Pets are wonderful, I hope it happens in due time. You get knocked down but you get up again…. Cheering for you!

  16. Pat Deck
    | Reply

    My heart goes out to you. I have had one physical issue after another for the past 2 years. Even though my husband has been exceptionally supportive, these issues have taken a toll on my mental health. I want, I NEED, something furry to snuggle when the wave of depression engulfs me. I have always had a dog in my live, up until the the time I got sick. Our elderly dog, Maggie Mae, passed away. My husband refuses to get another. Refuses. He says I am enough for him to have to take care of. I am facing the prospect of living the rest of my life without a dog. I swing from crying jags to anger, back to crying jags, then silent self pity. It’s a bitch, no pun intended. I wish you luck in resolving your issue, and will be praying for you. Being sad all of the time is no fun. No fun at all.

  17. Anita Brayton
    | Reply

    I’m crying with you. Crappity-crap-crap. I’ve not read one post from your supporters on how to get the board to approve Phillip Larkin. That, obviously, knocked the wind out of you.

  18. Colleen Sain
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am sending hugs and love.

  19. Jo Raschkow.
    | Reply

    So sorry, I don’t understand some people . I would have let you have the puppy.

  20. peggyb
    | Reply

    I would immediately start looking for a new apartment – lease be damned! Would it have been possible to get a service dog license??? Please don’t wait so long for the next post –

  21. Colleen Sain
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing. Sending. you love and warm bear hugs.

  22. Toni
    | Reply

    Oh kiddo! My heart hurts for you. You are such a gentle soul!

    I’m very glad to see you writing your blog again. Sharing your story will show you and your blog followers how many others suffer with depression. I’m one and I know the word “suffer” is not an overstatement.

  23. Kathleen Volling
    | Reply

    Love you.

  24. Kay
    | Reply

    Oh my…my heart just flew out of my body. I am so sorry about Philip. I would be looking for another place to live.

  25. Linda Oburke
    | Reply

    What the heck does this matter have to do with our President? OMG, how did that post get through! This is about you, Mary. You knew the rules and went ahead anyway. I am so sorry it didn’t work out. But the right opportunity WILL come along. And so will the perfect dog. I’m on my third Westie and there is nothing and no one that can bring me out of a funk like she can. Just keep going. Don’t stop. Maybe a new apartment will be the answer. A new place and a new dog will bring you a new outlook. Why dig in your heels when you can go a different direction. These apartment people aren’t worth your time and effort. And don’t call it ‘my depression’. Call it ‘the depression’. Don’t own it and don’t claim it. You are so much more than a depressed person. Good luck.

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Woah! That was spam, Linda. I *don’* know how it got through!! Gross. It’s gone now. 🙂 Mary

      • Linda Oburke
        | Reply

        Sorry Mary. I’m new at commenting on blogs and didn’t even think about spam. I’ll know next time. Hang in there. Everyone here loves you and cares about you.

  26. Pat
    | Reply

    I am so, so sorry!

  27. Cathy
    | Reply

    Oh my! I know that home owner associations and the like do many good services for us, but they are so hard to deal with. My heart breaks for you, Mary! Praying for you, sweet lady! xox

  28. Georgia
    | Reply

    That would have broken me into pieces! How heartbreaking.

  29. Terry Frank
    | Reply

    Procure a license for your “service” dog and hire a good lawyer. After all, you are not having a Bull Mastiff come to stay and you need the emotional support. Don’t give up — FIGHT!

  30. Charmaine
    | Reply

    Sending you cyber hugs! Please know I am just one of so many cheering for you and wishing you WELL!

  31. Helen G
    | Reply

    Some may not agree but I think what you experienced is similar to a miscarriage of a baby. My daughter suffered two of those and they are extremely traumatic to say the least. I hope and pray that soon you will be able to figure a way through this problem and enjoy having a lovely home and a sweet, loving pet to come home to. So sorry. God bless! Helen

  32. Pam Williams
    | Reply

    Moving is rough but I would find a dog friendly building. I am an animal lover and my pets mean the world to me. Pets are better than most people. With all you have to deal with health-wise a dog will offer you joy, a future to look foward to and a kind of love that most humans cannot provide. You really need a dog. I am writing you a prescription for a dog right now!

  33. Kim Bourgeois Landry
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, my heart hurts for you. How difficult is it to get s service dog license? I’m sending love your way and staying tune for the rest of your story.
    Bald lady from La.

