Despite common belief, us human beings are not the only species that struggle with their mental health. Symptoms of psychiatric ill health have in fact been identified in animals from several different species within the animal kingdom.
Now this, (symptoms of psychiatric ill health), is actually something that I have witnessed in a non-human animal first hand when, just a few years ago, my cat was diagnosed with stress. After a trip to the vets, he was given medication to help manage his stress, something which sought to solve the self-destructive habits of overgrooming and pulling big clumps of fur out which he had, very bizarrely, formed. Now, with my cat having nothing obvious to be ‘stressed’ about (we hadn’t recently introduced a new pet to the house, nothing had been reorganised, everything was as it had always been), the source of his stress was a mystery. But then again, aren’t most cases of mental health difficulties a mystery? I know that mine certainly are…
You see, I struggle with Depression, despite having nothing ‘obvious’ to feel depressed about. I have no financial difficulties, I have a supportive family, I appreciate how I am in a very fortunate position in my life, but yet, I still struggle. I still feel like there is a ‘void’ inside of me, like I am missing that final puzzle piece that will make me feel whole, that will take away the sadness that I so often feel for no apparent reason.
I realise though that, deep down, I do know why I feel depressed, however admitting my why is a scary thing to do for, it forces me to confront the very thing that absolutely terrifies me, that being my complete lack of understanding of this ‘Place?’, ‘Dimension?’ ‘Dream?’ ‘Life?’ we find ourselves in. It forces me to acknowledge the fact that there are so many questions which I cannot answer and, most probably, will never be able to answer, questions such as, ‘Why am I here?’, ‘Why is the world here?’ ‘Who/what put everything/everyone here?’ ‘For what reason did they/it do that?’
Having so many unanswered questions weighing me down means that, no matter how much I go off in search of my life’s purpose, something which I just can’t let go of, is the fact that, ultimately, we are all just living on a floating rock in the middle of an infinite universe that none of us understand. Now, if this isn’t enough to ‘thrash my head’, then the realisation that our existence is inherently impossible (everything must come from something), yet here we all are- alive– with everything having come from nothing, certainly is.
And so, that void I feel within me? Its really just me sensing the complexity of our existence, an existence that will, perhaps always, remain a complete and utter mystery. Such a void is not just felt by me, I am sure, but by so many other people, and even animals, too. Is it any wonder then that every species can struggle with their mental health when, just like you and me, they too have found themselves placed within a universe that they cannot even begin to understand?