Dissociation in the Doctor’s Office: Complex PTSD & White Coat Syndrome

Yesterday, I had to have the kind of routine foot surgery that almost makes a zebra feel normal. I had an ingrown toenail that had to be partially cut out. As I lay here recovering from this minor foot surgery yesterday, I marveled at my lack of preparedness for its aftermath, wondering if the part of my brain that usually kicks into hyperactive planning and preparing for these things has somehow managed to shut down or malfunction by some twist of brain fog. I mean, why not? It’s taken just about every other cognitive skill from me at one point or another. I was just telling my husband that I can no longer be our cruise director (my cutesy way of saying “organizer of activities”) because it not only depresses me to see the sheer volume of things I would like to do but cannot going on about the greater Cincinnati area, but because it becomes a massive time suck because I’m just so damned slow at everything. It also has little payoff, frankly. My one day a week out of the house is usually spent on grocery shopping, running errands, and medical appointments.

No, this is something else and I realized yesterday, it feels an awful lot like the PTSD symptom of dissociation. Maybe I slipped into a bit of shock during the procedure yesterday. The doctor did question if I was okay, sitting quietly, staring at my foot the way I was as he slid a scalpel under my toe nail and began cutting away nail as the blood pored all around it, but I laughed and assured him it was nothing. It felt like nothing. I thought was I was having a hard time processing was the fact that I could actually have such a procedure without any pain whatsoever. The only thing that hurt was the injection of local anesthetic, and even that didn’t hurt as badly as he seemed to indicate it would. By the time I was through the first idea on a list of reasons why that might be, my toe was actually numb.

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I had been concerned the lidocaine wouldn’t work. I have a long history of local anesthetic failures, from dentistry to kidney biopsies in which I have suffered on the table (or chair). But the doctor explained given the very nature of the toe, it’s almost impossible for it to not hit the nerve. We also figured my poor circulation in my lower half could actually pay off in this instance of so little tissue, along with all the fascia therapy I’ve done and he seemed to really dig my theory about myofascial dysfunction being a culprit in the mechanisms which prevent some zebras from benefiting from or reacting typically to anesthetic. Of course, resistance  local  anesthesia can also be genetic but in that case, it simply has no effect at all and I know I’m not in that group, as given a high  dose and enough time for it to move sluggishly through my tissues, it will do its job.

footBy the time my toe was numb, so were my emotions. I was preparing for a whole different experience. I was fascinated by my numb toe, I wanted to contemplate that, ruminate on the possibilities, but I didn’t really “feel” anything, physically or emotionally. I might as well have been someone else, a medical student maybe, watching the whole thing with analytical detachment, from having to hold down my own shaking leg to observing rivulets of blood pouring down my toes as he apologized to watching him mop up all that blood to reveal the canal of bloody meat he’d created in lieu of nail. It’s like I’d put on a ball gown to go to a ball game and didn’t understand why I couldn’t get comfortable with my surroundings.

What I realized later is that this numbness follows me to most of my doctors visits, whether I expect there to be physical pain or not. I’ve known for some time that I suffer from white coat syndrome as a result of all the years of disbelief and derision I’ve dealt with, North to mention the ones who carried out painful procedures despite my protests of pain because they didn’t believe local anesthetic resistance was a thing. This is the first time I’ve put together that what’s happening is dissociation.

It certainly makes sense. Given that I’ve suffered complex PTSD since childhood, I suspect I’m an expert at dissociation. It makes me really good in a crisis and shit at everything else. I’m so good at it, been doing it so long, I don’t even recognize what it is. I don’t even think my former therapists knew I did it because I’m so good at hiding it. In large part, it’s kept me safe and sane all these 46 years, this tendency to shut down and act as an observer, but it has no place in my medical care or my now safe and beautiful life.

