Last weekend, I got a new pet. Now, I know a lot of people, with or without anxiety disorders, might find this anxiety-provoking, but I got a tarantula. I’ve wanted one for years because I love arachnids, insects, and pretty much any other creepy crawlers. It’s a baby Mexican red knee (Brachypelma hamorii/smithi), just a few months old, and about the size of a quarter. I named it Velma which rhymes with its genus.
I was both excited and quite nervous to take the plunge of getting a new pet. The time seemed right since I’m now living in my own place, and I did a decent amount of research to find a reputable pet store and accurate information. Still, my brain generated plenty of what if’s. “What if it dies and then I feel bad? What if I’m not competent enough to take care of it? What if I drive all the way out there and then change my mind? What if I get in a car crash while on the long drive to the pet store? What if I don’t pick the ‘right’ tarantula?”
And then, there’s the biggest what if: “What if I get depressed again and can’t take care of it?”
The last time I had a pet, I had a betta fish, named Balloon, for a few years. I enjoyed having the simple companionship and the routine task of feeding the fish every day. However, if I’m honest, I didn’t take very good care of him, especially the last year of his life. I was in a deep, deep depression for months, and the water often became dirty. Though I don’t know for sure, this probably contributed to his death, which of course makes me feel incredibly guilty.
At the time, I was barely able to sustain my own life, so it’s understandable that I had difficulty sustaining another life. Depression eats away at your energy and motivation. It’s also understandable that I’d be nervous now about taking on the responsibility again to sustain another life. Though I’m doing well, and have been doing well for about a year, the threat of another depression is always omnipresent.
I was explaining my fears to some of my friends who also have OCD, and one of them made an excellent point. She said, “Yeah [to all those what if’s], but what if you have an awesome pet for the next few years?” My brain so easily generates negative “what if’s,” but it takes more conscious effort to generate the positive possibilities. It can be eye-opening to take a second to flip the “what if” script.
Yes, I might end up in an episode of depression again. Yes, I might not be able to take care of Velma. Yes, I might feel a wide variety of emotions for a wide variety of reasons (because really 9 times out of 10 it’s the emotions I’m afraid of), but in the end I decided to take these chances because of the possibility of something good. If we are constantly working so hard to avoiding something bad happening, it is easy to also block out something amazing happening.