A Tribute to Tails

Seven years ago, we got a tiny kitten that Cameron named Tails.

Matthew and I had decided that it was time for a pet, mainly to help Julian build relationships.

It worked. From the day we brought him home until he was unfortunately euthanized, Tails and Julian were best friends.

Not liking the new guy (Tiger)

The Big Floof

Tails loved chicken, no matter how it showed up. He once ate a tender and took my fork with it. If it was chicken night, he sat in a chair ready to eat.

Like most cats, Tails hated belly rubs and you could only pet him so much before he started scratching. He was infamous for his sneak attacks.

When Miss Purr showed up, he wasn’t initially a fan, but they ended up getting along well. This did not happen with Tiger. He really didn’t like Tiger, especially after the one time he barked at him.

We loved Tails, even if he was a little on the mean side and snatched our chicken. He also loved treats. Any kind. It didn’t matter as long as Matthew gave him his treats every night.

A Very Bad Morning

It took me almost two weeks to write this post because I was so crushed.

Everyone woke up on the Saturday after my wisdom tooth removal and the cats came upstairs as usual, but one major thing was wrong.

Tails was dragging himself up the stairs.

I immediately yelled for Matthew and we got him into a carrier. I took him to the vet, while he howled the whole way.

I thought maybe it was a jump gone bad and he’d broken something. A little while later, the vet called me while I sat in my car (thank you, coronavirus). As it turns out, Tails had a blood clot on his hear that we weren’t aware of. Unfortunately, part of the blood clot broke off, cutting off circulation to his back legs. His legs were cold when the vet examined him.

It’s called saddle thrombosis and it is almost always fatal for cats. The only options were to let him stay in the hospital, where he would likely die, or euthanize him.

I called Matthew and we decided that Tails wasn’t going to suffer more than he was and that euthanasia was the best but hardest option.

A paw print

I sat with Tails for a few minutes before the vet started. I sobbed while holding him and saying goodbye. I would miss the fluffy guy. After he died, I sat alone in the “comfort room” shocked and sad. I drove home with the carrier next to me, but no cat inside.

When I got home, I saw the boys on the couch.

“I am so sorry.” That’s all I could say. The house was quiet that day and everyone took a nap. None of us felt like doing anything. The following day was a quiet one. I went to get Tails’ ashes a few days later and burying him was hard. I let Julian take over that because he was Tails’ human. He is near Tiger.

Losing a pet is difficult, especially one that’s been in the family for years. I’ve made dinner with chicken since and it’s sad to hear the can opener without Tails running from wherever hoping I will throw him a piece of chicken. We are looking for a new friend for Miss Purr. She misses Tails a lot, she’s never been here without him.

Everyone misses Tails, even my mom. She’s not a fan of cats but said she missed him being at the door when she came over a couple of days ago. Hopefully our next cat is as funny and hungry as Tails was.

Go eat all the chicken and hang out with Tiger. You were a very good kitty, Tails.

The Shattering and Rebuilding of My Life

Everyone has a day that defines their life- marriage, the birth of children, and even the death of someone close to them.One of those days for me was September 1, 2015. There was a moment in which I felt everything in my life shatter and at that time, nothing could fix it.If you’ve read my blog from the beginning, you’ll be able to understand how much Jake meant to me.

If not, here’s some older posts:Love Through Bipolar

The Day AfterNobody close to him, including myself, saw his death coming. I’m not sure that Jake saw his death coming. I just know that the aftermath has changed me forever. I barely made it through the visitation and funeral. I just wanted to hear his voice and see his beautiful blue eyes again, even though I knew I couldn’t.

I drank my way through my sadness and anger. The pain was unlike anything I had been through before. Everyone tried their best to support me but yet, I kept drinking. I kept falling into this black hole of grief.

This is from “Hoax” by Taylor Swift. Basically, she didn’t want to look in another set of blue eyes but the man she cares about. There’s no other way to be sad about leaving or losing him than how she feels.I feel that so deeply.

About a month later, I started therapy. I couldn’t sort out anything in my mind and I had become someone I didn’t know or like.Over time, the darkness lifted. I even got sober in January 2017. I still have bad days and I’m on Prozac, but there’s other factors involved in those issues.I was able to decide what to do with my then-crumbling marriage- I wanted to work on things and Matthew didn’t want a divorce.

