‘All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.’

Helen Keller

When I first created, I’m NOT Disordered, a huge motivation to do so was that writing/typing is really beneficial for my mental health. I find it so therapeutic to be able to ‘get out’ a lot of thoughts and feelings that I’ve felt unable to verbalise or internally process. And to be honest, I genuinely believe I’ve lost that over the years, and I’ve slowly began to really prioritise my readers interests and needs. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that exactly – I’m more than aware that I (and my blog) wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for all of you lovely people – but I think it’s equally right to remember why I started this. To ensure that I’m still benefiting from the time and effort that I’m putting into my content. And so, with that in mind, I decided to write a post just for my sake and I thought I’d still publish it to hopefully shed light on just how heart-breaking it is to lose a pet and to provide a level of comfort for those struggling with their grief to know that they aren’t alone…

Dear Pixie,

From the moment I met you all those years ago, I knew you were mine and, in a very subtle yet really powerful way, I felt you take a piece of my heart when I held you for the first time. Before that, even! I mean, how is it not fate that I randomly decided to hold a bunny and then randomly chose you from all your brothers and sisters?! It was like, from the minute you were born, you belonged with me. You were born to be mine. You know those keyrings and bracelets you can get for best friends where they each have half a heart that – if put together – would make a full one? That’s our hearts. Not broken; just made to fit with each other. A perfect match.

I remember telling people that I would be back to see you the next day to buy all the bits you needed and bring you home, and I was so afraid that they’d all be thinking my mental health was poorly again and I was being irrational and impulsive. I genuinely thought I was going to have to fight the thoughts and opinions of others to bring you home, and I felt more than capable of winning that fight! I felt so sure and so certain of my decision to add you to the family, that I was confident either I would get that across to others or that I was willing to disregard their opinions and follow my own feelings. Except, all the people who really knew me didn’t question my decision. I think that everyone could just… There’s this line in a TV show I like, where someone comments on the change in a room’s atmosphere when a girl and boy were together and when someone else walks in. I think that was us; outsiders could simply sense or almost feel our bond just by seeing us together. 

You know, until I got you, I genuinely don’t think there was anyone who really understood my visual hallucinations of rabbits. I mean the professionals explained them away with the trauma of the rabbits I had when I was younger killing their babies. Then they prescribed my antipsychotic medication and yes, it worked, but I still felt alone when I considered whether anyone truly appreciated the gravity and importance the hallucinations held over my life. In getting you though, that loneliness slowly disappeared as people saw how helpful you were for my mental health, and they began to recognise just how real the hallucinations felt.

The only other thoughts and feelings I held some importance over when it came to getting you, was my cat’s, Dolly. She was the only other one who would be living with you 24/7 and since she was three years old by then, she was pretty settled and established with her home/territory and her schedule/habits. And since her little trauma when I first got her and her subsequent struggle with ‘cat anxiety disorder,’ I was very aware of the potential result of upsetting her life and environment by bringing you home. So, when I checked with the Vets and pet store about advice on introducing you to each other and they said a mixture of either doing it very gradually or even not at all. And I remember thinking ‘how can I not introduce two of the most important beings in my life?’ So, I did! Not at all gradually! And I could not have been happier when the two of you sniffed each other and it was as though… Without it being even a little bit broken or fractured, my heart seemed to become whole the moment you touched.

As incredible and comforting as it was to see you two together for that year and a bit, it’s tinged with sadness now because it was that bond over that length of time that meant you were broken when Dolly was put to sleep. And do you know, I used to blame myself for that relationship and then that grief? I thought that it was my fault for introducing you and for prompting and encouraging you to spend time with each other. But, in my constant and desperate need to find a positive in every situation, I try to focus on the fact that your relationship meant that when Dolly did die, I didn’t – not even for one minute – feel alone in my grief. And I will never be able to do my gratitude justice and thank you enough for that. 

When I made the decision to adopt Emmy six days after Dolly passed away, I’d like to think that a part of the motivation behind doing that, was you. I mean, I was actually initially very conscious that getting another cat would look as though having you was, in some way, not enough. As though you weren’t special or important enough for me to not want or need another pet. And that isn’t even the slightest bit true. You being enough for me, is why it took six days to decide… And that eventual decision was actually motivated by the worry that it was me who wasn’t enough for you. I mean, I loved that you began following me everywhere and that you started to always want cuddles to last for hours; but I knew you were doing that because you wanted more love and company. You wanted and needed more than I could give you, and so Emmy came home.

