So the first time I questioned – I mean seriously questioned – if I wasn’t just ‘clinically depressed’ but actually something else was going on, I suddenly found myself sitting on a park bench about a mile from my house. To this day I have absolutely no recollection of leaving my house, or how I got there. The ‘why’ is an even bigger mystery. Drink? One can of beer about an hour earlier. Drugs? Nope. Not even legal ones.
Looking around in a complete bewilderment, I wouldn’t have even described my state as panicked or anxious. I was just confused. A man with a dog walked past. Then a woman holding a cat. Looking further, there was a cat swinging gently in the breeze, from the top of a tree. Focusing again I saw a man with a briefcase, a woman with a shoulder bag and a plastic bag caught up in the tree. There were no animals. The emptiness and loneliness was crushing. I was afraid to trust my own eyes, my own thoughts and I felt utterly alone. The animals had been some comfort to me, not even companions as they were a way away, but somehow they felt so rooted in nature, in reality, in calm. When they ‘disappeared’ I was no longer at peace.
Months later I recalled the time that I had taken steroids for a medical reason some years ago, and drank some wine whilst having a meal in a restaurant with my ex. I had been absolutely convinced that a ginger cat walked across the restaurant. And that was before my world was turned upside down.
I can’t explain my penchant for seeing animals, but it does seem to happen under stress or the influence of substances, and it brings me peace in the moments before reality beckons.