About this week


The person with whom I share my home is a disgrace. The Orange Cat has taken up full-time residence, which has led to acts of terrorism from the home tabbies.

Oh, and the family kettle went up in flames.

It’s not the worst week I’ve had, but even I have to admit it does not sound great.

I’m a big believer in everyday lessons. Sure enough, when the smoke and fur and tempers settled (I cannot believe none of those are metaphors) I started to find some.

The electric kettle contained a reasonable (as opposed to an unreasonable) amount of water when the fire started. Inside the kettle. How?

We have distanced ourselves from this appliance and life is proceeding with a lot less coffee. Still, my disappointment has been no small thing. It always seemed so well-adjusted.

This was the simplest and most accessible lesson: don’t get an electric kettle. I’ve long wanted to live off-grid; I can start here.

The matter of the Orange Cat is more complex. We’ve had a visiting relationship with him for some time now, and I know I should have seen this coming, but did not. His name is the Orange Cat. At least it was up until recently. Now he has a name and vet card with that name on it and I’m up to my wild eyebrows in vet bills, so I see that card quite often. I believe this cat may now belong to the family.

Other cats – ones who were born to this household – are deeply, deeply distressed and express their displeasure often and violently. Mostly, I think the problem is that they don’t see him as a cat. He’s about the same colour as the dog and, to put it as plainly, he may not be very good at catness. I see them looking at him, thinking: “What manner of beast be this?”

He is confused by the water dish. That or he is part of a cult and hasn’t told us about it yet. To drink even the smallest sip, he must make what I gauge is a 270-degree arc around the bowl. Then he paddles. On the floor. In the manner of swimming. The cats born of this home cannot be having with such graceless behaviour.

Lesson: just because it looks and sounds like a cat does not mean it is a cat. And is being not-cat such a bad thing? Admittedly it is a terrible fate, but what doesn’t make us perfect makes us interesting.

And now for the disgraceful human. Maybe the cat, the kettle, the weather, the heavens and god-knows-what-else kind of had me on edge. By which I mean there may or may not have been a few bouts of mild wailing.

I thought I should get in touch with my doctor. I really didn’t think I was under any terrible stress and couldn’t understand why I was either panic-eating or snarling. That’s when he, the cats’ father, said, “That’s probably not necessary, your doctor knows you have these periods of mania.”

My what? The rest is a true and faithful account of the discussion that followed.

Me: “Here’s a simple definition of a manic episode. I found it online. Not even in the DSM. It’s when you have ‘an abnormal, long-lasting elevated expression of emotion along with a high degree of energy and activity that lasts for at least one week and is present most of the day, nearly every day.’”

You can thank the Cleveland Clinic for that.

Him: “Oh ho. Layperson (me) thinks ‘manic’ means being boisterous for an hour or two.”

Me: “But you also think it involves aggression, violence, loss of control.”

Him: “It is a catch-all term for me. And I suspect I am not the only one.”

Me: “Those are the things I think I exhibit when I’m past boiling point, much like the deceased kettle (RIP).”

Him: “People misidentify lots of things as manic. For instance, I could say you’re being manic and you could say, ‘No, I’m just mad at you.’ I could say you’re manic and you could say, ‘No, I’m having a panic attack.’ I could say you’re being manic and you say, ‘No, I just really like puppies.’”

Me: “I do really like puppies, I am often mad at you and I have panic attacks.”


“Do you always think I’m being manic?”

Him: “I thought we were discussing the ills of misidentifying problems?”

End of conversation.

Lesson? Yes, I thought so too.

Remember to talk to your doctor or therapist if you want to know more about what you read here. In many cases, there’s no single solution or diagnosis to a mental health concern. Many people suffer from more than one condition.


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