Throughout middle and high school, I always struggled with depression issues.

Unlike in college, I had a support system to help me through it.

Leaving that support system to go to college was a challenge for me. College brought on a whole new set of triggers for my depression, and quite often, I felt alone with these struggles. It took me quite a while to build a support system I trusted, and even then I still had a hard time divulging my deepest inner thoughts with them. It all came to a peek sophomore year when a chain of bad events happened that eventually led to me hitting rock bottom.

In front of my friends, I was the happiest person, always joking around and laughing.

In private, I barely had the motivation to get out of bed and was abusing things to help me not have to face my problems. I eventually got the point where I knew I needed help and got into counseling. While that was great for me, I still struggled to find joy and motivation. That's when I decided to try something a little unconventional and get an emotional support animal.

I got Autzen, my dog, at the beginning of my junior year.

She was a beautiful two and a half-month-old golden doodle, and I fell in love at first sight. I was nervous that owning a dog in college would be too hard, but now, almost eight months later, I do not regret a thing. Having something that loves you unconditionally, and is there for you in your ups and downs is truly the best feeling.

She gives me a reason to get up in the morning and be productive.

She greets me when I get home with the utmost excitement. She gets me out of the house and into the beautiful outdoors. She lets me vent to her without any judgment. She licks tears off my face when I've had a bad day. She cuddles with me in the morning and eases my stress. I could go on, but the point is the immense joy she finds in life brings me joy. Whether it be chewing on her bone or running around in a field, she's always so happy and carefree, and I learn from her how to enjoy life.

I truly feel like my dog has been one of the best treatments for my depression.

Depression seems to be one of those things that's an uphill battle. I haven't reached the top of the mountain and conquered my depression yet, but every day, Autzen helps keep me going on this hike to overcome. I have already come so far with a combination of counseling, my support system, and of course, my sweet pup.

I can't wait to keep growing and overcoming, because, with my dog by my side, I feel optimistic and hopeful.