Ten Things Of Thankful.

I’m very very late but I thought I’d like to join in with

Ten Things Of Thankful

and write a bit about some things I’ve been grateful for this past week, since the link up is still open. Here’s my gratitude list.

  1. My Mum reading to me. I’ve always loved it when my Mum read books to me, although it hasn’t been very often in the recent years. Last week was different though. One day I just asked Mum to read me something, not expecting much enthusiasm in return, but she did agree! So I picked my favourite fairytales book with the fairytales from around the world where people always have so ridiculously long names and placenames are even longer (most of the fairytales in it are from the African countries), which always annoyed her so much. Like, is there even such a country, Biladutasemipi? I’m curious what does the Biladutasemipian language sound like? Must be crazy. But then I remembered there was a book I never read, that I bought for myself a few years ago. I never read it because my OCR scanner pissed me off and I couldn’t scan it, but I always wanted to read this book. It’s the correspondence between Astrid Lindgren and Sara Schwardt, who wrote to Astrid for the first time when she was 12 and they were like penfriends for 30 years, Sara was one of her readers. So then I asked Mum if we could read that book and, so far, we’ve read perhaps four letters, and that’s something, given how easily Mum falls asleep when reading anything. It’s very interesting, although I can barely keep myself from correcting her Swedish pronunciation, but I know I’d be a prick doing it all the time so I try not to.
  2. Cocoa. You know how I love coffee. And, even though I decided some weeks ago that I am going to, I need to, cut on how much coffee I drink and not drink it everyday, because it makes my anxiety worse, but I was drinking it once in a while anyway. Well, now when I don’t drink coffee everyday, I can clearly see that, apart from energising me, coffee really doesn’t make me much of a favour and makes me feel crappy in a lot of ways. Yes, I drink green tea instead of coffee, I am trying to befriend it, but, while green tea works perfectly in making me more functional in the mornings, I still don’t really like how it tastes, hence I miss my coffee still. So, I’ve looked for some alternatives and decided I’ll try natural cocoa. Even if it won’t be as effective as green tea, though it does have some stimulating properties, at least I can drink it as a taste alternative to coffee, prepare it a bit like I would a cuppa coffee. And that seems to work. I used to be really mistrustful towards cocoa because it made me sick years ago, and I am emetophobic, and I usually never eat things that made me sick even if just once, but cocoa and orange juice are the only exceptions, because I really like them and at some point, some years ago already, I just was able to think logically and realise I just had to have bad luck one time and drink them either when they were expired or something, and neither cocoa nor orange juice have ever made me sick again, and I would be very surprised if they ever would in future. Especially that, hey, it’s not that easy to make a person with emetophobia throw up. 😉 So, I’m drinking green tea every day and when I want something more like a coffee, I have a mug of cocoa.
  3. My penfriends. For last week, especially my English penfriend whom I help a bit with learning Polish. Such things make you properly explore your own language and realise you don’t know quite as much about it as you’d like to think. I love such brain stimulating stuff!  I am also very grateful for those of my penfriends who have been very loyal and with whom I’ve been writing for a while already. It’s a rare thing to find a pen pal that you’d write with for, well, over 2 months, so when you write each other for half a year or 10 months it becomes to look impressive, and feels like a fabulous achievement! 🙂
  4. Warm, but not hot weather. I really like how it is outside now. Definitely pleasant.
  5. Playing with Zofijka. We always have a lot of fun with Zofijka, and recently we’ve played quite a lot together. She always makes me laugh, not even because she’s always so funny, but because her laughter is very infectious.
  6. Music. I discovered a lot of great music last week again, and listened to a lot of music that I hadn’t listened to in ages.
  7. Good blood test results. I had a blood test last week, and so did my Mum. I wasn’t quite concerned about my results, and I am glad they are good, but I was very worried about my Mum, who was at the gynaecologist’s a while ago and she told her she had a cyst on the ovary and something on her breast as well. She doesn’t seem to have cancerous cells as it turned out now, so that’s good, although she’ll need to have an ultrasound to make sure all’s well. But that cyst thing really gave me a bit of a scare.
  8. misha. misha had a week of solitude last week and wasn’t very involved, I saw very little of him, but as always, I treasured every moment with him.
  9. doing cupping therapy for my Mum. Do you know what cupping is? You put the cups (but not the cups that you drink your tea from obviously haha, they’re either gum or glass cups that are used for cupping) on someone’s back, or chest at times, those cups are either fire cups or they suck in the air so that they stay pressed to the skin, and it’s an alternative or complementative treatment that is used to make the immune system stronger, so especially when you are ill. My grandad, who is a bit of a quack, very much into medicine, but not a doctor, can do cupping with glass cups and has often done it to us when we were sick and the doctor said cupping could help. And some time ago my grandad taught me how to do cupping for someone, with those cups that suck the air inside of them, that you place on the skin with a pump. That was horrendously difficult and I was stressed to do it on my own, because, well, what if I wouldn’t notice a bone or something and do it wrong! But my Mum likes to have cupping done regularly to keep her immune system working properly and over the last few months I’ve become pretty good at doing cupping, although I’ve had one situation when I failed and placed a cup on Mum’s mole by accident, which scared the shit out of me, but thankfully nothing happened afterwards. And, on Sunday, my Mum got a cold, probably during her run. We hope she won’t get her episodic asthma flare from it. So, to prevent it, and to get well sooner, my Mum asked me to do the cupping to her on Sunday evening. Which I did. It’s still a bit stressful to me but I enjoy doing it, and I am glad I’m getting better and better at it, and I like learning new things like that (that are available to me without sight) from my grandad. Mum feels a bit better today and is eating tons of ginger.
  10. A good news from my gran. She phoned my Mum last week and asked if we’d like to go on a pilgrimage with her again at the beginning of September, to a place where we were last year – Mum, Zofijka and me – and we all really enjoyed it. Of course we’re all going!

