Now that we've visited my childhood a few times and briefly discussed the Tribe of the Gays, we might as well take a look at the Tribe of the Crazies too. It's one of the major reasons I wanted to start this blog.
I've been attracted to animals from butterflies to cats to horses since I was very small. I believe that has mostly been beneficial since there is scientific proof that animals are a soothing presence for many of us, and especially for those of us who enjoy company but realize we are afraid of people.
I'm going to talk about some things here that are a bit tougher for me. I always knew I was a "weird kid." I'm over 50 now and I still feel like a weird kid. My mother reinforced my realization by suggesting that I make an effort to be "more normal." She was honestly trying to be helpful. She probably realized early on that there might be difficulties ahead for a child who pretended that the houseflies in the classroom were friends of hers. It didn't help that I carried a collection of plastic horses in my backpack until the early high school days, just so my friends would be nearby.
What I somehow understood from an early age was that I would always have challenges. I would always be a little weird. (Sometimes a lot weird.) I also sensed that the first person in my life who had zero concerns about me was the cat we got from the animal shelter. She did not mind that I listed to opera at the age of 7 but that I also found a non-stop diet of Apple Jacks to be a sensible plan. (I wasn't a musical prodigy, I just found opera comforting. I moved on to Hindu Bhajans and Ravi Shankar's sitar by the age of 9.) My cat also did not care if I had to stack all my coins in perfect columns with the same number of coins in each one. I hated the way that nickels rested on top of each other since the images stamped on them made them less likely to sit in perfectly alignment. Dimes were the best stackers, and I still like dimes the best.
That cat was not my first pet, but she was probably my first serious ESA, what today we would called an Emotional Support Animal. I recognized that having her with me helped with with all sorts of small anxieties. I didn't know that I had severe OCD, so extreme that I would later become malnourished due to eating only white foods for several months. I didn't know that I had social anxiety that would develop someday into crippling agoraphobia. I didn't know that my OCD would eventually make it impossible for me to work at a job where any human might cough in a room that I was in. I only knew that when I was out on the streets, my cat made things better.
A dog might have been easier, I suppose, due to their joy in traveling. At the time it wasn't a good time for our family to have a dog, so I put my kitten in the basket of my bike when she was only 9 weeks old. She adapted rapidly and learned to stay in the basket even when I was off the bike. I had her snuggled in with a cushy hand towel and she was given frequent handouts of deli ham from the convenient store. When other children were cruel to me because I was having an animated conversation with a ballpoint pen, I could ignore the other kids and include my cat (Monnie) in my intense conversation. It either made me seem slightly more normal to be talking to a cat, or the fact that I was talking to a pen and a cat just scared the kids enough to back off. Whatever the case, it worked.
There are some challenges to having pets and severe OCD. I am very lucky now that my wife is willing to help with the germier tasks that come with pet ownership. She will muck out horse stalls and clean out litterboxes and let me joyfully bleach all the white household laundry in trade. In spite of the difficulties, I strongly recommend that if you have ANY sort of mental or emotional challenges and you haven't tried really bonding with some kind of animal, do it. Even if you only feed a stray cat or put out a birdbath to attract local wildlife, it will help. If you are able to develop a tighter bond with an animal, the effects will be apparently quickly. I take a lot of meds now, but the warm cat laying across part of my laptop right now is stronger than all of them!
I'm sure we'll revisit this many times, but I wanted to get it out there. It's important. If you belong the the Tribe of the Crazies, include some willing critters. You'll be glad for it.
In the Tribe of Crazies
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