This has not been easy but we’ve been able to fix our issues.In fact, our 15 year wedding anniversary is on 9/10, nine days after this post is out. There’s not a single book on being married during a global pandemic but everyone is still in one piece.

It was a year before I truly felt like I was living again – I lost my grandfather a few months after Jake’s death. He was one of my favorite people and I was heartbroken.Over time, I worked on my self-worth and self-esteem. I’m well worth the work. I know what triggers me to drink and I try my best to avoid those things. I sorted through my feelings about being an awful mom and right now, what I can do to be a better mom to Lily. I finally feel like I can meet her where she is, now that I know what’s going on.I made two promises to myself five years ago- to finish the work Jake started and to live the life he made me strong enough to live. I’m doing both.

It can be hard, but not keeping those promises would be giving up on myself. I’m an entirely different person than I was before his death and I’m happy with who I am now.I need a few things to stay stable- a great job, my meds and a support system. I have all three and I am so grateful for this. I just wish I didn’t have to live without Jake in my life, but since I have no choice, I’m going to make the best of it.

I Know What it’s Like

I saw a tweet this morning (3/15/20) that made me think. It was from a mental health practitioner saying they advocate for their clients that can’t do so for themselves because they know what it is like to be in a deep depression, or severe anxiety, for example.

I get it.

This is basically why I went into psychology. I wanted to help others, maybe even those in the same situations that I’ve lived through. It’s what I do best, professionally.

I started this blog in 2017, two years after one of the biggest losses of my life. I wanted to get my pain and sadness out to show others that there really is hope and happiness on the other side of grief.

There were days that I literally walked through one hour at a time. I cried constantly and of course, drank heavily.

I don’t know how I would have moved forward without therapy. I’m in round two but that’s okay.

I don’t like seeing others hurting and if my blog has ever helped someone, then my mission has been accomplished. It’s my way of giving back after getting so much help.

Helping others helps me cope with my own issues. I’ve enjoyed volunteering with the AFSP. The Louisville community Out of the Darkness walks is one of my favorite days of the year.

There’s hope out there. It just might take a while to find it.

The Road to Authenticity

I have written a lot about being yourself and being vulnerable, no matter how hard it may be. I’ve struggled a lot with accepting myself, flaws and all. It wasn’t until I met Jake that I realized that being me is the best thing to be. It took knowing him to realize that Being You is a SuperPower.

There is No Carbon Copy

The definitions of authenticity vary by who you ask and what you read, but the official definition from Webster’s is: real or genuine: not copied or false. : true and accurate. : made to be or look just like an original.

I’ll take that. I’m definitely an original, there isn’t another person who looks like me, except for maybe Julian. He comes pretty close. My personality can’t be copied, and I don’t have the ability to be false or “fake”.

I spent a few years hiding my true feelings pain, anger, sadness and hiding my personality. I felt it was necessary because it wasn’t helping the situation I was in. I wasn’t being appreciated for who I was- I was being torn down no matter what I did, no matter what I said.

I felt like I wasn’t the person I was supposed to be anymore. I simply stopped being me, but I wasn’t happy that way. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be. Instead, I became guarded, anxious, and quiet. Anyone who knows me at all knows that is not in my DNA.

I’ve been loud since I was able to talk, except for a very bad strep throat/laryngitis episode in eighth grade and post-thyroid surgery in 2017. I was unable to talk above a whisper for a couple of weeks during both times and that was not fun. I felt as if I was sinking to the bottom of the ocean without a lifesaver. I was drowning with no one to save me.

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I was saved- and I am forever grateful to Jake. I don’t think he ever realized what he did for me. I was told he died knowing how much I cared for him, and that has helped me immensely.

He once told me that he wanted me to be myself as much as possible around him and that opened the floodgates. I needed to be myself again, in a safe space, with someone who cared about me.

I can’t say this was the right way to do it. He understood me in a way few people have. Slowly, I allowed him to see my feelings and thoughts, and not once did he use them against me. He knew what it was like to be hurt deeply, and while other things occurred between us that wasn’t so great, he didn’t go too far in this way.

