What is something that drastically improved your mental health?
Well, I could focus on several different things, as there have been many things that I’ve found helpful for my mental health over the years, some to a significant extent. But the most important one I think, it’s not something but someone. It’s Misha. Misha has helped me so much. In a way, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to form such a very strong bond with anyone as I have with Misha. This has been a very interesting experience, and also a very healing one, to feel so very strongly about someone and at the same time not experience any sort of anxiety or insecurity around such relationship, unlike what has been the case with all kinds of my closer human relationships. Well, I am scared of Misha dying and I suppose that’s quite out of proportion, but that’s an unavoidable part and risk of all relationships really. Other than that, I feel very safe in my relationship with Misha, and I want him to feel the same. I also feel kind of less lonely with Misha. I’ve never really been one to complain about loneliness, I know how to cope with your typical loneliness and it’s not much of a problem for me. But the sort of loneliness that I experience and struggle with more strongly isn’t something that being around others can help with a lot, in fact often it feels even stronger when I’m around other people because it can sometimes be fuelled by stuff like feelings of inadequacy. It’s a strong, gnawing feeling that’s really difficult to get rid of in any way, something that comes from within rather than from being alone and feeling sad or frustrated or bored in this situation. And, well, Misha hasn’t magically freed me from this, but when I look back at the time when I didn’t have him, it’s really clear that having him has made some difference in this aspect. I find Misha’s presence especially comforting at night when I’m struggling with this. He doesn’t sleep with me every night, but he will usually come of his own accord if I really really need him. His presence is also very comforting for me in dealing with these lonely feelings when I can have him close by when there are a lot of people. Perhaps because Misha doesn’t like peopling very much either, so I know he feels similarly and this makes me feel less alone and like I have someone who gets me, and someone who is, like me, though for totally different reasons, perceived as different from the rest of the individuals socialising in a given situation, so that we are both outside. Misha is outside and different because he’s a cat, so he can’t speak human, understands things differently and all that jazz, for many people from extended family he’s even weird for a cat because he’s apparently very different from all the cats they know who purr nice and loud and aren’t scared of every slight movement or something being placed somewhere else than it usually is and come obediently when you call something like pussy or kitty kitty whereas you have to call Mish Mish for Misha because that’s what we’ve taught him, and even then he’ll come when he wants, though personally I suppose the latter is what most cats do. I am outside and different because I can’t do peopling like most people expect their fellow people to be able to do it, I am blind, which makes a huge difference for a lot of people in how they see you, plus it means I am outside of a large portion of their non-verbal communication and my perception of things is quite different, just as it is the case with Misha. I can’t always have Misha close to me while peopling, even when we’re peopling at our house, because Misha obviously doesn’t care about people’s rules and won’t necessarily want to be there with me, or if he does, it’s usually for a very short time, unless there’s yummy food and people provide him with the kind of attention that he likes. But he’ll often be close to me at the start of various family gatherings, so that I can often come into the room with Misha on my shoulder, hearing his purr. It’s funny, actually, because this is the only situation when he sits on my shoulder and many people find it impressive like my grandad thinks we must have some miraculous connection if I can go around carrying him on my shoulder like that. 😀 This way, people’s attention focuses on Misha, whereas I feel calmer having him close to me. Then after a while he’ll usually sneak out to the kitchen or go up on the radiator into his basket, and then when my brain battery is low and I go to my room, he’ll always follow me and we’ll recharge together, as he tends to find all the people noise and the unwanted kind of attention especially from children quite overwhelming and needs a lot of sleep.
When I’m having a particularly hard time due to depression, Misha can sometimes be the only thing that will motivate me to get out of bed really. I don’t know how I did it before Misha! When I’m not overly depressed, I really enjoy waking up to Misha’s sweet “Hhrrru?” Which is how he greets people. I love talking to him first thing in the morning, giving him his food and cuddling him for a while if he’s up to it. It’s really the best start for the day you could imagine. Some people are surprised that I don’t mind and even want to sleep with him and then have to let him out of my room in the morning at such insane hours as 3 AM sometimes, hardly any later than 6 AM, my Mum says it’s like having a baby. Perhaps it is, but I really don’t mind getting up and letting him out, and unlike with a baby, I can go right back to bed if I want and sleep to my brain’s content or even longer, or I can let him out without actually waking up, just on autopilot.