What are you thankful for? 🙂

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Working On Us – pets.

It’s week #11 of Beckie’s mental health prompts’ series Working On Us at

Beckie’s Mental Mess

and I’m joining in. The topic for this week is pet therapy and emotional support animals.

  Prompt #1 Questions:

 

  1. Do you own a pet for emotional support and/or service/therapy? – Yes, but it’s not strictly speaking an emotional support animal. I have a cat called Misha, he’s been with me since he was a few months old, and he is of tremendous support to me.
  2. Is your pet a certified therapy animal? – No. As much as Misha is helpful for me, he’s definitely not a fit whatsoever to be an emotional support animal formally. If you’d spend even just a day observing him closely you’d rather say it’s him who needs emotional support. Misha is an anxious loner who is scared of touch and closeness, and chronically stressed about everything, afraid of every noise and a more sudden movement. Strangers and travelling scare him as well, he doesn’t do changes and other cats. He is a well-bred aristocrat with loads of noble ancestors but looking solely at his behaviours and reactions one would think he must have spent years on the streets or in a shelter in the middle of a war zone. I really don’t know why he is like this, apart from that I’ve heard that just as much as parents can “infect” their children with anxiety if they are very anxious, same applies to pet owners. My Mum says he’s practically the worst fit for me, also because he only seems to tolerate eye contact fully well. Yet, despite our ups and downs, we get along really well. I have the added benefit that I know I am not alone with my anxieties and fears, weird reactions to stuff and avoidance. I know he understands me, although at the same time he is the only being in the world in whose company I would be happy to be ALL the time, but he so often prefers to be alone, and sometimes it’s hard to not take it personally. I have to often prioritise his needs when he needs his solitude or has a bad anxiety day and is all jittery and jumpy, but I know he understands how important he and his support is to me and that when he recuperates he’ll give me his attention and support and I’ll be happy to give him the same in return if he wants. I’ve heard so many people saying he is selfish, but in fact, taking everything into consideration, I think he is of an extremely noble and generous nature, but also a very difficult and complex character. I guess it’s good he’s not a human, he’s already enough of a complexity.
  3. What kind of pet do you own? – Misha is a Russian blue tsar, he’s over 3 and a half years old. We also have a mixed-breed dog called Jocky, who sometimes works therapeutically for me as well, even though I don’t have usually as much of a connection with dogs as I do with felines. Jocky is the lively, happy type, he’s mostly Zofijka’s, her cure for loneliness and lack of friendships, but my family says he must like me in some special way because he’s always very engaging with me. I mean, in a bit of a different way than with the rest of us. Especially when I feel low, I have a suspicion he really is able to feel when I’m depressed. And then he is so very funny and jumps at me and all and wants to play with me, and he always wins in the end because I can’t not laugh. We also have aquarium fish. I’ve heard people saying having aquarium fish is very calming and therapeutic because it calms them down to be able to look at them swimming, but since I can’t see them, they might as well not exist to me.
  4. Do you believe that support animals truly assist those in need? – Sure they do! I am not sure what to think about that animals can respond to our emotions, I think it depends in a way on an individual animal, but in any case, just having a pet that you love, whatever that animal does to make you feel better, can sometimes truly help. And there are trained service animals who help and assist people and I think that is unquestionable that they do and to a huge degree.
  5. Do you believe that any animal can be a therapy/support pet? – I think it really depends. On a specific animal, how engaging and interactive it is, but also on the human who is on the receiving end and is supposed to get some help from that animal. If you are sceptical, I don’t think it will help, and if you are scared of horses for example, it’s doubtful you’ll benefit from hipotherapy, unless you want to overcome your fear. It’s slightly hard for me to imagine how those less interactive animals (like the fish I mentioned for example) can support people, but I guess if you really like fish and are attached to your fish, it’s possible. I think it’s primarily the connection and love between you and your pet that is healing and therapeutic, not some unusual properties of the animal itself.