Carefully Stepping Forward

After Jake’s death, I re-examined my life in a lot of ways. One of those ways was whether to stay with Matthew. In that decision, I also had to think about letting him back in again. I would have to be vulnerable with him, let him see the strong person I had become.

He would have to see that I had regained my self-respect, and was working on regaining my self-esteem and self-worth. This meant that things would have to change between us and if he couldn’t accept it, our marriage was done. I wouldn’t stay for him to hurt me as he had in the past.

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I had to also admit where I had been wrong. I’d broken a few rules of marriage- it’s somewhat of a miracle that Matthew still speaks to me, much less stayed.

I’m sure that this was a hard decision for him, but it was his to make, and I am delighted that he did. We had to do a lot of work to stay together and even now it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a lot better than where we were before 2013.

This process set off an intense internal battle. I didn’t want to try this- what if I stayed, let him see me this way and I got hurt all over again? There was no way I could handle this. There was no way I wanted to see how that would end.

I didn’t even want to take the chance. I had already decided to stay, but I was still very guarded. I talked to my therapist extensively about this fear- it was a justified fear, considering Matthew’s past abuse. I made a list of the things that I was afraid of Matthew seeing from me:

  • Crying
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness/that he had said or done something to hurt me
  • Being overwhelmed (this was one of the biggest issues in the past)
  • Being open about my feelings, then him using them against me

I had changed and I wasn’t about to go backward. I was happy being myself again.

The Turtle-Like Process

With the help of my therapist, I did let Matthew see who I had become. I figured that if I stayed, I may as well let him see who I had become. It was a slow process because I still had terrible memories in my mind. I’m well aware of the fact that they will be with me for a long time. I took small steps because that’s all I could handle.

I think Matthew got a bit frustrated, but I was dealing with a lot. In a way, it was his own fault- he was the one who hurt me, so he would have to wait for me to heal. I reminded him more than once that it wasn’t an overnight process and that I needed time. I did have slips, in which I would shut down entirely, stopped talking to him when I should have talked more. This caused arguments and didn’t go well.

Being honest with yourself is not always pretty. You have to look really deep inside, at all the things you’ve done, good or bad. At that point, it’s time to hold yourself accountable for the screwups, apologize to those you’ve hurt (or at least try), and try to move forward.

Most importantly, try to forgive yourself. This part can be hard- it was very hard for me to forgive myself for hurting Matthew and the damage that I caused to our marriage.

It’s not easy to become authentic, especially around the person who broke you. It takes a lot of adjustment on both sides. The changes are real- it may not turn out the way you hope. Many hide behind fear of not being liked or loved like I did. That fear does fade away. I can’t say when it does, but it will as you change. I am much happier being me and not hiding.

I do have times in which I tend to hide my sadness a bit, but many others do so. That is something to be worked on. It is refreshing to just be myself- even my sense of humor has improved, and I’ve always been funny. I don’t hold a lot back, and most of the people around me appreciate this. I know I do.

Have you tried being more authentic? Do you think it would make you happier? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Pic courtesy of Pinterest

A Guide to the Holidays: Staying Emotionally Healthy

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people. Many deal with stress and/or depression, grief, or other issues like toxic family members. Some even go through the holidays alone. This can be especially hard. It’s important to know how to stay emotionally healthy during this time so that you can enjoy the holidays and possibly be able to help someone you know.

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If You Are Alone

This situation is caused by different factors- distance, family issues, financial issues, and so on. There are ways that you can make this a positive time of the year:

  • Reach out. Many people will offer to extend an invitation to someone they know may be alone for the holidays. Let them know if you are available, offer to bring something. If you have friends who wouldn’t mind an extra person, ask if you can join them for a celebration.
  • Create alternative traditions. “Friendsgiving” potlucks have become popular in the last few years among those who aren’t able to see their families. I’ve gone to a couple, and it’s a lot of fun. Everyone brings a dish, decide on a fun activity, and let the fun begin.
  • Pamper yourself. Do something you enjoy- a day at the spa, nails, a new book, shirt, etc.
  • Help others. This can take many different directions- volunteering at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, etc. This can help remind you of how fortunate you are and it’s a good experience.
  • Travel. If you can afford it, go out of town for a couple of days. If you can’t, try a “staycation” and go places in your city that you haven’t been to.
  • Self- care. Check in with yourself daily- feelings, hygiene, etc. You don’t have to be cheerful 24/7 during this season, alone or not. If you realize you are having a hard time, reach out. Please see my Resources page for more information.

