Coping with the loss of a loved one is hard for anyone, regardless of mental state or whether the beloved was human or animal. This week, my parents' cat Sweetie was hit by a car suddenly. He was a stray that somehow by the grace of God found my mom (no joke...he magically showed up at their doorstep one day asking for food until she caved and bought that first can of Friskies)...and two years later, he went from a wiry-looking, weary little hunter to my mom's smoking buddy and my dad's little grilling companion. He was so happy that he willingly shared his dry cat food with the mouse my parents have been trying to shoo away from their house for months now (no killing traps for the Petrillos, but one would've assumed the cat would do the trick).
Needless to say, it was a shock that our family's "retired" cat was motivated enough to dart out into open traffic to fetch an animal or object, having no idea that he would end his own life. I grieve this week. For my mom and dad's loss and their deep sadness. For the way our poor boy went (without suffering though, thankfully). For my own loss exacerbated by my depression. I find myself seeking out my own beautiful feline, Lucky and hugging her a little tighter. I didn't know that the last time I saw Sweetie would be my last. And you never do really know, I suppose.
I also grieve for many other things that have changed since I came to terms with being clinically depressed and anxious. I don't want to mislead. I am in a MUCH better place than I was at year's start. I actually feel human again. Whether or not you personally believe in medicine for the treatment for mental illness...I don't care. That in itself is a feat, to not value others' input so much. But my medicines have singlehandedly saved me. I still panic and freak out, but I can manage it better than before (not as well as a typical person...but baby steps, my friends). The medicine and the therapy, and the conscious decision to change my lifestyle in a number of ways has saved me. Or at least set me on the path to salvation.
But a lot has happened as a result of all this. I feel that I've been inaccessible at times because of how crippled I felt from the sadness and fear...and as a result, I'm left with a small group of dedicated friends and loved ones that have shown consistent and unconditional support in many ways (visits, cards, emails, online messages, etc)...and I've received support from places where I'd least expect. For that, I am so grateful. But I have also experienced relationship losses...one of those "knowing who your true friends are" kind of things when you're at your worst. A valuable lesson, but a hurtful one nonetheless for someone who loves with all she has. I'm learning that relationships that drain and leave you feeling depleted on a regular basis are no good. Better late than never to learn this. No friend or relationship is perfectly supportive. But striving to be your best never hurts anyone. So I continue to. And now, I have come to expect the same in return.
Also, this is the first year since I was five years old (legit) that I am not preparing for the start of an academic year. I literally went from preschool to K-12 to college to graduate school to working in higher education for four years or so. It's a loss, but a welcomed one and a much-needed one. It's nice to be the maker of my own schedule and to be able to take cry breaks. Or PSL breaks (fellow Starbucks fans get me on this). Or to take mental health days (legitimately, for doctor visits and informally when I'm in a bad mood) and not have to gain approval or feel stigmatized. It's definitely weird to not be a part of the buzz of the academic world this fall, though. And maybe someday I'll yearn for it again. But if it continues to feel this good not to be a part of it, then I'm satisfied to applaud my higher ed and teacher friends as they begin their busy seasons. I'll keep my place on the sofa warm as I watch "Different World" reruns and do some editing work on my trusty laptop, PSL in hand.
For now, I'll keep writing away and healing away. And thinking of my beloved Sweetie, lost too soon.