Caring For My Cats Comforted Me Through Anxiety

By Rishah Zainal

Programme Executive at Club HEAL


Rishah and cats.jpeg


Challenges in Mental Health

Mental health was not much of a problem initially as I thought I was just a painfully overly shy person when I was younger. However, growing up I was somewhat suppressing fears and always feeling at the edge, feeling anxious most of the time. I have come to accept that this is a part of me. Part of me is my mental health challenges. Moving on and accepting that it is an actual condition, a disorder, crippling me every now and then, even if I am not in a social situation. Self-acceptance took a while. I still do question why it is so hard to enjoy things that people seem to be enjoying doing. I wonder most of the time if people feel the same way I do. I need to remind myself that I am not a weak person if I have flashbacks that will affect me after that.

Cats are a Cure
I never dared to touch a cat until I was hit with my first episode. In fact, I ran for my life when a kitten chased after me during my secondary school days. My brother has a cat. It had always been a barrier for me to go over to visit his place. But, it just happened that during my first episode, he had to put up at my parent’s place and I got to see the special bond between a pet cat and its owner. It was incredible and very pure; it was genuine, with no judgement.

Despite never touching a cat before, I still took in a cat anyways. Mimi, my first cat, was so very much like me then. I kept her in my room due to her very timid nature. Well, we both were at that time. But, I was accepting that she is my responsibility. She needed to feel safe enough to trust me as her caregiver. My focus was on her, only, then. I had to be kind to her. Looking back at the process of gaining her trust and slowing down time with Mimi, that very moment was actually the moment that I was learning to be kinder to myself too. Allowing myself to love in that trying episode was tremendously impactful … Now I’m a proud Paw-my of 3 cats!

A Message to Mimi, Mei Mei and Joyah
Thank you for accepting me at my lowest point (though I think they did not have much say in this). I love you all dearly for being genuine and amusing. Thanks for teaching me patience.

Courageous Peers in Club HEAL
I work as an Assistant Program Coordinator. Besides my day to day work given by my supervisor, my work is really about the people that come in to our day rehabilitation centre. I am not about fixing people. Every individual that comes in, he is not just another Tom, Dick or Harry. Those individuals who walk in – they are with whom I connect with. They are very much commendable for their courage.

Together, we rediscovering the strengths that they have long forgotten. I let it be known to them that they are supported, that I am one of them who is walking this confusing, lonely and relatable journey with them and that they are not alone.


My Hope
I hope I will be able to come out of my comfort zone and be kinder to myself at the same time. By doing that, I can reach out to others so they will not feel like they are in this alone.


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