Depression likes to sneak up on me and pounce.
I’ve dealt with it ever since hormones kicked in. It is often triggered by seemingly innocuous things. An email I read in the wrong light. A circumstance in life that leaves me feeling helpless. Most often, it jumps on me by way of my chattering thoughts as I ruminate and obsess over the state of the world, or more likely, the state of my finances, or my life, or myself.
Down will come the thoughts and feelings of hopelessness -and as the spiral continues, it can lead to a sense of complete worthlessness. I will get into a space in my head where I will literally say to myself;
“Why am I even here? What good am I? What do I have to offer? We’re all just going to die anyway. Might as well put an end to my utter lack and inability to provide anything of worth to this world. …I deserve it, c’mon.”
…Yeah, it gets that bad sometimes.
So how does someone who stumbles down this self-destructive road make her journey back into self-love?
Through her cats, of course.
(Because, you know, crazy cat lady here.)
Initially, it began with my cat Kitty, now long gone. When I’d head into that dark space, she’d always show up at my side, and simply sit by me, holding space with me as I cried, or shouted in anger, or shivered in fear, or sat numbly.
Her quiet presence next to me, usually purring, would calm me, bring me back into this reality, and most importantly, remind me there was a little living being that depended upon me, and loved me just as I was. This was often all it took to bring me out of my spiraling thoughts and into the present moment — and feed her. Or pet her. Or let her climb under the covers with me to curl up at my side.
She comforted me… and reminded me to keep moving through life if not for myself, for her. Kitty was with me for 21 years, and all the way to the end, she held that space with me.
Luna came next — a little white fuzzball that tormented Kitty in her old age, and followed her everywhere. Luna had the purr of a lion. I called it “The Heartbeat of the Universe” as it would send me into a peaceful, open space where I felt connected to everything around me.
Almost daily she would crawl up on my chest and proceed to purr, putting one paw up on my lips as if to say; “Shush, it’s all right” as I fell asleep at night. She also had the best sense of humor, and would talk back to me. Her meows came in a variety of forms and were very distinct and obvious in their tone and meaning. She made it very clear when she was telling me off, or demanding something, or asking for love (or usually food).
She was with me for 16 years, and the day she died, as with Kitty, was the day I lost a child. But there was a cleansing in that grief, and it showed me that tears are not only healing, but are a way to honor the life that was lived and the love that was part of it.
As Luna left, Dexter von Gordoncat and LuciPurr McPurrmeister entered my life. (Cat lady names.) Smart and sassy and strong and silly, though they are a year apart in age they are bonded as if they were born together, and opposites in so many ways.
He is a 17 pound all-muscle Tuxedo Tom who loves to be hugged, have his face and belly rubbed, and runs to hide when someone knocks on the door. He is beautiful and knows it.
She is a 7 pound petite fierce feline who chases Dexter around the house, generally hates being picked up, and greets everyone who walks in asking for butt-pats. She is smart and knows it.
They are masters at making me laugh out loud nearly every day with their antics and attitudes. They are also masters at helping me to find joy in each day, no matter what is going on around me. They like company. A lot. So they tend to follow me around, even if it’s just to flop down and go into immediate deep nap-time beside me. And that in itself helps to keep my depression at bay as I am forced to experience life through their active energy.
But while their individual lives provided loving lessons, their collective lives gave me one of the best tools I’ve ever had in my kit to use when I go into any depression, to rebuild my self-love and self-acceptance.
Not long ago in the middle of a downer day, Dexter and Luci both came over wanting my attention. And as I gave it to them, making the noises all cat-lovers make and telling them how much I loved them, it struck me:
Every single one of these furballs has been so unique. Each one is so special to me. Each one has their own personality and needs and quirks and behaviors and likes and dislikes. Each one has their own touch, their own twitch of the ear, their own soul looking out at me through those beautiful, big eyes.
And I have loved them exactly as they are — not because of anything they have done, or can do, or might do. Not because of anything they can contribute to the world, or perfect talent they may have, or great asset they can bring to the table. Not because I felt they “deserved” it or “earned” it. I have loved them simply because they ARE.
I have loved them because in all of reality there is not nor ever will be another one exactly like them, in this form, at this time, right now.
Their existence and presence in my life is all that is required.
There are millions of other cats who may look just like them — Luna had a brother who was nearly her twin, and I recently met a female Doppleganger to Dexter at a pet store. And certainly they share the same traits and habits as the majority of cats in this world.
But the particular combination of all that makes up them as an individual entity on this earth is completely and totally one-of-a-kind – and that in and of itself is why they are each special.
It is this which makes them priceless beyond measure, and treasured and loved beyond measure as a result.
As Oprah recently said in one of her meditation experiences;
“You matter simply because you are here.”
Think about that a moment. (You see where this is going.)
Because what really blew my mind as I considered my cats was an understanding that all cat-lovers have:
…These little creatures already know all of this about themselves.
And they expect you to know it also.
And to treat them accordingly.
It is inherent within them, this inner knowledge and understanding of their own worth. They have nothing to prove to anyone. They own their cat-value completely.
So as I sat there petting my two beloved companions, the obvious lightening bolt struck me.
As much as I love them, as great as all of those thoughts were I just had about them — these are just cats we’re talking about. (Cat friends, don’t hate me.) Just. Cats.
How much more does all of this apply to ME?
Can I not see that my value is worth at least that of my cats? Can I not understand and feel that it is, in fact, so much more? Am I able to fully recognize my own innate cat-value?
Through the golden eyes of my sweet companions I at last see clearly…
…Yes, people, I have finally figured out that I am just as special as my cats already know they are.
Imagine if I could incorporate that kind of knowing deeply into my own sense of self.
So as my two companions yawn in response to my excited utterances of enlightenment, I realize it’s time to groom myself. And give myself some treats.
…Because this I deserve indeed.
Jeanette Elaine Dubois
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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