In my last blog post, I mentioned my kitten, Archie. I said I was going to dedicate a post just for him so I can share some more personal moments from when he came into my life. I’ve officially had him for 10 weeks, and he’s now 20-weeks-old, so it feels like the perfect time to shine some light onto the little guy that came into my life and saved me. And don't worry, you'll find lots of photos of Archie at the end of this post.
I've always been pretty open and honest when it comes to my mental health, which for me is quite extraordinary since I'm ridiculously shy and I hate talking about myself. But I knew that by being an author I would need to open myself up. Now that's not to say I share everything that goes on in my life, and I certainly don't share the full extent of what I deal with when it comes to my mental health, but after a recent conversation with my therapist I realised maybe I do need to be more open about how bad my depression and anxiety has been over the last few months.
Now you're probably wondering what that has to do with a post that seems to be about my kitten, but it'll all make sense soon.
I've always been an animal lover, even when I was little I loved anything and everything to do with animals. I especially love dogs and cats, and I guess it has a lot to do with things I went through when I was in school. I was never popular, I'm pretty sure I was seen as a loser and I often floated between groups of people. I was bullied quite a bit, which took a toll on me, and over time I learned to lean on my pets as my comfort. I was pretty lucky, when I was younger I had a Dalmatian, Rolly, who was my best friend. I would spend hours upon hours sitting outside with him, talking to him as if he were a person. He was hands down the best part of my life. He loved me for me, he never judged me and he never turned his back on me. He was everything I needed and when I lost him I struggled in the worst way. My mental health took a severe hit and I was having the darkest thoughts. I was convinced I couldn't go on, but the friendship Rolly gave me somehow gave me the strength to keep going when I just wanted to let go. I never thought I’d encounter a similar bond with another pet in the same way I’d experienced it with Rolly, but I was wrong. So, so wrong.
I also touched on the loss my family and I experienced with our beautiful cat, Jess, at the end of last year. I was already struggling with my mental health before she passed away, my depressing was flaring up and I all but closed myself off from the world (my family and friends included). I was so far from okay it felt like I was never going to see the light of day again. When Jess died it made all of my symptoms so much worse. After talks with my therapist (who was concerned with how quickly I’d gone downhill) and research into ESA's, I decided it was worth looking into. After a few visits to the Cat Haven I found a little guy who needed me just as much as I needed him, and as they say, the rest is history.
You may be wondering what an ESA is, well, let me fill you in. Basically, an Emotional Support Animals is exactly what it sounds like. It's an animal that is used to help people like me who struggle with severe mental illnesses. In a nutshell, it offers you comfort. It gives you something to hold on for, it gives you a reason to get up in the mornings. This animal is depending on you to feed it, care for it and love it, and for people like me who struggle with depression, it can be an incredible coping mechanism. I’m not entirely sure if every case requires the same kind of diagnoses, but Archie is qualified as my ESA as I’ve been diagnosed by professionals with severe mental illness conditions. I’m sure you don’t need this kind of validation to get an ESA, if you’re struggling and think you require an animal to support you, definitely look into it. But for me (and my family) it helped to have my therapist explain why she believed I’d benefit from having an ESA. To quote my therapist, she explained that for me an ESA would “provide comfort during times of stress and give us a reason to keep going. Given the challenges you currently face, I think having another living being to look after, will, in turn, help you look after yourself.”
Archie is the best ESA I could have dreamed of. Not only does he give me a reason to live, but he also gives me a reason to fight. He is single handily relying on me to keep him alive and being his fur mama means I have to be responsible for someone other than myself. In the last 10 weeks, my family has noticed a massive change in my behaviour. They were sceptical about how much this whole ‘new kitten’ thing was going to work out (as was I), but I think we were all surprised by how much he has helped already. I’m no longer facing crippling insomnia (although I still suck at getting my sleep schedule under control!), I get out of bed, I work consistently, I’m more productive and I am so much happier. I still have my days where things are unbearable and I find myself slipping, but each time I face the dark tunnel again Archie is right by my side, and although it may sound crazy, or even impossible, that an animal can save a human life, my Archie is living proof that pets have the ability to bring us back to reality when it seems like the darkness is going to consume us. Just the other night I found myself overwhelmed and ridiculously depressed. It had just hit midnight and I was sobbing so much I couldn’t even see properly and I had the worst headache. Archie was fast asleep next to me and he suddenly got up and snuggled up in between my shoulder and my head and he sat there until I stopped crying. He’s just gone 5-months-old, and already he is showing me kindness and a silent compassion that seems crazy for a cat to have. Yet Archie seems to recognise when I’m slipping and through all of my dark days he’s right by my side, and sometimes that’s the one thing that keeps me going. He has become my sidekick, my best friend, my companion. He saved my life. And I saved him. He may not have had the best start to life, and he may not have been loved for 10 weeks, but I am determined to make up for that.
I knew as soon as I held him for the first time that he was the one, and he has spent the last 10 weeks showing me how lucky we were to find each other. And I’m incredibly grateful to my parents for letting Archie come home with me. They (along with my brothers and I) were struggling with the loss of our cat after having her for over 20 years, and it was incredibly quick from the moment we lost her to the moment I got Archie, but they could see I was lost, they saw I was slipping and they saw I was so close to the edge, so they decided to let me adopt Archie even though they weren’t ready for another cat. They let me get Archie to help me through my dark days even though we’d only lost Jess five weeks beforehand. They let me get Archie even though they were convinced we shouldn’t get any more pets. I am so thankful that they let me do this because now that we look back we see just how much Archie has turned things around for me. So mum and dad, thank you for letting Archie into our family. He has worked his way into all of our hearts, and I think he loves being a Dux as much as I do. Archie is so cheeky, and he is unlike any cat I've ever met. He lights up any room he's in, he refuses to listen when someone tries to tell him off and he loves to climb on everything that he's not supposed to (even though he has lots of tunnels and cat trees!), but he is also incredibly loyal, loving and funny, and he never goes too long without being able to make me smile. He is the best part of my day and even though he wakes me up early I love being woken up to his purring and his desire for cuddles. I love that I get to wake up to a kitten who is happy to be alive, and through Archie I'm learning to love myself and my life, and with time I'm sure things will get much better.
This has been a pretty long post, so if you’ve made it this far thanks for sticking with me! I promise I’m done with rambling on (hehe). I’d like to end on one of my all-time favourite quotes from Marley and Me, and although it’s directed at dogs I like to think the same thing can be said about cats. I changed a few words to reflect the cats of our lives, but the message is still the same (and of course, all credit goes to the original writer(s)).
“A cat has no use for fancy cars, or big homes or designer clothes, a mouse toy will do just fine.
A cat doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb, give him your heart, and he’ll give you his.
How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare? And pure? And special?
How many people can make you feel extraordinary?”
I don’t know if one day I’ll sit down and write about Archie and the life we share(d) together in the way Marley and Me was written, maybe I will and maybe I’ll keep those memories to myself, but for now I want to enjoy every single day I get to share with my best mate, and every day when I wake up, regardless of if I’m feeling down or happy, having Archie reminds me that no matter how dark things get, things will always be alright.
P.S. Below are some images of my Archie, I may be biased, but I think he's pretty darn cute!!
Archie on the day I brought him home
Archie's first day in his new home
He loves to lie in funny positions like this
He's still trying to get used to taking photos with me
Another funny position
Archie loves to give me lots of personal space :P
He is very photogentic
Two more of his funny sleeping positions
And a few more...
A photo my dad snapped of Archie sleeping on one of our couches
His paws and tail are adorable! And he has the most beautiful strippes :)