I had always thought you to be placid and complacent, but you exceeded even my expectations when you weren’t at all phased by Emmy’s kind of abrupt arrival. Once again, I knew I could trust you to cope if you were introduced immediately and once again, I was so right! But something I was surprised with was that Emmy, being a nervous rescue cat, was instantly obsessed with you!

It was so incredibly heart-warming to watch you give her the courage and confidence to go outside for the first time since she had been abandoned on the streets when she was just a few weeks old. I loved to watch her follow you around the garden and to see you make her feel braver, made me so proud because that was just what you’d done for me. You made me so much more fearless and a whole lot less anxious, scared, and worried. You gave me the courage and resilience to find better, safer ways of coping with the hallucinations and to start to be happy with my life and unafraid with the thought of being in ‘reality.’

All of these special qualities about you meant losing you was so much more painful. I mean, people talk about pets being a part of your family, but it felt as though you were a part of me. Like we’d become this one, unstoppable force that conquered anything and everything that life threw at us. I remember when you first became poorly with Gut Stasis and the euthanasia appointment was booked in but when the Vet did some last-minute checks, he said he believed you could make it and you literally jumped into my arms! And to this day, I’ve never felt a more grateful and loving cuddle.

Your close encounter with death and your strength in defying the odds, was inspiring and massively influential on my own thoughts about life and death. You helped me to see that life was the true reward – that it didn’t have to feel like a punishment. That I should be grateful and consider myself lucky to still be here despite all my attempts and thoughts to jeopardise that. You made me as thankful for my life as the gratitude you put into that cuddle at the Vets; and I hope that saying it that way will really help you to comprehend the level of my admiration and appreciation for you.

That last time though, with the Gut Stasis, I said from the beginning that I had a bad feeling about it, and I think that kind of summed up our bond in that I knew even before the Vets did. I hope that if you also had that insight, you weren’t scared about it. That you weren’t worrying about dying. Because regardless of my conviction this was it, I tried so hard to save you because you can predict something will happen but that doesn’t, in any way, mean that you want it to. But, when the Vet said we could give you another 24 hours at home with a 5% chance you’d recover and a more than likely chance you’d get Stasis again, I knew it was time. Time to let you go. I say that, but I don’t think I’ll ever ‘let you go.’ You’ll always be a part of my heart and my life. 

I don’t think that anyone will ever really understand just how hard it was to have to say goodbye to you in the Vet’s carpark with all the other people with their pets watching on and making numerous offers of tissues! I still feel incredibly lucky that I had the opportunity to say everything I whispered in your ear then, but I also feel terrible that because of things out of my control (the pandemic and lockdown), I couldn’t be cuddling you while you went. I know that the Vet Nurse promised to comfort you, but it’s nowhere near the same as me being there. Thinking about it though, I think that if I’d actually seen that moment that you left me, my heart would have actually stopped. Not just broken as it did when I handed you back after our goodbye, but actually stopped working. And you know, a part of me – the part that was yours – actually wanted to join you. And it wasn’t about dying and being suicidal, just literally feeling incapable of living a life without you in it.

Coming home to Emmy and feeling like I had to explain to her why I was empty handed and why her best friend was gone, was so hard. Close to impossible, in fact. And I remember just burying my face in her fur and crying so hard that I couldn’t breathe. In the days following your death, when Emmy began desperately trying to get into the room your hay and sawdust had been in, I knew I wasn’t the only broken hearted one in the home. Whilst it was such an unbearably difficult thing to watch Emmy grieve, similarly to when we lost Dolly, I was grateful I still had ‘someone’ who could really understand the loss of not having you in our home 24/7. It was probably a reason why picking your ashes up was actually really comforting because I loved the thought that it meant I could bring you home. That you could be back with Emmy and me. And whilst this home will never be the same; I’m so glad to feel your presence still here.

For this reason, it took a long time before I decided to get another bunny. I worried it was like a betrayal or that you’d think I was trying to replace you. You’re forever irreplaceable, Pixie. But Emmy and I needed some more paws in the house, and I missed having that meaning of a bunny in my life. So even when a few people commented that it wasn’t the right decision, and that you had been here to help me through the hallucinations and now my medication was working and I didn’t have any, there was no need for another bunny; I went against all of that and brought Luna home. And I finally felt like Emmy, and I were on a new adventure. An adventure that has brought a surprising amount of happiness and laughter to our home.

So, whilst you going means that things will never be the same again, I hope you’re proud that Emmy and I are moving forwards and that whilst there’s still heartache, Luna has brought plasters!

I’ll love you forever, Pixie

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