Yearly Archives: 2016

eight lives left

A little while ago, Byron stopped holding down his meals, and we’d consistently find chicken parts scattered about the house shortly after he ate. A visit to the vet, along with the usual blood tests, came up empty. It was only an x-ray at the ER that showed a small object lodged at the start of his small intestine, blocking the path of digestion.

It didn’t come as a huge surprise. Byron was a relentless cat when it came to searching for food. I couldn’t tell if he’d roam the house for things to eat cause he was hungry, or if his hunger came from the constant roaming. Sometimes we’d find chewed up toys passed through his system, but more often than not they came up the other end, covered in bile. It was only a matter of time before something got stuck.

cat in cone

The face of a killer defeated by a furniture screw.

I try to have a pragmatic view about my cats. Operations of this scale on any single one are hard for me to justify, when I could use those resources to save several more (especially when I wouldn’t love a new cat any less). So I left the decision up to Heather, considering the fact that she’s the breadwinner now, and she’s had a stronger connection to him ever since she started taking care of the cat’s meals.

It wasn’t a difficult choice for her, and she gave the vet approval to operate without a second thought.

Cat at Wintersday

Heather’s spent more hours as his ranger alter-ego, Byron Tightslasher, than any other character. Every detail of his virtual persona is carefully chosen to mimic Byron in real life, from the patterns of his fur, to the tilt of his muzzle. In keeping with his personality, even the ranger pets that follow him are named after foods, such as his juvenile eagle called Drumsticks.

This Christmas, Byron’s “Santa Claws” persona includes a snowfall aura, Wintersday weapon set, wreath backpack, and Ho-Ho-Tron mini with matching santa hat.

After leaving Leonard at the hospital for an emergency operation, then finding out the next day that he was gone, I was terrified that I’d never see Byron again, but he soon came home with a new collar and a shaven belly, weak from not having digested a proper meal in so long.

It’s been a few months since, and he’s rebounded quite well, though a lot more cautious when it comes to the things he decides to put in his mouth. I suspect he’s learned a very painful lesson about not eating something just because he can, which means by now he’s at least smarter than most puppies.

shaved belly

BELLY NEEDS BOOPING

I could tell Heather loved my kitties, cause she obsesses over their health, projects their personalities onto other animals, and talks about them ceaselessly (whether it’s to me or people she just met). She even role-plays as them in Guild Wars 2, her favourite part of every season being the chance create a new costume. But after seeing the how much effort she put into saving my little boy, then nursing him back to health with delicate patience, I’ve started to understand that love goes deeper than I realized, for both them and me.

backstory

It’s taken me a generous distance, as well as a healthy break from the pain, to realize I don’t understand what my mom thought of me. In my earliest years, I believed she loved me, cause none of her demands were unreasonable. After all, children are often helpless and don’t even know what’s best for themselves. Then I grew up, and developed an identity of my own. That meant I had distinctive needs separate from hers, and she would deny every one of them unless they were in line with what she wanted. It was impossible for me to believe there was any love at all when she was the cause of so much of my pain. I’ve since come to realize that relationships are full of nuances, and that it’s possible to love someone wholeheartedly and be terrible for them at the same time.

Continue reading “backstory”…

facing eternity, or the lack thereof

Heather managed to snag a job at a great company on the other side of town. She started her training last month, and I couldn’t be more proud of her for making the cut after months of resumes and applications, hope and patience.

While it makes sense for her to start working, I’ve been forced to deal with an unsettling void in the house — like the deafening silence of a blackout, when the electronic hums and glows cease to provide their perpetual company. We never spent more than an hour apart before this, when she might have stepped out to grab some groceries or a prescription1; nearly two years where we couldn’t help but be closely in tune with each other’s needs and moods. Now, it feels like we barely have a chance to get our dailies with a bit of extra content before it’s time for bed.

Cadem Forest in Plains of Ashford

I always travel with my menagerie of cats; this month with Zuzu, Cat of Darkness at my feet (in celebration of Halloween) and Brill on my back (who’s actually a tiger cub).

Losing so much of each other has been a difficult adjustment. I wasn’t ready for this. It wasn’t a decision I made. I’m not use to being so alone, or even taking care of myself, for that matter2. When she’s away, the void makes it painfully clear how much I surrounded myself with her. I can’t even write without mentioning her, cause there’s rarely a decision I make without considering her first, whether it’s how we’re going to spend our time or what I’m going to say next.

It’s a difficult reminder of many years spent without a partner or parent to rely on. I’ve been trying to reclaim my independence by picking up small responsibilities. Something as simple as making my space more comfortable, whether it’s a thorough cleaning or new lighting arrangement, turns into a chance to succeed and feel accomplished. Even games become little projects, ways of exercising my creativity or keeping myself sharp.

I knew Heather would eventually be working, and I’d be alone. Now the day has come, and I’m constantly wondering: who am I when I’m by myself? What do I do to fill the hours that she’s away?

At least it’s given me a chance to write again. The break hasn’t been entirely intentional. Part of it is the fact that writing takes energy, and I rarely have any to spare when I’m trying so hard just to feel okay. Another part is the fact that I haven’t needed this in the same way since I met her. She’s become an important outlet, one who always makes herself available to me. There hasn’t been the same longing to write, cause I haven’t needed to vent, or sort out my thoughts, or feel validated.