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For Those That Are Grieving

Grief is a hard process any day of the year. The holidays can be harder on someone that is grieving than most people realize. If you are grieving or will be celebrating the holidays with someone that is, these tips may be helpful.

  • Take care of yourself. Grief can affect people differently. Depression can cause a person to not care for themselves as they did before the loss. Self-care is important, even the tiniest steps like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, etc.
  • Don’t rush the process. It may take years for a family to feel like holiday gatherings are “normal” again after a loss. Do not rush through your grieving process for others. Everyone grieves differently and this should be respected.
  • Plan ahead. Do you really want to host Thanksgiving this year? Can someone else do it? Think about where you are in the grieving process and how comfortable you feel hosting holiday events. It might not be for you this year, but in a year or so, it might be okay again.
  • Share stories. This might be hard, depending on the situation, but it can also be helpful. Sharing stories can be good, however, when they focus on the good times with the person, acknowledging that they are missed.

If you are going to a gathering with a family who has had a recent loss:

  • Offer help. Maybe the family needs help with shopping, cleaning, decorating, etc. This can be a huge relief to them. It’s one less worry in an already tough time.
  • Ask how everyone is doing before attending the gathering. It may be a somber or joyous gathering, but you will not know unless you ask beforehand.
  • Respect the right for everyone to grieve. This is very important.

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Holiday Cheer or Holiday Stress?

There’s a lot of pressure to spend lots of money on presents, spend time with family that we may or may not get along with, get our kids everything they want and so on. How do we remain, or even get, cheerful about the holidays? How do we deal with the stress?

  • Tune out the noise. The holiday specials, songs, and movies can be a bit too much. If it becomes too much, turn it off. I can’t stand the radio stations that play nothing but Christmas music- starting before Thanksgiving.

Can we get through Thanksgiving first? It’s a bit much for me to hear this music for over a month, so I don’t even turn it on. I am stuck with it when Matthew and I are in the car together because he loves it- there’s a thing called compromise.

  • Set limits for presents. This can be a number of presents, price, or even both. We have four birthdays within 2 weeks after Christmas, so we really try to watch how much we spend. (Those birthdays are mine, Matthew, my father in law, and Cameron.) Plus, there’s the battle of making sure each kid has the same number of presents. Kids need to know that money doesn’t come easily and that they may not be able to always get what they want.
  • Toxic people need to be shown the door. Not everyone in your life is meant to be there, and that includes family. Your time is valuable- why spend it with people who don’t value you? Be realistic about what you can handle.
  • Be grateful. The main message behind the holidays is counting our blessings and being grateful for what we have. It may be a good idea to make a list of the things you are grateful for, no matter how small they are. This can be a bit of a lift, especially on the harder days.
  • Have fun in moderation. You will feel a lot better if you don’t overeat, drink too much or overdo other activities. Everyone has their limits- don’t go past them or you may disappoint yourself.
  • Take care of yourself. This can be a very hectic time of the year, and self- care can slide to the bottom of your to-do list.

Example: If you’re a perfectionist, it’s okay to let things go a bit. You can find the perfect gift for everyone, but if you’re so stressed out finding it, you’ve lost the fun part. It becomes a drag. Try loosening up a bit- don’t spend hours online looking. If you need to, take a break after an hour and come back to it the next day. Start shopping earlier to relieve some of the stress.

  • Say no. This is okay. It’s possible to become overburdened with parties, work, and other activities. Saying no lessens that burden. It’s important to remember your needs.
  • Nourish yourself- physically and emotionally. Don’t entirely skip the good foods, because there are plenty out there. Try a smaller portion. Treat yourself. Try taking a bit of “quiet time” each day to read, write, draw, anything that helps you rest your mind a bit. You will feel much less smothered by the demands of the season.

Do you have any tips for a stress-free holiday season?

All pics are from Unsplash

Information from Psychology Today