Maybe that’s why I’m finally able to see my dissociation. I finally have a cadre of doctors who care and believe. I have real love and safety in my life and have for decades now, but I also had to stop muddying those waters by constant exposure to my toxic family. I also recently made the conscious decision to meet these issues head on. I am ready to face these truths. I fully believe all these things had to be necessary for these problems to come to light.

I suppose the next step is to figure out how not to dissociate every time I walk into a medical appointment. This is very important because when I dissociate, my memory fails to function correctly. I can neither supply doctors with sufficient answers to their questions because of poor recall than I can remember much of what they say after the fact. I have to rely on written instructions and notes and something always gets missed or lost in translation. Even if this weren’t a problem, the anxiety, sometimes full blown panic attacks that precedes these episodes are very hard on a person with multiple chronic illnesses that respond poorly to such hormonal fluctuations.

This is why it takes me days longer to recover from medical appointments even when they don’t happen to be physically taxing. Rarely can I ever walk away from a medical appointment without feeling  battled and bruised, even if nothing went wrong. It takes many appointments with the same practitioner before I can stop this cycle of panic attacks and dissociating. I was just getting there  with my PT therapist as our time together was coming to an end and I saw her 8 times over 3 months.

It also prevents me from making appointments to address situations that are quite necessary, such as with my gastroparesis, my MCAS, and even this stupid ingrown toenail. I fear going to a new practitioner so much that I will literally suffer for years with something that can be addressed in a single appointment.

It has apparently also begun to effect my ability to prepare for these things and the havoc they might create in their wake. I distinctly remember seeing flashes of what might be done to my toe in my mind weeks before my appointment. I’m not naïve about the ministrations required for ingrown nails. Instead of such visions prompting me to prepare, I took a thoroughly Scarlett O’Hara approach, so much so that tomorrow never came. It never entered my mind that removing part of my toenail would put me down for days, that I’d be taking foot baths for two weeks or that I even might have to curtail my workout routine. Mary Poppins (I was once called this by a former boss for my unfailing preparedness) sure as fuck fell down on the job this time.

The ironic thing is that for the first time in years, I had very little anxiety about this actual appointment. I didn’t even think about my white coat syndrome prior to my appointment. Was this because I was already in a dissociative state over the entire affair or has the run of good luck with practitioners and the hard work I’ve been doing to try to regain control over these neuroses started paying off? I suppose either or both are strong possibilities, but I haven’t come to any definitive conclusion.

All of this contemplation came about because of my desire to get on social media and whine about such an insignificant procedure and great appointment with an intelligent and knowledgeable doctor who introduced himself by his first name. Objectively I could see there was little to cry about. I deal with worse pain on any given afternoon. It was uncharacteristic. I’m not a fan of sharing every ache and pain online because it causes us to wallow and brings everyone else down. Don’t get me wrong. I’m highly sympathetic, I just feel like it does more harm than good, even if it might seem like a good way to bring awareness to invisible illnesses. But an ingrown toenail is common and not something which needs recognition, nor do I need or want pity, but I realized I was in fact feeling a bit traumatized over the experience,  which of course is laughable.

Laughable, at least until you realize it was traumatic precisely because I was triggered. Certainly the fact that it was a medical appointment was enough to do this, but I don’t think I really slipped into a dissociative state until the procedure began. It reminded me of all those times people have done things to me without actually being numbed, but I think it also touched on my childhood victimization, where I was forced to participate in my own torture in order to make it a little more bearable and safe. Holding my own leg down to prevent my shaking felt too much like holding onto the foot of the bed while my father beat me with a belt or taking my own clothes off for my rapist so he wouldn’t tear them from me.

I cry. I cry with the knowledge of just how neurotic I’ve become and how despite all the years I’ve spent getting to know the darkest, most destructive parts of myself to enable healing and growth, I am still blind to some of my own tricks. I cry because I berated and belittled my mother for being an expert ostrich with all things unpleasant while considering myself so brave for refusing to sugarcoat things, only to find that the old adage just might be right; we abhor in others the things we most dislike about ourselves. I cry because I realize no matter how old I get or how distant the trauma, I know I will always be a work in progress, forever chasing what looks like positive mental health. I cry because I have to release the safety of numbness and allow myself to embrace all the emotions that I have, be they good or bad, so that I can be a whole, healthy, functioning person. I cry because when I allow myself, I still feel pity for the little girl who endured so much before she even hit her 5th or 15th year.

