How likely is it to have a bottle baby pass while in foster care?

rosieclover

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Hi,

I recently fostered five 7-week-old kittens and now that I'm on break from school I wanted to open up my foster availability to include bottle babies. The rescue hasn't contacted me about fostering more kittens, so I thought maybe they don't have a need for the ages I selected before. I've never cared for bottle babies, or any kittens younger than 7 weeks, but have always wanted to.

My only concern is that I have heard about fading kitten syndrome and I don't think I could emotionally handle a kitten passing while in my care. We recently lost our 3-year-old baby to cancer, so I wanted to open my home up to kittens that need love and care while we are missing her. But the loss was traumatic for me and my boyfriend (who helps me with foster kittens), and losing a foster kitten would just be too much for us right now.

I only had my foster availability open to older kittens for this reason, and thankfully all of our fosters were healthy when they went back to the rescue. I just wanted to hear from people with more experience with younger kittens on how likely it is to have a bottle baby pass, because if it weren't for this fear I would absolutely love to do it.
 

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This happens, it would be a lie to say anything else. Life is a precious because its so fragile, especielly with the tiniest.

You can guard quite a lot by preparing well, both with knowledge and with suitable gears (for example, glucose sugar, and goats milk as an alternative to kmr).
but also experiences caretakers will sometime lose someone...

As a rule of thumb; taking care of healthy orphans is easier and safer. Say, momma got run over, but the kittens themselves are perfectly healthy... This should go OK and fairly easy, - unless unlucky...

Taking care of prematures, or a kittens abandoned by mom (typically because its some fault on it) - you may often be able to save it if you fight vigorously, but there are no quarantiees and almost always hard work.
Also, your situation will be more difficult than in a hospital; because there they change each other, while you must work around the clock at least a week, often a ouple of weeks... I have seen a couple of cases where the caretaker did won the fight, but disaster struck by an accident, because the caretaker being exhausted, didnt manage to kitten safe the milieu... And thus, the kitten died not because it was a weak little one, but because he was now a strong, adventurous boy...

Love, and the willingness to put time and work, is the most important... Not all are willing. Or rather, most arent willing...

So being willing to take care of weak kittens, is a precious gift to everyone involved...
 

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Bottle babies are often syringe babies, and it is round the clock work, usually for several weeks if you get newborns. I suggest you read some of our older threads about it, and also check out Kitten Lady’s website and instagram. It’s truly a labor of love, but also extremely exhausting. Also, the greatest demand for fosters for tiny kittens is during the warmer months, which we call “kitten season.”

Take your time to think about it. You might want to “shadow” a foster with tiny kittens first for a couple of days in her home when the season rolls around again.
 

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Just want to add, older kittens can die too. I've had 3 fosters who didn't make it, all around 5 to 7 weeks old, all extremely underweight and with health problems.

I don't want to scare you off fostering, but each loss was devastating and if you're not in a mental space to handle that, you should think carefully.

Maybe you could specify that you'd prefer healthy looking kittens for now (though there's no guarantee, especially with the tiny ones whose health issues might not have become apparent yet). If you're still new to fostering, they should really give you the easy cases anyway, but that doesn't always happen 🙄
 

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Maybe you could specify that you'd prefer healthy looking kittens for now (though there's no guarantee, especially with the tiny ones whose health issues might not have become apparent yet). If you're still new to fostering, they should really give you the easy cases anyway, but that doesn't always happen 🙄
Thinking about my "perfectly healthy" cat, that we could have taken 3 vacations on his vet costs.

I would definitely give Kitten Lady a watch, but any high needs cat is going to wear you down. Since you're on break, now would be the time to try it! But only if you can be prepared with supplies. It's a lot of work. My mum lost 2 out of 7 of one set (unknown cause) and 1 of 6 of her other set (stillborn). She's had other litters since I moved away that I'm not sure of the statistics.

But, you also need to enter with the view that:
- more will be saved if you help, rather than if you don't
- we can't control everything
- most losses come with a lesson that potentially means a "win" for the next cat with a similar issue

The best supplies we had that were most useful were heating pads, some of those crates you get clementines in (great if a kitten becomes ill, because it can fit a heating pad and small blankets, and travel around the home with you); a playpen or crate to hold kittens, extra syringes, blender for kitten food training, tooth brushes for teaching them to clean their fur and lots of paper towels for helping them pee/poo.
 
