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.

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Working On Us – music.

Hi guys! 🙂

It’s week #9 of Beckie’s Working On Us prompts at

Beckie’s Mental Mess

and this week’s topic is music.

Because I already share loads of music with you as part of my song of the day series, and all of it is music I like that has some sort of a beneficial effect on me, this time I decided I’ll only participate in prompt #1.

 

  • Have you ever received music therapy as part of your treatment?  If so, what kind of music was introduced to you? – Maybe not exactly as part of my treatment as such, but there was music therapy at the boarding school for the blind where I was going to, and I did take part in it for some years. Back then I had already a lot of emotional/mental health issues but I only sort of knew that “something’s wrong” and nothing more specific, I didn’t want to know even in a way, and some people in my surroundings also knew about it to some extend, at least what was obvious and visible. I liked music therapy a lot. As far as I can remember, we mostly listened to classical music, some soundtracks or electronic music, but we had some other music too. What I – and all the others who participated – loved the most were relaxations. We’d listen to relaxing music and the music therapist read some guided imagery to us. You could follow it, or just let your mind wander, or not think about anything, or fall asleep, just relax. I was struggling with stuff like racing thoughts at that time and didn’t sleep much at all so that could sometimes be very very helpful. And I loved the sort of exercises when we were listening to a piece of music and had to imagine some sort of situation that it would fit to, or what it represents.
  • Do you listen to music ( if/when) you meditate?  If so, what kind of music do you listen to? – I don’t meditate a lot actually. We’ve recently started to do some Christian meditation – me and my Mum, usually once a month – but I’m not particularly good at meditation, I have real trouble with shutting up my mind and focusing on just one thing at a time. If we do that, we usually don’t listen to music. But, also quite recently, I’ve noticed that my generalised anxiety has worsened which makes some things more difficult for me, like settling down for sleep, I’ve been overthinking and ruminating more since a few months and I still have yet to discover what’s the exact reason if there is any. Anyways, because of that, I started doing some more visualisations and imageries, especially before sleep, as a way to relax and soothe my brain. I’ve always liked that but now as my anxiety has sort of relapsed, I think I should do it more often. And when I do it, I do listen to music. It’s usually some sort of calming, instrumental music, for relaxation and meditation, though I try to be aware of what I’m listening to as much as I can and not listen to new age-y stuff. Also gentle, calm folk is good, or electronic but not too electrified music. I love harp, especially Celtic harp and especially solo, but almost any type of harp will do to me, and I find this instrument extremely soothing. Also Enya’s music calms me a lot. Sometimes I will just listen to nature sounds or such but usually I need a bit more to create some sort of fuller relaxing image in my mind based on the music I’m listening to.
  • If you have never tried music therapy as a treatment, what types of music calm and/or mellow you? – Apart from what I’ve mentioned, it’d be all my music crushes, who always fascinate me, inspire me and are sort of like antidotes for all sorts of negative things, not always necessarily their music calms me down but always gives me positive vibes. Other music I find calming is acoustic pop, some indie, maybe chillout and such but not too jazzy, psychedelic rock/folk, lighter alternative rock…
      • Do you believe music helps everyone and there is really no use for therapy in this regard? – I do believe that music helps everyone, it can help immensely, but it doesn’t mean that music doesn’t have additional therapeutic values which can be used when they are needed, and I believe that it’s beneficial effects are even more pronounced in people with mental illness or mental health issues, even other sorts of chronic illnesses or disabilities. And music has that quality that it helps to release emotions, or express them, you don’t have to be the one who creates the music to be able to express yourself through it, I believe. I think there aren’t many other ways that would be as universally effective in this, and people with mental illness often struggle with releasing their emotions in healthy ways, and that’s why I think it’s mostly so therapeutic for us.

Working On Us.

This week, I’m again participating in Beckie’s mental health prompts series Working On Us over at

Beckie’s Mental Mess. 

This week’s topic is suicide, which is a very difficult and often triggering topic for so many of us, so please read this post carefully or do not read it, if you feel like it might affect you in any negative way.

I am going to participate in the prompt #1, which consists of the following questions.