Like all things in mental health, all I can do is find forgiveness in my heart for all of these imperfections and learn how to move forward, to do better. I’ll learn how to address the problem, and try to do better in the future. As I have been doing, so I will continue.

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Learning to Manage Anxiety, Depression and Panic Attacks

The week has left me feeling a bit fragile and much defeated. I started it out with my head pain specialist Monday afternoon. We discussed my headaches, celebrated how much better my migraines are, the fact that I’m still getting these sort of nebulous , all over feeling headaches almost every day, especially when I’m upright for long periods, especially walking around. Since my MRIs are more than 5 years old, we decide to repeat them and check for signs of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. He had me take blood tests to make sure my kidney function was acceptable and we went from there.

On Wednesday, I checked my results and other than my glucose levels being just outside of normal range, everything checked out fine with my blood work, so I called to schedule my MRI. They actually had an opening on Thursday, so I took it. I was nervous about the dye and how I might react to it in my current state of mast cell flare up, so I arranged for my husband to drive me and took 50 mg of benadryl starting out. I also hoped that since I’m claustrophobic, its drowsy effects might help calm me some, as I didn’t ask the doctor for a script for anything and I’m not being prescribed anything for anxiety attacks.

I had an MRI of my lumbar in January, so I knew exactly where I wanted to go to have my imaging done. There’s an exceptionally roomy machine at the University of Cincinnati’s brand new state of the art football stadium and since I’m both a person of size and a claustrophobe, I get to use it. For my lower spine, it was a breeze because I got to go in feet first and I really only went in up to my nose. I still began to panic a little, and I am breathing heavy now just recalling the memory as I write this, but by controlling my thoughts and breathing, I had it under control within the first 5 minutes.

With my white coat syndrome (anxiety related to medical procedures and practices), it helps to have familiar surroundings, staff I’ve already met and to understand the expected protocol. I was still nervous, but less so than I was in January. I got there and everything seemed to be the same, right down to the sweet and talkative receptionist who shares the burden of migraines. But when the tech came to get me and told me I would have to change into a hospital gown when I hadn’t had to in January and had taken great care to ensure nothing metal was on my person, it threw me, causing a small spike in my anxiety.

For a brain MRI, your head is placed on a head rest that juts out on either side of your head and a cage gets attached to it so that it circles your entire head like a helmet. You’re then fed head first into the machine. The second the cage was snapped into place over my face, my heart started like a gazelle caught by a pride. It isn’t in any way rational, I know that logically. I even loathe myself for my lack of control. It does me no good. My pulse zips through my ears. I begin to draw air in big gulps as my body floods with cortisol and adrenaline. I am ready to fight, to run for my life from a thousand pound predator, but I can’t. I am trapped in a tiny cage on my back, about to be fed into a giant coffin by the tap of a button.

The tech looked at me, frowning. “Are you okay?”

I held up a hand.

“Do we need to stop?”

“I just need a minute,” I managed, panting. I could feel her staring at me and wanted to scream, “You’re not helping,” but I managed to hold my tongue.

“Are you okay, hon?”

“I’ll be alright.”

“Just close your eyes and relax. Don’t think about it.”

As my eyes slid closed, the bed began to move into the tube and my panic rose higher still. I clamped my eyes shut against the terrible truth. Thoughts of controlling my breathing and finding tranquil scenes to concentrate on were often losing out to the urge to scream, kick and cry until they got me out of that contraption. Then I realized that not knowing just how tight of a space I occupied was simply more than I could bear, so I opened my eyes as I have always done before. Everything swam, white on white and shadow over shadow, everything danced until finally things came into focus. As I realized there was more than a foot between me and the walls of the machine, I could begin to form a plan of escape; I needn’t rely on the tech. Feeling reassured, it became a little easier to control my breathing. I could close my eyes again, this time without clenching them shut.

