At the beginning of 2013 I had my first breakdown. Not a nervous one, where you feel burnt out and take time off work and need to sleep for weeks and weeks. Not a freak-out “I’m going to kill you all snap,” when life yokes you with stress too heavy to bear.
This was an all-out, lose-my-mind in a foreign country, kind of breakdown. Two days after my birthday, after driving back from Mozambique, I sat wringing tissues in my lap in Psychiatrist #1’s office. Fast forward a few weeks and you will see me driving in my little white Citi Golf away from my life and my home, towards a new beginning – one that I thought would be a slate wiped clean of my mistakes.
I packed only what could fit into my car, the most precious of which was the crate that held my beloved cat, Makaylyn. Her name means, “Heaven in mommy’s eyes,” and that is all she was and still is to me. I think when you lose everything and everyone, the one little being that chose to stay with you through thick and thin will always be your heaven.
For about 4 months after we moved, I took on the toughest battle of my life. Depression had never gripped my neck so tightly and the sole reason I fought for air was so that I could crawl out of bed to feed Makaylyn every morning and every night. The rare moments I smiled were when she tickled her whiskers against my cheek when I woke up, her little wet nose gently sniffing against mine. For so very long she was the only one who was around to confirm that I was indeed still breathing. Alive.
At night, sleep would only comply with my pleas when she was lying on my chest, her soft weight like a baby’s comfort blanket that eased my anxiety. As she lay there, her eyes closed in our own little heaven we had created, I stroked her suede black fur and she purred loudly. So loud that I could feel it in my bones and the vibration seemed to knit my broken pieces together.
She was a cat that loved to explore, never one that could be contained because of her wild, feral past. Yet, in those touch-and-go months, she was constantly in my shadow. Makaylyn was my only companion and the only one I wanted. I shut out the world and kept her in. There is no doubt in my mind that this soft and gentle witness to my life kept me alive.
Eventually the suffocating smog of depression drifted away and I could see things more clearly again. Makaylyn and I sat on the balcony in the sun together, and every now and again she would look at me and I would know. She truly saw me. I loved her more than anything and I know she loved me too. She had carried my heavy weight through hell with her tiny frame and now, on the other side, we could enjoy the warmth of life together.
We only got to spend a few more smiling days like that in each other’s company. Life was about to right hook me with her death far too soon. But when I think of her now, I choose to remember that summer, when she led me out of my darkness. The days when everything was OK and I was loved and I had someone to come home to. It was beautiful and perfect.
I will always be grateful to my little angel for saving my life. Although there have been very, very bad days since then, I also got to experience magnificent ones. I would never have had that gift without her.
Right now I am the happiest I have ever been and have so much to live for. The sun is shining at its very brightest. I so wish she could sit here on the patio, soaking it all in with me.
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