Stepping Out Of Fear

Meet Lily.

lily1

 

We adopted Lily in 2010 along with her sister, Daisy. Lily and Daisy were part of a larger litter owned by a former student of mine, and when her family was moving out of state, the kittens needed homes as quickly as possible.

From the beginning, Lily was skittish. When we picked her up from my student’s house, she ran, hid, and shook. She didn’t like to be held.

For over a year, she didn’t like to be held.

Lily was never the alpha. If she was resting on the back of the couch, and Daisy jumped up next to her, Lily would leave. She hid from Tika, our older cat. Kids were lucky if they got to be in the same room with her.

For most of her days, she lived in fear.

Then, a couple of things happened. Tika passed away in November of 2014, and Daisy unexpectedly passed away the following September. Lily was suddenly an only cat.

And she loved it.

She visited with us in the evenings, and she even snuggled on our laps. Being the only pet worked for her. Life was good.

Until December, when we got the kitten.

Meeker laptop

Wasn’t he cute??

The thinking was Lily would be the alpha by default. She was older, bigger, and would assert herself against this 2-pound marshmallow.

She asserted herself, all right.

Lily hated the kitten. Hated him. When he wanted to see what Lily was about, Lily swatted at him. She scratched his nose and took a bit out of the top of his ear, a souvenir he’ll have for the rest of his life. We worried she would seriously injure him, so we made the difficult decision to have Lily declawed. That solved the scratching problem, but in Lily’s mind, she had no way to assert herself now.

So she started hiding behind the fridge.

If the kitten was around, Lily wasn’t. She spent probably twenty-three hours a day back there. Not a great life.

Deciding she’d be happier as an only pet for someone, we tried to re-home her, but when we had no takers we decided to keep her. Older cats don’t typically do well when surrendered by their owners. So we kept an eye on her, making sure she ate and drank as her fear kept her prisoner behind the fridge.

I figured that was how she’d live the rest of her days. She’s only seven years old, so she has half of her life to go, and it made me sad to think this was how it would be.

Fortunately, something changed.

She came out from behind the fridge. Tentatively at first, and only if the kitten was surely not around. Then she started creeping out when he was around, keeping an eye on him and rushing back behind the fridge if he noticed her.

Eventually, the two could occupy the same room.

A few nights ago, I found her playing – chasing a toy around the living room. The kitten wasn’t around, and she was carefree in a way I’d thought she’d never be again.

Now, she spends only brief periods behind the fridge, as if she’s realized she didn’t really have anything to be afraid of. She sits next to me while I work and lets us pet her while we watch TV.

lily-and-me

She jumped on my lap as I was writing this post.

 

I told you that story because I recently came out from behind the fridge too, so to speak.

It’s something I’ve debated talking about in a public space, but the issue is so common I figure there are others who may benefit from my story.

I’ve battled seasonal depression for years. In the past, I’ve used “band-aid” type remedies. They sort of helped for a little while. This year, the beast started to rear its ugly head earlier than normal, and knowing what was coming, I decided to take more significant steps in dealing with it.

I won’t say specifically how, because treating depression is different for everyone and I don’t want anyone to think what works for me is a sure-fire successful prescription. I will say that taking the steps I did was difficult, because there is a stigma around treating depression. It’s hard to admit when you’re not in control of your own mind and emotions, especially when there are people out there with “real” problems. When I was told I’ve likely had mild depression since puberty, and it dips even lower in the fall and early winter, I was afraid to learn who I really am and who I will be when the fog lifts.

Well, the fog has started to lift – I’m told it will continue to do so – and like Lily coming out from behind the fridge, I wonder why I was afraid. For the first time, I’m approaching October without creativity coming to a grinding halt. I wake up lighter and hopeful that good things are in store for the day. I don’t go through whole days where I want to quit everything and cry. I’m looking forward to not hating Christmas this year.

And I realized it’s not the first time I’ve come out from behind the fridge.

I came out when I let someone read something I wrote for the first time.

I came out when I allowed those first critique partners to pick apart my work.

I came out when I decided to self-publish the first time.

Fear – that we’re not good enough, or that no one will support us, or that we’ll be harshly judged – keeps us in hiding. Sometimes we run back behind the fridge and have to come out again. That’s okay. I’ve done it too. As long as we come out one more time than we run back, we haven’t let fear keep us trapped.