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rosieclover

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Just want to add, older kittens can die too. I've had 3 fosters who didn't make it, all around 5 to 7 weeks old, all extremely underweight and with health problems.

I don't want to scare you off fostering, but each loss was devastating and if you're not in a mental space to handle that, you should think carefully.

Maybe you could specify that you'd prefer healthy looking kittens for now (though there's no guarantee, especially with the tiny ones whose health issues might not have become apparent yet). If you're still new to fostering, they should really give you the easy cases anyway, but that doesn't always happen 🙄
Sorry I didn't reply sooner, the past week has been a whirlwind.. A rescue got back to me and gave me 3 "healthy" 8-week-old kittens. I thought I was getting an easy case and a nice break to process my loss and relax a bit while helping kittens...it turns out they had panleukopenia, as did many of the litters of kittens the rescue has had recently, apparently. They really wanted me to keep them and provide 24/7 nursing care. They needed medications, injections, subq fluids, etc... It was just way too traumatic, I felt like I was thrown back into the nightmare I was running from with my last loss.... I brought them to a drop-off appointment at the shelter today and they confirmed they are contagious to my other cats, and I just can't risk more loss. They want me to pick them back up and I just can't do it.
I thought with fostering be given the option for the rescue to take over care if something like this happens, but it really feels like they're trying to not give me that option and I just feel terrible. So I suppose I really wasn't ready for fostering
 
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rosieclover

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Thinking about my "perfectly healthy" cat, that we could have taken 3 vacations on his vet costs.

I would definitely give Kitten Lady a watch, but any high needs cat is going to wear you down. Since you're on break, now would be the time to try it! But only if you can be prepared with supplies. It's a lot of work. My mum lost 2 out of 7 of one set (unknown cause) and 1 of 6 of her other set (stillborn). She's had other litters since I moved away that I'm not sure of the statistics.

But, you also need to enter with the view that:
- more will be saved if you help, rather than if you don't
- we can't control everything
- most losses come with a lesson that potentially means a "win" for the next cat with a similar issue

The best supplies we had that were most useful were heating pads, some of those crates you get clementines in (great if a kitten becomes ill, because it can fit a heating pad and small blankets, and travel around the home with you); a playpen or crate to hold kittens, extra syringes, blender for kitten food training, tooth brushes for teaching them to clean their fur and lots of paper towels for helping them pee/poo.
My baby was "perfectly healthy" as well. Now we try not to think about how much money we put towards trying to save her this year, but it was a good chunk of our savings.

I actually tried to get healthy, older (8-week) fosters but they ended up having panleukopenia. I had gone into it thinking that trying to help care for "healthy" seeming fosters for as long as I could was better than not helping at all, like you said. I planned to hand them back to be cared for by the rescue's medical team if they got sick. I didn't anticipate them wanting me to keep caring for them myself with something so dangerous... I wanted to try to keep caring for them, but it was too similar to how I spent the last few months of my baby's life... and my heart just cant handle any more of it, at least not yet. I hope one day I'm strong enough to do more
 
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rosieclover

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Are your cats at home up to date on their vaccines? You should be able to give the litter back to the rescue. They won’t take them back?
I feel bad for the kittens.
They are, but one has FIV and no one knows how protected she is.
They didn't let me take the kittens anywhere over the weekend. I could take them to 1 vet appointment to get diagnosed and then they got meds and fluids at another foster's house twice a day. Monday/today I dropped them off at the rescue to get checked over and retested. I expected them to take over care if they were confirmed infected, but instead, they started trying to get me to pick them up asap. They told me it's very safe for my FIV cat and my house is already infected anyway. And they don't have any other fosters to take them so they'll have to stay there over the holidays if I don't get them. I almost went and got them, but my vet tech cousin told me I really shouldn't. I really wanted to take care of those babies, but my cousin told me they will likely pass away unless they get hospitalized and my heart can't take it right now
 

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A rescue got back to me and gave me 3 "healthy" 8-week-old kittens. I thought I was getting an easy case and a nice break to process my loss and relax a bit while helping kittens...it turns out they had panleukopenia, as did many of the litters of kittens the rescue has had recently, apparently. They really wanted me to keep them and provide 24/7 nursing care. They needed medications, injections, subq fluids, etc... It was just way too traumatic, I felt like I was thrown back into the nightmare I was running from with my last loss.... I brought them to a drop-off appointment at the shelter today and they confirmed they are contagious to my other cats, and I just can't risk more loss. They want me to pick them back up and I just can't do it.
I thought with fostering be given the option for the rescue to take over care if something like this happens, but it really feels like they're trying to not give me that option and I just feel terrible. So I suppose I really wasn't ready for fostering
This isn’t you not being ready for fostering, this is a rescue being extremely inappropriate.

