Pets aren’t just furry companions; they occupy a multitude of other roles in depression management– teacher, support system, non-judgmental confidante, and loving friend.
By Margaret Lanning
As I cruise the pet store aisles, I wonder: Could another woman dream of an evening quite as enchanting as this, selecting clumping versus sliding cat litter? Grain-free wet food or organic dry? A regular cat box or one that self-cleans?
For the first time in four decades, I’d become a cat owner, preparing for my empty-nesting years and making room for a feline. With all the news about the benefits of mindfulness and “being in the now,” I am finding nothing puts me more in the moment than sharing space with a kitty cat (or the animal of one’s choice).
At eight weeks of age, little Margot “spoke” to my daughter and me from behind the rust-flecked cage at the adoption center. Margot was plucky and all black, and thin as my favorite pasta—we lost our hearts and minds over this divine creature.
Life with a growing indoor kitten is anything but predictable. Her antics are often maddening, such as climbing shelves and counters. As I type, she Jordan-jumps onto my desk, sniffing the keys for crumbs from last night’s salty chip indulgence.
She lives each day as we all should: Awakening with a contented purr smooth as an Audi’s engine. She immediately crawls into my lap for her morning affection sessions, before hurtling to the floor and arching sideways, the classic Margot move signaling an upcoming hours-long streak of merry destruction. She lives joyously from moment to moment: no worries, anxieties or fears.
I hadn’t realized before she came into my life that a new type of “slow-creeping” depression had wrapped its fingers around my mind so quietly that I failed to recognize my dull gray mood. But as summer turned to fall with Margot, I came to understand that for the past six months, I had been going through the motions—and spending mindless hours accomplishing nothing. While I did well at work and tended to my family’s needs, the Happy Lights had burned out by a few bulbs. This depression didn’t slam into my body full force as other episodes had in the past. It was more like a patch of drifting clouds, gauzy enough that the sun wasn’t fully obliterated. I could function, but Google binges and surfing eBay isn’t the way for me to enjoy life.
She lives joyously from moment to moment: no worries, anxieties or fears.
Margot gave me purpose while both kids were in college pursuing their own goals. Her mere aliveness and need for attention and love kick-started the maternal tendencies in me that had been on pause. We began doing everything together, such as taking long car trips, where she’d ride in the passenger seat. I fancied buying her a stroller so we could hike and go out shopping, like some oft-smug dog owners.
I got excited when cat litter went on sale or a new toy grabbed our interest. On weekends, after a cozy dinner with my husband, he and I would find ourselves roaming the giant pet stores, seeking ways to amuse Margot. And ourselves. This little black ball of healing and anxiety relief provided us with a shared hobby.
He came to adore her. “It’s nice having a living animal in the house,” he said, even as she clawed and mangled his one living cactus.
How could I possibly feel blue when a black cat so cheerful helped burn the fog away from those drifting clouds? Those nights of worrying about everything from “I think my boss wants to fire me” to “I believe my husband thinks I’m no longer fetching” have dissipated.
It’s well-known that pets boost your mood. Margot has clearly lifted my spirits and made me feel useful and needed, even if she may well be messier than a room full of preschoolers. Margot has taught me invaluable survival techniques, from how to slow down, loll about in the sunshine, and stay utterly in the moment. When she hops onto my chest, her motor idling, I can feel my own pulse steadying, the revving of my anxious state slowing like a train rolling to a stop.
Margot is my meditation, my constantly moving mantra, and my Namaste at the end of each day.
Printed as “Viewpoint: Margot, My Mantra”, Spring 2018
via Esperanza – Hope To Cope
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