LIFESTYLE
31/05/2018 13:57 BST

Student With Severe Mental Illness Credits Kitten For Helping Her 'See A Future'

'My life before was planning when I was going to end it or hurt myself, it was never about planning for the future.'

A Cheshire student has told of how her cat helped her see a future again, after years battling self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Emily spent eight years being admitted and discharged from various hospitals - including a three-year stay in a specialist mental health unit - and was told by one doctor she’d never be able to live independently. 

But now the 25-year-old lives alone with her 10-month-old cat Arthur, and credits him for helping her do so: “He’s kept me going through everything.”

Since sharing their story of companionship, Arthur has since been shortlisted as one of three finalists in the National Cat Awards’ ‘Most Caring Cat’ category. The awards ceremony, run by charity Cats Protection, will take place in London later this summer.

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Emily and her cat Arthur.

Emily’s mental health struggles began at the age of 13 and saw her admitted to hospital numerous times up until the age of 21. She was then transferred to a specialist hospital where she stayed for three years. “I was so unwell and in and out of hospital [that] they didn’t know how I could ever possibly live a functioning life on my own,” she says. 

In August 2017 she moved into her own flat and one month later she got her kitten Arthur, who was just eight weeks old at the time. Since then he’s provided her with endless amounts of company and love. “He’s so loving and caring, and a little nightmare at the same time,” Emily laughs. “I found him this morning hanging off my curtain rail hook, so that got me out of bed at 6am.”

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Arthur the cat.

Emily says loneliness was one of the factors that made her mental health worse, but since having Arthur she hasn’t felt like that at all. Whether he’s running to the door to greet her, lying on her shoulder while she watches TV or grooming her hair in the morning when she wakes up; he’s always by her side.

The 25-year-old says Arthur also reminds her to take care of herself. “I have bad days and sometimes I feel like not getting up in the morning, but I have to because he makes me,” she explains. “When I feed him his breakfast, I get mine too. When I get him his tea, I get my tea too.”

But perhaps most importantly, Arthur has taught Emily to see that mental illness isn’t an awful thing. “I feel very strong emotions like sadness, loneliness and anger,” Emily explains. “But he’s taught me that I feel more strongly, and it’s not a bad thing. He’s taught me that I’m capable of loving someone so much. It’s made me think about my illness in a more positive way.”

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Emily and Arthur

The 25-year-old says her life is “a thousand times better” than it was two years ago. She’s currently studying at college and has managed to see the year through (“I’ve never been able to do that before because my illness got in the way”), she’s also taken up gymnastics again.

“It’s nice, I notice the world a lot more - I never used to do that,” she adds. “My life before was planning when I was going to end it or hurt myself, it was never about planning my future. But now I plan for mine and Arthur’s future.”

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@themix.org.uk

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