Archive for personal

Meet my best (furry) friend.

Posted in anxiety, anxiety disorder, cats, coping strategies, depression, mental health, mental illness, panic attacks, pets, recovery with tags , , on June 5, 2013 by Trace

I feel like I’ve written mostly heavy articles on this blog so far, and figure, hey, you know what this place needs? Cats. Cats always make things better.

 

Particularly, my cat makes my life better. If you checked out my coping tips blog article, you might’ve noticed the inclusion of considering getting a cat or dog buddy. I say this from experience because both animals have enriched my life in many ways. I focus on my cat, however, because while I love my dog, my cat seems to have found some sort of connection to my emotions that my dog has never tapped into. But I’m getting ahead of myself, here.

 

Meet my cat. Her name is Kiki.

 

Super adorable.

Pretty cute, right?

 

 

She was a stray in Rhode Island twelve – almost thirteen – years ago, found under a porch with her siblings and mother. They were taken to a vet in Rhode Island and given their own special area to grow. My sister and her boyfriend – now her husband – had recently rented their first place together up there, and they decided with their lifestyle, a cat would be the pet for them. They happened to hear about this litter and went over to check them out. All of them were adorable – and the mother was very sweet – but in the end, my sister spotted a tiny black kitten who seemed a little off in her own world, concentrating hard on her mother’s flopping tail instead of pouncing on it. It made mer laugh, and she knew in that moment she would be the pet for them.

 

The cat was a ball of energy. The first night they put a giant bed up to keep the cat confined to one area and woke up in the middle of the night to her howling. Turned out little Kiki had clawed her way up and realized only after how high it was, and needed help down. This of course did not stop her from doing that more than once, but there’s cat logic for you. When they moved back to New Jersey, they faced a far more strict housing situation with pets involved, as well as the very late realization that my sister’s really bad allergies were in part due to cat hair. At the time, we had a large golden retriever but no cat, and my parents made the offer to see if Amber and Kiki could get along.

 

Suffice to say, it went fine. Kiki was nervous at first, but Amber was old by then and, true to the golden retriever nature, very gentle and calm. For a long time they settled on not really bothering with each other, but eventually Kiki became comfortable enough with dogs that I would sometimes find her sleeping on the floor near Amber, or getting bored and playing with her tail. She settled in nicely, mostly sticking to my mom. Still, I noticed she had an uncanny ability to come find me when I had anxiety attacks and just sit with me. To say the least, I got very attached very quickly.

 

Peek-a-boo!

Peek-a-boo!

 

As all living things unfortunately do eventually, Amber passed away three years later from bone cancer at the age of twelve. Kiki became the only animal of the household, which she seemed pretty listless about at times, especially in the beginning. Honestly, my entire family was listless too – it’d been a long time since we had no dog around – and while we all thought we’d wait some time, it wasn’t long before we started looking at petfinder. We found a small puppy rescued from a Georgia kill shelter with her siblings, and she would eventually become the newest member of my family. There was admittedly some worry that Kiki wouldn’t like a dog with quite a lot more energy than what she was used to, but two years later, they have gotten very comfortable around each other. Annie – the new dog – has learned boundaries, and Kiki knows how to make it known if she’s getting a little too annoying.

 

I bring this backstory up because it was when Annie came into the picture, she really became my cat. Annie is a smaller dog, allowed to sleep with my parents in their bed instead of the floor, so Kiki suddenly found her usual spot to sleep taken up. She began spending more and more time in my room – the quietest in the house – and suddenly it went from her finding me when I was freaked out to basically going between the porch to my lap whenever I was home. Having a warm cat curled up to you, knowing that they have complete trust in you to pass out for hours and not have a second thought, is a strange but wonderful feeling. At my lowest, she was one being I never felt uncomfortable being sad or upset around, because animals don’t judge. They just don’t.

 

Hanging out, as always. :P

Hanging out, as always. 😛

 

And that’s where I am now. My cat is my best friend. I’m not embarrassed to say that at all. There’s something about having a being that literally will never stop loving you, no matter how many tears they see you shed or what you tell them. She’s amazingly patient with my moods, and I honestly hope I have many, many more good years with her. I cherish every day the little pain in the butt is with me, even when she decides to be very much a cat and gets into trouble.

 

So when I say, you should consider a pet, this is where I’m coming from. Pets are pretty dang great. 🙂

On haircuts and anxiety.

Posted in anxiety, anxiety disorder, coping, mental health with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2013 by Trace

Getting my hair cut has always been a harrowing experience for me, especially post-anxiety.

regular-haircut-1aReading that sentence, I realize someone without anxiety would question what that even means. For most people, the worst part about haircuts are worrying your hairdresser/barber might mess up the cut? For me, it’s a litany of what if scenarios. There’s a sensation of being trapped, of not being able to get away without looking like you’re crazy in front of your hairdresser. I have an extra layer of fear because of an unpredictable nervous stomach – one that just loves reacting to any tiny bit of stress with cramps and general non-great feelings.

Add in not being great at small talk and you have a miserable hour or so to contend with. Don’t get me wrong, I do like my hairdresser. She’s a nice Polish woman, probably around the age of my older sister, with two kids and a husband she clearly adores. She asks polite questions of me, and I try my best to interact well even when I’m nervous, but I always feel like I come off as a little stand-offish. In all likelihood, she probably doesn’t think that at all – I’m sure she has customers who completely ignore her, whereas I try to engage in conversation to the best of my ability. The worry is always there, though, and it made me think a bit today about how people view me as a person and how I view my own worth.

I hide my anxiety well. Around people I’m comfortable with, I’m a little better at being open about how I’m feeling, but around strangers – well, let’s just say bathroom breaks were common when I was at my worst. About a year ago I met up with an old friend from college for coffee, and she was stunned when I mentioned I was going through a lot with my anxiety.

‘I never would’ve guessed,’ she admitted, and she actually looked like she felt bad. ‘You always seemed so chill.’

In that moment, I honestly felt bad for not trusting people with the information. I certainly never plan to shout it from the rooftops – not because I’m ashamed, but because I don’t want anxiety to define me as a person – but I do realize now that there were a lot of times I should’ve said something but didn’t. That I don’t give people credit because I assume the worse. That I didn’t think people would find me worth hanging out with if they knew I could potentially have an anxiety attack that might halt the entire night. It’s because of all those doubts I closed myself off from situations and people instead of giving them a chance to understand. Instead of showing them my ‘weakness’, I hid away like I was some sort of deformed beast that no one would want to hang out with anyway because I was such a mess. Even in the situation with the hairdresser, my worst case scenarios were so silly – what if my stomach acted up? What if I had an anxiety attack? Surely my hairdresser would not care if I got up to go to the bathroom for a minute or two, but for some reason, the very idea was mortifying to me.

They say people make mountains out of molehills. I make the tallest kinds of mountains in my mind. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, and I’ve put a lot of rationalization into work, but it still happens.

Everything went fine, by the way. I got my haircut, I had my eyebrows ripped off (the joys of being a girl!), and while it was the usual awkward hairdresser/client conversation, we got through it okay and there weren’t too many lulls of silence. All those things that nearly made me cancel my appointment up to the very last minute didn’t happen. My stomach ‘magically’ stopped being a pain in the butt and it hasn’t made a peep since, when it’d been a problem all morning. It’s just another reminder that I can let anxiety keep me away from people or accept it exists and not let the ‘what if’s stop me. And every time I don’t let anxiety keep me from my day, I’m almost always rewarded with something good. Today’s reward? Lookin’ pretty rockin’ in this new haircut. I mean, look at this:

Pretty rocking, right?

Aw yeah lookin’ good, amirite?