There are certain truths about oneself one should never lose sight of and for me, there are two essential truths that this experience highlights. One, almost all aspects of my neurotic behavior stems from a lack of control, my fear of losing control is deeply rooted in my trust issues, and the way to reach me is ultimately is always through logical arguments over emotional coddling. I know that sounds like three things, but it’s really only two; I’m incapable of trusting others (and therefore of feeling safe in vulnerable positions) and that I really can’t gain control over my emotions without either addressing them with logical solutions or examining them thusly.

I’m not even sure how I came to get claustrophobia. It just showed up one night, in a haunted maze when I was twenty-one. I was with a group of friends, we were in a tunnel, and as the tunnel grew smaller and smaller, I froze and began to hyperventilate. My friends had to get me out, pushing and pulling as I tried desperately to keep from passing out.

At its worst, someone being trapped in a small space on a television show will trigger a panic attack, though I haven’t dealt with that in a while. For me, it generally has to do with how safe I feel in my surroundings, coupled with my health and how well my dysautonomia is being treated as to whether or not I can deal with small spaces. Even putting my mask on causes a slight amount of panic, as it feels restrictive. I have no doubt it stems from my PTSD, but whether it stems from a single incident, I cannot say. To say that there are gaps in my memory is an understatement. Even as a teenager, I was aware that there were years of my childhood missing from my recollection and while the mind sometimes guards us from the things we cannot handle, it usually leaves the feelings and fear attached behind. There are a few memories that are good candidates, most especially the one that caused my first anxiety attack when I was fourteen. I never think of it as being the root, since I was trapped in my own bedroom and we tend to think of our bedrooms as our refuge, but when you’re being held hostage by a gun-waving drunk who’s threatening to shoot you if you don’t meet his demands, it’s hardly a place you want to call home. Certainly, this seems as likely a place to have gotten it as any, though there are other possibilities, all rooted in the same thing.

It’s a tricky business, walking the line between POTS and PTSD and knowing where one ends and the other begins. In truth, there is no way to know. They have overlapping features and symptoms because they are both forms of dysautonomia. That’s why I was so confused when I began to have what felt like a major relapse in PTSD several years ago despite having done over a decade of work to overcome my not inconsiderable bundle of neuroses from my childhood. While I understood that I may never completely overcome PTSD and faced the occasional trigger, I was suddenly dealing with long bouts of anxiety and depression. I was becoming intermittently suicidal and I my outlook on life had completely changed. To make matters worse, my thoughts became consumed with the past, how my parents and siblings had used and discarded me, how my friends had rejected me and treated me like a faker and I felt completely alone and undeserving of love or compassion. I reasoned that anyone in my position, at the time in constant overwhelming pain and mostly confined to bed due to the severity of my symptoms, would want to die and even formulated plans a few times.

Now that I’m diagnosed, I understand the source of these thoughts and feelings and have a lot more control. I’ve found that low dose mirtazipine works to keep most of these problems at bay, along with keeping my POTS well controlled. I also now know what tends to trigger bouts of anxiety and depression so I can do my best to avoid them, such as not getting enough rest, stress, pushing beyond my limits, and vitamin deficiencies. I also pay close attention to what’s on my mind, as obsessive thoughts about the past are usually a pretty good sign that I’m heading for a rough patch. Of course my overall health is the ultimate predictor and I can’t always prevent flares in my conditions like the one I’m going through with my MCAS right now, but I’m doing my best to learn and prevent these things as I go along.

One of the reasons I started this post on anxiety is because I’m finding it helps to talk about it BEFORE I get to the point where I’m ready to bite someone’s head off—for me, anxiety turns to rage. I also have a tendency to shut down and close myself off when I get depressed, so starting this process early is crucial.

