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Feed yourself first

Posted Jul 24 2011 12:00am
I’ve just had one of those hellish weeks that come at you out of nowhere.

One of our cats quit eating and wedged herself into a dark corner of a closet, never a good sign. We bundled her off to the vet, who ran tests, couldn’t find anything wrong, and sent us home. After two days things had gotten even worse, so back to the vet we went for more tests. Then, a long drive to another (fancier) vet for an another (even more expensive) test.

Still no diagnosis. Home again.

Thirty-six hours later, back to the vet, this time to check poor kitty into intensive care.

Long story short, we’ve just spent the better part of two weeks driving back and forth to vets’ offices, consulting with them over the phone, adjusting medications, spoon-feeding our beloved pet and poking numerous pills down her unwilling throat. (Unwillingly on my part as well - though this alternative-health gal is forced to admit the drugs are probably what saved her. We never did find out for sure what illness felled our kitty, only that antibiotics seemed to do the trick.)

I know some people will read this and think, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a cat.” But you animal folks, those of you whose pets are just like your family members, only fuzzier, will understand what we went through. It would never occur to us to say “Oh, well, she’s just a cat.” We couldn’t even rationalize that she’d lived a good long life - she’s only six years old! Besides, I couldn’t stop thinking how this same cat, when I was sick in bed a couple years ago with a lung infection, lay on my chest purring until I felt better.

Anyway - knock on wood - our girl seems to be on the road to recovery. Life is slowly regaining its routine, something precious to cats and to those of us who relate to them so well. During the last couple of weeks, it seems, everything has been rescheduled, canceled, or otherwise thrown out of whack.

Except for one thing. I made a point of getting to the grocery store.

It's natural to let things slide in a crisis situation - to let housework pile up and phone calls go unanswered. All which definitely happened around here. But one thing I never did was forget to eat.

All right, there was that one harrowing 90-degree day we spent in vets' waiting rooms and in the car driving from one to another, during the entirety of which all I consumed was a granola bar. Aside from that, though, I kept forcing myself to eat normal meals at normal times, even when I didn’t feel like it.

You know the longstanding tradition, after funerals, where neighbors bring covered dishes to the home of the bereaved? Why do people do that? The immediate family is too overwhelmed and drained to think about food. But the friends who care about them instinctively realize that not eating throws the body into even greater shock. Feeding yourself at a time like this keeps the life force flowing, it reminds your body to choose life over death.

Likewise, if someone in your household is ailing and you are the caregiver, it’s crucial to place your own needs high up on the list. You’re no good to anyone if you’re exhausted and sick. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: in the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first. Because you can’t help someone breathe if you yourself are unconscious.

Life’s emergencies take all forms - from looming work deadlines to life-or-death situations. In the middle of everything, it's easy to lose your perspective, not to mention your appetite. Healthy eating is often the first thing to fall by the wayside.

For some of us, forgetting to eat when we’re upset is a natural response. Other people react to stress by grabbing whatever junk food is nearby. Either way, it’s hard to think rationally at a time like this, I know. But for your own sake and the sake of your loved ones, stop, take a deep breath, and choose something nourishing to eat. Stay strong and healthy. You’ll get through this.
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