Farewell to a Feline

I got him a mere few months after moving out of home for the first time. I was nineteen or twenty and I lived in what could generously be called a walk-in-wardrobe sized room in a dingy, moldy flat. I lived on cheap mince, noodles, porridge and frozen peas while he ate digestive care food and probiotics, because he had an upset stomach for weeks.

He would sleep next to me on my pillow as a tiny kitten. He was the first cat that was truly All Mine. My responsibility. My love.

I moved next door while painting was going on, and sadly had to put him and my second cat, who I got shortly after him (she was already 2 years old), into a cattery for months. He grew into such a big dude while he was there. I wish I had been there for that development – I feel like I missed out on a lot. I’m also sure this was Asshole’s way of trying to separate me from my cats, because he kept dragging on and on with the painting.

I finally got them back and they lived through years of our house being the Party House. They tolerated a lot, but they were also very well loved.

We finally moved to a larger house, and instead of being shut in the only bathroom during parties, they were kept in my room with the ensuite bathroom, and they could be left alone in peace.

We moved countries, and they came with me. It was an adventure, and they took it all in their stride. Cutie just loved to be around me. He was always asleep on my side of the bed, snuggled into my legs or my back. His purr could be felt through the bed.

He kept me company while I went back to uni, instantly sprawling across any textbook I had open on my desk. He was a superb study buddy.

That awful ex of mine turned into a raging asshole, and Cutie comforted me. He left and Cutie sat on my lap for days. He also got fed up of me sobbing my guts out and smacked me across the face, once. It shocked me out of crying, that’s for sure! There weren’t any claws involved, so I wasn’t scratched.

My best friend moved over for six months, and he occupied her lap while she relaxed and read. He was such a big and glorious cat.

We moved back to my home country. They moved into the back room in Mum’s garage while I looked for a place to live, and then we were moving again, this time into a house with two dogs (one of them was mine). Poor Cutie got outside a couple of times and was chased by the other dog and ripped out a lot of his claws. He was very patient as I soaked his toes in saline every day, before covering them with honey and wrapping them back up. He was still on antibiotics, but one toe wasn’t healing as well as it should have. He took it all like a champ, purring away while he was fed bits of meat while his toes were treated.

We moved cities into a small, warm, dry house where we lived for the next five years. This was where Cutie really came into his own. There was just my dog and my other cat and a flatmate, and Cutie lived to be on my lap. If I was sitting down, he was there. If I wasn’t sitting down, or if I wasn’t sitting suitably, he was hovering around waiting for me to settle. When I had naps, he would lie on my chest and purr.

He once again became my study buddy, sitting on my text books and purring with glee. I would set up a decoy text book and encourage him to sleep on that one. Most of the time he fell for it. He would sleep on my bed with me, curled into my side. I could still feel his purr through the mattress.

He would sit on my lap as I sat and knitted. He would sit on my lap as I gamed. He would sit on my lap as I studied. He was my constant companion while my life slowly unraveled with stress, burnout, and depression.

I took a year off university and became very sick, and still he was on my lap, or my side, or my chest when I was napping. He was always there, purring away. He was there when I went back to uni, and sat with me as I did all my lectures at home. He would sit on my lap as I wrote my notes. He would purr as I studied for exams. He was there when my other cat became horrifically sick, when I got trigeminal neuralgia, when winter sucked all my energy and left me bereft.

COVID happened and we went into lockdown, and he was there, gleefully sitting on me as we were all confined to home. I ruptured the ligaments in my wrist and couldn’t continue with university, and the whole time he was there, on my lap, on my chest, on my side, on whatever part of me was stable enough to dumpling on.

He started a slow and steady decline then. But he was still well enough in and of himself, still cheery, still chatty and shouty and cuddly.

He was there as I came to terms with being disabled. He was there as I fell into fibro flus after exercise. He was there as I spent all my days and nights sleeping, just dumplinged on me and purring.

He started to really go downhill when I went away for my surgery. He wasn’t eating as much. He was really depressed and quiet. Even when I got home he didn’t perk up as much as I thought he would – he became aggressive towards the dogs, grumpy towards Itzy, and just not as happy as he normally was. He quietened down. He spent more time sleeping on the more comfortable pillows instead of on me.