But most of all I think Misha has helped me with anxiety. Especially the more panicky/acute types of anxiety like my typical sensory anxiety aka sound/silence anxiety. It is such a relief having Misha at home in this respect. It doesn’t solve the problem completely, though I really doubt there’s anything that can always do it with 100% effectivity but Misha helps to varying extent every single time. I think this type of anxiety that I have must work similarly to fear of the dark that many young children experience, which I base on that I believe that silence and darkness are similar phenomena in a way, and that Sofi, who still deals with fear of the dark a lot even though she’s a teenager, seems to have a lot of similar experiences around it, though that could also be of course due to that we’re sisters and experience some things similarly. Anyways, while in general I’d say Sofi’s fear is thankfully milder than mine because she only experiences it at night, not in all kinds of dark conditions, and nothing else triggers it other than darkness at night, there’s one thing in which I really feel for Sofi regarding her anxiety. Misha doesn’t help her at all. In fact sometimes he even adds to her discomfort because he can be so quiet and creep her out if he’s in her room and she can’t see him. And I think that really sucks. For me, there are times when Misha can make a world of difference and allow me to fall asleep at all or alleviate my anxiety enough that I don’t need my PRN anxiety medication. I feel a lot safer when I’m at home with Misha vs just on my own. Even when he’s not directly in the same room as myself can sometimes make a glimmer of difference, knowing that he still is somewhere in the house. Sometimes when some creepy sound or a sleep paralysis episode triggers this type of anxiety for me bad enough, I have trouble with such seemingly unrelated things like being in the bathroom, whether as in in the loo, or showering. It’s really difficult to explain the connectioon and the whole sensory anxiety thing in general, but when I’m in this particular freak out mode it’s like everything seems murkily scary to me, it’s a really weird experience to describe with lots of different dimensions to it I’d say. But in such situations, having Misha with me in the bathroom, laying on the radiator while I’m showering, can help a little, or in the latter stages of the freakout phase quite a lot. We have a radio in the bathroom but it never helps half as much as Misha does when the world goes all creepy. Speaking of sleep paralysis, Misha can help that too, though of course for that to be possible, he has to be in the room with me. He has frequently gotten me out of a beginning sleep paralysis dream in the morning by frantically crying, hhrrru?’ing and scratching the door to let him out. I always thought it’s just a coincidence that he frequently happens to do that right when I’m floating away, but then I had a nap a few times during the day with Misha in my room. I don’t like taking naps because they dysregulate myy sleep cycle even further than it normally is and because they’re more likely to start or end with sleep paralysis, so I only nap if I really have to or if it just happens involuntarily while I lay on the bed for a while with Misha and we both drift off. Well, and I have happened to drift off to sleep paralysis in the middle of the day with Misha either next to me or at my feet, and every single of those times I woke up feeling Misha tickling my foot with his paw, as he sometimes does playfully. Now I don’t know whether Misha has some extreme superpower of sensing sleep paralysis in humans which even fellow humans are typically unable to figure out and think you’re just sleeping heavily, or perhaps he simply saw me wriggling my toes, as people sometimes do in their sleep, and which I do in sleep paralysis if I am able to because I discovered that it can slow down the initial floating/drifting and alleviate this sensation which I really hate, and if I wriggle them to a specific side it lets me float in a specific direction rather than being aimlessly thrown around dreamland until I reach the one and only right destination, and sometimes even the right toe move at the right moment lets me wake up. Misha, like most cats I presume, likes things that move, and he likes to make out with people’s legs whenever he’s only allowed, which is never but he never loses hope and perhaps he just thought my toe wriggling was an invitation and the tickling was some sort of foreplay. Regardless though, I’m glad that as it seems Misha is able to wake me up from this at the right moment before everything starts for good. It’s just quite shitty that he rarely is there when this is happening.
How about you? 🙂