They should have warned you about the kittens’ illness beforehand if they knew. If they didn’t know, then as soon as it was discovered and it became apparent that the fostering was drastically different from what you signed up for (24/7 nursing care, endangering one of your resident cats) they should have let you bring the kittens back instead of pressuring you to continue fostering them.

They are WAY out of line here, and the problem is them, not you. I hope you don’t give up on fostering because of this - just never foster for that rescue again!

And they don't have any other fosters to take them so they'll have to stay there over the holidays if I don't get them. I almost went and got them, but my vet tech cousin told me I really shouldn't. I really wanted to take care of those babies, but my cousin told me they will likely pass away unless they get hospitalized and my heart can't take it right now
OK, then they stay there over the holidays. It’s not like kittens have any concept of holidays anyway.

Those babies would be in an awful situation whether you picked them up or not. That’s beyond your control. But you can control whether or not you put yourself and your resident cats back in a bad situation or not. So do not go pick up the kittens.
 
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Sarthur2

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“Staying over the holidays” means the rescue needs volunteers to care for them around the clock. Getting volunteers around holidays is difficult, as folks want time off to be with family. 8-week-old panleukopenia can survive with proper care, but this in no way means you are obliged to do it, especially since you thought they were healthy and now have found they are not, and you clearly do not feel ready. As said, that’s okay!
 

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R rosieclover If they are really pressuring you, it's okay to temporarily block their messaging. Let them know it's a hard limit for you, and do that.

Do not pick up the kittens. That 100% inappropriate that the rescue would push you to do something you are not comfortable with. It's a huge red flag that they want you to do something, you don't feel equipped to handle.

I hope the rescue let you know to have your resident cats have the feline leukemia vaccine before you fostered. It is a big issue, but having the vaccine can stave off problems. In some countries, this isn't in the standard vaccine set, unless your cat is at further risk like during fostering. If not, please call you veterinarian and see if they recommend having your cat vaccinated at this time.

Further, the Feline Leukemia virus does NOT live long inside your home. Why would they want you to prolong the risk to your cat? Your cat may not have contracted the virus if it didn't have direct contact with the kittens.
Feline Leukemia Virus.
Feline Leukemia Virus Disease Complex.
 

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My baby was "perfectly healthy" as well. Now we try not to think about how much money we put towards trying to save her this year, but it was a good chunk of our savings.
I'm so sorry for all that stress you went through.

The rescue we got Magnus and Calcifer from is far from perfect, but I really can't blame them for not knowing about Magnus. They give the foster parents last say in adoptions and the foster adopted them out separately because Magnus's brother was bullying him and he remained underweight. I commend them for realizing the fosters would know about best for after screening.
I'm just a little salty about how big the issues were when we also came from a traumatic medical loss looking for a healthy young cat.

Once he got here, it was easy to feed him separately from our older cat with arthritis - just put him up high! The extra nutrition made him grow quickly, and a heart murmur was noticed. It's very faint, so our vet said that it likely would go unnoticed during an appointment where many kittens would be seen by a single vet. The rescue gets bulk from Royal Canin and the kitten food doesn't contain beef, so they couldn't have known about his allergy either, which may have developed later anyways.
 

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Hi. I know you have had allot of responses to this post. I just wanted to confirm that it is Panleukopenia, right? Also known as Feline Distemper. Not Feline Leukemia, right?

Panleukopenia is a nasty virus that can live in the environment on an inanimate surface for a year. There are few disinfectants that will kill it. It is spread though all body fluids and excrement. I am posting a link from the ASPCA regarding the disease in a shelter environment so you have something to reference. Not that I think you are a shelter.

Feline Panleukopenia: Prevention, Management & Treatment | ASPCApro

and another link from the Koret Shelter program with UC Davis.

