the black dog of depression, near death experiences and other daily occurences

Today I want to tell you a little story about a young bird and a street smart cat. I am also going to give you a link to show you how the life lesson these two animals learnt apply to me. So stay with me it will make sense in the end 🙂

Once upon a time there were two former street cats who got adopted into the house I lived in. We lived next to a very busy street and the owner of the cats feared for their lives if they let them out. It was also in the adoption contract that they were to be indoor kitties. However the boy became increasingly mischievous and eventually downright aggressive. Biting and scratching my shoulder bloody and when I let him know this was unacceptable behaviour he eventually turned to a weaker recipient of his desperation: his sister. Up to this point she just behaved became increasingly neurotic and depressed by the lack of sensory stimulation. They both wanted out. Badly. Eventually another couple living in the house and I convinced the owner that we could walk the cats on a leash.

The boy never set foot on the street, he was scared shitless. For all his former bravado h was so scared. It was very sad and a bit cute. He was happy in our garden directly surrounding the house. I often walked the girl and with loads of encouragement we tackled the calmer streets behind the house and the garden. We made huge progress over the years. So one fine day in summer we are having a little birdie growing up in our garden. Just old enough to start learning to fly and a member of one of the bigger species. The cats often walked past the nest on the ground without seeing it and we two leggers always grinned and joked about it. So one day my girl has enough of conquering the world and we go inside, I put away the leash and go out to keep my flatmate company with the boy still out. Same as usual.

No of course not, else I wouldn’t blog about it. As I reenter the garden there was our little boy, chest puffed up with pride and a slightly clueless look on his face and in his mouth the little birdie. We all freaked out a little. The cat eventually placed the birdie on the ground and pawed it periodically. I think he only scavenged during his days on the streets and did not have much hunting experience. Normally both cats were extremely clumsy and we never expected either to catch anything but a paraplegic grasshopper. (Snails apparently feel so icky they never tried them 😛 ) So our boy was excited and yet somewhat lost. Like you light a fire the first time ever and then realise it’s hot. The realisation that this offers warmth and helps cooking meals not in place yet. So there he was with his first lit fire… bird-sized prey.

So there is the poor little birdie, a few months old and presumably seeing all it’s short life running through it’s little head. Eventually we saw that our cat did not do much damage just two bite marks from his canines which did not seem deep or in crucial places. So we put the poor cat inside, much to his dismay as you may imagine. I like to think he is happy he at least caught something big even if he could not go for the kill. And the bird… does not move. It sits in the middle of the lawn, eyes blinking but other than that still. So very still. Like a sculpture of a bird much less inclined to learn to fly and more into pondering the big philosophical questions of the world (hen and egg problem maybe). The bird was just waiting to be killed. Completely frozen in shock, to much fear to handle, circuits frayed, wires burned, game over.

We all knew we could not leave the bird like that. It carried a big fat neon coloured blinking rotating “free meal here” sign above it’s head. And there are free roaming cats and other predators in the neighbourhood. My flatmates went indoors for a therapy session with the cats. So I sat there and pondered what to do. I tried to lift the birdie up but it flapped its little wings, wriggled out of my hands (very easy since I had a very loose grip. I did not want to hurt the bird further.) and resumed its frozen stance on the ground again. In hindsight I should have sat and waited, no contact with that little creature just patience. However my idea was to shock it out of its shock and eventually I managed to manoeuvre it in the nearby bushes. I’m sure it learnt a big lesson about cats big dangerous and humans being strange that day and I hope it is alright.

So how do we connect depression and emotional abuse to little birds growing up and former strays not getting their meal? Well it’s about common reaction to trauma. So common that there are striking similarities between little birdies and not so little humans. I think we can agree that almost being killed has been rather traumatic to the bird. He was displaying the freeze response described in this link. The very same freeze response I am caught up in due to different experiences. In fact I think the only traumatic response I am completely and deeply devoid of is fight.

The bird and Pete Walker now have me rethinking my life a little. I always felt rather dead. I wrote short stories about being born sometime in the future. While other people spent their time learning to ride a bike, calculate percentages and dealing with friends and later lovers I was emotionally as frozen as this little bird. I still am as frozen. I do not know whether or not to keep people in my life much as described as I never know if a relationship is toxic or if my demands are too high. I tend to flee, I like to be invisible.

I spent all my life in a state that is engineered by nature to be a shock response under severe stress. Just waiting to be killed. What a relief it would have been. I do not know if one can explain this state of intense non existence to someone who has not experienced it. In such a state thinking of being killed as relief isn’t about hating oneself. It’s about the very nature of how the freeze response works. Inherently unbearable. To think that my own parents were the cause of the event driving and keeping me there is … not graspable atm for me. Still I managed to get a university degree and “live” independently. I am now aware of my freeze response which is apparently unusual and working in my favour. Now I need to learn how to unfreeze (thaw??) somehow and then learn all the things one can not learn in such a state. Maybe I should find the little bird and interview it on how this is done.

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