Struggles.

This one was inspired from a story written by KatyOnACloud and is based on real life events.

I'm just sitting here on the side of the road watching the traffic fly past me. How easy would it be just to do it? Just let all the pain go. It'd only take a couple of steps and it will all be over. I wouldn't be a burden on anyone anymore, no more of me stuffing up or having someone watching what I was doing. Everyone would be happier, wouldn't they?

The cars wouldn't even feel the bump.

I got to my feet and took a step.

My name is Plato.

How did it come to this?

Well. 2 years ago I came of age and got mated to my best friends' adopted sister Victoria. It was a magical night, quite literally, and I was on top of the world. I'd always loved Vicky ever since Bustopher brought her and Misto into the yard after Misto's mother died all those years ago. Apart from a brief infatuation with Tugger, she'd always returned my affections.

Within weeks we found out that we were expecting kittens and I was over the moon. We didn't really expect to become parents quite this quickly but we decided to make the best of it. I approached a couple of the cats in the yard to see if I could get work, I had a family to feed now after all, and unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot out there. I even tried my hand at nursing with Jenny and Jelly but I simply didn't have the fine motor skills for medical work.

Vicky got steadily larger and I was starting to become a little desperate, so I bit the bullet and approached Munk to see if I could join the security patrols. I was pretty sure he was going to say no as well. You see, though I'm a pretty large cat and would physically and mentally be able to handle the work, I have a disability.

I can't see very well at night. Yeah a Jellicle that can't see in the dark, weird isn't it? I'd grown up with all the taunts and teasing about my problem through my kithood, squint was one of the kinder things that the other kittens would name me. I got in a lot of fights over it, before I started to grow and found I had a penchant for fitness and martial arts. I was just always left out of any events being held after dark. Oh I could come along and watch but I could never participate, even at the balls, I was only allowed to dance when it was mandatory, apart from those few times I was sentenced to sit on the sidelines and watch everyone else have fun.

I idolised my father Alonzo and wished nothing more to follow in his footsteps in defending the tribe for the realities that faced the tribe every day, but was always told that I wasn't able to be a protector if I couldn't see properly. "Get an education" I was told, "Get a trade and help the tribe that way. Don't bother to apply to join up because they won't let you in." I'd come to accept that I simply wasn't good enough for what I wanted and I'd have to take what came along.

So there we were, six weeks into the pregnancy and I still didn't have any prospects, so I steeled myself for yet another rejection and went to see Munkunstrap. I explained that I was getting desperate and needed work before my kittens turned up and though I knew I wasn't able to join the watch, I'd do anything else that was needed. To my surprise he said that he did actually have a job for me, I'd need a little bit of training but he'd been impressed with my perseverance and the maturity that I'd shown during my upbringing and dealing with my problem.

I did the mandatory training that all protectors were put through, and was then given the job of training the kittens in self defence and given the daytime patrols. I really enjoyed my work, then Vicky gave birth.

There were three of them, two toms and a queen. A big rowdy patchwork brown tom we named Westerly, a white queen with pale brown on her ears and tail we called Lizbet and the smallest of the three a tom that was a mottled brown and black we named Christo. It was a week later when we found out.

The kittens had opened their eyes and Westy and Liz were racing around the den revelling in their new found freedom, but Chris was keeping tucked into Vicky. We didn't understand why he wasn't running around until he turned his face towards me. My smallest son had quite handsome features, a strong chin, well set face and well developed ears that would get him in a lot of trouble over the years, but was marred by one thing. His eyes had a white filmy cast to them. I got down close to him and waved my hand slowly in front of his face and he didn't even blink. My son was blind.

We took him to see Jenny and Jelly and find out if there was anything normal that they could do, only to be told no. They did suggest going and seeing Vicky's brother Misto and check if there was any magical means to give him sight. We made our way over to the pipe he shared with Jemima and discussed the situation with him. Misto said he'd do some research and check things out but it could take a bit of time.

He was right. It was over three months later when he came to us with a solution of sorts. We'd adapted our den to cope with a blind kitten and had rounded off sharp corners and settled on a den setting that Chris could familiarise himself with, so as not to run into the furniture as often. A favourite trick of his siblings was to move a chair or table just a foot and then wait for him to trip over. It didn't last long once Vicky found out what they were doing though and went off the deep end at them. I hate it when I need to discipline my kits but I dearly wanted them to grow up as caring, respectable cats.

