My Cat Rescued Me (from my anxiety)

Almost two years ago, my husband (then fiance) did the best thing he could have ever done for me and my anxiety. At the time, I was at my all time low. My anxiety was controlling my life. I was not living. I had a terrible day at work and was crying in bed on a Friday night. That’s how all young couples spend their Friday nights together, right? My anxiety was greatly affecting our relationship.

The next morning, he took me to a shelter to adopt a kitten. I love all animals. I grew up with dogs and a cat. However, I was reluctant because my husband had never lived with a cat before. Let’s face it. Cats can be assholes, which is one of the qualities I love most about them.

The first shelter we went to had many cats but sadly no kittens. The woman at the desk told me that it wasn’t kitten season. There’s a kitten season? I assumed cats are always mating like crazy. I immediately got teary eyed because that’s what I do best. My husband needed to think quick. He saw me light up for a few minutes on the drive to the shelter. He hadn’t seen me smile like that in months. He started googling other shelters nearby. He told me to call the other shelter and ask if they had any kittens available. The girl on the phone told me that they had two kittens available, an orange kitten who was 4 months and a black and white kitten who was about 5 months. I grew up with a black cat so I said, “hold that black and white kitten!!” We got to the shelter and walked through a room full of unwanted cats, smelly cat litter, and cat towers galore!

“Here’s Alvin,” the innocent girl said with her pixie hair cut. She added, “he’s a little bit of a drooler.” That was an understatement. She handed him to me first. I had never heard a cat purr so loudly. He rubbed his little chin all over my face to get my scent. And yes, there was drool. I didn’t care. I handed him to my fiance to see if they clicked. I watched how the little guy drooled all over my future husband. I knew it was a good sign when he laughed instead of wiping his face.

“We want to adopt him!”

I knew already that I was going to rename him Stanley Kowalski from my favorite play A Streetcar Named Desire. My juniors act it out in my class. Every semester, the play reaches students who told me everyday how much they hate reading. Stanley Kowalski was described as a brute, caveman, king, and of course, an animal. It was the perfect name for our cat.

Our Stanley Kowalski is definitely the king around here. As I’m typing this, I’m drinking from my “The Cat Likes me Best” mug and he’s walking across my chest, pawing my fingers as I move them across the keys.

Why am I telling this story?

Mr. Stanley Kowalski rescued me from my anxiety. Here are some reasons why adopting a kitten, cat, puppy, or dog may help you rise to the surface and get some breaths of air before life pushes you down again.

  1. An animal makes you feel needed. When we are overwhelmed with anxiety, depression, or any mental illness, it’s good to feel needed. I was leaning on everyone else in my life. The fact that my kitten needed me helped me to realize that I wasn’t just a needy “anxious lady” but someone who was needed as well. For once, someone was depending on me instead of the other way around.
  2. An animal makes you feel loved. On the days that I hated myself the most, Stanley loved me. Of course my family loved me too but it was a different kind of love. Stanley loved me with no words but definitely a lot of meows. He got me out of bed in the morning with his ridiculous games. He met me on the stairs when I got home from work and wanted to know all about my day. He cuddled with me before bed and slept by my side all night. He also made the best nap buddy, just saying.
  3. An animal makes you laugh. Stanley is definitely a character. While my husband and I grade our papers, Stan the Man knocks the pens from our hands. When we are cooking in the kitchen, he is playing hockey with the green crumpled paper balls we threw to him earlier. He likes to stuff them under the oven and look at us with his sad eyes when he can’t get them out. He swats at his water bowl and meows at the soap bubbles as we’re washing dishes. He makes me laugh everyday.

If you are at a low point in your life, consider adopting a furry friend. There is an animal made for you out there who needs a home. You might even need him/her more than he/she needs you.

Stanley's adoption day



Can you really change your way of thinking?

My alarm is set for 6:30 am but I woke up at 3:32 am unable to fall back to sleep. If this was a year ago, I would have been hysterical. My anxiety would torture me for the next three hours. I would be thinking “Crap! I have 3 hours to sleep…2 hours and 58 minutes…2 hours and 53 minutes…” You get the point. In the past, I would have panic attacks about not getting enough sleep.

When I woke up at at 3:32 this morning, I wasn’t jumping for joy but I accepted it a lot better than I used to. I tossed and turned for a while. I went into the living room so I wouldn’t wake up my husband or my cat. I turned Netflix on and watched reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. I turned it off at 4:35 am thinking I’d be able to fall back to sleep. Here I am at 5:22 wide awake with a full day of work ahead of me.

At the darkest times in my life when my anxiety crippled me, my dad was my go to person. I would call him on those terrible nights when I just couldn’t sleep. My dad would constantly tell me that I needed to change my way of thinking. He believed that anxiety is a chemical imbalance but he contradicted himself, or so I thought, when he told me that I had the power. I would get so frustrated with him because I could not change my thinking patterns. I was my anxiety.

Last year at this time, I called my dad crying in the middle of the night. I was stressed about not being able to sleep. I knew that when I didn’t sleep, I got cranky and when I got cranky, I got anxious. I was freaking out that I wasn’t going to be able to get through the day.

Was my dad right?

I had the same scenario this morning and I’m not on the phone with him. Fortunately for him, he’s fast asleep because his youngest daughter isn’t keeping him up on the phone. Did I change my way of thinking?

No. I don’t think that “changing your way of thinking” will cure anxiety completely. However, I do think that it helps. Don’t get me wrong. I was the first person to tell you what BS it was when people would suggest it to me. I can’t help to think this morning that maybe I am thinking differently.

For someone who is at their lowest point with their anxiety, here are some things I learned.

  1. Try to find the positive in a situation that used to make you anxious. Embrace it as best as you can. Instead of worrying about how today is going to suck and I’m going to have to function on less sleep than planned, I am trying to find the positive of being up this early. If I wasn’t awake, I wouldn’t be writing this post. It’s a small victory but it IS a victory. The way I’m thinking is a victory in itself.
  2. Exercise! It does boost the serotonin! For the longest time, people would tell me that exercise is the answer to anxiety. No. It’s not the end all be all. However, it does help. Since I am wide awake this morning, why not go on the elliptical for 30 minutes? Remember, it’s a small victory. Instead of crying about not getting sleep, I’m going to do something productive with my time and not count how many minutes before my alarm goes off.

No. I don’t believe changing your way of thinking is the sole answer to anxiety. However, I do thinks it’s possible now. Believe me, I struggle with this. I don’t always have this attitude but it’s a start.

So I’m going to go workout now on the elliptical. On the plus side, it’s also helping me get back into a workout routine…small victory.

First blog post

I am 25 years old and I have been living with severe anxiety my whole life. I finally am at a place where I feel like I’m living instead of worrying every second of the day about things that won’t matter in a week. I wasted so many years panicking about problems that were resolved before they even really became problems.

I am an English teacher. Naturally, I love to read and write. My dream is to someday write a book about my experiences with anxiety. When I was at the darkest points in my life, the one thing that made me feel better was knowing that other people experienced the same feelings as me. I was not alone. I am starting this blog in the hopes of reaching people who are feeling the same way. You are not alone. This too shall pass.