How to prepare your cats for a holiday!

As you all know by now if you're on my instagram, like, ever... I have two cats and they're way too clever for their own good. Lily, the older cat is teaching Leo bad habits and so I have had to come up with some strategies to combat this when it comes to holiday time. Anyone with cats can tell you, if cats know something is up, they'll hide and it's impossible to catch them! 

So here's a few handy tips that might help you have a less stressful holiday prep: 

Tip 1: Close. The. Bedroom. Door.

I cannot stress this one enough. The hardest place to try and fish a cat out of - ha - is under the bed! I do this about 10 minutes before we leave for the cattery. Reward them with a toy to keep them occupied, this works better with Leo than my lazy older cat Lily, but it's worth a shot. Once they're not able to hide in any impossible places, you can pack their food and bedding. Then it's a tag-team effort (with Lily at least) where I essentially have to grab her at the first opportunity I see then my partner will open up the carrier for me. It sounds awful, but it's much less stressful than me trying to force her out of her safe space under the bed! 

SamiWrites: How to prepare your cats for a holiday!
Tip Two: Find the best cattery you can! 

If you have to put your cats into boarding, like I have to, then really do your research and shop around. It took me a good few years to find somewhere that both I and the cats were happy with. Yes, the state your cats are returned to you in is the deciding factor on how they coped in that particular cattery. Just because they have space doesn't mean you should immediately book them in. Go and visit. See the other cats and check whether they are happy. Do a background check. To me, it's no different than leaving your child somewhere, but perhaps I'm weird like that. If you're local to Brighton and the surrounding area I have a recommendation, so drop me a message and I'll be happy to tell you about it! 

SamiWrites: How to prepare your cats for a holiday!
Tuxedo-cat, Lily!
Tip 3: Pack home comforts

Again, I have found this to be really important. Cats have amazing noses, so pack some t-shirts or bedding that they always sleep on. This has really helped Lily as she is far too bonded to me and used to be incredibly territorial. Over the years, she has learned to 'swear' less and does not lash out anymore as she has her 'room' which smells of home and then another part which her cattery carer is permitted to enter as it is not 'hers'. This has been a huge breakthrough in the amount of stress she experiences and we have worked closely via email to remedy any situations that arise, which has only happened once in years. The home comforts also provide reassurance that they haven't been abandoned, which was a major concern with our more recent rescue cat, Leo but he has coped very well. 

Tip 4: Zylkene

I swear by this stuff. It's like magic. I only give it to Lily as she's such a neurotic little fluff, but the effect is astounding. It's drug free, and you can get it either from your vet or online, which is generally cheaper. I start giving it to her about 4 weeks before we're due to leave so it has time to really settle into her system. You can also use Valerian spray and Feliway, which has less of an effect on Lily but your can is probably going to respond differently to all sorts! 

Tip 5: Don't stress.

Cats are very perceptive and learn to read your body language. If you're anxious about the flight, or boarding them, as I used to be, then they will pick up on it and start instinctively migrating to their safe places or just be more prepared to dive to it as soon as anything changes. Leave packing until they're safely boarded if at all possible. We board Lily and Leo the night before so there's plenty of time to get the cleaning and packing done without the fear of stressing them out. It makes the experience a lot nicer for everyone! 

Do you have any helpful tips? Leave them in the comments! 


My Top 5 Essential Items For A Jamaican Holiday

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ICYMI, I'm going to Jamaica in exactly 7 days and could not be more excited!!!! I was looking around trying to figure out if I was missing anything important when writing one of many lists in preparation for such an epic adventure into paradise.

SamiWrites: Top 5 Essentials for Jamaica
JAMAICA! Image via Pixabay 
So here are my top 5 essentials:

1. First Aid Kit

While there aren't many nasties lurking in the Jamaican wildlife, I read way too much about the dreaded "40 leg" to take any chances, and sea urchins are another slim possibility of causing a painful accident so it's best to be prepared! I bought a pre-made first aid kit from Boots, and also pack:
  • antihistamines
  • antiseptic spray
  • antiseptic cream
  • anti-diarrhoea tablets
  • re-hydration sachets
  • anti acids
  • thermometer
So that's my basic first-aid kit whenever I travel, with the addition of the pack from Boots. It would be nice to not have to claim on travel insurance if we can manage the problem in the hotel with the right stock already there! Some might say I'm over cautious, but I'd rather go that way than end up in a hospital in a foreign country. 