Feline: Panleukopenia | Resources | Koret Shelter Medicine Program

I would suggest that if fostering look at all the information on those sites to become familiar with the different protocols and how to keep your personal cats healthy

I feel very badly for the kittens. I am sure that the shelter doesn't have the staff to watch them and that is why they want you to pick them up. Were the kittens displaying any signs of illness? If it was me, it is hard to say what I would do. I have an immune compromised cat at home, so I would have to really think it through.

In my personal experience with Panleukopenia kittens and cats is that most adult pet cats do have some immunity to the virus from vaccines, even if the vaccines aren't up to date. But it is still a good idea to immediately vaccinate your cat with a modified live vaccine if your cat is exposed. I used to see it all the time in the shelter I worked at back in the 80's. Saw it again for a while in the early 2000's and then again just a couple of years ago. By seeing it, I mean seeing a run-on cases of it.

If you do decide to get the kittens out of the shelter, make sure you understand everything you have to do and are able to do it. Giving subcutaneous fluids to a kitten by yourself can be a challenge if you are not used to doing it. If it was me, I would set them up in area that is easily cleaned and not accessible to the other cats. I would also invest in exam gloves, and a couple of surgical type isolation gowns as well as a dedicated pair f shoes for that area.

Anyway, I hope everything works out okay with these little kittens and I hope your cats are okay. When it comes to cleaning, don't forget doorknobs and also your car.

Please let us know what happens.
 

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Ahhhh...panleuk aka kitty parvo.....it's a horrible disease but not always fatal. Please do not take the rescue's "failure to communicate " personally - the rescue is probably beyond desperate because far too few people are able or willing to take on the hard cases (I have had up to 22 bottle babies plus my adult disabled daughter & elderly mother, all in a rural setting). I do have a suggestion, though - if possible, perhaps you can ask the rescue if you can help them by working as support staff. Maybe you could run errands, help with feeding stations, screen emails, field phone calls, do kitty laundry, offer to do a shift or two at another Foster's home. Some of my best help ever was from my childhood friend's teenage foster kids; one girl has Aspberger's syndrome and through working with the kittens and cats, she found coping skills. And for me, it was HUGE to be able to take a nap, or have an extra set of arms to nurture babies or play with my resident cats. Even a Taco Bell delivery can be a godsend! Just knowing that someone else cares about those kittens can give an overburdened carer the motivation to muster on.
Anyway, condolences on losing your other kitty. Be alert for any symptoms in your remaining cat. None of my adult cats ever got sick from the feral babies & most cats who have been outside have been exposed to the virus.
There's a lot of information on panleuckopenia but I am a HUGE fan of the Maddies Forum videos (they are certified for veterinary professionals but also address the needs of laymen rescuers). If you don't feel like watching them yourself, please suggest them to the rescue, if they aren't aware of them (my favorites are the one on panleuk and the one on caring for sick kittens). Remember: "A foe recognized is a foe half vanquished" and "a joy shared is a joy doubled; a trouble shared is a trouble halved"
 

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Quite a few shelters have problems with contagious diseases. Its a miljeu well known of high contagion pressure. Especielly if they have all cats together.

Also, another problem, sometimes they are more or less OK there, but once in the fosterers home, the dormant infection burst out. This CAN happen with properly raised and kept kittens too; its the change of the milieu which puts extra stress; but its typical for such somewhat shady shelters...

Solution? If they cant manage the milieu there, including having possibilites for isolation of newcomers and unsure cases, its probably better to pts more often, then having them all contagious, and many dying anyway in contagions they shouldnt have...
And so, if they cant handle the situation, they should sooner pts these sick kittens, than cause catastrophes around them.
Not nice, but if its impossible situation, so its impossible situation.


PS. IF you have a FIV-cat, you must at all costs keep him from such pressures and stresses. Healthy, friendly kittens are surely OK, but not sick ones, nor Momma whom is sick by being exhausted and troubled.... THIS will give him really bad stress...
 
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rosieclover

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Thank you everyone for your responses and support. It's a lot to respond to, so I'll try to answer everyone here.

Yes, it is feline parvovirus/panleukopenia/distemper. Now that I have talked to the other volunteers and fosters, it seems like most kittens from this rescue have/had this virus, and it's been a huge problem for them this entire year.

