Planning to Minimize the Impact of Death on Bipolar Disorder

March 18, 2014 Natasha Tracy

My cat is 16 years old; that is 80 years old in human years. And while he could still be with us for years to come (hopefully), kitties, like humans, don’t live forever.

And, quite frankly, when he goes, I’m going to lose it. Lose all my marbles – bipolar or otherwise. He’s been with me longer than any human. He’s who I’ve come to home to for a decade and a half. His daily rhythms synch with mine (or mine with his, you know, because he’s the boss). He means a whole lot to me.

So I’m preparing for his death. I don’t know when it will happen, but one day, he just isn’t going to wake up.

Death’s Effect on Bipolar

Death affects bipolar disorder dramatically. Here's how I'm planning for death to minimize its impact on my bipolar disorder.Even thinking about this makes me cry and while that is a normal, human emotion for people attached to their pets, the problem with it is its effect on bipolar disorder. When I lose my stuff – for whatever reason – it really impacts my bipolar and makes me overreact to the point of suicidal depression – a decided un-normal human reaction. It’s something people don’t understand. I won’t just grieve – I will want to die.

Preparing for Death's Impact on Bipolar

So I’m trying to prepare my head, my brain, my heart, for the eventuality of death. We all live and we all die, even beloved cats included. This is the circle of life. Without death there would be no life. I know this. And I choose to believe that whatever happens to his little, kitty soul after death will be in some way positive. I have no evidence of this, of course, but it just seems like the nicer thing to believe.

Minimizing Death’s Impact on Bipolar

I don’t know if trying to prepare for death is the right thing to do, per se, I just know that it’s the way I’m trying to manage its impact on my bipolar disorder. I’m a planner, I guess. I like to know what’s going to happen, to the extent that I can. I like to know the physical steps to take so that when the event, and the emotions, hit, at least I know what to do.

But once I have planned, as much as I can, and I’ve done whatever I think will minimize death’s effect on my bipolar disorder, I have to just enjoy that he is with me now. I have to enjoy the today and not think of the possibly nasty tomorrow. Because planning is good, I thoroughly believe in it, but you can’t live in the future or you’ll miss all the purrs of the present.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, March 18). Planning to Minimize the Impact of Death on Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Thomas G Kossnar
March, 18 2014 at 8:52 am

My cat, my best friend Bobby Lucho died in January of 2013. He was my best friend ever. Literally. Incredibly beautiful big black cat, super smart. After Bobby died I was very depressed for a month and thought about suicide constantly. I am Bi Polar. Well, I survived. But yeah, I don't think normal people would think about offing themselves. I did.

March, 18 2014 at 11:23 am

When I lost my very first cat,Felicia,7 years ago...
OMG was a crying fest.
I paced ..I stopped eating,I literally stopped BEING.
The apartment was suddenly so empty and quiet...
I never went out unless I had to,then I'd burst into tears when home...
My little girlfriend was gone.
But,I promised her when I got her as a lil kitten,I'll always be there sweetheart,kissing the top of her fuzzy grey head....
I was there,as the vet inserted the anesthesia,kissed her.
Then walked out of the room,tears streaming.
This ends my story,as I too,like my friend Natasha,am bipolar,also have PTSD.
So,it also is triggering another peace.
Too much pain at moment,signing off...

March, 18 2014 at 11:26 am

Wishing you the best Natasha w your feline friend.
God bless...
It's very painful,but wish I'd had a plan for many things:(

March, 18 2014 at 5:08 pm

My cat is 15, very ill and I am going to have to put her to sleep very soon. I spent all day agonizing about doing this as this was supposed to be the big day. It turned out to not be the right day. Aside from the obvious gut-wrenching loss this will cause, I am terrified I will go into a suicidal depression. So I find myself hesitant to make the right decision or any decision for that matter because I am not sure I can handle it. I am trying to plan and prepare myself but I am quite terrified. I have spent the last 3 years thinking about this the way you talked about your cat above. I think this is even worse as a person with bipolar because my pets are my constant companions. They don't care what my moods are. They don't expect me to put on a happy face for them. They are just there. Always.
I don't know how I am going to react but I am not going to have a choice but to find out.

March, 20 2014 at 1:35 pm

I have 2 old kitties, both in early kidney failure. When my other 2 old kitties died, it helped that I had others to take care of. A young feral cat (a true feral, not a stray) wandered into my life a couple of years ago, and I've spent much time taming her and she is almost tame enough to come into the house as a pet, now.
I guess the bipolar moods are rather detached from life experiences now that I've had bipolar for over 30 years. I grieve terribly for my lost people and pets, but the underlying mood stays where it's at most of the time (sometimes, I switch to euphoric hypomania, and it is disturbing when that happens). My severe depression went away when my beloved father died. Maybe it was sunny for a few days? Maybe I slept less for a couple of days? I was shocked out of the depression? I cried and cried, of course, but the depression was gone. I don't think I will ever figure it out.

