PhoenixCove - Etsy UK

Welcome to Blogmas Unboxed!!

So, the second item from the popular Etsy store; Phoenix Cove that I’ll be sharing, is the same lovely little wooden decoration, but for this one, I had it personalised to mark the first Christmas for my kitten; Ruby. Inspired by this item, I thought I’d talk a bit about Ruby, why I got her, her incredible personality, and her lovely quirks; and then a bigger chat on all the cats I’ve had in my life and how they’ve all helped my mental health in such a hugely important and meaningful variety of ways…

I actually feel like I’ve always had a cat in my life but actually, it wasn’t until one occasion when we were visiting my Auntie – in Dubai (where she lives) and we were meeting with some people she knew out there, and they had a fluffy cat that I loved. And so, I began asking my Mum for one!

Up until that point, I’d had fish, a few hamsters, and a gerbil; so, nothing really high maintenance nor that huge of a commitment (with hamster’s typical life span reaching to just a few years). In fairness however, I don’t recall really thoroughly thinking through this request of my Mum; I mean, I was barely in Middle School at the time and I think – like most children asking their parents for a pet – I was just 100% caught up in all the excitement and fun of being able to say I have a cat and of having a new furry friend to play with! One thing I definitely hadn’t thought through was that it could take some time to actually find a kitten because it turned out that you couldn’t just go to the store and buy one like we had done with my fish, gerbil, and hamsters…

When Mum finally found out about a litter of kittens just recently being born, we began visiting the litter weekly until the little, all black girl we had chosen was ready to leave her Mum. We picked which kitten to get because before visiting them one day, I had dropped some butter on my jeans and so I was sat on the floor with the kittens and this one little black one sat on my lap and was licking my knee and then when her siblings tried to get up, she’d like, bat them away! So, even though she was obviously attracted to the butter, it felt like a bit of a sign to pick her and eventually, we took her home and named her Saffy.

Unfortunately, with the trauma happening just a few years later, I have very few memories – and the ones that I do have are undetailed to such a degree that I really don’t feel right even just trying to blog about them – of Saffy’s first year or two… The memories that I do very much have stuck in my head and carved in my heart though, are those from after the trauma started in 2006, when I very quickly learnt that Saffy was the only one I could talk to about what was being done to me and her fur vapidly turned into a tissue for my tears when I’d get home before my Mum had finished work and I felt desperate for some sort of outlet for all my pent-up thoughts and feelings.

I think that one of the most challenging aspects to feeling silenced in the most traumatic six months of my life, was completely centred around the fact that there were so many reasons why I couldn’t tell my Mum and that up until that point – for my entire fifteen years! – I had never felt any sort of distance between us. I hadn’t come across any issues or experiences where I felt I couldn’t talk to my Mum about them or ask for her thoughts and advice on them. And so, it was almost a natural instinct to go to her for help and support when something upsetting or challenging happened and having to basically stamp that instinct down and almost constantly remind myself why I had to do so, was genuinely emotionally draining and physically exhausting.

There were numerous reasons why I couldn’t tell my Mum everything, but the three main ones were:

1.       The worry of how upset and angry (not at me) it would make her.

2.       The fact that talking about it would make it even more real.

3.       The threats I was receiving from the person responsible for the trauma.

For a lot of people who go through a similarly themed trauma, a key reason not to report what is happening to them is the fear that they won’t be believed and so, I consider myself seriously fortunate that I never felt that way with my Mum (although, I did still experience that notion – just with other people!). Despite me feeling silenced though, I still saw home as my safe place because no one was hurting me there and it honestly felt like it was the only place in the world where this was true. And so, feeling not only safer but also able to cry and tell Saffy everything that had happened that day, was a massively helpful and important factor for me; to the point where I believe it was lifesaving. Like, I can’t imagine making it through the trauma if I hadn’t had Saffy as my outlet and the notion that I could vent in a very therapeutic and obviously, incredibly safe, way.

Of course, my mental health still deteriorated after the trauma ‘ended’ in 2007 and Saffy stopped being good enough to help me cope and manage the memories that flooded my head on – what genuinely felt like – a 24/7 basis. And so, after I began experiencing hallucinations in 2009, I spent the following three years in and out of both medical and psychiatric hospitals until a suicide attempt in 2012 left me on life support in Intensive Care. When I was woken up, I was admitted to a specialist psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from home, from my Mum, and – most importantly! – from Saffy! In the beginning of the admission though, I was so poorly (mentally) that I really didn’t ‘miss’ anyone (including Saffy) and I wasn’t at all homesick until my mental health started to pick up and I began to feel saddened at the thought that I was so far away and it was frustrating that because I was detained under section 3 of the 1983 Mental Health Act, I couldn’t even just travel home to see Saffy (or my Mum!) whenever I wanted!

