What I learned as a caregiver…

What I learned while caring for the broken

During the first few weeks of care for Greyson, I learned so much about my little fur-baby and his personality.

Most interesting though, is what I learned about me and my personality.

Some days he was as “done” with this whole thing as I was.

He pushed my buttons.

And more, he looked at me pointedly right before he did something that drove me crazy.

Challenging me, as though he was saying “oh yeah, well, how about this then?”

I would fix whatever he’d tipped, or move him away from whatever it is he was doing. And he would look at me again, pointedly. Then… “oh you didn’t like that huh…then you’re really going to hate this…” and do something like step on his water bowl so it would tip, or kick litter everywhere, or tip his food bowl over… the whole time his eyes never left mine.

If it hadn’t been so frustrating and if I hadn’t been as exhausted and on edge, it would have been hilarious!

There had been a few days over that first month where I’d been at the end of my rope. I would put him back in the cage during one of his rebellious bouts and lie quietly on the floor beside it to show him that his behavior wouldn’t be tolerated but that I still love him.

Did it work?

I don’t know.

Did he get the message?

Maybe. Sometimes.

I would leave him in there for 5 minutes and then let him out again. Most times he was not as ‘bratty’, but sometimes he would continue as before.

On those days, what I learned about myself is that I withdraw.

I try to ignore the behavior (unless it is dangerous to him or his leg).

And when that doesn’t work I continue doing what I was doing before to keep him safe, move him from the danger, etc… but internally I have closed down.

There is no longer any emotion or feeling in my actions.

I become a robot.

This scares me a little. I’ve been at the shutdown place before, and it’s uncomfortable to feel “dead” to all feeling. I don’t like the feeling, which is a good thing.

I did still feel sad for Greyson who could sense my withdrawal and would amp up his attempt at getting my attention.

The good news is that most of the time I caught myself in these “shut down” moments and I would force myself to pick up and cuddle him until his purr reverberated through my body and into my heart, shattering the wall around it.

Sometimes though, when I was unable to break the wall – I was just too tired of the same thing over and over and over and over again, that I couldn’t take another minute – I would put him back in the cage and leave the room to do anything I could to soften my heart.

Often I took a shower – such a great place to unwind, and/or, cry. If it was possible to leave the house I would take a walk.

I’m proud of me for not giving in to the “shut down” sensation and staying there. I am proud of me for actively catching myself and seeking a way through it. And I am proud of me for learning my limitations and working on them as much as my energy would allow.

What was amplified for me during this experience is that I need time alone, like I need air.

I knew this, I’ve known this for a long time, but four weeks of someone needing me constantly took its toll. And the thing that stood out the most within my emotional make up was a craving…

I craved a day alone.

Not alone in my car, or alone in the forest, or alone out somewhere… or alone in the shower or on a walk… NO… I craved a day alone in my house, in my space. A day to do whatever I felt like doing, a day of quiet, a day of peace, a day without anyone or anything other than me and my space.

This is partly where I believe the illness came from.

This desire to just be able to sleep, to be able to watch TV, or read a book, and not do anything but care for me in whatever way I needed. With a flu kicking my ass, there was nothing else I “had” to do, other than feed Greyson and clean his litter tray when necessary. But we were back in the same room, able to snuggle and he was as content as I was to just “be”.

I needed that.

I will always need that time, always.

This will be very important self-care when I have children. Time on my own at home, to just be still, to sleep, to be quiet, to read a book, to watch a movie, to do yoga, to take a bath…etc…

I am proud of the way I handled things – overall – during those weeks of intensive care. I did it, and I looked after him to the best of my abilities. Sure… I walked around like a zombie robot most days just getting things done, but I did it. I made it through. I survived. And most importantly, he survived!

I did struggle greatly though. And I did feel very alone in that struggle.

My friends were amazing and supportive and caring and checked in every few days to see if I was OK.

A lot of people around me however, said things like: “he’s just a cat” or “sounds like a lot for just a cat” or “whatever, he’s just a cat”.

Sod off.

This is not helpful.

Made me feel very alone.

It’s like those parents who cite stories of starving kids when their children gag at eating their Brussel sprouts. How is that helpful? How does it even relate to the moment where a child is literally gagging with repulsion at trying to swallow something detestable in their mouths? It doesn’t help at all. It just makes the kid want to stab you with their fork! The thing is both statements are true. The kid is gaging, and there are starving children.

I am struggling. And yes he is “just” a cat. Neither of these things have anything to do with the other. The statement of his make and model does not help me feel any less struggle.

The statement of starving kids does not help this child swallow something gag-worthy.

Why cant people just say “I’m sorry, that must be hard?”

If they can’t help, at least acknowledge that I look like shit and I’m obviously having a hard time.

What I’ve learned about my particular fur-ball:

I’ve learned the signals for his bowel movements – I know WAY too much about this topic! I can tell now when he needs to poop. Not only is he physically heavier, but right before he goes he becomes a little wild and crazy and in perpetual motion. Meowing, pawing, trying to run, eating, drinking, searching – as though looking for a good spot to go, and eventually getting to his tray where he scratches litter back and forth for a good minute (or more) before he actually goes.

I’ve learned that he eats grass (I have cat grass in there for him) a couple of hours before he poops.

I’ve learned the gestures he makes before jumping, pouncing, or swatting.

I’ve learned that he’s smart – Nobel prize winning smart sometimes – and he uses this intelligence for devilishness.

I’ve learned that he craves attention and companionship like most of us animals do.

I’ve noticed that some days he’s walking really well on his back leg, not completely normal but not too far from it with only a slight limp. Other days it’s such a prominent limp with his leg out resting whenever he’s still. I never see what happens in between those two days so I’m not sure how it goes from looking good to looking really bad again, but I wish I could explain to him to be careful and quiet with his leg for the next few months so that it will heal. I wish I could tell him that staying calm will make it heal quicker and then he’ll be out chasing things and jumping and playing sooner.

But I cant. It’s hard to communicate information like that with a cat.

That might be the most frustrating thing for me. And the definite difference between children and animals.

I am hoping to adopt children over the age of 3 years who will at least understand simple instructions or simple information. Y’know?

Definitely the hardest part and the part that broke me down the most.

This whole ordeal has been and incredible class for me – and I wish I could say I passed every lesson with straight A’s.

I cant.

I failed so many times, in so many ways.

But I kept going back to class eager and ready to learn something more, and I think at the end of the “semester” I would have received a passing B+, maybe even an A overall.

I am certain that this time has been great practice for becoming a parent, not only with the hands on care, but also with the emotional care I will need to give myself so I can be completely present for my children.

Overall I’m pretty happy with the way I handled myself, and with the way I coped with the stress of it all… both the times I did cope and the times I fell apart. Because in the fall apart times I sought a friend’s ear, or some quiet time, or an outlet of some sort. I showed me that I will make it through, and that I wont run away.

I’m very thankful to be me!

Warm smiles and Love,

Ali Jayne 🙂

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