Nevertheless, this period of emptiness has become a chapter in itself. A change that will be a great deal of the rest of our lives. I’m stuck here, while the days stretch out before me with endless possibility. The hard part is finally stumbling into the life I’ve always wanted, finding a partner who fills in my gaps in all the right ways, but not being ready for it all.

  1. Aside from a few days she spent visiting her family last year. It was the first significant amount of time we were away from each other since we met, and I had a panic attack before she was out of the city. []
  2. She still handles the meals, and has a system where most things are done in the slow cooker; all I need to do is pour the contents of a bag into the pot and turn it on at a certain time, although, some days, even this can slip my mind. []

quiet revolution

Depression has added an extra cost to everything I do. Something as simple as buying groceries means making sure my energy levels are carefully paced for a few days before I leave the house, and being too burned out to do any form of interaction for a few days after. If something goes wrong during the process — a night of poor sleep, a sick cat, a loss of motivation, a colitis flare-up — and I run out of spoons, the problems cascade and I end up having to cancel my plans.

That’s why I choose to spend time with people who understand what it truly costs me to function; they happen to be the ones who are consistently reliable, very understanding if I have to cancel, and put as much effort into maintaining the relationship as I do.1

Heather portrait

Heather started tapering off her dose of venlafaxine cause she feels stable enough to take the risk2, and wants to start working without the associated mental haze. Even though music is still a joyless experience, the fact that she’s getting excited about Halloween again is a sign that she’s finally healing.

She doesn’t mind carrying more emotional labour (and I remain willfully ignorant, for the time being), cause she knows I’m playing life on hard mode. My job is to make sure she feels appreciated for doing more than her fair share. The crises we’ve been weathering together since we met means our honeymoon phase was cut short, but neither of us mind, cause intimacy is what we were missing for so long.3

self portrait at 35

The fact that it takes me fewer days be to comfortable around anyone when my insecurities get the better of me means I’m gaining some small form of equanimity. I still have moments when I feel too damaged to be happy, too worthless to be loved, or too broken to be fixed, but it takes me less time to realign my perceptions with reality. The lows aren’t as debilitatingly deep either.

I’ve been using the momentum to take small steps out of my comfort zone; spending more time in difficult situations, learning to be emotionally vulnerable, exploring new ways of expressing myself4, processing parts of the past I’ve tried my best to forget. Even though I’m anxious to feel normal again, I’m forced to recognize my limitations and keep myself paced. I know I’m not where I want to be, but I’m moving in the right direction. That’s enough to keep me going for now.

  1. Also, perhaps not-coincidentally, usually people who have deal with some form of depression or chronic illness in their lives. []
  2. I still have no idea whether mine are keeping me afloat, but the fact that I don’t suffer any side-effects means I’ll be on them for the foreseeable future. []
  3. Finding my underwear washed and folded one day — a responsibility I’ve never shared with any girlfriend — gave me the weirdest boner. []
  4. The only luxury purchase for me this year has been an Impact LX-49 MIDI controller. []

you die, all you do is die, and yet you live

I never intended therapy to take such precedence, but it’s become the re-occurring event around which I work all my other plans. I’m still learning how to be an emotionally healthy person, while unlearning the destructive habits I developed to survive the relationships of my past. They affect me every single day, and I know I’ll be doomed to recreate the dramas of my earlier life unless I have outside help. At the same time, it’s not a process I can rush. Every session leaves me emotionally exhausted, and I need a healthy dose of happy to recover1. It also takes time to process what I learn, reflect on ongoing behaviours, and put new techniques into practice.

I’m fortunate to have found a competent therapist with whom I’m comfortable, especially when doing cognitive work that often leaves me unsafe2. After so many months, he knows enough about me and my history to understand the kind of guidance I need. There’s no structure, but he always lets me start. As a person who’s spent his entire life being socially submissive, the role reversal is a welcome change. It’s a reminder that the time is mine, that I’m free to be myself, that I get what I want out of our hour.

Sometimes, I catch myself wishing he would validate me without the need to explain myself, but he consistently remains the neutral ally (albeit one with plenty of compassion). I’ve learned that it’s important he never side with me out of loyalty the way a friend might, so I can trust his opinion is always balanced and fair. Other times, I wish he would simply tell me what I need to know, but he lets me come to realizations by myself, to make sure I’m always in control, and to avoid influencing me by the act of making a suggestion. It’s a unique role in my life that he plays well.

I dread the pain, but still look forward to every session. So much of my progress is tied to the memories I’ve kept in the back of my head and the emotions I’ve left to experience. It’s an opportunity to show myself compassion, while flexing mental muscles I don’t get to use often enough nowadays. Not to mention the gratification and hope that comes with uncovering long-seated, self-defeating thought patterns.

Heather hasn’t been coming in with me lately, but she still comes with; I don’t need her as a witness as much as a support when it’s over. It’s comforting to know I have a partner who accepts me now amid all this uncertainty, and will continue to no matter who I become. She’s the one who tends to my wounds at home, the love I’ve been missing my entire life, the reason I’m strong enough to do this work. The least I can do is strengthen my bond with her by learning to be more a trusting, patient, and accepting person.

  1. Something that usually involves turning into a blitzed-out hermit for a few days. []
  2. I’ve always wondered what other people’s experience with therapy is like. I don’t know a single person who goes on a regular basis. []