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How My Cat Helped Me Feel Less Alone In Taking Psychiatric Medication

If you take psychiatric medication to help manage your mental illness, nagging questions and doubts may occasionally flood your mind.

Why me?

Why do I have to take a pill just to feel “normal?”

Why do I feel so alone?

Is there anyone else who understands me?

The mental health stigma may feel overpowering, and it could cause you to doubt whether anyone else needs to take medication for their symptoms, but your “kindred spirits,” the ones who help you feel less alone in the wake of your illness, can appear in the most unlikely places.

Recently, my cat began experiencing symptoms similar to trichotillomania.  She’d appear panicked and frantically pull out her fur. The episodes were somewhat reminiscent of my own panic attacks, and seeing my anxious behavior manifest in someone else made my heart twinge.

Still, I felt a powerful sense of solidarity I had never experienced anywhere else.  As the only mental ill human in my family, I have often felt isolated and misunderstood, wondering if any of my family members could ever fully grasp my struggles: my anxiety, my depression, and my reservations about going on medication.  But, there, right in front of my eyes, was a slightly furrier but significantly more understanding companion walking alongside me through my journey with mental illness. Even as it broke, my heart swelled. Finally, someone understood.

As my cat’s symptoms worsened and the first medication she was prescribed failed, her veterinarian suggested an exceedingly common medication used to treat anxiety and depression in both humans and felines: Prozac.  The next time I ruminated over my own bottle of anti-anxiety medication, cursing the fact that I needed to take a small, white pill just to live a normal life, I marveled over the bond that my cat and I shared.

The psychiatric medication my cat was prescribed inhibits serotonin reuptake, just like my medication.

It treats anxiety and depression, which I have.

It helps people (and animals) from all walks of life live to their fullest potential, which is my ultimate goal.

It may not always be pleasant to take, but the anti-anxiety medication doesn’t seem to bring my cat any sort of shame.  It’s simply a (slightly annoying) part of her daily life; something she needs each day to thrive. She knows no stigma; she just knows that medication helps her feel better, and that’s how I should live, too.

As I watched my cat nonchalantly take Prozac, I realized that I am never truly alone in managing my illness with psychiatric medication.  Even as I gripe about committing to taking meds and feel isolated in managing my symptoms, there is always someone walking hand-in-hand (or paw-in-hand) with me, someone who understands what I’m going through.

If you take psychiatric medication, you may feel misunderstood.  You may wonder if anyone can truly understand your symptoms, your treatment, and your struggles to accept that medication is part of your life.  The truth, however, is that you are never alone. Search for your support system; the ones who listen to you, relate to the challenges your medications may create and understand your deepest feelings and fears about taking meds.  Always pay attention; the most fulfilling source of support on your journey with psychiatric medication could be hiding right in front of you.

 

Kelly Douglas

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

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