Saved By a Cat
How My Pet Kept Me From Committing Suicide
In 1982, I was diagnosed as having a “problem.” I was twelve. At that time there were no real medications, or much therapy, for juveniles. I suffered with periodic depression until I reached college and was able to get some therapy at the campus’s mental health center. Right after college, I chose to get married—instead of attending Graduate School for a master’s degree in counseling—for the mere reason that someone asked me to. I had such low self esteem that I figured I might not get another chance. BIG mistake. Though the man was patient with my issues, he never fully understood and simply flew quietly under the radar when I was at my worst.
In my thirties I began to experience extreme mood swings. I would go from frustration to full outrage in twenty seconds. I would throw things, scream, and once I tried to stab my husband in the throat with a screwdriver during the process of hanging a ceiling fan.
When I visited a psychiatrist and described the instances, I was prescribed my first mood stabilizer. Later came an anti-depressant before an anti-anxiety drug was added to the cocktail. I began intensive therapy but was getting nowhere with my bouts of depression. I began to take the anger and sadness out on myself.
I would have irrational thoughts, such that if I cut myself I could bleed out the pain, as if I were accidentally injured. Though for most of my life I was unaware of the name for this illness, I had been suffering from Dermatillomania, a disorder where someone can't stop picking at their skin. I had always been a “picker,” as it was a self-soothing mechanism I had developed early in life. I hated the results, but was comfortable enough to do so. With all of these things combined, I was finally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which put everything else under that umbrella into perspective, and subsequently changed both my medication and therapy protocol.
When I next became ill I was prescribed high doses of Prednisone. BIG MISTAKE. It resulted in an obsession with death and eventually a suicide plan. I was miserable in my marriage, at work, and had recently lost a very special pet. I was simply in more pain than I could ever imagine. More than anything, I wanted to end the pain and kill the painful parts of my being. I had no clarity that efforts to cease that would end all my future. I just did not see that they were all intertwined. I had a complete nervous breakdown, went on a manic spree, and then planned my suicide.
The morning I was to complete my act, one of my cats intervened. As I began to take the pills I had been stockpiling after doctor hopping for weeks, she literally swatted at my hand. SMART CAT! It shook me into a reality that made me realize how many joys I would be missing. I called my therapist and my husband and was admitted to an acute mental health care facility. I was only released after plans had been made to transfer me to another facility in another state that provided DBT therapy, which was the protocol for BPD (borderline personality disorder) patients.
After four months at the facility, the staff and I felt I was ready to resume life. My husband and I decided to divorce in that time. I had met another wonderful man while in treatment. After several months I moved to the state where we had met and we began a new life together.
I was doing really well for one of the longest periods ever. Meds were right, therapy was fitting, and things were going smoothly. During a five-day vacation period from my job, I somehow developed agoraphobia. I literally feared going outside, avoided sunlight and kept my curtains closed. Thus began another hospitalization, this time for about two weeks. My meds were again readjusted, and I was released. Since then, that boyfriend and I eventually broke up, and I moved back to my hometown.
I’m currently suffering again from deep depression and anxiety. Yet, now I have no health insurance and have to rely on state funded care, which is minimal at best. I am able to hold a part time job and socialize with two of my lifelong friends. I have a new pet that brings a level of peace and responsibility to my life, which helps to keep me together. I only pray that simply surviving will continue.