  1. Have you ever experienced suicidal thoughts? – Yes. I’ve been experiencing suicidal thoughts and ideations since about the age of 9-10, which is also roughly when I was diagnosed with my first depressive episode by a psychologist. Back then, and throughout my early teenage years, my suicidal thoughts were the strongest.
  2. Have you ever attempted suicide? – No, but I was very close to attempting a few times. There were a few things that were holding me back back then. First of all, I am Christian, so I always felt like I needed to be strong for the sake of that, and that if I’d die by suicide, it wouldn’t necessarily mean things would become better for me. Another thing is that I was always scared of overdosing, which would be in practical terms the easiest way to attempt suicide. I’m scared of that because of emetophobia, I mean the consequences I’d have to face if my attempt would fail, being cleared and all that. Also I’ve heard some awful stories as a kid, of people who overdosed on meds and ended up as pretty much vegetables with very damaged brains. If I am to live in this world, I want to have my brain working at least, as it is my shield and weapon. When my suicidal ideations were particularly severe – that is when I was 10 and recovering from an Achilles tendons surgery – looking back on that time I think that if I was given a chance, I could very likely make an attempt, but I had my both legs in huuuge plasters and was very immobile and relied on others for a lot of things, so, although I had plenty of ideas, fortunately they weren’t that easy to undertake. Besides, so many people say suicide is a sign of weakness. I think you actually have to be a strong person to be determined enough to do it. I don’t consider myself particularly strong.
  3. Were you ever hospitalized for a suicidal attempt and/or ideation? – No. I rarely even talk to people in my surroundings about such things in a serious way, so back then no one actually knew I was suicidal, just that I was depressed, and now things are better in that respect so I wouldn’t need to be hospitalised at this point.
  4. When you were hospitalized, what was your experience like? – N/a.
        1. Do you ever feel suicidal ideation since your release? – As I said, I’ve never been hospitalised for being suicidal, but yes, even though I’m doing better than I did in the past, at least in terms of suicidality, I still do experience suicidal thoughts. They’re usually of a passive kind though, unlike in the past, unless I feel really depressed and overloaded, then sometimes I can still feel really bad active suicidal ideations. But it’s just a mere echo of what it was like for me when I was younger, that was hellish.

 

Question of the day.

Hi guys! 🙂

Have you experienced any minor annoyances today?

My answer:

Well, the last couple of weeks hasn’t been particularly easy for me and I’ve had a lot of particularly low depression, and now a lot of anxiety. Overall I guess things aren’t bad, on the outside, so I can’t think of any external minor annoyances that would be major enough to actually mention them, but my brain is not very cooperative at all and all messed up, and I could say that’s what annoys me the most. Just every single thing stresses me out or I overthink it for what feels like ages and can’t stop it.

How about you? 🙂

Song of the day (1st July) – Grant – “Waterline”.

Hi people! 🙂

I have a song for you that I want to show you that comes from great young Swedish artist – Grant, artist name for Alma Caroline Cederlöf. – She’s debuted last year, and this is actually her debut single and the first song I’ve heard from her. I heard it for the first time at the beginning of this year and it really, really spoke to me. And I think it’s going to speak to many people who struggle with mental illnesses, or any mental health issues. Her voice is powerful and magnetic, and the lyrics are raw, brutal and honest, but also positive. Hence I think it’s one of the best songs from my favourite artists tackling this subtle topic. Grant herself has been battling with anxiety, and her music has helped her to take back the control over her own life and deal with it. Here is this powerful piece.

Working On Us.

It’s week #4 of Working On Us at

Beckie’s Mental Mess

and I’m very happy to participate in this prompts series for the second time. Last week, I was answering the questions for prompt #1, but this time, I found prompt #2 really relatable. It’s a photo prompt, so I couldn’t actually see it, but Beckie described it and the image of a brain inside of a bird cage really spoke to me. I suppose I should include the photo in my post somehow, but since I have no clue how to do it, and am blind, so don’t need to have a clue about pics haha, I’ll just leave it as it is.

I was thinking about that prompt a lot last evening and thought I would make some piece of creative writing but since I don’t feel very creative at the moment it’ll just be a bit of a ramble.

I’ve been fascinated by brain for years, and it’s one of my main interests. But it’s not only that why I found this prompt so relatable. I could say I often feel as if my brain was locked in a bird cage, and unable to get out, just never thought about such a metaphor before. What does it feel like when your brain is locked in a brain cage? For me, among other things, it means difficulty in releasing emotions, there’s no way to get them out, whether you want it or not. Your brain fills up until it’s all full and all the feelings are one big mishmash, so that sometimes you don’t even know what you feel any longer. Things get mixed up, until finally the brain can’t contain anymore, and things start to leak out. But instead of leaking outside in a proper way, instead of being expressed, they spill all over the cage. It’s flooded with stuff that can’t be released otherwise, and the brain is swimming in all the intense feelings. That’s when overload happens, and I start feeling a lot of intense anger that gets turned inwards, so I feel like self-harming. Sometimes, when the flood is really strong, something will spill outside through the grating, but the cage is tall and thick so it’s really hard. The only way for me to get my brain out of that cage is writing. Then, the bird cage opens and it can fly out and feel more free.