2. Battery Packs

During my reading I also learned that power outages are somewhat par for the course, so if there happens to be an extended period of time when we're without power (such as a particularly nasty storm hits) then it would be nice to still have access to the outside world so spare batteries are an absolute must for me. I have: Anker Power Bank Astro E1 5200mAh  and cannot fault it on the price or how much you can charge with it!

3. Mosquito Spray

You may well be saying, "well, duh..." but I wasn't sure what the flying vampire situation was over in Jamaica and yes, you need the strong stuff. It smells awful but it's better to deal with that than Dengue Fever. Personally, I swear by Jungle Formula but you might have another product that works better for you. Thomson also blogged about this very topic!

4. USD

Tipping is customary in Jamaica and US Dollars are the preferred currency, and yes apparently this includes all-inclusive resorts. If they reject your money it's no big deal as you can just change the currency when you get back home. Depending upon the type of resort and length of time you're there, I'd estimate up to $20 a day in tips alone, with extra thrown in for excursions and tipping the driver that takes you to and from the airport.

5. Waterproof Camera

I don't know about you, but I'm a water baby, and now there are cameras that won't die underwater this is just an epic opportunity for some amazing pictures. The only waterproof camera I knew of was the GoPro, which vastly exceeded by budget! After asking around, a scuba-diving friend of mine recommended APEMAN Action Camera Underwater Camera  to me for a fraction of the GoPro cost! I can't wait to use it and see what shots I can grab.


The University Diaries: Road to Breakdown

So today we're going to debrief the major incidents that went down during my final semester at Sussex University. How I wish they were better, but alas it just wasn't meant to be. That or life really hates me. I'm still undecided on that one. I hope this serves as a cautionary tale for anyone considering or in university and has pre-existing mental health problems. Learn from my mistakes, please. 

SamiWrites: Road to Breakdown
The University Diaries: Road to Breakdown
Image via pixabay

I guess the biggest mistake I made was to succumb to the pressure of my dissertation. That alone is enough for the strongest of individuals, but on top of assignments and exams it was above and beyond what I could tolerate. I panicked, in every sense of the word, about failing and wasting £36,000 of tuition on a crappy degree. That figure does not include maintenance loans by the way... an undergraduate degree has cost me about £50 THOUSAND IN DEBT. But I digress... Essentially, the biggest problem was my memory. I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I couldn't retain any information whatsoever. This just compounded the existing stress and triggered an emergence of old coping mechanisms, namely our good friend alcohol and my personal demon, bulimia. My mind was craving an escape and at this point I was propelled, compelled, into anything that would relieve the torment for even a moment. 

Isn't university supposed to be the best time ever??

Desperation took hold and I turned to study drugs. It had been a very long time since I'd engaged in something shady but again, I was desperate and flat-out didn't care what happened to me anymore as long as I finished my degree with everyone else and came away with a 2:1. HA. What a dumbass. As I mentioned in my previous post, the cocktail of drugs I was taking on top of my prescribed medication is more than likely what catapulted me into psychosis and mania. By March I was so highly strung I could have exploded at any moment. At some point, something snapped and I left the house. That's the last thing I remember. I was reported missing and discovered in a hotel by the police a number of hours later. I don't know what happened and I don't want to. 

Since that incident I was psychotic and moving between hypomanic states and suicidal depression. I'd lost the battle and needed help. Mercifully a moment of clarity sent me to the right place and within 4 appointments with a psychiatrist I was admitted into hospital for the first time since 2012. I didn't submit my dissertation, nor did I do any assignments or exams. 

I still get to graduate, however I will have to attempt to submit the exams in July/August alongside my dissertation and any extra work they want me to do. It's not going to be easy. I'm genuinely terrified about what will happen this time. I want to do well. I want to succeed. I want to be proud of myself. Everyone I know got their classifications yesterday and came away with firsts. It's like a knife in the stomach. That would have been me if my mind hadn't collapsed and I'd been a clueless idiot about the symptoms. Things could have been so different... 

Alas.... my journey with Sussex isn't over just yet. 


Adventures in Psychiatry: Bipolar Affective Disorder

Well, once again it's been a minute since I uploaded anything. I'll explain more about the chaos that reigned with my final semester in The University Diaries series, which shouldn't be too far away hopefully... No. Today I wanted to vent/talk/debrief about my new diagnosis, Bipolar Type 1, and what led up to such earth shattering news. I'd grab some popcorn because this has been a real shit show. 