Prompt #2 Narrative:

Describe how your pet is of support to you? EXAMPLE: Helps with anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc… (And, please… Share their name and a photo) if you desire.

Misha – despite being a bundle of nerves himself most of the time – has a very calming effect on me. He is my best friend. I spend a lot of my time alone, which I am most of the time happy about but having Misha gives me some company and on those days when I do feel lonely, I feel less lonely because I have him. He helps me with anxiety. Like I said, I know he is anxious himself and that sort of adds to the connection between us. We understand each other on this front, I know I am not alone with what I feel, because a lot of the time, when I have a bad anxiety day, he does too. I call him my charger because he always helps me to recharge after a lot of socialising. Misha is very quiet like most of cats, not even particularly vocal, but he helps me with what I call silence anxiety (basically when there’s complete silence and my brain doesn’t get enough sensory stimuli, it’s really hard to explain and understand), even if Misha doesn’t make the slightest sound his presence can sometimes make it go away completely. When I feel depressed, he keeps me company and gives some purpose to my existence. He makes me feel useful because he needs support too. There are days when he does want a proper, long, relaxing cuddle, and he always comes for it to me, and he comes to me in search of refuge when suddenly there are lots of shouty strangers downstairs, smoking and listening to loud music, or stranger kids running around the house and wanting to hold him and calling him a she. It’s funny by the way how he’s always able to understand that an invasion of human beings is about to happen and run away to my room just in time, and it’s interesting how he doesn’t mind some people coming over to us and is happy to stay downstairs with them. He is my sleeping pill. We’ve established a routine on most of the nights (and Misha loves his rituals and routines) that he sleeps in my room at night, in his bed, and it really helps me to fall asleep when I have him close. Or if I can’t sleep, it’s even better, because I can pet Misha. My Swedish teacher encouraged me once that I should talk to Misha in other languages, because that’s what he did with his cats and they understand. And that’s what I do now. It’s cool because he seems to understand me no less than in Polish, while the humans don’t get a word. So I can talk to him about things that I wouldn’t talk about to people, that I don’t feel like talking with people, or that I don’t have anyone to talk to about. Misha doesn’t purr very loudly, I’ve read somewhere that purring isn’t only a signal of pleasure for a cat, but a self-soothing mechanism first and foremost. And when he does purr, it sounds more like he’s purring to himself. I’ve also learnt that a cat can purr when anxious or in pain and that would be true for Misha I think. But when he purrs for himself, I love to eavesdrop and get some of it for myself. I like to lie near him and listen to all his inner sounds – his purrs, his breath, his tummy gurgling, his heartbeat, every Mish sound is like a music for me and it is very soothing. – Playing with him always makes me happy. And just his presence changes the atmosphere in the room where he is. Basically, after those 3 years with Misha, I can’t imagine my life without him anymore. I guess Misha is like a drug for me. When I’m away for a few days, like on holidays or something, by the time I come back home to Misha I have full-blown withdrawal syndrome.

