After many years battling depression, Mike Robinson shares his story of how rescue cat Pixie has helped him to embrace life, and his fight to help others suffering with mental illness.
Mike knew he was — in his own words — ‘different’, from the age of 14. By 24, he was suffering from depression, anxiety, and bulimia, as well as having ADHD.
“I have been living with mental illness since my teens,” says Mike. “When I am at my worst, I can’t get out of bed, I can’t eat, and I can have suicidal thoughts.
“The thing about having cats is you can’t lie in bed all day. They want fuss and they want feeding. They give me a purpose.”
Mike lives with his wife, Georgie, and their four cats: Harley, Arlo, Kovu, and Pixie.
“I love all my cats,” says Mike. “Harley is very good at looking after me at home, often rolling onto her back and letting me tickle her tummy. However, Pixie has become my emotional support cat, and looks after me outside of the house; she loves an adventure and makes me feel brave.
“Pixie came to us from a cat rescue. Georgie worked at a rescue cat organisation and told me about Pixie. The poor little thing was found in a garage.”
Mike continues: “Georgie knew we should give Pixie a home and I trusted her instincts. I bonded with Pixie by getting down to her level and letting her rub my cheek with hers. We had a connection straight away, and she settled right into our home; we were meant to have her. She fills my heart with joy.
“The thing about Pixie is that she wants to be on you; she climbed up me, and sat on my shoulder, and that’s where she likes to be.”
Mike and Georgie decided to harness-train Pixie when she started showing an interest in being outdoors. “Whenever we went out, she would try to come with us,” explains Mike. “We decided to try her on a harness and it was a complete success.”
Pixie now joins Mike on his outings, giving him the confidence to travel and meet people.
Mike says: “With Pixie by my side, I can be completely and authentically myself. She is my best friend. Before Pixie, I would avoid leaving the house. I would get flustered and confused, and would never attempt going out alone. Now, when I am feeling bad, I think about Pixie and how much she enjoys a walk. Thanks to her, I have seen and done so much. When I am out with her, I feel safe. She looks after me and keeps me focused. She has shown me it is okay to go out and live. She has given me a ticket to life.”
As well as giving Mike the confidence to leave the house, Pixie has helped create a platform to help others.
Mike explains: “When we are out and about, people stop and talk to us. I am a tattooed, bearded man, walking a wee cat, who has her own special backpack. People are fascinated by us and have questions.
“I get talking to people and realise we all have our battles; there are so many of us suffering, feeling like — for whatever reason — we can’t talk. Mental illness is still such a taboo. I am hoping I can help break the silence.”
Pixie takes meeting new people in her stride, and, like any cat, makes sure it is on her terms.
‘IT’S OKAY TO BE YOU’
“Most of the time Pixie is great with the attention she gets,” explains Mike. “She is very calm and relaxed, but has to be in the right mood for a tummy tickle. She thinks it is her job to protect me and can get protective; however, she doesn’t mind a tickle on the head.
“She has her own little backpack that she can climb into when she has had enough, it is her safe space.
Looking towards the future, Mike says: “I am turning 30 next year and I have certainly had a lot of low points in my life. I have no doubt I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Pixie.
“When out and about, it is so easy to think about stepping out in front of a car, but because I have Pixie with me, I would never do it. That said, thanks to Pixie, I have also experienced a lot of highs. I am determined to turn all I have been through, and continue to go through, into something positive. I have learned that it is okay to be different, it is okay to be you, and it’s okay to not be okay.
“A dream of mine would be to own a rescue cat sanctuary that is also a campsite, a sort of well-being retreat, with cats. I want to nip mental illness in the bud and give people an outlet, so they know they matter and their feelings are valid.”
With this in mind, this Christmas Mike and Georgie (and Pixie) will be heading to their local pub on Christmas Day and invite anyone feeling lonely to join them.
Mike says: “I remember wishing Christmas didn’t exist. It can be a tough time of year for many people. We will be letting people know via our social media pages where we will be at what time and ask that anyone who wants to join us for a drink, chat, or simply company, to please come and meet us.”
Follow Mike and Pixie’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram: Pixietheadventurepuss.