Why I Took a Break
This is my first post in nearly two weeks. And while I have taken small breaks in the past due to work and life commitments, this particular break was more about mental and emotional self-care. Last week one of my cats died. It was sudden. My mother took him to the vet with what we thought was a cold. We were hoping he would maybe get some antibiotics and would be fine in a couple of days. Instead, what I got was a phone call from my mother with her putting the Dr on the phone telling me that he had a fatal form of lymphoma and fluid throughout his entire body. My options were either - take him immediately to a veterinary hospital where they would hook him up to machines - and he probably still wouldn’t survive. Or euthanasia. All I could think was, “what kind of shitty choices are those?” I couldn’t imagine putting his little body through the rigors of laying in a vet hospital. How lonely and traumatizing and awful way to live for the short time you have left. My mother told me to go with what my heart and my gut were telling me and so I left work early that day to put my cat to sleep.
I have - had - two cats. They were biological brothers. I adopted them both but, Finn is my mother’s cat. He bonded to her right away and though I am officially “the mama” we always refer to her as his “woman”. If he had to pick between the two of us, she would win every time. And I have always been okay with that. But Declan? Declan was my cat. It was love at first sight for both of us when I met him and his brother at the shelter when they were just 8 months old. And it’s been a love affair ever since. Can an animal be your soul mate? Because Declan was definitely mine. If I was at home you could find him hanging off of me in some way. My arms, my shoulders… or laying in bed cuddled up together. My nickname for him was “cuddle bear”. He loved people (he was not one bit afraid of strangers - he would walk right up to anyone who came into our house). He loved affection. And randomly - he loved dogs. Seriously. One of his favorite things was watching dogs on Animal Planet. Especially if the video was in slo-mo. He loves kisses on his nose. He loved his chin to be scratched and if I called him he came running. My Mom and I joked that he was “human-like”. Our personalities mirrored each other's: we both liked being alone- we didn’t need anyone else’s company to be entertained (Declan could play for literally hours by himself - even at 8 years old he never lost his love of physical play and activity. He was my eternal kitten. He even still looked like one). We both were loving but didn’t take shit from anyone. When Declan was done with you he would let you know with a loud warning hiss. Health problems of various kinds plagued him his entire life. At aged 4 he wound up needing major surgery and was in the hospital for 2 weeks. Post surgery he battled constant UTI’s. In June of this year he developed eye ulcers which caused him to have to wear a cone for most of this summer. But he always bounced back. He always had such an indomitable spirit. Nothing stopped him. Nothing got in his way. Which is why when he stopped eating and began having breathing problems I knew in my gut that something was wrong. Despite assurance from the internet and from a vet that I had spoken to over the phone about his symptoms (his regular vet was on vacation out of the country). I just knew. So while the phone call I received was devastating - I wasn’t surprised. I had been praying that I was wrong.
This past week and a half has been surreal. And very painful. I have lost pets before but this one has hit me in a way that I can’t quite explain. My other cat who passed away was old and been sick - we knew his time was short and when he died it was a relief that he was no longer in pain. This was something altogether different for me. Declan was still relatively young at 8 years old. The week prior he had been perfectly fine. But now looking back I realize that that probably wasn’t the case. That he had been sick for awhile with no visible symptoms. He’d had multiple vet visits for his eyes and no one caught that he was sick. Does that make me angry? It did at first. I had a lot of anger about the entire situation. The fact that he had spent the last months of his life in a cone taking copious amounts of medicine for his eyes that didn’t seem to be doing anything. Ironically - we stopped his medicine a few days before he passed away - and his eyes started getting better. I was angry that he spent the entire summer basically confined to specific areas of the house so that he wouldn’t injure himself. I was angry that his entire life had been one medical issue after another. And I was angry that I didn’t have my at anymore.
As someone who struggles with depression, having cats has been a mental and emotional balm for me. No matter how low I got having my cats around always helped me. Declan specifically was a major part of that. When I felt I had nothing to look forward to I still got excited about going home to that little dude. I would throw on my jammies and he would stand at the edge of the bed waiting for me and I would climb into bed - exhausted from simply having to exist - and he would climb on my lap and stay there for hours with me. It didn’t cure my depression. But it helped. I knew he loved me as much as I loved him.
After his death, I decided to take a small break from pretty much everything. I didn’t want to slide into a depressive state, but I also didn’t want to pretend that everything was okay. I wanted time to process it and feel what I was feeling…and then fold it up and tuck it away. Because life goes on. It has to.