Yesterday was a doozy of a day, it’s been a busy week without enough sleep and I was primed for a panic attack, but somehow I prevailed. I had three errands to run; to the post office, the pharmacy and the grocery. On my way to the post office, I passed the DMV and suddenly realized we never received our renewal notice for our plates. BOOM. Big rush of adrenaline, especially since there was a cop following me. I decided to turn up the next street and back track to the DMV. I pull my registration from my glove compartment just to make sure I’m not imagining things and read the expiration date. ‘2018. Is it 2018?’ By now, my thinking is getting clouded. I look at my phone to make sure. I wait in line for 30 minutes and get my tags and she tells me it wasn’t even showing late, even though my registration says it expired on April 30. I manage to calm and collect myself on the way to the post office. By the time I’m done with the pharmacy and the post office, I’m tired as hell, but determined to get groceries, as my husband is working 6 days this week and has challenges of his own.

In the grocery, near the beginning of my trip, I subluxate my right knee and while it usually pops right back in, the damned thing won’t go back in. I hobble along, leaning on the cart and it takes me twice as long to shop. As I’m walking out to the car, I sneeze in my mask (GROSS), and as the hot air hits me when I come out of the grocery, I get hit with a wave of dizziness and can hardly breathe. Luckily I parked in handicap parking and already had my keys out. I got the lift gate open on my car and sat down, panting, sort of leaning on my cart for support and to keep it from rolling away. I was amazed, two people actually stopped to see if I needed help. The second guy helped me unload my cart and took it away for me. I kind of think it was because I was wearing my mask, because I’ve never been approached like this in public before unless I collapsed to the ground. I guess there’s still some humanity left in this world. I made it home safe and managed to drag the cold stuff far enough into the apartment to close the door where I left it so I could fall into my recliner and catch my breath again, but instead I wet myself and had to go clean myself up. My cat Loki took the opportunity to try to break into my husband’s deli meat in the meantime, of course.

I really wanted to just break down and have a good cry, but I couldn’t. In fact, I felt positively incapable of reacting to anything. To be perfectly frank, on a day like yesterday, normally I would have blown up 5 times at worst and snapped at some poor unsuspecting employee at minimum, but I did none of that.

When my husband called on his lunch break and I relayed the details of my day, adding that I definitely won’t be pushing myself like that again anytime soon. He said, “My God, but you’re tough, woman.”

Tears sprang to my eyes. “I don’t feel tough. I feel weak and worthless. I was defeated by a grocery store.”

“It takes incredible strength to go through all that in one day with all you’ve been dealing with.”

Sometimes he knows just what to say. Despite my talk of zebra strong this and that, I realized it’s been a very long time since I’ve thought of myself as anything but a marshmallow, a big, wet, whiney, mushy, marshmallow with a head full of raving squirrels. But he’s right and I needed to be reminded of it. I am strong. I’ve never laid down to die, I’ve never allowed my conditions to run rampant over me, I’ve never laid down to take anyone’s shit, not even my own. Just because I’ve learned to temper my Type A personality for the sake of my health doesn’t mean I’m weak, it means I’m wise. It means I’m learning the value of quality of life over the quantity of my contributions and that my mental and physical well being are paramount to society’s expectations of who or what I should be and do.

I may yet fall prey to the ravages of anxiety and depression. I wasn’t able to sleep well again last night and if I don’t get some serious REM sleep soon, I know I’ll be in trouble. My only plan today is to do some cooking for nourishment’s sake and rest as much as possible. But I’m glad I’m learning these lessons and using the tools available to me to help prevent my anxiety and depression from overwhelming me during these flares. It’s nice for once to not have to say sorry for what I said while I was flaring!

Hell Hath No Fury Like an MCAS POTSie

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been a salty mess the past week or so and by salty, I don’t mean in the way most of us POTSies hope for. Those who have MCAS know all too well that anxiety and depression are par for the course when you’re in a flare, and if you have POTS to boot, hide the fucking knives. We can be pure evil bitches to ourselves and others.

