I want to go home to bed with my kitties.
These are my mantras. Or something.
I repeat these phrases, under my breath if anyone is around who doesn’t know I do this. At least I think it’s under my breath. I have at times walked out of a restroom stall to see people looking at me strangely.
My husband says they are “grounding statements,” though I understand proper grounding statements are usually more like affirmations – “I am safe.” “I can handle this.” “I am a good person.” How I ended up with mine I don’t quite know.
I do know that I mutter or say them when I am anxious. “Kittens” indicates a general level of anxiety, while “jumping” is reserved for increased levels. “I want to go home to bed with my kitties” is an all-encompassing statement of stress or dissatisfaction, and the only one that I can say nearly out loud around people with only mild looks of incomprehension.
A very few people who know me well are used to this phenomenon and even have responses. When I say, “kittens,” my friend Leslie says, “puppies,” and my husband says, “Do you like them?” When I say, “jumping,” he says, “up and down?” and my friend Robbin says, “You must really be nervous.” My husband occasionally joins me in a chorus of “I want to go home to bed with my kitties.” (The extended version is “I want to go home. I want to go to bed. I want my kitties.” The short form is “Home. Bed. Kitties.”)
I know that I use these vocalizations a lot when I have anticipatory anxiety, or after a protracted spell of having to be competent, social, and appropriate. I say them a lot in my car, or after coming home from braving the outside world. In a crowded, noisy space like a restaurant, I say them in a very matter-of-fact manner, as if I’m having a conversation with my husband.
I can accept the idea that they are non-standard grounding statements. What I know they’re not are “clang associations,” despite the fact that these can be associated with bipolar disorder. The psychotic kind. Which I do not have.
(“Clang associations” means “linking words together based on similar sounds rather than coherent meaning” – for example, clang, bang, pang, sang, singe, binge, bandage. See http://www.everydayhealth.com/bipolar-disorder/clang-associations-in-bipolar-disorder.aspx. I never say “jumping, pumping, lumping.”)
The National Mental Health Association says, “People with obsessive-compulsive disorder try to cope with anxiety by repeating words or phrases.” Fair enough. I do have a few OCD-like traits.
But to me the grounding statements explanation makes the most sense. I would argue that for me, home, bed, and kitties are all things that remind me of safety and bring me comfort. How jumping fits in, I’m not sure, except that I have hyperactive nerves and do a fair amount of it. But it certainly isn’t associated with safety or comfort. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Speaking of kitten therapy (which I was, sort of), a recent New York Times story (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/fashion/how-a-kitten-eased-my-partners-depression.html?referrer&_r=0) was a personal account of how a kitten helped ameliorate a man’s depression.
I can testify to the truth of that. Cats or kittens have stayed up with me through bouts of insomnia, snuggled when I needed touch, purred when I needed quiet, demanded attention when I needed engagement, broken up fights when we needed distraction, and yes, even jumped when I needed amusement.
Is it any wonder that they are my touchstones, my co-therapists, my mantras?