Mental Health Awareness Week: Harold Hill woman helped to heal by love of her dogs
18:00 18 May 2014
Everything seemed to going wrong for Hazel Gibbons until she was brought back from the brink – by the love of her two dogs.
The 45-year-old, of Redcar Road, Harold Hill, suffered from bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder after leaving her “extremely stressful” job in retail.
She said: “I was working 14 hours, seven days a week and the work was growing and growing and I couldn’t take all of the pressure, leading me to go to hospital.
“Once the people at work realised I wasn’t coping, they thought I shouldn’t be in the job so made me feel pressured to leave by piling on the jobs for me to do, making my life extremely stressful.”
Hazel felt her life spiralled out of control when she left her job of six years.
Hazel said: “I was so down after I left but it was ruining my life so I just couldn’t take it anymore.
“I would close my curtains and avoid leaving the house at all costs. It was horrible.”
So she decided to seek help by visiting a therapist who suggested that it could be a good idea to get a dog as it would help to bring Hazel out of her shell again.
She said: “One of my friends was getting a dog anyway so I went with her to a private owner in Chingford, not planning to buy a pet, but by the time I left I had bought myself a dog!”
It was from this point that Hazel’s life began to change as she started going out more, socialise with different people and slowly build up her confidence.
Hazel said: “Having a dog has improved my life so much, it gives me something to get up for and a reason to go out.
“If I went to the park before, no one would speak to me but when you’ve got dogs, everyone wants to stop and chat.
“My dogs have made my life worth living.”
Although her first dog had to be put down in 2009 as it suffered from severe epilepsy, Hazel now has Zack the chihuahua. and Chelsea, a Jack Russell and Dalmation cross, who won the Recorder’s cutest dog competition last year.
She added: “I think without my dogs, it could have led me to have another breakdown but it is thanks to them that I’ve been saved.
“I have good days and bad days but they have made everything so much better for me.”