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How my cat saved my life

Guest Author: Sierra

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

He was going to leave me. I wasn’t good enough. After all, why would anyone want me? I couldn’t control my own tears, contain my own thoughts, or even control my own impulses. I was worthless and I knew it.

My depression had felt like drowning.

I stared at the TV screen trying to block out the overwhelming whirlwind of voices in my mind. My depression had ruined many things for me before. But I thought that I had gotten better. I had sought out help and found what made me happy. And then… this… whatever this was.

My depression had felt like drowning. But this felt like a constant fight against enemies on all sides. Only… all the enemies were me. All the different ways that I was hurting the people I loved, and why they were going to leave me.

This was anxiety. And I had no idea how to fight it.

I knew from my training at the student support hotline in college that with depression, a support network is crucial. And I had built one to pull myself out of my depression. I knew my depression could come back, but this anxiety felt completely foreign and unfamiliar. Where depression had robbed me of my willpower and emotion- now I had so much drive, but I was terrified to move at the same time.

I got up from the couch again. I started sprinting. I couldn’t stop. This had been going on for hours. I had to do something, and I was afraid to do anything. So, I ran across my apartment as tears streamed down my face. My nose ran, making it hard to breathe. As I ran across my apartment again, I felt myself begin to choke on my tears and congestion, but still I continued to run back and forth over and over again.

I forced my legs to stop moving. I dialed a number and hit call.

And then I was running again, this time holding a phone. I sobbed as the phone rang and my steps pounded. The person on the other end picked up. “Hey, pretty lady…” and trailed off, followed by “what’s wrong, what do you need?”

And yet here I was again.

That call was three months ago. Kira had walked me through how to ground myself that night. A week later, my partner had told me he knew I could improve my situation and reminded me gently but firmly that it didn’t matter if he knew it if I didn’t believe it.

I had worked hard to get better. I had gone to a therapist, I had changed my diet, eliminated caffeine, gotten a prescription, exercised, all of it. Everything I was supposed to do. And yet here I was again, crying in the bathroom stall at work, wishing to stop existing.

I hated taking my prescriptions. My main prescription made my brain feel foggy. The others just put me to sleep. I felt like a zombie of myself.

I wanted so badly to love life again, to no longer be drowning in terror of what might happen because of my perceived emotional ineptitude. I thought back on my childhood, and for the first time, remembered a day that I had felt similarly terrified and cried on my cat until his purrs had soothed my fears.

I called my doctor and set an appointment for the next day. We sat down, and I asked his opinion on emotional support animals. I didn’t anticipate his support, but to my surprise he agreed.

And then I was laid off. Swimming not only in insecurities and anxieties, but also bills that I couldn’t pay. For two months, things continued to escalate until finally I found another job. That day, I called my partner and excitedly told him I could finally afford to adopt a pet, and we went to the animal shelter to find one.

But I want to live now.

When I brought Zola home, I didn’t have to be alone with my anxieties anymore. If I felt stressed, I could go lay next to her and snuggle. If she sensed I was panicking, she would scratch me. (An unusual but effective way of bringing me out of my spinning thoughts.) Little by little my mental health improved, and I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons.

As of today, it has been over three years since my last anxiety attack, a little longer than that since I experienced any suicidal thoughts. That doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle. I still have bad days where my anxiety makes me question things, and dark days where it feels like my depression has eaten my energy before I even get out of bed. But I want to live now.

It’s crazy how a little 8-pound sometimes slightly demonic creature has helped me turn my life around so drastically. I’m allergic to cats, so my nose is basically always stuffed up, but it’s a trade I will happily make for the rest of my life.

And I hope that’s a long time. Because to me, life is so good.

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