  34. Caroline Nelson
    | Reply

    I am so sorry for you and your dear Phillip. As a fellow dog lover, my heart breaks for you and this loss. I hope this somehow works itself out. You’re in my prayers.

  35. Evie
    | Reply

    When I read your first “nervous breakdown part I” my immediate thought was, Mary needs to get herself her Phillip Larkin. Then to read your part II was heartbreaking. Dogs can bring so much comfort in trying times. They certainly do give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a reason to come home at night. Maybe it’s time to think about moving to a place that is dog-friendly.
    It also seems like you have had a lot on your plate the past few years. Maybe it’s time to take a breath, slow down and stop to smell the roses. You just seem like a whirlwind of energy and I don’t know how you can do that for a long period of time. Of course, I’m in my 60’s and you’re quite a bit younger- but still.

  36. Bob Collis
    | Reply

    Aww, Mary!.. I really wanted that dog for you! CRAP! Find another building?
    That pisses me off!!

  37. Mary Spriet
    | Reply

    Dear Mary….. Your time will come when it’s right. Let go & let God. There are a lot of pound puppies out there just waiting for a loving parent. Meanwhile you can work on your place of residence. Knowing things are ready, the right puppy will be there for you. As you know I’m sure, the first thing we ever need to do is to get our house (mind, body and soul), and literally “house” in order and then miracles will happen. God Bless.

  38. Jennifer Farsh
    | Reply

    There may be stigmas out there about depression, but in my little world, I talk openly about the whole lot. I’m happy to normalize feelings and moods alongside high cholesterol and diabetes. Anxiety is in my life and depression tags along sometimes. I’m so appreciative of you and all you share. I kinda want to be your neighbor and friend. I’d help you fight for little Philip ❤️

  39. Jan
    | Reply

    What Hellen G. said is right. This is a loss. Humans mourn losses. There is no one definition of a loss, as it is personal and individual. Allow yourself to mourn this loss, and when it’s the right time, for you, you will see the sun again. I would be honored to be your prayer warrior..

  40. Lisa
    | Reply

    I’m just sorry…

  41. Sue
    | Reply

    This was definitely a case of too much information supplied to your board. Creative writing gone amuck in this case unfortunately. From your previous posts I was thinking a dog would be helpful not realizing your denied request was part of your anxiety issues at this time. Medication it tricky but you can find the right one for you. Those of us who do not suffer from extreme depression really do have a hard time understanding. We really do try but it is hard. If anyone is unkind, please forgive them. They are often trying their best to be caring and supportive. I know you are not looking for advice BUT, It is time to sell your apartment and find one that fits your current life. One as a dog mom! They are out there and while little Philip will not cure depression, he will certainly provide you with love and care. Best wishes.

  42. Patsy Johnson
    | Reply

    Get a prescription from 2 or more doctors for a service dog. That way you have a legal service dog.

  43. Eileen Yu
    | Reply

    I agree with all of the supportive comments already written. I am so sorry, Mary. I’m hoping this will work itself out. Is there someone more supportive in your that you can talk to besides the manager? For example, does your building have a board that includes some tenants that could help push for this for you?

    Is it possible to get a service dog license? Medical Alert needs, pain issues, and other conditions can be the basis for needing a service dog.

    Dogs are such wonderful companions. You deserve to be a dog owner -even if you need to change buildings! My 2 cents❤️

  44. Becki Morrison
    | Reply


  45. Mary Beard
    | Reply

    mary so sorry you are dealing with all this……as a mother of a long time depressed daughter age 39 now I can understand and sympathize. It is painful actually physically painful to go through. She cries that why does society not even try to understand the actual results of depression while so many are affected…why is there a stigma about writing publicly about it??? my heart aches for you as it does for my daughter. Thanks so much for being honest…much love from Texas

  46. Karen Seitz
    | Reply

    I am so sorry, Mary. I know there will be happy dog times for you at some point, and I wish I could tell you when. Hang in there.

  47. Pauline
    | Reply

    My heart breaks for you. I have no doubt that you really need to have Philip Larkin in your life and I hope you are able to bring him home, without having to move. Wishing you the very best. I’d love to see you happy and healthy and loving life with your pup!

  48. Jessica Irwin
    | Reply

    Okay not that I am not deeply sympathetic and hanging on a cliff waiting for the rest of this narrative, but I am an attorney who has worked on this stuff and I cannot focus on the greater narrative – I just want to jump in here and work on your case!!!! (I can’t, I’m not licensed in IL, but my feelings are visceral about this.) What horrible, wretched Chicago lawyer wrote you that letter? I can tell that it was very nasty indeed. Mary, I hope there is a lawyer in your life who held your hand! UGH. I love you.