Then I woke up and he didn’t come to greet me as I came out the door. I looked for him. The pillow on my chair that he usually sat on had been knocked to the ground. I searched for him frantically and found him, lying on his side, behind my armchair. He had been straining to defecate for who knows how long. He had liquid faeces down his back legs and tail. It had dripped onto the carpet. I helped move the faecal nugget that he could not expel and he vomited in exhaustion. I knew this was it. I didn’t want it to be.

I settled him back on his pillow and sheepskin and fretted. I finally told my lovely human that this was it. I told Mum. I called the vets. I took him in.

He passed away in my arms as I cried and kissed his head. He had been my constant companion for almost sixteen years. He had been my cuddler, my love, my first pet.

None of my other pets are cuddlers. In fact, no one else in this house is particularly cuddly. I’m touch and purr starved, and I will not do anything to ease this until my other cat has passed. She’s a very old lady now, and she deserves peace and quiet in her final months.

I am bereft. It’s been a week and it doesn’t get any easier. It hurts so damn much to know that I must now live the rest of my life without him. The rest of my life is a terribly long time.

Farewell to 2021

I won’t look back on 2021 with fondness, and I won’t sugarcoat it by highlighting the few silver linings. I will mention them, but I will not say “they make the bad things worth it” because, to be honest, they don’t.

2021 sucked. It was hard, it was painful, it was stressful and expensive. I was diagnosed with postural hypotension, and discovered that I would convulse if the almost-fainting episode was severe enough (I suspect this is convulsive syncope, but there’s no real way to diagnose it, unless I have an observed episode). I was dismissed by doctors for both that and my munted wrist.

My narcissistic ex-husband finally sorted out paying me (and my mother) for his debt / things he borrowed, and while that was great, the nightmares I experienced during this were something else. At least now I can file for divorce.

I gained and spent a small fortune. I’m still kicking myself for spending that much. I have so many regrets about that it physically pains me to think about it. I still don’t know how.

Because of my ruptured triangular fibrocartilage complex, I was unable to attend university last year. I was also unable to work. Unable to knit, crochet, write. I became very depressed, which resulted in me becoming one with the couch for the majority of the year. I gained another 8kg.

I had surgery for my ruptured triangular fibrocartilage complex at the start of November. They found a lot more damage than they expected. They repaired a ligament connecting the medial and proximal carpal bones in my right wrist, admired the joint capsule I had busted up, and took a redundant ligament from my inner wrist to become my new ECU sheath. Since late December I have been permitted to begin moving my wrist, though it remains sore and stiff. The scar tissue adheres to the underlying tissue so quickly, I must keep massaging the extensive scarring to break down those bonds.

There were bright spots in 2021. I got away to the beach for a bit with the dogs. I have increased my energy levels considerably. I’ve worked hard to gain more fitness and strength. I have made it to the end of 2021 with the same number of animals as I went in.

I will work hard to make sure 2022 is a better year than the last one.

Taking A Break From Reality

2020 has been a shitter of a year, and I don’t think anyone has come out of it unscathed. I know I certainly haven’t.

Earlier in the year I damaged my wrist to such an extent that I need surgery to fix it. Unfortunately for me, the first surgeon I went to is faffing about and, as far as I know, still hasn’t even seen the MRI I provided him with. So I’m off to see a second surgeon in the new year, hopefully with a view to getting this thing fixed some time in the next 6 odd months. The result of this is that I haven’t been able to use my dominant wrist – and therefore dominant hand and arm – properly since the start of June. I can’t type much, I can’t hand write, I can’t hold things heavier than my cellphone … in fact, I can’t even hold my cellphone when my wrist is turned at certain angles. I can’t even chop vegetables!

What this means is I basically have a dud dominant hand, and in my line of study, you can’t have a dud dominant hand. And since the surgeon has been faffing about humming and hawing over whether or not to do the surgery (for the record, it does need surgery to reconstruct the ruptured ligaments and tendon sheaths), I’m not able to continue my course of study. At least not until my wrist is fixed.

So I’m taking the year off. And I may not work at all.

I cannot recall a time where I have not had something looming over me, whether that be university obligations or work obligations. There has always been something on the near horizon, or something I should be doing instead of relaxing. It’s a hazard of life, unfortunately. We are only valuable when we are productive, and for many, work is a matter of survival. I’m in the entirely privileged situation where I can afford to not work for a year, to not earn for a year. I mean I’d love to keep that money for other things (like vet bills, or, if I’m really lucky, maybe even part of a house deposit), but I will survive if I don’t.

