Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finding The Trigger (A.K.A. The Search For Answers)

This is Caramel several years ago. Got to love the hair!

I have been trying to write this post for a really long time. But it has been very difficult for me to try and put my thoughts and feelings on this subject into words.

I’ve tried to think back to what in my life possibly could have set off this crazy turn of health events. And the only thing I’ve come up with is that all of this really got going in early June two summers ago after my cat died.

I had gotten him for my eighth birthday, he was 14, and he was supposed to move with me into my first apartment.

If you’ve never seen a sick cat before, their demise is sort of like the trajectory of autoimmune diseases. You’re fine one second and the next you’re fighting just to breathe. I had noticed him getting thinner and then I noticed that he was breathing from his mouth. Cats just don’t do that. They don’t have to open their mouths to breathe.

I had been the one to make the choice. To decide that a cat who couldn’t breathe, whose lungs were full of fluid, who was only going to get worse, was not worth saving. Mainly, I knew that keeping Caramel alive would have been a completely selfish pursuit, for me and not for him. And I felt that for my family, it would be much more traumatic to come home one day and find him dead somewhere in the house than to do the only thing that seemed right to me at the time (however difficult it was). Honestly, I think it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. And I don’t regret it. I think I just wish that I was an emotionally stronger person and that I wouldn’t have seen this singular event as so devastating.

And now here I am, everyday making the same decision about my own life. Do I take these pills today or let fate run its course? Do I take matters into my own hands and become my own fate? I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately, much of it difficult, and find myself yet again in a place where I really wish my life wasn’t complicated by illness. Sometimes there’s just too much to deal with at once.

I’ve heard of car accidents and severe physical traumas triggering autoimmune diseases. But my cat dying? That sounds kind of lame to me. That, that event would have caused all of this. And I know that this has all been building up inside of me for some time, long before the cat died and long before my episode of vertigo a few years ago.

But after that, I was never feeling quite like myself again.

In some ways, I know that this quest to pinpoint the exact moment I got sick is a futile pursuit. On the other hand, though, I’ve never been a person who is satisfied with not having answers to my questions.

But maybe simply by voicing and opening up about these concerns, I can finally put them to rest.

One issue that I’ve realized in my life is that I am, at some times, very good at minimizing the pain and hurt caused by people and events in my life, and thinking that I should move on before it’s time or far before I’m really able to. But sometimes I think we all need the encouragement of others to tell us that we aren’t crazy or weird for feeling the way we do about certain events in our lives.

That’s why, as I continue to process the death of my cousin, I realize that “survivor guilt” has come into play. It seems to me, however irrational I know that this is, that as his health deteriorated, mine got better. And that is something that is so incredibly hard for me to deal with.

Daily I search for answers to questions, about my life and the lives of others, that are quite possibly unanswerable…


  1. Leslie,

    First of, let me say I am so sorry for your loss of Carmel. Our pets are part of our family, and it is devastating to lose them under the best of circumstances. I too, had to make the choice to put my cat to sleep due to illness and shortly after I was hospitalized for over 6 weeks and became sicker than I had ever been in my life. I am sure that one thing helped to trigger the other. You aren't crazy, you are a sensitive and loving person. I am not saying that you wouldn't have gotten ill if you hadn't lost Carmel, but it certainly cost you something to have to deal with it. It's just part of who we are, you can't disconnect one part of you from the other. Our emotions affect our physical being and vice versa. I know you want answers, but sometimes there are none, and that is very hard to accept.

    You've had such a tumultuous year and so much to deal with in a short span of time. Allow yourself to take some time to absorb it all , as well as learn to live with all you will learn from what has happened.

    In the meantime, know that you are normal, good and supported, both in "real" life and on-line. I am here if you need and ear. . .

  2. Hey Leslie,

    I have to say I didn't realize stress from thoughts could do so much. I remember there was a night I was really worried about something that really got to me... it triggered my lupus badly. So I've realized that we have to not stress ourselves as much... there are things that aren't as important like mine, but other things, like your cat dying that we can't really help much.