    • Mary
      | Reply

      AAGHH JI … amazing. I have more news about it to be posted soon … xoxoxox

  49. Tracy Snyder
    | Reply

    My heart is breaking for you.

  50. Margie
    | Reply

    Mary, it is obvious that your building HOA(?) is not going to oblige you, so you have no choice but to move to a place that will care and cherish you. This may be a hard move for you right now, but you need love and care and you will never find it in your current “digs”. You have run into a dead end.

  51. Nadine Donovan
    | Reply

    Oh Mary- I was sooooo sad to read this! Time to get out of that place and live somewhere that you have control of. You deserve to not be alone! I have a fur baby that I can’t sleep without her. She is such an emotional comfort for me. Don’t give up- time to move and reclaim your power.

  52. Brenda King
    | Reply

    Dear Mary-My heart shares your sorrow. I’m so sorry! Maybe it’s time to move?
    Much love,
    Brenda King

  53. Kathy H
    | Reply

    Oh, no, Mary! I’ve been following your Philip story since you first mentioned the idea of getting a dog. A very big hug from me in sympathy.

  54. Sarah Pegg
    | Reply

    Dear Mary; I have suffered from depression for years and know how painful and debilitating it is. Do get some help from a professional who deals with this disease. Some times the medications work for some people and not others, so you may have to try several. This is a good time to gather support from friends and family, especially if you are contemplating a move. There is a treatment for depression that involves direct stimulation via magnets that you might like to explore. There is a book about it my Martha Rhodes entitled “3000 Pulses Later” which I found on Amazon. It was very encouraging.
    Those who haven’t experienced depression have no idea and it is difficult to explain and describe. Just know that there are many of us out here who do know and appreciate the level of your struggle. As much as you can, be very gentle with yourself and seek all the help you can, as in talks with friends, easy meals, quiet time, dropping any jobs that you can until you are able to cope again. Just as you would if you had just been diagnosed with cancer. You are that ill. So live as if that was your diagnosis. Take care of you.

  55. Amy
    | Reply

    You are beautiful, kind, a brilliant writer, and don’t forget you are loved by God the Father and many others. Sending you love and prayers.

  56. Nancy Bonaguro
    | Reply

    Dear sweet Mary,
    I continue to pray for you. My heart breaks. You have always inspired me with my quilting, now I wish I could do something for you. You have touched many lives. Wishing you much healing with each day.
    Much love,

  57. Donna Dougherty
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, I am so sorry they did that. And receiving that letter must have just seemed so life ending. Losing a pet is one of the hardest things that you go through. No less tragic because he hadn’t come to live with you.
    Now that you are moving you will get another love to get you smiling again. I must tell you I would have been gone long ago without the support from my canine kids. I lost Starr 29Aug 2017 but still had Lucky my handsome stray rescue to continue helping me.
    I wish you the love I know a new canine kid will give a new mom. Maybe after going through this difficult time consider giving a chance of a better life to a rescue. There are some that have puppies and wouldn’t that be grand to rescue your new love

  58. Peggy Thompson
    | Reply

    Lovely Mary,

    I had to miss Quiltcon in Nashville due to extensive flooding in my area, and had hoped to say hello to you there. I came to PG years ago for the quilts; I stay for the writing (English major here).

    It’s creepy, I know, to tell strangers you feel a kinship with all their printed words, but I do. And as another Highly Sensitive Person in a tough world, I too have experienced a breakdown. There is a lot of love for you among your readership, and a lot of prayers for you from within our different approaches to faith.

    I am not convinced that all breakdowns are due to “mental illness,” even though therapy and medication can be essential to recovery. When a person meets health struggles and major loss all at once, on top of all the other issues one might be carrying (who can relate here?), I think that depressed collapse is a perfectly reasonable response.

    Ironically, collapse can actually save you — by pointing the way to where one is carrying too many things alone and to where patient, gentle, sustained healing is needed, and love. Love for oneself, and love from many others who have stumbled through breakdown or a dark night of the soul.

    I highly recommend Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person. We aren’t ill, we aren’t fragile — 20% of us are wired differently! I think about myself differently since reading the book.

    I close with a quote from Rumi: “The wound is where the light gets in.”

    May your coming days be increasingly filled with light.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *