I finished high school at 18, and the summer that followed was awesome… or at least it appeared to be. At the time, like many other 18-year-olds, I was not making smart choices.
I drank the summer away. Believe it or not, I spent the entire summer going out, drinking, and partying every night. I slept during the days, and slowly neared my doom during the nights. What a stupid waste of time it was…
Today, I have only one “person” to thank for where I am right now… and that person is my late cat, Donna. I often wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn’t stumbled upon her.
Here’s The Story…
It’s been quite a long time since I was 18, but the problems seem to be the same for today’s 18-year-olds, no matter how much times have changed. This is why I believe it’s good to raise awareness of the importance of mental health.
The summer neared its end. All my friends “sobered up” and started to get back on track with their lives. What was I supposed to do? I blamed everyone for not telling me that I should have already planned my life out.
How could everyone have their lives together and I’m here, all alone, a burden to my family?! All my friends went to college and I felt lost. Depression has crept up on me.
I was falling deeper and deeper into a pit of depression that I didn’t know how to get out of. One morning as I was waking up, feeling the pain and tears coming to my eyes as usual, I heard my family talking about me getting a job just to get my butt out of bed.
I spent a couple of days trying to find a job. However, I only had luck in a nearby coffee shop. I did a good job, but I couldn’t “get out” of my head. I contacted my friend and the following morning, I told my folks I was moving in with her so I could become more independent.
I moved in with her, and every day after I’d get home from work, my friend would be studying or going out with her college friends. And I wasn’t good company for either of those things… I just felt like there was nothing else to do but end my suffering.
I can’t stress enough how awful I felt every moment of every day. However, I was too much of a coward to do anything but cry over my life.
A Sleepless Night Turned Into A Night To Remember
I couldn’t sleep, nor could I lay awake alone, so I went out for a walk, constantly thinking about what to do with my life. But I could never find a positive answer. I just sabotaged myself. Always. As I was walking, I heard a meow.
I always loved animals, especially cats and dogs, and I couldn’t just keep walking. I stopped and meowed back. The kitty went silent, and after a few moments, it meowed again.
It was dark at night, but I tried so hard to find where the meows were coming from. I followed the sounds and they led me to a small, frightened kitten that was all alone in the bushes.
I didn’t think twice, but slowly reached out and took the kitten in my arms. It didn’t take its eyes off me. When I got home, I went to the bathroom and slowly bathed the kitten because it was covered in dirt. I realized the kitten was female so I started referring to her as Donna.
Little baby Donna, are you sad? The entire time I was washing her, she didn’t take her eyes off me. I wrapped her up in a towel and put her on my bed. As I was looking for something to feed her, she started to purr.
At that moment it was like my heart melted and all my problems went away.
I just felt lighter. I had a kitten on my mind and I had to do anything to save it. Oh, I couldn’t sleep the entire night. As soon as morning came I went to a nearby pet shop and bought a bunch of cat things.
I bought the ones I needed and the ones the lady at the shop convinced me to buy. I was overcome with joy and love for this furry baby. But as I got home, my friend was furious. We argued, I mean, she yelled at me, and what was I supposed to do? It’s her house.
She concluded that the kitten and I needed to move out. A wreck I was! I completely forgot about my excruciating and boring job, and my boss called and fired me over the phone. I couldn’t blame the man, even though I could have been in trouble, and he didn’t even ask.
There I was, again, the family failure. But this time, I didn’t feel as bad as I felt almost the entire year before that. I was happy, I guess?
Oh, I wish I could see myself, standing in front of my friend’s apartment with a cat in a box and two bags by my feet. I had no other choice but to go home.
My parents were actually happy to see me. I mean, how could they not? It’s not like they didn’t love me or anything, but my teenage, depressed mind drove me crazy. They were thrilled that I got a cat, and Donna seemed happy in her new home as well.
I Saved Her And She Healed Me
I set her up in my room and asked myself once again… what am I going to do? As I lay on my bed contemplating my life, Donna jumped onto my chest and purred. It’s like she purred the worries away. I wondered why I don’t feel as bad as I felt before…
Today, I know that Donna healed me, in a way. I know how good cats can be for our health, and especially our mental health. That’s why today we have therapy cats.
There are many studies now that show how cat owners experience lower levels of depression than non-cat owners.
“For example, loneliness is a key symptom of depression, and feeling lonely has also been associated with the condition’s development. But, having a cat can help combat this by providing people a sense of being needed and providing companionship”, explains Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM.
She helped me calm down and she gave me a reason to go on. After I went home and started taking care of Donna, things just fell into place. I talked to my family about jobs and school and my friends.
I didn’t tell them about my pain or the nights I spent crying, or panic attacks, which continued later on. Not until therapy became a big part of my life. If we take care of our hair, bodies, nails, and whatnot, why not take care of our minds?
Anyways, my parents saw what a great job I did with Donna, all on my own, so we talked about different things that I might focus on in the future. My sisters proposed I go to college, and become a veterinarian, or do something else I’m interested in.
So I started volunteering and working in different rescue centers and shelters, which I’m still doing today. From total failure and suicidal thoughts, I am now a proud parent of 7 cats, a writer, and a shelter worker. All thanks to my beautiful Donna.
She isn’t with us anymore, but she lived a good ten years. She brought me so much joy and laughter, but most importantly, she’s given me a new lease on life. If it wasn’t for her, who knows where I might have ended up?
So, the bottom line is, don’t ever look away from a helpless animal. I didn’t, I saved Donna, but in reality, she saved me. I saved her from the street, and she saved my life!