Here’s a pic of Misha, I don’t even know how presentable Misha is on it and don’t remember what he looks like here, but this photo’s been lying in my Dropbox so I believe I must have used it somewhere earlier, and I don’t think we’ve made many new photos lately, so I hope this one is good.

Misha standing alone

Other than Misha, I’ve also had some experience with hipotherapy. I’m currently having a hiatus (which will likely be over in September), but I used to horse ride regularly. I’ve written a fair few posts on my complicated relationship with riding and how it all started but to give you an idea, the very first time I started riding was at the boarding school for the blind when I was 5 and in the nursery. I didn’t like it, I was scared of it, probably because of my issues with balance, and any time I was supposed to ride I was sick. That stopped when I went to primary, because since then only those with multiple disabilities could do hipotherapy and it turned out I had allergy to horses, so I was happy with it. The when I was in what we call integration school at the age of 10 my Mum read an article on the benefits of hipotherapy and she felt like I could benefit a lot from it, especially emotionaly, and she found a stud and signed me up for hipotherapy there. All without my knowledge. I guess she didn’t even know how scared I was. But after the first time I rode there I suddenly discovered that I love horses and I love riding and it is amazing! I’ve been riding there until now with some longer breaks in between, still with the same instructor, and, until last year, always on the same horse. Sadly, last year, my faithful horse – Czardasz aka Łoś – died of old age.

At some point my instructor suggested to me that we could do more actual riding and less hipotherapy. That is, the stud where I am riding is exclusively for the disabled, and most of the people riding there have severe cerebral palsy or similar things, and they can’t really ride. I have some additional stuff apart from my blindness, like my shitty balance but it’s definitely not quite as severe a thing so overall I was able to ride and do much more on horseback. So I agreed and since then we’re doing what’s apparently called horse riding with elements of hipotherapy. 😀 My instructor is both a hipotherapist and a riding instructor, and a keen rider herself, but she is also a doctor – a neurologist. – So, apart from having fun riding, I have conversations about the brain with her and it’s thanks to her that I realised that had I been sighted I’d like to be a neurosurgeon.

I find horse riding very therapeutic. Very helpful with releasing the stress, tensions, all that stuff. Makes you feel free. You can’t ride while you’re tense so you naturally have to relax. Which can take for me just about the whole 45 minutes to fully relax my muscles at times, but oh well, it’s worth trying, isn’t it? It’s incredible how you bond with a horse while riding, especially if, like me, you don’t really change horses a lot, so you can get to know 1-2 horses really well, get to know your horse’s personality, the way of walking, what they react to and so on. My horse – my first one, the one who died last year – was really good and patient with me. He always felt when I was anxious, he seemed to understand me and I usually understood him too. He was very, very big and very, very phlegmatic. He once fell asleep while walking and tripped and I fell off of him, that’s how phlegmatic he was. 😀 We got along really well, although sometimes his size scared me and he wasn’t easy to ride because he was very demanding and I needed to work real hard to make him feel anything from my movements, since he was so much bigger than me. 😀

My current horse is a bit of a nervous type, and very receptive. I am not quite as bonded with him primarily because I haven’t ridden much on him, but I like him a lot.

I usually feel really euphoric for a while after hipotherapy, you know, endorphines kicking in and all that. But also, I said I have a complicated relationship with riding, because I do. While I love it so much, at the same time it’s still scary for me. Not that type of scary as when I was a kid, but it is scary. I can’t even exactly tell you why. I am scared that something awful will happen when I’ll be riding, I once had a panic attack while riding, and that I have poor balance doesn’t help and doesn’t make me feel safer on horseback. I know I go through the same fear every time I am about to ride, and I know that 9 times out of 10 everything will be fine, and I am willing to take the challenge, and my willingness to ride is (usually) stronger than the fear, but the fear is just there no matter what. Sometimes it still makes me feel sick and like I won’t do it this time. Things would be much easier if I didn’t have that fear, and I think I’d be able to do more and in less time.