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Yep. I had to take a big time out from the interwebs before I started taking hostages. As it is, I had a lot of apologizing to do to my husband. Luckily, he’s a very forgiving guy with enough autonomic demons to be supremely empathetic.

Every time this happens, I decide it’s time to escape. Of course, the things I want to escape don’t actually have an exit. So my brain starts searching for any little imperfection that I can change. I feel small, alone and hateful. I feel completely disconnected from my husband and everything that comes out of his mouth, no matter how innocent or innocuous, becomes a judgment about me, my illness or our marriage. This time the poor guy wasn’t listening or responding fast enough for my liking when I was complaining about how hot and itchy my respirator is, so I decided he was like everyone else, he didn’t give a damn about how I felt or what I was going through and I screamed as much at him all the way home from the grocery. This is all absolutely ludicrous and I fully recognize that now, but in the moment and for two full days after, it’s truly what I felt and believed to be true despite a decade of solid evidence to the contrary.

The thing is I went through this for decades without knowing why I had such a Jekyll and Hyde personality or went through periods where I felt completely unable to control my emotions and yet was perfectly level headed and pleasant the rest of the time. I wrecked entire relationships because of my anxiety fueled rages and depression. I remember my mother throwing her hands up and demanding to know where her sweet daughter went when I was a teen. In my mind, I was just fed up with taking all the abuse and wasn’t going to stand for it anymore, but I knew deep down that much of the time I couldn’t really control my behavior anymore than I could control the weather. Part of me enjoyed this new found voice and the response I got to it. Part of me was terrified by it.

In my twenties, I began to question if it was premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) as these mood swings mostly revolved around my periods. It wasn’t until the last several weeks that I learned that a lot of women with MCAS have a terrible reaction to menstruation. Hormonal fluctuations can be a real bitch in the first place. Add degranulated mast cells and they’re positively explosive. There’s always been a direct correlation between my declining health the severity of my periods and I’m not at all surprised to find that MCAS is probably the reason behind that.  Of course it wasn’t my period alone that was the problem. While I didn’t have my ovaries removed when I had my hysterectomy, I’ve seen vast improvements, but obviously I still struggle.

Now my anxiety and depression rise and fall with flare ups, such as I’m going through this spring. It’s really been the first time that I could definitively say, “this is an MCAS flare” because I finally have everything else under control. I wasn’t aware that I had a big problem with pollen, but looking back, I have had an allergic reaction to several flowers, so it makes sense. And look what surrounds my apartment, so close you can nearly touch it:

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Honeysuckle, so so much honeysuckle

I also have big issues with mold and since it’s been a really wet spring here in the Ohio River Valley, I’m sure it’s everywhere. Everything is causing me to flare, from foods I used to be able to eat without an issue to my regular hair products I’ve been using for over a year.

Of all the symptoms from all the conditions I have, the ones I hate the most are my anxiety and depression because they make me someone else. I detest being mostly housebound, but I can handle it and find ways to make my life interesting and worthwhile. I can handle the pain of migraines, frequent subluxations, IC and GI issues, I have for decades. I can even take the nausea, though I will grumble about it an awful lot. But not being myself, being incapable of rational thought and understanding, having a hair trigger and losing that deep well of empathy that’s so integral to who I am, that I still don’t know quite how to deal with, even though it may be one of my oldest symptoms.

I am glad that I’m finally understanding that it’s not my fault and while I still apologize (because that’s simply what any polite person should do), I know I can give myself a break when I do lose it and be super proud every time I manage to win a battle with the anxious mega bitch even if I can’t win the war.

 

Furbaby Love <3

Today is my little furbaby’s first birthday! Happy Birthday, Loki!! He’s been with us since he was four months old and what a wonderful, wacky, love-filled eight months it’s been. I can hardly describe the countless hours of joy and comfort this little guy has brought me since the moment he walked through my door, but I’ll do my best. In honor of his big day, I put together this collage video, so you can see how much he’s grown.

