In light of Robin Williams’ sudden death this week there has been a lot of talk about suicide and depression. As a person suffering from the same disorder that Robin Williams suffered from, I feel the need to address the issue. The good news for me and other cat owners who fight depression is that cats can help alleviate the pain.
My Depression Story
I have suffered from depression as far back as I can remember. Many of my family members suffer from depression as well – including both of my parents. High school was incredibly difficult for me. I would cry (behind closed doors) every single day for 3 -6 months of every year. Yes, I was one of those kids who would cut themselves. Watching the blood run out was like poking a hole in a steam cooker to release the pressure. I became very suicidal toward the end of high school. There was a plan in place to go through with it, but I never did (obviously).
College was a little better, but then something new started happening. For the first time I was being medicated for my depression. I started having these spells where I wouldn’t be able to sleep and my mind would just buzz and buzz and buzz. There were moments when I felt like the Hulk and I just wanted to smash everything in sight and other moments when everything was funny. I couldn’t focus on anything to save my life and I would just talk and talk ( which is unusual because I’m a very quiet person). In the end, I had to drop out of college after 1 year (I was an all A student with almost a full ride) because I was failing everything. I went back to school later, but this was devastating for me.
The meds ran out and I fell into a depression so deep that I was practically comatose. My mother found me lying still in a pile of dirty clothes on the floor of my bedroom barely able to breathe and decided that I needed help. Long story short, the doctor determined that I was actually suffering from Bipolar Disorder (my diagnosis to this day). I stayed in a hospital for 2 months participating in a study on Bipolar Disorder and things started getting better from there.
Today, things are a lot better than they used to be, but they are not perfect. I still have a lot of depression spells and occasional mania. I take 3 different medications daily to control the mood swings. Bipolar disorder is a subject that I’m very open about, so please feel free to contact me with questions or leave them in the comments below.
A Crash Course in Depression Disorders
There are a number of different depression disorders. Uni-polar Depression is when a person experiences prolonged periods of depression. Bipolar Disorder is when a person experiences prolonged periods of depression, but also at least one period of mania (euphoria/extreme agitation). There are also various sorts of seasonal depression where someone suffers from depression only during a particular season every year (usually winter).
Depression disorders are physical illnesses with behavioral symptoms. If you have a cold, the virus and it’s fight with your immune system are the disease, sneezing and coughing are just symptoms. With depression, the struggle for your body to balance the chemicals in your brain correctly is the disease; crying and feeling sad are symptoms of it. There are physical symptoms that can occur as well such as lack of appetite, tiredness, weakness, aches and pains, headaches, etc. The urge to commit suicide is a symptom of these disorders and if you can keep the person from acting on it, it will pass like any other symptom.
Cats Help Fight Depression
Cinco and Manna do a lot to help me fight my depression. Sometimes it is easier for my cats to get through to me than anyone else. I thank God for them everyday. Below are a few of the ways my cats help me through my depression:
People are cruel. Believe me, they want nothing to do with you when you are depressed- you might as well have the plague. So depressed people put on this unhealthy facade of being happy all the time around others. My cats, on the other hand, love me no matter how I feel. I can just be who I am around them.
- Less demanding interaction
Sure cats do have demands – they are cats after all. However, they don’t try to “fix” you and tell you what you should be doing to make yourself feel better. They don’t say things like “snap out of it already” or “just smile.” They don’t make you talk when you don’t want to. Still, they are there and ready to be love and cuddled whenever you are ready for them.
- Routine and responsibility
Having a routine is very helpful to people with depression. Some of you may have noticed that routine is something that I really struggle with. I’m all over the charts. However, the cats remind me that they need to be fed and played with on a regular basis which helps hold me to at least a little bit of a schedule. The added bonus is the feeling that the cats need me and think I’m important. Cinco and Manna do wonders for my self esteem.
- Physical touch
Studies show that positive physical touches can release endorphins, calm our heart rate, reduce stress, and more. Petting a nice warm, purring kitty in your lap can do wonders. Plus the frequency of a cat’s purr helps promote healing. Personally, I find it very comforting when Cinco or Manna climbs into my lap when I’m depressed. They seem to know just when I need them the most.