De-stressing with Bente (#9)


Learning to relax again: how do you manage to do that? Bente (23) is a freelance journalist and works as an online editor at Flow. Having experienced a near-burn-out, she’s finding her way to a life with less stress. And every Friday, she takes us with her on her journey to get there.

I am a big animal lover. I used to take the neighbor’s dog out for fun, at children’s parties I would always head straight for the rabbit hutch, and on Instagram I now follow more ‘catstagrams’ than profiles of people. Because my mother isn’t a fan of animals, I never got further than having a hamster named Pepsi while growing up. But that changed the other day, when kitten Cornelis took his first steps in my house. I couldn’t have been happier.

That first day’s feeling of joy continued to linger until about seven o’clock in the evening. “I still need to get used to it,” I tell Nick. When I see that he doesn’t have to get used to it at all, I start to doubt myself. Because why do I have to get used to having a cat at home? Owning one is nothing but nice, right?

The unrest in me remains the whole evening and is still there the following day. In fact, I am looking for ways to not be at home with the cat. That night I wake up with a huge panic attack. Shaking, nauseous, hyperventilating. A few hours later I have to take some medication for the first time since summer to calm down. I had not expected this. I feel like a cornered deer.

“What’s wrong with me?” I ask my breath therapist during my next session. “I’m scared this feeling won’t go away until the cat goes, and I don’t want that.” It’s quiet for a moment. Then she says: “Bente, that cat is not going anywhere.”

I look at her in surprise, and she continues. “You are not good at coping with change, and this is a very big change. You have to realize that and you also have to realize that you will have panic attacks every now and then. It has nothing to do with the cat, but with the new situation. Give it time.”
“So this is normal?” I ask cautiously.
“Dead normal.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. Such a small kitten can cause such a big upheaval in me, and that is totally normal. I’m not that crazy. It’s logical that my boyfriend didn’t have to get used to anything, but I did. It’s all part of my recovery. Now I know that I can either run away from things to avoid my panic attacks, or I can accept that change is necessary to grow and that those moments of panic are part of it. I choose the latter, and give my cat a big hug. We’re gonna be okay.

  • Bente’s other blogs can be found here.

Photography ©Josh Couch/Unsplash