Another thing that a bird cage makes me think of in the context of my brain, is the feeling of alienation, or feeling disconnected, or loneliness in the crowd, inadequacy, or however you want to call it. I like being different, and individualistic, and I like being on my own more than around other people most of the time and feel more comfy with it. But when it becomes a bird cage for my brain is when I do need to be with someone, but for whatever reason can’t make a connection with people. Sometimes it’s like you can see other people from there, but there’s no way of communicating effectively. You can only bang on the cage and hope that they will hear you, but even if they will, they usually won’t be able to help you out, or open the cage, or get close enough that you could communicate, or feel the way you feel. Even if they do get to you, you’ve been living in this cage for so long that you can’t even explain to them what it’s like, and what you need, and they won’t understand, because they live out there in the world which is so very different. So after a couple trials, you just sit in the corner of your cage and look out, watching people come and go. Sometimes they’ll glance in your direction in confusion, not understanding why you are the way you are and live in a bird cage, what’s wrong with your brain that you constantly keep it in there. As if it was your choice. Sometimes you might feel desperate, and try to jump over the cage, but that hardly ever ends up well and is risky, you can easily get hurt. Even if you do get out of there in one piece, you quickly realise that you don’t fit in, and lots of consequences come with it. And after so many years of living in a cage your brain just doesn’t know otherwise and has it hard to adjust and be just like any other brain living in the outside world. So after all, you put your brain back into the cage, voluntarily this time, ’cause a familiar enemy is worse than the one you don’t know anything about and don’t know how to deal with.

That’s the way my brain feels sometimes. Well, regularly. Again, writing, for myself or with/to others, is something that helps, to some degree, especially blogging and penpalling is what I’m thinking of.

Also, I think the bird cage analogy works very well in regards to my sleep paralysis experiences too. It feels like my brain and me are locked up in a bird cage with all my dream monsters. I can see the outside world but they don’t see me, and I can’t run away because my dream “friends” are all over me. The only thing I can do is wait for the dream cage to open and flee as soon as possible.

What’s a bird cage of your brain? How does it look like and what does it represent? 🙂

Working On Us – Mental Health Prompt.

Beckie over at

Beckie’s Mental Mess

has a weekly series on her blog called Working On Us – Mental Health Prompt, and now is week #3 of it, and I thought I’d join in! Here’s the prompt for this week and my answers. If you haven’t participated yet, I encourage you to check out her blog and to do so. 🙂

 

Here are a few coping statements, do you agree or disagree?  Even if your answer is yes or no, please explain:

  1. This situation of sitting on a fully packed train either makes you feel uncomfortable or unpleasant, but I can accept it? – Yes, I can accept it if it’s just the crowd. It will make me feel a bit uncomfortable and anxious and I simply don’t like crowds too but as long as I don’t feel overwhelmed by other stimuli, am generally doing well and don’t have to interact with those people I will deal with it.
  2. Can I ride out the wave of anxiety, or do I feel like I need professional help now? -I suppose I could benefit from the right professional help, as some things can be very difficult for me to deal with and figure out on my own, I’d been in therapy for many years but had to change therapists a year ago and stopped working with a therapist with whom I worked for many years and whom I really trusted. Since then I had two therapists and didn’t have the best experience with either, I’ve also had some experience before I started to work with that therapist whom I trusted so much and it also wasn’t particularly positive. So I feel a bit conflicted here. Part of me wants to reach out and figure out things and get professional help, but part of me is scared of trying once again and feels very sceptical, and there are other things that complicate it slightly. So I’m trying my best to deal with it on my own, with the help of my family, friends and some medication which I take on an as needed basis most of the time.
        1. Do you practice coping skills? If so, what works best for you? – I do. The coping skill that is most important for me is being around my Russian blue cat Misha, cuddling with him and spending time with him, he really helps me. Listening to music always works for me. Distracting myself with a good book. Good quality sleep if I can get it. Comfort food. Writing is the easiest way for me to express myself, so it helps too. Talking to my Mum or reaching out to friends, I think I’m gradually getting better at it, reaching out for support used to be incredibly difficult for me and still oftentimes is, I’ve always felt pretty uncomfortable reaching out to people or telling them about my problems because everyone already has plenty ofthings going on for themselves so I didn’t want to bother them, and I used to strongly disagree that talking about your problems makes things better and easier as many people say and thought that it can actually make things worse, now I can see it does help sometimes although it’s still a challenge for me to talk to people. Doing something funny that makes me laugh helps too, or listening to sounds that soothe me.