1186709_226156057540213_668762533_n (2015_08_31 16_32_32 UTC)It’s hard to believe it’s been eight months already. Sometimes it feels like he’s always been here, but it’s really not at all difficult to remember how lonely and sad I was without him. I know I am so very fortunate to have a spouse who has stuck by me through a decade of being mostly housebound, but there’s also a long list of things I’ve lost; family, friends, career, home, the chance at having my own children. I even had to give up my beloved dog when I wasn’t capable of taking her on walks anymore and we didn’t have a yard. I never thought I’d get over the grief and guilt I felt over rehoming Verona, my border collie, but I had to work through that before I could let myself move on and love another animal. It took 2 years before I could even think about her without crying.

As wonderful as my husband is, as much joy as he brings me and as much as he works to love and care for me, he’s just not enough. No one can be your end all and be all.  I have to have more love and companionship in my life than what he can give me, but that doesn’t necessarily have to come from another human. What Loki has brought me is very meaningful and significant to my life. He’s my only companion every day from 12:30 pm to 10:30 pm, sometimes longer, as my husband goes to work and lives his life beyond our home.

That’s where Loki comes in, though he certainly doesn’t take time off when my husband comes home, either. Loki is my comfort when I hurt, often opting to spend nearly the entire day in my lap or by my side on my really bad days, gently purring and chatting to me. On those days, he knows better than to meow at me incessantly as he does on other days.

Loki treats me with a care and respect he doesn’t seem to have for anyone else. He harasses the hell out of my husband when he puts his shoes on, for example, chasing his shoe strings and sinking his claws in so it’s impossible to tie them. Not me. He never interferes with me trying to accomplish something, at least not on my bad days. And when I’m asleep, he never bothers me. I don’t know if he senses just how hard it is for me to sleep or what, but he won’t even come near the bed when I’m asleep, though if we close the door he throws a real fit.

On my good days, he’s always up for a game of blanket mouse or pointer chasing. No matter what I’m doing or how I’m feeling, he’s usually by my side. When we first got him, he wouldn’t allow anyone to pick him up, but now he lets me, if a little grudgingly, for some cat cuddles. He’s in love with my robe and the way it feels and always nurses on it just like a baby kitten when I wear it as he’s done since the day he came into our lives.

Of course life with Loki isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. We thought we were naming him after the trickster god of Norse mythology and a Marvel character, but his name really turned out to be short for loquacious, as he’s the most talkative cat I’ve ever met in my life. His chatter can be a bit much to take at times, especially when I’m riding high on histamines, with headaches, anxiety and noise sensitivity. But I’ve come to realize most of his meowing is about his own anxiety and I try to be patient and reassuring, which usually quiets him down a lot quicker than anything else. Of course he also chats quite a lot when he plays, if he’s hungry, feeling challenged and for a few reasons I have yet to puzzle out. Just check out this video of him playing.

When I got him, I knew I needed a companion, someone to love and care for and who r20171009_165021.jpgeturned that love. I’ve almost always had animals and they are like my children to me, but after having to give up Verona and having had several cats that I just couldn’t seem to build a strong relationship with, I had all but given up. I still don’t feel confident that I could give a dog everything she or he needs, so after three years of loneliness, I decided to give a kitten a try and I sure am glad I did. I think back to how sad and pitiful my life was without Loki and I can hardly believe I let myself suffer like that.

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Now that he’s here, my life feels so much more complete. He brings me joy with all his kitty antics and his sweet loving ways. He brings me comfort with his gentle, watchful care. He provides me companionship and lets me know I am never alone. He provides me with a sense of accomplishment, as I am proud of the strong cat he’s become from the emaciated, bedraggled, flea-bitten kitten he was. He truly is my pride and joy and the best little companion animal any Zebra could ask for.