 So, when I started missing home, my Mum would send me photos of Saffy with little messages like ‘love you, mam’ and ‘miss you.’ But the best bit that I loved was when we would be on the phone and my Mum would put the phone out to Saffy and I’d talk to her, and she’d meow in response to everything I said. When I first talked about speaking to my cat on the phone, all the other inpatients laughed, and the staff would make jokes about increasing my medication(!)… Until I passed the phone to the inpatient, I’d grown closest to and let her listen to Saffy responding when I would talk and I remember her laughing and saying to everyone in the compulsory Reflection Meeting that evening; “she was serious; the cat really does talk to her!”

Having grown up with pets and having seen how helpful and lovely Saffy was, when I was discharged from the psychiatric hospital and moved into my own home, getting a kitten was pretty much an obvious and given priority! I mean, coming out of the hospital; I was transferred to a ‘rehab ward’ in a psychiatric hospital closer to home. With it not being so much of a ward as actually having the set-up that each patient had their own little bungalow and staff had one so that they were still around 24/7, I said that if I had been allowed pets there, I likely wouldn’t have been in such a rush to leave and move into my own bungalow in the community. With the ban on pets, even though I knew the staff were nearby whenever I needed them, I still felt fairly alone in there – especially at night. And so, whilst the original plan had been to discharge me from the section I was detained under and to stay in the rehab ward for a few more months, I made the decision to discharge myself as soon as my home in the community was ready and on December 1st 2014, I moved into it and spent exactly one week there alone before the kitten I’d reserved a few months ago was ready to leave her mum on December 8th.

I named her Dolly because she was this fluffy Maine Coon with tabby markings and then the tips of her paws were white like a little French manicure! Unfortunately, while Dolly was still young and in the house by herself, my mental health had taken a bad turn and I’d gone to hospital. Except the Police weren’t told and the huge miscommunication ended up in them caving the back door in. When I finally got home, Dolly was still hiding and trembling with fright and anxiety; and from then, her entire demeanour and personality completely changed, and she became really aggressive.

Whilst it was obvious that this incident was the reason for her becoming really reluctant to be anywhere near others – no matter how bonded she’d been with them before the incident; I had a Pet Behaviour Therapist visit to see if there was anything I could to help her. The Therapist explained that when Dolly was just sat on the windowsill looking at the birds, but her tail was wagging, it meant that no matter what she was doing or how much she was enjoying doing it, she was constantly on guard. Like she was just waiting for some sort of threat to happen. And, in all honesty, I massive struggled with this notion because I recognised that the entire situation with the Police had largely been my responsibility and my fault for it happening and so it was hard to come to terms with the fact that because I’d struggled on that occasion, I had completely changed who Dolly was.

As usual though, I was able to draw positives from this horrible and sad situation… I found it really helpful to focus on the recognition that I could identify with Dolly in a number of ways:

1.       I knew how it feels to have one instance change your entire person, who you are, what you care about, how you want to be perceived by others, the way you act, your attitude to life…

2.       I can appreciate that when you’re hurt by someone, it can easily leave you reluctant to build any sense of a trusting bond or relationship with others.

3.       I know what it is for a change in your person to lead to so many people in your life completely changing their opinion of you and this leading to the mindset that they’ve given up on you.

With these mutual understandings and intense empathy in mind, I focused on revelling in the fact that Dolly remained loving and caring towards me and never showed me any sort of aggression or even irritation. Sometimes this was difficult to accept because I often fell into the thought process that if this was all my fault, I should be the person she hates – not my friends, family, and professionals visiting my home! Unfortunately, the fact that she was this way with others, meant my friends became reluctant to actually come into my home, and after scratching one of my support workers so badly it drew blood, they were actually told by their management team not to come into my home anymore!

To be honest, it was kind of embarrassing and awkward because alongside my belief that I’d caused the entire situation, I also began to believe that I should be responsible and able to correct the entire thing too! Like, if I was powerless and at a loss, how would she get better? Fortunately, after diagnosing her with a cat Anxiety Disorder, the Behaviour Therapist prescribed Dolly a mild sedative with a similar human equivalence being Diazepam or Lorazepam. After about a year on the medication though, Dolly made some progress and whilst she remained slight on-edge on occasions when there really was nothing to be nervous or anxious about, she was no longer aggressive in scratching people or angry in hissing at everyone.

