Inviting Someone with Mental Illness into Your Life, or What I Learned From My Cat

September 2, 2011 Tracey Lloyd

Maintaining all relationships is difficult. Dating is even harder. But I think it takes a special kind of person to begin a relationship with a person who has a mental illness. This fact hit home for me this weekend when I adopted a cat. You might not immediately see the parallel between getting a pet and, say, dating someone with bipolar. However, I adopted a cat who may have heart disease and it was a gut-wrenching decision.

Choosing a Cat is Not Unlike Dating a Human

At the adoption center, I had every intention of getting an adult cat. My life is too unpredictable to train a kitten. Also my serafina-in-bedapartment has a rodent problem, so I needed a good mouser. Then I met Serafina who, at just over 1 year old, was a little young for me. But she was friendly, and cute, and let me pick her up. Also, she spent most of her time stalking pigeons from the window, making her a perfect solution to my mouse issue. Only when we proceeded to adoption did I learn more about Serafina's health: she has an enlarged left ventricle, which may mean nothing or may turn into full-blown heart disease. The vet asked me what I wanted to do and I had no idea if I could handle it.

When You Have Bipolar, Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You

My first reaction was, "Why is life so hard? Why can't I get a healthy cat?" As the doctor used words like EKG and cardiologist, I wondered how much it would cost to take care of Serafina. In the past, I'd always said that pets with chronic illness weren't worth the trouble. But this time, I thought about my own expectations in relationships. I expect my friends and family to accept my bipolar disorder. I expect their support when I'm depressed, their clarity when I'm manic, and their understanding about my psychiatric medications. And when I meet a man I'd like to date, I don't want him to run for the hills when he learns about my diagnosis. I want him to recognize that I'm an amazing woman with a disease that's like so many things in life: manageable, and not necessarily devastating.

Now my cat is snoozing next to me on the sofa. We've completely bonded in the last two weeks and I never realized how attached I could become to a pet. The vet reminds me that Serafina may never actually get sick and that feline heart disease just entails monthly prescriptions and special food. Kind of like my disease. There's still room on the sofa for a third person, hopefully one who'll accept our moods and our meds. And a fair amount of cat hair.

Find Tracey on Twitter, Facebook, and her personal blog.

APA Reference
Lloyd, T. (2011, September 2). Inviting Someone with Mental Illness into Your Life, or What I Learned From My Cat, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 14 from

Author: Tracey Lloyd

Leave a reply