Do you have a story about coming out from behind the fridge? Feel free to share in the comments. I think telling our stories gives the fear a lot less power.

26 thoughts on “Stepping Out Of Fear

  1. Pingback: Fighting Winter Blues | J. A. Allen

  2. I have a kitty like yours, Allison. She takes 5 days to adapt whenever anything changes. Until then, she hides downstairs. When someone visits, for example. On the fifth day, like clockwork, she comes up and acts as if nothing has happened. We all need the time we need to adapt and grow our courage. So glad to hear this year is a better one for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Allison, I love your vulnerability and honesty in this space. You are brave, you are bold, you always have been (mostly when you didn’t know it)! I have always admired you and will continue to do so. This post brings hope! I am so glad you have sought out “more helpful” ways of dealing with this struggle and have found freedom!! YAY! While depression frequently knocks on my door, anxiety seems to be the dweller in my soul. I do not have a story of victory yet, but if or when I do, I hope I am as couregeous as you and use it to inspire.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. I admire your courage. Everyone one of us is flawed. But most go through life not admitting they might be anything less than perfect. I suspect your writing is part of your therapy. I know it is for me. When I’m trying to show a character overcoming something, I often reflect on how I’d handle the situation. Often the things holding down are not easily shrugged off. So digging deep within myself to express what I might feel helps me learn a little more about myself.

    I’m also glade Lily has come out from behind the fridge.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Wow, so very brave of you to do this, but it’s a truly positive move :). Your kitties are beautiful too – secret I like cats more than meerkats lol.
    I’ve spent my whole life behind my fridge. It’s always been easier to keep my personal problems private. Perhaps having a lot of bullying, unsupportive family and well let’s just say my childhood and teens were pretty crap, and this resulting in depression from an early age it became a bad thing to discuss it publicly. However December last year, for the first time in my life I took the plunge and posted my ‘story’ on my about page. I told people how I suffer from depression anxiety and ocd which has sometimes been crippling. I thought posting this would result in having problems and I’d face online abuse but in truth the people I’ve met have been so supportive it’s so amazing. WordPress is certainly a better platform than the likes of Facebook for example in telling about ourselves but I’m amazed even now how wonderful people are. Rather than destroy me, posting my story has given me more support than I ever thought possible. OK I’ve met a couple of people who were unpleasant to deal with and left me unsure for a while but I had a new support network here on wp which helped me bounce back. I personally feel I’ve come a long way in less than a year. I’ve even posted a blog post about how so much support has made me start writing again. We don’t have to share our stories but I do believe it brings strength and helps others. And it also helps you to bond with people who you may not have otherwise done so. Some people who just visited my blog are now close friends due to our shared troubles.
    So I do think it’s a good thing you posted this and as scary it can be, it was a brave and wonderful thing to do 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, thank you so much for this comment. I confess to being apprehensive about sharing – I actually ran it by a few friends beforehand to make sure it was a good idea. They were very supportive and encouraged me to publish the post.
      I’m so glad you’ve found support through blogging. That alone makes blogging worth the effort. 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

      • I should learn to condense my writing into smaller pieces, lol. I’ve never been good with short stories, always write too much! Thank you for reading it, I typed that up last night and then was feeling panicky about how it would be received. I made the move to go public with my story but I still worry how people will see me afterwards. Yes blogging is something amazing and worth doing :).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s a great story and so hopeful for both you and Lily! Ah, the frig. I’m a retreater so I can definitely identify with that. I don’t have a single story because I think I will always have that desire to flee, but that also means I’m pushing myself to be vulnerable among life’s kittens. The good thing is that we don’t have to live there.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I think this is a brave move. I’m inclined to think I wouldn’t have posted this if i were suffering from depression, but I can’t say for sure. I tend to not air that kind of stuff in public but I certainly have when the stakes were high, so who knows. Strange, huh? People consider me pretty bold. To think I wouldn’t be brave enough to do what you just did. So who’s braver, you know?

    I’m kinda glad I’ve been around to see you take a few of these steps.

    Once again you serve as an inspiration, Allison. I’m proud to call you my friend and if you ever wonder what impact you are having on the world, this is another positive example.

    Liked by 3 people

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