SamiWrites: Bipolar Affective Disorder
Bipolar Drug Cocktail: Venlafaxine, Lithium Carbonate,
Aripriprazole, Propranolol, Lorazepam

I'm not too sure when my downfall into bipolar hell first began. I'd been showing hints of bipolarity for years but whenever I mentioned this to an NHS psychiatrist (this will become a relevant factor later in the story) it was dismissed and chalked up to a non-existent personality disorder. From the beginning of the year life was fuelled by a crazed anxiety and fear of failure. It was dissertation write up time on top of exams and assignments. I just could not cope, or keep up. I don't think I'd ever cried more in my life than those first few months of the year. In my desperation I turned to study drugs, which in hindsight may have given my brain the tools to flip the switch into full blown mania. So March rolls around and I'm meant to be handing in my dissertation... ha. After 3 nights of no sleep and definitely losing my grip on reality my mind finally slipped away from me. At 1pm on deadline day I had to make a frantic call to my specialist mentor because I couldn't leave the house and was having extreme panic attacks that I just didn't have the energy for. To cut a long story short, I didn't hand in my dissertation and I collapsed with exhaustion. 

In that same month - I think? - I now know I had my first manic/psychotic episode. Initially I thought it was a dissociative episode brought on by stress, which is perfectly plausible. I have no memory of what went down, but I've been informed that I was reported missing and found in a hotel. Obviously, I was freaked out and went to my GP who referred me at my request to Elysium (ex The Priory). In her own words, despite the seriousness of the event, it would be "several weeks to months" before I saw an NHS psychiatrist and I needed answers literally right god damn now so I apologised to my bank balance and prepared for a situation I hadn't been in for a very long time - by my track record with mental health services anyway! 

So appointment day rolls around the end of that same week and I'm trying my best to stay calm and remember that this doctor is a person and not some god-like deity that will pitchfork me straight into hell if I say the wrong thing or look at him funny. Time was also a huge pressure. I had a very expensive hour to explain why I was there and put it into the context of ten years of mental health history he didn't have. Then get the answer from him and make sure we both understood and agreed. Well, it went beautifully. He is the best psychiatrist I could ask for and I do not begrudge the fee one bit. It was when I was attempting to give cliff notes of my history he started zoning in on my mood and response to medication, which combined with my family history, led him to believe that I had been living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder for some time. I was shocked, hurt, sickened and terrified. What scared me more was the suggestion of lithium. He offered me three drugs, two of which were almost a dead-cert to pile the weight on whereas lithium is more neutral... apparently. It's also the most commonly used and one of the few psychiatric medications where you can adjust the dose and see the response in blood work, which is what sold me. Anything to limit the guess work you always have with these drugs!

In April I was detained at home during a psychotic episode. It took 6 men to restrain me. I must have fought with some sort of primal life-or-death urge because I ended up very bruised! I was sedated and sent home the following morning as I was seeing my psychiatrist the following day. It was then that we added aripriprazole to my cocktail. I am not a fan of this drug, however we're after weight neutral so I don't spiral into an eating disorder relapse like quetiapine sent me into... vile times. I think exhaustion took over for a little while as I was still having symptoms but physically unable to really do what I wanted/felt compelled to do. 

Fast forward to May; mania and psychosis took complete hold of me. I was paranoid, hallucinating and very much a danger to myself. I have no memory of what happened, when it started, anything.. It's like I just woke up and then the lights went out again. I was rushed to my psychiatrist by my mother and boyfriend, and somehow, I really want to know what wizardry he used, he convinced me to come into hospital voluntarily. I don't remember the first 4 days of the 7 I was there, but I do know that it was not the horrific experience I had in the NHS acute ward and I felt very safe and cared for. The staff were amazing, the food was great - there was always a safe option to have - and not once did I feel like I needed to escape because I was scared of the other patients. They managed to stabilise me, including managing the lithium toxicity I somehow ended up in, and I was able to go home as planned. If I was an insured patient, he would have admitted me for at least a month but as I am a self-funding patient it was not possible to stay that long.

So here we are, in June. I'm still recovering from everything and trying to accept that I inherited the one condition I feared the most. It explains why I've struggled through my degree and while it does offer the chance of real stability, now the monster has been identified, it's a life sentence and I'm not ok with that just yet. I'm still graduating in July, and have an amazing holiday to Jamaica to look forward to. It'll be ok.... If you made it this far into my ramblings, congrats! Now I'm free of my degree, nearly, I'll be much more active on here again. 

Until next time! <3 
Samantha Nicholls. Powered by Blogger.


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