Misto explained to us that he couldn't give Chris his sight back, however he could amplify his hearing and allow my son to be able to 'see' with sound, apparently bats do it. The humans had a word for it, sonar, or something like that. He'd be able to make his way around without any issues after that, but loud noises could be uncomfortable even with the conscious controls that Misto would put in place. The process would be a slow one and would take daily sessions for a long period of time, not only to perform the modification but to train Chris in using his new ability.

Time went on and we went through the work on Chris's hearing, Victoria became very overprotective of him and would get angry and stressed at the drop of a hat if anything happened to him. His brother and sister copped a lot of the flak and it became a nearly full time job to run interference and calm their mother down. In the end Chris's new ability allowed him nearly full interaction with the tribe and other kittens. They learnt very quickly not to play hide and seek with him, as he could literally hear them breathing from half the junkyard away. He bonded with Jet and Gemma, Misto and Jemima's kittens, very early on probably due to the amount of time he spent in their den with their father. The two black cats were his constant companions and would generally take the blame for things he started; he'd developed a bit of a mischievous streak over time.

After about a year I was given all the new kittens to begin their self defence training. We found another thing that my youngest son could do very well. Somehow he could sense what you were doing before you started to move, probably hearing your muscles and ligaments pop. I was proud as punch.

It was also about this time that things started to go wrong. It wasn't much at first. Just some small things like a kitten getting a little hurt at a training session, kits bounce and bruises are expected. I was also given a little more responsibility with the patrols. Munk had been impressed by me and had promoted me to run the daytime teams, a lot of work but I was up for it. I didn't want to let anyone down and started to bring my work home with me often staying up late in the kitchen bent over schedules for training, patrols and manning. I started to get distracted during the kitten training and more and more often left the kits to their own practice during the day as other duties vied for my attention, but I was still on top of it all, or so I thought.

Then it happened.

I had Chris, Jet and Westy running through some of the more advanced training when Pounce called me away to check out something he'd found near the back fence. It turned out to be nothing much and I came back to a clearing in turmoil.

There was Gemma crying on the ground nursing a broken arm and Chris and Westy being restrained by Alonzo and Admentus. Munkunstrap was there trying to calm things down and find out what happened. It ended up coming out that while I was away, Gemma had come over and asked the tom kits what they were doing. Chris had told her that they were doing some more advanced techniques and she asked them to teach her. Before he knew what happened, Westy had tried to demonstrate but had broken her arm in the process. Chris had then, for some reason, attacked his brother screaming at him to "get off her." The ruckus had drawn the older cats into it and they had restrained the brothers.

Gemma was taken off to Jennies den to get her arm treated, trailed by a very angry Jemima, and Demeter. The boys were sent off to cool off in separate dens and I reported to Munk. He upbraided me in front of the entire clearing for leaving under aged kittens practicing alone and when I couldn't remember if I'd told them only to practice when in class was given another dressing down. According to him it was just the end of a long line of small infractions that had occurred over the last few months and he'd be appointing someone to watch and assess my performance.

That someone was Pouncival. I was extremely embarrassed. I'd trained Pounce in everything he knew and now he was watching me? Everything I did was examined and put into a weekly report. All the rosters and reports I did were vetted and second guessed, I had to justify what training I was giving the kittens and why. On top of all that Jemima had taken a dislike to me over what I allowed to happen to her daughter, I was the cat responsible even through I was the other side of the junkyard.

The result from this is that I threw myself into my work. I needed to be perfect in everything. I was getting less than 3 hours sleep a night, I'd go to sleep thinking about patrol rosters and wake up thinking about training schedules. Vicky and the kits learnt to step very carefully around me as I'd snap at them under the slightest provocation. This went on for nearly a year, I was spiralling, getting more and more stressed out and depressed over how my life was going.

Then one morning, as I was poring over a roster on the kitchen table, Lizbet spilt her breakfast cream over my work and I snapped and slapped her across the face.

Oh god. What have I done? Liz just held a paw up to her cheek and looked at me with tears welling up in her eyes. Vicky and the boys just stopped, shocked. I didn't know what to think and then I didn't think, I just ran. Tears streaming down my face I bolted out the door and out of the clearing, I heard a cry of "Plato" from behind but paid it no attention. "What had I done?" I couldn't get the picture of my daughter being slapped out of my head, and it was my paw doing the slapping. How could I hit my little girl? I love her, I didn't mean to do it. I'm a failure as a father, as a mate and as a Jellicle. These thoughts spiralled continually through my head as I blindly ran through the yard eventually curling up in a sobbing ball in a secluded corner under a pile of junk.

