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What's broken must be fixed

If you're anything like me, you extend yourself beyond your limits. You say yes to things you should say no to, and put other things before your own health. I've done that twice now, and both times it has almost killed me.

Literally, as in I've almost taken my own life.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Years ago (circa 2010), I agreed to live out of a hotel during the workweek. It was supposed to be six months, just to dig a project out of a hole so another employee could take over. Six months turned into a year, which turned into a year and a half.

It was fun living in a hotel for the first few months, but then it began to suck. I'm an extrovert with a large circle of friends and the sudden vacuum of my people and activities quickly pulled me into a dark place. I ended up burnt out, depressed and damn near suicidal. Not to mention the loneliness led to a few bad dating decisions.

But I learned, right? Ha! Not even a little. 2018 rolled around and I hired on with an awesome employer. So awesome, in fact, I agreed to live out of town during the workweek for a project. Put out an ad, looking for a roommate and viola! I'm stored in someone's back room Monday through Friday.

"Isn't that unhealthy for you?" one of my close friends asked.

"It'll be fine. It's a good team," was my response.

And it was, for about six months. Then the depression set in, followed closely by the burnout. But there were no suicidal thoughts or bad dating decisions, so I had that going for me. That depression, though. It just started getting deeper and deeper.

Next thing I know, I'm back on antidepressants and kicking my own ass because I have a good life. Successful career, working for a great company, the best friends and family anyone could ask for, and an awesome boyfriend. I even had a gorgeous Siamese mix fur-baby (Perinia) who greeted me every Friday afternoon when I got home.

That cat, man. She was my world, and I was hers. The first six months I was living away from home, she would lick the fur off her arms. I tried Feliway at the suggestion of my vet, which helped a bit. She finally stopped doing it when The Boyfriend moved in. She loved him, too, after all.

I moved back home about 14 months later. Unfortunately, so did my depression. As the holidays crept closer, it got worse. I'm already prone to the blues from November to January so when you add pre-existing depression, it turns into a giant mess. About the only thing that kept me afloat was Perinia's purr and her need to always be in my lap. Not to mention she was extremely talkative, so you never forgot she was there.

Sometime in November, I started noticing Perinia was dropping weight. I got scared. Then she started vomiting and I became terrified. I've had Siamese mixed kitties since I was 16 years old, and I know what they're prone to. My first was a snowshoe named Mack Daddy, then there was a Balinese named Bandit. Both of them passed away from cancer.

Bandit's passing is how I ended up with Perinia. I adopted her when I found out he was terminal, so she could help me get through the pain of losing him. She was so sick when I brought her home from the shelter, I didn't know kittens could get the runs like that and still survive. I nursed her back to health and we went on a special diet.

That was why my vet didn't catch it right away. They are all about noninvasive testing, so the first thing we did was put her on prednisolone and switch up her diet again. She was only 7-1/2 years old, after all. But she dropped so much weight, we were back at the vet within 3 weeks.

This was when we discovered the tumor. I won't get into the drama involved in scheduling the rainbow bridge only for her to bounce back before that dreaded appointment. During the seven weeks of chemo, my depression spiraled out of control. I had trouble getting out of bed, and constant thoughts of suicide. But she was fighting so hard for me, I had to stick around to fight for her. Life moved sluggishly, though the lifestyle I live should have swept it along. The Boyfriend and I had conventions planned and paid for, but the hotels we were staying at in the Seattle-Bellevue area accommodated pets so we just brought her along.

Then an out of town convention came up. The Boyfriend decided to stay back with Perinia, and encouraged me to go. The hotel, flight, and badges were already paid for, and we were outside the cancellation period. I agreed, but deep down in my stomach I had a bad feeling. I snuggled her extra hard before I left.

I was gone the day she passed away. I can't tell you the guilt I live with over that. She was probably scared and I wasn't there. I can't tell you what I went through, other than to say I lost my goddamn mind. When Bandit passed away I had Perinia there to accept all the love that had no longer had a place to go.

Now that Perinia was gone there was this gaping hole in my life. The house was too quiet, and I couldn't sit in the living room because that's where she crawled into my lap every evening. Her cat tree was still in the corner by the window, where she used to be found when I wasn't available. The Boyfriend's feet sometimes move at night in a way that feels like a cat jumping on the bed, which would jolt me awake.

The Therapist suggested I find another kitten to love, like I had done when I got Perinia. All well and good, but kitten season was still several months away. We scoured PetFinder, checking it countless times a day. Every time we'd show up to or contact a place about a Siamese mix, it would be gone.

Working from home one day, I saw two pop up on PetFinder. They were an hour and a half away, but the shelter didn't open until 1:00 PM. I rushed out there, my stomach coiled with anxiety. I was forty minutes early, so when they stuck a sign in the window I was the first to the door to read it. Because of COVID-19, they were only letting people in the shelter a couple at a time, and its on a first come first serve basis.

Fantastic. I was the first one there. So why was I still a ball of raw nerves? It was an excruciating twenty minutes before they let me in, and as the first one I announced loud enough for the rest of the staff to hear: "I'm here for the two Siamese".

That was about seven weeks ago.

Did these cute little jokers fix everything that was broken? Of course not. When a pet passes on, it takes a piece of me with it. There will always be a Perinia-sized hole in my heart, just as there will always be a Mack Daddy and Bandit-sized void. But they have helped ease the pain enough to make it bearable. And I have something to fight for again. Because if I'm gone, then no one can guarantee these amazing babies stay healthy, happy, and swimming in love.

I know this is a rough blog post, and it probably doesn't make much sense. I suppose I don't make sense right now. But I'm trying. My writing has been placed on hold while I work through this, and I'm not certain when I'll be republishing On Fractured Ground. I suppose I just needed to get this out and let everyone know what has been going on. Because the silence was killing me and my readers, as few of them as there are right now, deserve to know what's keeping me.

Thank you all for your patience, your love, and your support. I truly appreciate all of you.

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