Just over two years into having Dolly – on December 26th (Boxing Day) 2016 – my Mum had noticed that Saffy was breathing strangely and loudly and so she took her to the emergency Vets where they said that an X-Ray showed she had a lot of fluid on her lungs that needed to be drained. After doing so, they repeated the X-Ray and found that she had a huge tumour attached to several of her major organs. The Vet explained that they could continue to drain the fluid, but it would only continue to increase, and it could mean taking her in weekly, so – recognising that this would be no decent or fair quality of life for her – we made the decision to have her put to sleep that day.

A small comfort in her final moments came in two ways: firstly, the Vet told us that typically, they don’t find these tumours until the pet is in pain and the owner notices but that my Mum had caught it so early that she won’t have been in any sort of pain – more so that there was some discomfort. The second comfort was that just when she was passing away, Saffy opened her mouth and made a little meow/squeak that she used to do in response to us talking to her and that meant that when she died, we had a (very weak) smile on our faces.

To be honest, I felt quite fortunate that I hadn’t lived with Saffy for over three years at that point because I think the loss would have hit me a hell of a lot harder than it did. As it was though, I felt more concerned and considered this my Mum’s loss rather than considering Saffy’s death as my loss too. I mean, I’d grown up with her and she’d been hugely important and special through a really challenging time in my life, but I recognised that my Mum’s incredible bond with Saffy was so much more recent and therefore, whilst my own grief was never diminished, I prioritised my Mum’s and was absolutely made up and so excited for her when she finally decided to get another cat the following year!

As the years have gone by living in my own home with my own pets, I’ve become more and more appreciative of Mum’s little black and white rescue cat – Millie. I think this is due to a couple of reasons:

1.       Even though it was just for a few months that I was in the rehabilitation bungalow and then a week in my home without a pet, but it means I know what it’s like to live completely alone, and I hate the thought of my Mum living like that.

2.       I love when Mum and I are on the phone or I’m at her house and Millie does something to make her laugh or Mum talks to her in that little, childish voice that everyone always puts on when you’re talking to a pet!

In October 2018 (just days after her fourth Birthday) – Dolly became poorly, and the Vet diagnosed her to be in kidney failure. When he told me there was one more treatment, they could try but that it would be painful, would cause her stress, and might not even work, I made the decision to have her put to sleep. I didn’t know what to expect when it came down to doing that because I had felt that for the last few years, Saffy had really been my Mum’s and so she’d made the decision with her. It made me feel really grown up and responsible.

One thing that didn’t match up to my expectations though, came from the fact that people almost always label or describe having their pet put to sleep as ‘the hardest decision’ and so I thought I’d be mulling over it and full of despair, contradiction, and confusion… But actually, I realised that making the actual decision – recognising that it was genuinely the best thing for Dolly, was easy and simple; the challenging aspect of it was knowing the hurt and upset it would most definitely cause me to experience. But I had to put that to one side and focus on Dolly being the most important one in the situation and recognising that she was the sole priority and really, the only one who mattered right then and there.

Unfortunately, one year before Dolly’s death (in 2017), I had actually gotten my first Lionhead bunny; Pixie and the two of them had really bonded quite quickly and in the most sweet and loving way. I loved seeing them together and, in all honesty, their relationship really added to my upset because I felt completely terrible and heartbroken going home empty handed and telling Pixie that her best-friend was gone forever. And, I mean, obviously you know she has a limited understanding of that(!), and that made it even worse because I had to just watch her going around the house and sniffing Dolly’s favourite bits, where she used to sleep, and the toys she played with the most…

Seeing Pixie so lonely and missing having a cat in my life meant that I went against all those who said it was ‘too soon’ and adopted a rescue kitten literally within just days of losing Dolly. I was so glad I didn’t listen to all those people, or I might not have ended up with my little Calico; Emmy, and not long after bringing her home, all those same people took back their words and actually said they were glad I hadn’t listened to them and that I’d trusted my instincts as to what was best for myself and for Pixie. This – my instincts around my pets – is something I’ve always really prided myself on and it was something I definitely needed when it came to Emmy’s last few months.

Having been rescued in a traumatic situation at only a few weeks old on the streets, when I first got Emmy, she was nervous of the outside, but she bonded with Pixie really well and Pixie used to go in the garden, so Emmy began following her outside. Pixie would sit really still in the grass and then Emmy would just literally jump onto her, straddling her and Pixie would just sit there all nonchalant and almost as though she was enjoying it too! And in spending all this time outside with Pixie, Emmy’s confidence built, and she started to wander off out of the garden by herself, and, as time went by, she would go out more and more often and stay out longer and longer until she was only coming in because it was getting dark and I was calling for her out the window!