March, 20 2014 at 5:38 pm

I think it is healthy for you to start to think about it even though it is very painful. It will never be easy but just knowing that will help you. And know that you eventually will be able to get through it. Like one person said, it helped to have other cats still. Maybe you could rescue another cat (before yours dies if it won't bother her or very soon afterwards). And i always think crying helps...people should cry a lot if there is pain. My 20yr old son has mood disorder and is very attached to his cat and i am scared how he will deal with it when she dies. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it. You are not alone, and that is good to know too. And no matter how painful such a situation is, don't hurt yourself, get help please. There are people who love you. Thanks for writing, k

March, 23 2014 at 7:59 pm

My cat was 17 when I had to make that gut wrenching decision to take him to the vet. He had trouble seeing (cataracts), he had trouble hearing and he would cry to picked up to be put on the bed, couch, etc to be with me. He would insist on jumping down from these places but would often land with obvious pain and discomfort. He always avoided the garage. The cat "travel" cage was there and he knew it meant going to the vet for shots, teeth cleaning etc. During the last week I found him several times in the garage laying near the travel cage. The last two days, he actually slept on me all night long. Something he had never done since he was a kitten. It was almost like he was telling me that it was time and that it would be ok. When I brought the travel cage into the house, instead of running away and hiding he walked over to me and sat in front of the cage. i wished that he would have outlived me instead of the way it was happening. However, I can't imagine him having to get to know and trust another human. I know that I have trouble trusting and letting people know how I feel. I can't imagine him trying to do that without being able to talk. For example him saying, "no I do not like to sit in your lap, I prefer to sit next to you or next to or on your keyboard." If you make me sit in your lap, I will stay for a while but the price will be claw marks on your thigh when I decide to jump down." Even if you push me away, I will find a way to be next to your keyboard, even if it means laying down behind it. My new kitten has large paws to fill. I forgot how much trouble a kitten can be. It makes me miss and appreciate my old companion even more.

March, 25 2014 at 12:55 pm

It is just the nature of things that humans have longer lifespans that our companion animals. Over the course of my life I've said goodbye to several. The elderly (15) dog that we took to the vet was hard, but it was time and he had had a long, happy life. We watched. It was actually gentle.
The hardest for me were 2 outdoor cats who simply disappeared, several years apart. How did I tell my 12-yr-old that since his cat had been gone a week, she was not likely to come back? What the hell happened to my outdoor cat whom we'd tried to convert to indoor after we moved-till he slipped out in a neighborhood he didn't know, with raccoons, coyotes and God knows what else?
Keep your cats indoors. Microchip all your pets, even said indoor cats. Keep current pictures on hand. The relatively brief grief when you usher an old pet to the rainbow bridge is easier to bear than the guilt of not knowing.

April, 6 2014 at 9:24 am

Spend as much time as you can with your kitty. You will never regret it. Even when you are busy doing nothing spend the time with your kitty. If he is ill, please make the decision to have your Vet come to your house to send him to the Rainbow Bridge. I wish that I had sent my 17 year old girl there earlier. I kept her around because of my fear and that is my only regret. I am now facing losing my 18 year old kitty and my 14 year old Border Collie. Other than a couple of distant neices back east, my cat and dog are my only family. My dog is in pain and I am watching him fade. I know how you feel. This is killing me. My heart is breaking. I know though that life will go on after an adjustment. Quite literally after the numbness and shock wears off. My heart is with you. Kiss your kitty for me and when the time comes just thank him for allowing you to share his entire life. Obviously he chose you for a reason.

April, 12 2014 at 8:49 am

I feel the same as so many of you.
My beloved cat, Sammy, passed at 18 years old so I try to remind myself how lucky I am to have had him that long! Did you guys ever notice how they can sense when you're feeling low or just off? I miss that so much. I wish people were as non judgmental.

May, 17 2014 at 6:28 pm

I m' new to the blog,like what is see. I would like to relate a few of my experiences about preparing for death of a beloved pet. 12 1/2 years i had a route picking up blood samples,etc. at vet clinics for lab tests. During this time i saw many,many pet-owner situations. Nobody wanted to euthanize a pet. Many new it was time to,others made the pet suffer longer than should. Every pet owner was full of sorrow and grief. Men sobbed,childrencried,women/moms were overcome, the pets life was final. I see it as human reaction to loss. Bipolar or not. Death is part of life. My 1st adopted cat live to be 17 1/2,his time had come. Seeing the above mentioned euthanizations gave me some insight as what loosing my cat would be like. I held his head and felt the life leave his body. Before a vet finishes the plunging the injection into the animal the pet has died. Its that fast,the animal doesn't know whats coming.
I thought i was prepared for the next moment,i wasn't. You can't be. I asked the vet if i could pay for the euthanizeation in the exam room,because i was going to loose it at the counter when paying the fee. She was kind and complied. When home i buried my cat in the backyard.
There are times when BPD i believe is on the same level as everybody else. It might take longer to process it,but that can be said about others too. 10 years and $10k of therapy later i been quite healthy and steady. Still believed i was not capable of loving or being loved , i had BPD. Out of the blue at age 53 i met a woman. i loved her and was in love with her. That blew not capable of love belief. I sobbed with joy when i told her. Being mature It was obvious to both we were meant for each other in this lifetime. 9 months later her life tragically ended in the most unthinkable way. A phone call from police wanted me for ?'s,they found her body. He son a,busted user was temporarily staying with her,uninvited. I was told very little about him. Long story short,he killed her while high,strangled and suffocated for $. He was her only child,in Indiana next of kin gets the assets . The evidence all pointed to him, all knew he did it. Evidence was circumstantial,hard to prove.His smart lawyer got him off.
My point is this,i was in shock for about 1 1/2 months,afraid i would fall apart and relapse into a downward spiral,be so moody i alienate everybody. Some how i didn't,i didn't start drinking. I went back to work next week. I often think many of us suffer in our own way with BPD and fail to see our strengths acquired from our struggles. My negative thoughts block the other sides of myself that others see and i don't. Lots of work isn't it. Never give up,decompenste,regroup is fine, but don't give up.

September, 15 2014 at 5:18 am

I tried to minimize that effect 3 times the past 11 years and it didn't work out for me. So this time I know I'm going too, no point going thru that again.
I do however hope you all get thru it without all that excruciating pain, but the love they give us is worth waiting for it.

Robin Janz
December, 8 2014 at 4:44 pm

Your writing is visceral. You spoke what my heart feels. So refreshing to know we're not alone. Pets are a precious comfort in this harsh world. Thank you and keep writing. You are a blessing.

Leave a reply