So I’m going to. I’m going to take this year off, and I’m going to enjoy myself without the need to find a job and work. I’ll keep my eyes and ears out for a part time one that I might enjoy, because it would be nice to work for pleasure instead of need, but it’s not going to be my goal. No, my goal this year is to relax and unwind, sort my life and my health out, and maybe even reconnect with that creative part of me that loves to write.

But most of all, I am going to appreciate this opportunity to do nothing. I’m going to enjoy getting bored. I’m going to relish the feeling of having no obligations to work or to university. I’m going to live.

I’m Not Okay

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

I’m not okay today.

I did too much. Way too much, and now I’m paying for it with full body aches.

When I’m this fatigued – and it is a bone deep dragging fatigue that pulls every bit of energy from your muscles and leaves you in agony – my good mood inevitably slides away to a numbness I associate with my depression.

I will shortly haul myself off the couch and put on my fluffy cosy socks. Then I’ll turn the heatpump on and cuddle up on the couch and read terrible fanfiction until the claws of fatigue retract from my muscles. It is important to coddle yourself on bad days.

I’m not okay, but I know that I will be.

My Head Is Not A Safe Place Right Now – And That’s Okay

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I went on holiday last week to the most beautiful place on earth, the one place that has stayed with me throughout my life.  The one place that I truly feel at peace.

I had this grand idea that I would spend my days relaxing, spinning, and otherwise existing in a zen-like state.  In my head I was going to become one with myself and reach … while not quite a higher state of being, certainly a more peaceful state of being.

It, um, did not go well.

The first two days I was just so relieved to exist in my little slice of heaven that it filled me with a false sense of security and achievement, because I was almost zen-like.  I was decompressing, and I was able to spend a good 30-40 minutes just staring at the ocean in a state of quiet.  I think it was more that I was shell-shocked at the sudden change in stresses that my brain just blanked out on me, leading me to a false quiet.

Then my brain came back, and with it my anxiety, and oh boy it was not a nice place to be!  I hadn’t brought any reading material with me, so I vainly scrambled for some fanfiction escapism, but even that fell flat.  I had a burning need to be doing anything but what I am currently doing in my chest, and my brain bounced around the walls of the cabin maniacally.

But I continued to push for that zen aesthetic, that peaceful state of being.  I was firm in this belief that this is the state I should be in, it was the correct state, and I was wrong for not being able to achieve it.  It took me two days of struggling to correct my thinking.  My head is not a safe place to be in alone, and that’s okay.  With that admission, with the acceptance of this fact, I was able to relax once more and implement my distraction regime.

Distraction helps.  Depending on how bad my brain is depends on what kind of distraction I use – I have ‘high value’ distractions and ‘low value’ distractions.  I chose to hit it with all I’ve got.  I’m on holiday, after all, I want to be enjoying myself!

So I cracked out my gaming laptop and put on Two Point Hospital (the spiritual successor of Theme Hospital, my favourite game ever) and listened to podcasts.  With their powers combined I was not left alone in my head and all the bad thoughts ricocheting around quietened down.

Sure, I felt guilty about spending my time inside playing computer games instead of sitting peacefully and admiring the beautiful view, but I realised that my mental health needs were more important than my belief that I must make the most of my location.

I’ve just realised, as I’ve been typing this out, that I have a big Fear Of Missing Out.  It has been drilled into me that I must make the most of every opportunity I have been given.  If I am in a new place, I must always be out exploring it.  If I am in a beautiful place, I must always be out admiring it.  If I am invited out to dinner with friends (which never happens because all of my friends are students, so we’re either too broke or too busy), I feel like I must go to not miss out.

It’s all a lie.  Because while I may be constantly out exploring a new place, I am also missing out on wellbeing and ensuring my physical needs are balanced.  While I may be constantly admiring a beautiful place, I am also missing out on ensuring my mental health needs are met.  While I may be going out to dinner with friends, I am missing out on storing energy to deal with things the next day.

So I guess what I’m saying is – it’s okay to not be okay.  Do what you need to do, regardless of where you are.  If you can’t do the zen thing, don’t force it!  Work with what you have, rather than what you think you should have.

And anyone who says otherwise is wrong.