Whilst my priority was very obviously for Emmy to be happy, and I recognised that if she wasn’t allowed out due to bad weather etc. she would meow at the door and scratch at the windows, and so, not having her in the house very much was kind of hard and saddening for me; especially when Pixie was put to sleep a few years later (in 2021) because it meant I hardly had any company. So, a few months later, I added my first mini-Lionhead to the family; Luna and as well as being company for me, she and Emmy got on really well too, but unfortunately, their little bond only lasted around one year…

In 2022, Emmy got a sore on her face (it was almost towards her forehead but right next to the outer corner of one of her eyes and just before her ear) and despite ringing the Vets and sending in photos, they continued to minimise the situation. It was only after I made it clear that the sore was worsening and that I wanted them to do something about it that they offered an ointment for it, but they failed to provide an explanation as to what might have caused it. And this is where my instincts became helpful because from the very first day that the sore turned up, I had a bad feeling. I knew there was more to it, and I had this dark, sinking feeling that this really wasn’t going to end well… So, I called another Veterinary practice, and they offered an immediate appointment so I took Emmy straight in and they validated my thoughts and concerns in saying that if she’d gone any longer without treatment for the sore, she might have lost the eye it was closest to!

The new Vets treated the sore as an allergic reaction and the treatment she was given worked… But a few weeks later another sore came up and after a ton of backwards and forwards to the Vets for tests and different medications, the decision was finally made to have her put to sleep after she was given the final diagnosis of a rare type of Cancer. I remember when the Vet had put her to sleep and I asked what the best thing would be for Luna and her immediate answer, without hesitation, was “get her a friend.” I immediately knew that it would be less stressful to introduce Luna to another bunny than to get another kitten and so, after giving it a few months of just the two of us to see if just myself was ‘enough’ for her, I ended up getting Gracie in January 2023.

I made the decision to also still get another kitten because for months my two bunnies were always off in another room together washing each other, cuddled up, sleeping together, or eating; and I was all alone with no real companion. This lack of comfort and a few other issues and difficulties actually triggered my mental health to deteriorate, but I developed the belief – the conviction – that getting a new kitten would create a huge turning point because I thought that I’d become more motivated than ever to stay safe and cooperate with professionals. And believe me, I felt kind of terrible that the thought of my bunnies alone wasn’t ‘enough’ to stop me from feeling suicidal, but I honestly felt as though they only loved me because I feed them (this has changed and become apparent that I only felt that way because my mental health had deteriorated to the kind of place where you look for – and sometimes create – negatives in everything and then somehow manage to blame yourself for absolutely all of those negatives!).

So, I paid a deposit for Ruby when she was just a few weeks old, and her seller sent me photos and videos all the time until she was ready to leave her Mum. Literally, until a matter of days before picking her up, I was struggling so much with my mental health, but as the date I could pick her up got closer and closer, I found the recognition that I was about to have so much more responsibility a helpful tool in motivating me to try harder to keep myself safe. Unfortunately, though, Ruby isn’t a magician who can cure someone of a mental illness and so, I’ve still had some extremely challenging times since getting her, but having her has actually meant I feel more passionate about staying at home… I mean, I used to honestly and genuinely not care whether I was in hospital or not nor how long I was in hospital for, but having Ruby and Luna and Gracie? Well, they make me miss my home when I just go stay somewhere overnight! And having that happiness at being at home, means that I’ll try harder to find alternative ways to cope or to receive support than just being admitted to hospital.

Now, I like to pride myself and I’m NOT Disordered on our honesty and openness in all that I write, so I won’t lie – there was a point after I got Ruby where I honestly began considering rehoming Luna and Gracie. I think I was just comparing them to Ruby who is the most attached, needy, and loving kitten I’ve ever seen heard or of and so, to have two bunnies who will typically run in the opposite direction if you even so much as just look like you’re about to bend down to stroke them…! Well, it honestly made me question whether they even love me! Seeing them cuddled up together though or following each other around the house makes me smile so much and I came to the conclusion that if I just accept that I can never really handle them, then that’s all that matters because I still love them loads! After making that decision, there’s been a few times when I’ve stayed at a friend’s overnight or in a hotel before my publication party, and I’ve always had in my head that I’m grateful Ruby has the two of them for company on the rare occasions that I’m not at home. I also recognise how much Luna needed Gracie and how helpful they are for each other.

I love that Ruby does literally everything I said I wanted a kitten to do before I got her – I said I wanted her to bring me her toys to play with and she does. I said I wanted her to sleep with me and she has cuddled in with me every single night I’ve slept here since getting her. I said I wanted her to get along with the bunnies and she loves them to pieces! I honestly feel that getting Ruby, has completed our home and our family; and that’s the best feeling ever!

Blogger Template Created by pipdig