This post and the next/last one is part of a series named Here For The Kittens and are all in collaboration with Cats Protection, the UK’s largest feline welfare charity…
You can find all the links for their social media here: Cats Protection’s LinkTr.ee
You can find the first post of this series here: http://www.imnotdisordered.co.uk/2023/05/hereforthekittens-series-intro-managing.html
The second post is here:
After wanting to thank you all again for the attention, empathy, passion, and dedication you’ve all shown to this series and therefore to Cats Protection – we are all incredibly grateful for your support. After a chat with my Mum, I found the inspiration for this post in the series and so it will be focused on the improvements I’ve seen in my mental health since getting Ruby three weeks ago…
In my opinion – and I’m sure others will agree – the most important aspect of my life/mental health that Ruby has shaped and improved are my safety levels, which means there’s been a reduction in my levels of risk and that has meant Ruby and her presence in my life/home has taken away literally any/all instances of self-harm or suicidal thoughts, feelings, and attempts. There have been no hospital admissions or attendances for these elements of my mental health since the day I got Ruby! And yes, I fully believe that truly is a direct result of bringing her home.
I found that almost immediately after arriving home with Ruby (exactly three weeks ago today); I recognised that I had a massive, extra responsibility now. That with her being a kitten and therefore so young, she required so much more care and attention than my bunnies who are not only older (Luna is coming up to 2 in September and Gracie is around 7/8 months), but who also have each other as company and aren’t really playful in the same ways as a cat where it can really demand a human being there to facilitate it.
Initially, this increase in responsibility encouraged me to think through the consequences a lot more if thoughts of self-harm came into my head. I’d consider how it would feel to leave Ruby to be in A&E or what it would mean for her (and the bunnies!) if I was sectioned again and re-admitted to a psychiatric hospital. And I think that in putting all of this thought into things, a hugely helpful realisation was what others might think if I left an eleven-week-old kitten home alone because I felt the need to self-harm. Like, I recognise that a lot of people see self-harm and suicide as incredibly selfish acts because they’re prioritising the person doing them feeling better and not how these things will impact the loved ones and those around that person. But I think it’s worth remembering that actually, a lot of the time, someone might commit suicide because they 100% believe that their loved ones will be ‘better off’ without them.
Aside from my safety levels improving due to the new responsibility, there’s also been the absolutely pure and wholesome fact that I have someone else who I can love, and who honestly is constantly illustrating that she loves me right back! There’s a little clip at the start of the video where Ruby is sat staring at me with one paw on my chest and then the other paw occasionally reaches to my face… Well, you can’t see or tell in that video, but I was actually crying. I had just found out that there’s a very real chance that I need a fourth surgery on my wrist (which I broke in two places last Summer) and my memories of the pain after the previous three arguably unsuccessful surgeries meant I was in tears and pretty devastated at the prospect of going through that again. I had gone and sat on my bed with Ruby in the sitting room because I didn’t want to scare her or upset her with my hysterical bawling, but she came tottering through and sat in front of me and comforted me like that for around ten minutes (I obviously had to cut and speed up the video!).
I was brought up in a very loving, kind, caring, and compassionate way because my Mum has always been there for me and has truly been instrumental through my mental illness and my recovery. However, regardless of how supportive and dedicated the people around you are to your safety, going through a mental illness in itself can be an incredibly lonely and isolating experience. A lot of survivors make the comment that it feels as though no one knows what you’re going through, and that’s something I really thought and felt too. I mean, it’s really like a catch-22 because there were so many reasons why I couldn’t tell anyone about the abuse and then about the hallucinations, but at the same time; I felt that I needed to tell someone because otherwise, I was alone in these experiences. I felt that no one could really thoroughly support me if they didn’t know the entire situation, but I struggled with even just the idea of telling someone absolutely everything.
That nature of mental illness, meant that getting Ruby, and seeing and experiencing her real affection and love for me – to feel that we instantly had a special connection and bond – meant the world. Now I have this little shadow, it’s as though I really hadn’t even recognised just how lonely I had been feeling. My worry here, is that people might read this and think that support from my Mum wasn’t enough that I needed a cat! But it’s not that one is better than the other, it’s that they’re so completely different and special and important in their own right.
The conversation with my Mum that inspired this post was when she pointed out that I hadn’t commented on my sleep recently and she asked if that meant it was better since getting Ruby and I realised it is!
For two weeks in February this year, my sleep really deteriorated, I mean, I was going to bed at reasonable hours, I was just really really really struggling to stay asleep. I would wake-up and from a nightmare and find myself actually screaming or crying – that’s how vivid they were. And then, after waking up like that, I’d be scared to go back to sleep. Other times, I was convinced I’d heard noises somewhere in the house and would just lie there with 99 literally typed into the call feature on my phone; ready to put the extra 9 in (so as to type the UK emergency services number: 999) if someone came bursting through the bedroom door – that’s how terrified and convinced I was of what the noises meant or could be caused by.
After those two weeks of these challenging, nightly occurrences; I began experiencing some hugely disturbing thoughts, beliefs, and generally psychotic systems (as labelled by the professionals) that left me so hopeless that I was suicidal. After making a suicide attempt, I found myself being sectioned under Section 2 of the 1983 Mental Health Act by a ton of professionals who had all congregated in my sitting room at 3am!
Between the Mental Health Act assessment and my first day in the psychiatric hospital, I was asked over 10 times what I thought had led to the ‘psychotic episode’ or if anything had ‘happened’ recently. And on 9 occasions I had no answer; but by the tenth time, I had then had the opportunity to think it over and asked the professionals whether my lack of sleep for two weeks could have caused this and was told yes. I was given sleeping tablets for the ten days I was in the psychiatric hospital, and I think I was awake for a total of 6 or 7 hours in the first three days! I pretty much slept through the admission because when I started to regain my energy and felt better rested, I was granted leave to go home for five days. I remember when I was finally discharged, and I said to my Mum that it had been like being in a really horrible spa! In that, I had felt a bit refreshed and more energised, but the actual ward/environment etc had been horrible!
For a little while after I was discharged, I still struggled on and off with my sleep, but since getting Ruby, my Mum helped me to actually realise that my sleep hasn’t been bad at all. I think that this is a mixture of the generally more positive outlook I have now and how well my mental health is that it means I’m feeling tired when I’m meant to feel tired, and that’s coupled with the amount of energy Ruby takes up from me because she wants to play almost all the time!
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*Discount code valid until June 17th 2023*