The first thing you need to know is that my beloved cat Miss Dinah Fantastico died suddenly last night.
It was everything Sophie’s passing was not. Sophie was planned and peaceful, done at the right time when she was ready, surrounded by love and comfort.
Dinah’s death was horrific, filled with sudden terror and pain I couldn’t stop for her, and was so deeply traumatizing to witness I expect it to be scarred on me the rest of my life. I’ve slept for two hours in the past day and a half–it’s like I don’t remember how to sleep without her at my side.
Not to minimize Sophie’s death, but there were so many ways in which I could recognize I was lucky, and my gratitude tempered a lot of the pain. It was something I could cope with and have a sense of peace over.
There is no such thing now. I am holed up in my room and not planning to leave for at least three days. For a writer who generally enjoys describing pain in exquisite detail, I have no words for this. I waver between utter shock and feeling like I’ve been cleaved in two. This is a nightmare and I can’t wake up and I just want my baby back again. I have many cats I love very much, but Dinah was the one who was MY cat. My dæmon.
So I’ve once again reached a point where people are checking in on me to ensure I don’t spiral past the point of no return and kill myself (not going to lie, while in my opinion I am not at risk right now, the only thing I want in the world is to just be with my babies again–I only got those few hours of sleep this afternoon when I imagined joining them. Such thoughts can be a survival mechanism, so until you suspect i’m actively making plans, please leave me to them).
Despite my gratitude that folks check in and worry about me, and want to be there for me, I also know that their deep concern comes from awareness that I am mentally ill and have a long history of dangerous major depressive episodes. I know the knot of worry I have with ill pets, how I am so afraid I’ll miss something, and it’s exhausting.
I tried to condense my thoughts into a Twitter thread and will once again try to describe a recent realization I had here in this format as well.
There’s a built in assumption that those acting as caregivers for a long period of time to someone who is deeply ill/in pain do have feelings of relief when the person they care for finally passes. Not that they didn’t love or care for them, but it’s a complicated situation and some relief (and guilt for it) would be natural. (Note: anyone who feels that way, your feelings are entirely valid and every situation is different).
When you’re mentally ill, that narrative plays in for you as well.
I think more non-depressed/non-suicidal people would understand the thought processes better if they realized we essentially feel like we’re terminally ill. We’re in constant pain, there is no hope of it getting better, and some of us just want that pain to stop the way someone with a terminal physical illness would.
So while yes, we may be surrounded by people who care and love us, we feel like we are a burden, and that while others would be sad if we died, ultimately they’d be relieved. Just think–they wouldn’t have to call and check in, they wouldn’t have to drop by for a wellness check, they wouldn’t have that persistent knot of worry that they might miss a sign. Knowing all people do to help ensure we stay well or don’t kill ourselves can make us feel burdensome.
I have operated under this assumption for years about myself.
When I described in my previous post of what it was like living after Sophie was gone, I said I was prepared to feel guilt for any relief at her passing…but there was none. Not an ounce of relief.
To the outside, she probably looked like a burden. My entire world revolved around her care–my time, my schedule, my finances. It left me homebound all of the time and limited in what I could do or where I could go; all of my money was tied up in vet bills; physically I was exhausted carrying her up and down the stairs, going out in the middle of the night with her, etc.
But none of that was a burden.
It was extremely difficult. It was taxing physically, mentally, and emotionally. But I would’ve gladly done it the rest of my life if she could’ve stayed. Nothing ever felt like I was making sacrifices–there was nothing I wanted more than to have her in my life.
So I have realized in the weeks since losing her…I am someone’s Sophie.
While caring for me as a friend or family member can be taxing and difficult, it doesn’t mean I’m a burden. That this is work some people will gladly do if it means I’m in their life. Not once is the weight of all the extra things done to ensure my wellness greater than my presence in this world.
I recognize that the concern people are showing me in the wake of Dinah’s sudden, devastating passing as my mental health takes such a violent blow is not a burden they bear; it’s the work they do without regret because I matter to them.
You are someone’s Sophie too.