Nobody understood. I just wanted to do the best I could, so I could keep my family safe and make them proud of me, the same way I was proud of my own father. How can they be proud of me if I do things like I did this morning? I'm a failure. I don't deserve to be here. My mate and kits deserver better than me.

With that thought it became clear to me what path I needed to take. I climbed the nearby fence and walked to the closest highway, where I sat to watch the traffic. It whizzed by very quickly and I knew that it wouldn't hurt, but I was afraid. I told myself that Vicky and kits would be ok. Vic would find someone better, someone able to take care of her and our kits, someone who wasn't useless, but I was still afraid.

I got to my feet and took a step towards the road.

"Plato. Stop!" a voice I didn't think I could bear to hear again.

I couldn't help it. I stopped and cursed myself for my weakness. "You'll be better off without me" I whispered and took another step towards the road.

"Daddy!" three small bundles of fur latched themselves to my legs and I stopped again.

I couldn't do it. Not in front of my family. If it was just me then I'd be able to go through with it but I can't leave knowing that their last memory of their father would be that of seeing him die in front of them.

I turned around and got a shock. It wasn't just my family that had sought me out. Lining the road was the entire tribe. From Munkunstrap and Old Deuteronomy to Electra's new kitten Chamolie. They were all there, they'd all cared enough to try to find me and stop me from carrying out my actions of a moment ago.

I looked at all those faces, trying to ascertain what I meant to them. Was I a friend? A lover? A son? An uncle or father? I just didn't know. Victoria reached out her paws to me and drew me back from the roads edge. "Come back, please."

I let myself be taken home, ashamed that the tribe had finally seen my uncertainty and failure, that I'd let them see that I couldn't cut it. I was taken over to Cori and Tanto's den where I was counselled for my depression and medicated so that I wouldn't try to hurt myself again. Then I was taken home and put into my bed.

I woke up in the morning surrounded by fur. I had my kits tucked in and around my front and my mate curled up to my back. I lay there, thinking about what I had attempted. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, but laying there surrounded by the purring forms of my family I realised that I was just running away again. I thought of what my death would have really meant to my family and friends and berated myself for being selfish. The only person that it would have solved the problems of, would have been me. If anything it would have caused many more issues for my mate and family.

I eased myself out of the tangle of bodies and went looking for Munkunstrap.

I found him on a pile of scrap out near the entrance of my den. He must have been waiting, because upon seeing me he got up and came over.

"Plato. How are you feeling this morning?" he asked.

"I've felt better, I'm thinking a little more clearly at the moment but I'm still a bit fuzzy" I replied.

"It's the medication that Cori gave you last night. It'll help you stay focused and calm." Munk explained, then he hit me with it. "Why didn't you come to me for help? I knew you were working hard but I had no idea you were struggling this much. I'm not just your boss but I'm also your friend. Vicky said that you didn't even tell her you were in trouble."

"I just didn't want to disappoint anyone. I thought I could handle it all myself." I was starting to cry.

"Its ok mate; let it out. I am always here for everyone in the junkyard. I'll never judge you and if you have a problem you can always come and see me." He just grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me lightly, "do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes, I think so." I replied.

"Now then. You're on indefinite leave. I need you to get well and you can't do that while still working. I've already spoken to Cori and Tanto and they've scheduled you sessions every day to help you work through it. Jem is going to take the kits so you can spend some time with Vic. Don't you worry about anything, it's all been sorted. We all love you and need you to get well." They'd organised everything for me. I didn't know what to say.

I simply pulled my friend and boss into a thankful embrace and went back into my den to my family.

While the sun wasn't shining yet, the clouds were definitely starting to thin.

end

Well that's it. Please hit the read and review button below and let me know what you think.

Writing this one has been a bit of a journey for me. It's based on a period of time in my own life that I honestly thought I was over. It wasn't until I started to write about the spiral of depression that I realised that it still affects me in ways I still don't quite understand. I actually had to gloss over some of the things that went through me at the time and put them in as general impressions as I still don't want to look at them too closely.

The suicidal thoughts are quite real and are very scary to look back on. Please keep an eye on your family and friends for signs of depression and offer a helping hand for when they need it. I was lucky in that my wife gave me all the support and aid I could have asked for.

Look after yourselves and remember.

You do matter!