Just like with Misha who makes an impression of not fitting for an emotional support animal, same applies to my horse riding, it’s a bit paradoxical that I ride, because technically I don’t have in abundance all that stuff that you need to be a good rider. My balance is screwed up, my sensory integration is screwed up  and my coordination is screwed up. It makes things tricky. But at least thanks to riding I can improve them as much as it’s possible. But I think overall, taking everything into account, I am a pretty decent rider anyway, and I used to take part in local, small competitions and scored high which I am proud of.

Question of the day.

I have some questions for you on the topic of childhood now. Here’s the one I picked for today. 🙂

Were your parents/guardians flexible or strict?

My answer:

My parents were definitely flexible! My Dad likes to think about himself as a very strict parent, but he is only very strict with Olek, with whom he doesn’t have the best relationship so that strictness seems to come more from the place of anger and the need to control than care. As weird as it feels to admit sometimes, for me, and I think for Zofijka too, he doesn’t really have much authority. He likes to tell all of us what we have to do in his view but we never care, sometimes we’ll do it for the peace of mind. My Mum is much more of a role model and an authoritative person for me, even though she was a big softy in raising all of us and with a bit of a tendence to be overprotective. Still, she has her rules, and they were always clear to us, and sometimes she can be pretty strict, but not over the top, just for the sake of being strict and tough, but rather for the sake of being possibly fair. She’s always been most flexible with me, using the excuse that I am the most disciplined of all of us, although I don’t think of myself as a very disciplined person and I am not even sure I would like to be one, it certainly makes life easier but also awfully boring, so I think what saves me is that I have some common sense after her, rather than am somehow very disciplined or dutiful or something like that.

What was/has been your experience? 🙂

Question of the day.

Do you like your parents’ inspiration for choosing your name, or do you think they should have gone a different way?

My answer:

I definitely don’t like it. My Mum made a promise to herself as a young girl that she will call her daughter after her best friend (whose name she really liked at the time). At the same time it was the name of my Mum’s youngest sister. So she did, even though that friendship soon ended and Mum doesn’t even like that name as much anymore. I really love my middle, even though it is so overwhelmingly popular, but I don’t like that they just did it as everyone else in our region and my middle name is my Mum’s first name – Anna. – It is also Zofijka’s middle name, I think it would have been more cool if we had different middles. My Dad wanted Anna to be my first name. I really love Anna, but it is really so very typical and popular in Poland, plus it is as I said my Mum’s name, so I don’t like the idea. And I don’t like the nickname Ania, which Poles use ALL the time, even though Anna is already short and sweet. Ania is so bland and boring. I’d rather be just Anna with no nicks, had it been my name, but that wouldn’t work out with people. So, as popular as it is, I’m glad my first name is not Anna.

How about you? 🙂

Felix Sandman – “Lovisa”.

Felix Sandman is a popular singer in Sweden right now, though I haven’t heard him or about him anywhere outside of Swedish media or Swedish playlists on Spotify. I quite like this song from him, not because it’s anything exceptional, but I think it has a nice melody, and also I really love the Swedish name Lovisa. I think it’s an easily likeable song, though that Lovisa from it seems not to be a particularly nice person.

Question of the day (17th August).

Have you come across many people who share your name?

My answer:

No. I would kind of like to meet more Emilias, I just think it could be fun to meet more of my namesakes, but on the other hand I am glad that I don’t know many of them, it’s cool this way. Although Emilia is pretty big for babies right now so I’ll probably meet more of them in future, I see little Emilias being born on our baby naming Polish community pretty much every day. I know one who’s about 2 years my senior I guess, she was in my school. The other is my Dad’s colleague’s wife’s sister. My parents no longer keep in touch with their family and I only knew her very superficially, but my Mum knew her well enough that she got bad associations with the name, and that was the main reason why it was so weird for her when I’ve become an Emilia. I also know one Emilia who is now I suppose in her mid 30’s. But neither of them I know well.

How about you? If you do know someone with the same name as you, do you like them? Do you like having/not having many namesakes? 🙂