The rescue contacted me again today. They said they understand I might be uncomfortable with it, but I would have their full support in caring for them and wouldn't be doing it alone. Also, they said they recently had other foster homes with immunocompromised pets who had direct contact with foster kittens that ended up being panleuk-positive. Apparently, those foster kittens were removed from those homes immediately and the immunocompromised pets still have no symptoms. They didn't say how much time has passed, so it didn't help me feel more comfortable with it.

My FIV-positive cat just got over the calicivirus our last fosters gave her despite our precautions. We are taking her to her vet soon to get her tested for panleuk and see what else we can do to protect her.

I don't know if they knew these kittens were exposed, but they at least knew about the outbreak and didn't tell me. The same day I spoke to them about fostering, they dropped the kittens off at my home and told me they were very healthy and shouldn't become sick, but if they do get panleuk I can't foster kittens for 6 months. I had never heard of this virus, but the kittens seemed so healthy I didn't think much of it. They also said when foster kittens get sick we get the option to either treat them in our home or take them back to the shelter for treatment, so I was planning on taking them back if it did happen. I really didn't expect them to pressure me to keep them.

I understand that the rescue may just desperately need help and I so badly wish that I was in the position to give it, but I'm just not right now. My boyfriend and sister who live with me aren't okay with it either. I promised them I wouldn't try to take something like this on.

I already pushed myself to care for them for longer than I should have, as I thought the shelter was planning to take over Monday.
The cats developed diarrhea a few days after being with me and then began vomiting and got dehydrated. I cared for them the best that I could, but I had to take them to another foster's home for subq fluids/injections twice a day. I have never done these things myself, which is another reason I didn't expect them to ask me to care for them myself. I'm not an experienced foster and my home would not be the safest option for them right now. My vet tech cousin said they needed to be hospitalized.

I would offer to try to help in another way, but I am just so uncomfortable with how much I am being pressured right now, even after explaining the details of why I can't do it. The continued pressure make me feel like I may have to distance myself from this rescue and try to help one that respects my limits. I'm in a particularly vulnerable state right now and likely would have given in if I didn't have so many people telling me that it's okay if I don't. I keep thinking about the kittens and wishing I could pick them up and throw everything into trying to save them, like I did with my own... But I know haven't recovered enough be able to that again yet.
 

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When I was in my early 20's, I was working for a GP Veterinarian. A client brought in a one-day old kitten. I had fostered kittens before, so I took him home. I cared for him the best of my ability at that time. I took him to the vet with me daily so he could be fed. He did great. At about 5 months old, everything changed. I took him in and the Vets did all they could at that time. I obsessed and basically focused on him 24/7, 7 days a week for 4 weeks. I watched him die. I saw him take his last breath. I buried him in my back yard at the time. I was devastated. I spoke with a specialist I knew, and he told me it may have been FIP. When I say it was hard on me, I mean I changed after that. I didn't express grief then, and just downward spiraled. I still feel sad thinking about him. I vowed to never do that to myself again, ever. And that is when I stopped fostering kittens.

I worked with one lady that has been in the field for about 20 years. She has also been fostering bottle baby kittens and that is all she fosters. She loses some. Some get sick and die despite the excellent care they get with her. She is sad when they die but immediately has another bunch of bottle babies. I don't know how she does it. I have asked her, and she speaks about it rationally noting the amount she is able to save etc.

It is important that you work with a reputable rescue that is doing things "right".

Sorry about all the rescue drama. I hope your cat is doing well.
 

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R rosieclover I will keep your cat in our thoughts.

It's really disturbing that they are saying, "well these other ones are fine. Yours will be too." They don't know. No one can. As an immunocompromised individual whose been told that by other people, maybe that extra rubs me the wrong way. Bottom line: it's your comfort level with it that matters, not theirs!

Also, something suspicious: The foster kittens were removed from those homes immediately, but they're expecting you to take yours back??

P.S. even if it was just for your own mental health and you had no other cats, it is 100% perfectly fine and reasonable that you not be given (purposefully) kittens outside of the level of care you have been trained to give. Or if having mental health issues with it due to grief being triggered, that you be given the support to stop.
 
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rosieclover

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When I was in my early 20's, I was working for a GP Veterinarian. A client brought in a one-day old kitten. I had fostered kittens before, so I took him home. I cared for him the best of my ability at that time. I took him to the vet with me daily so he could be fed. He did great. At about 5 months old, everything changed. I took him in and the Vets did all they could at that time. I obsessed and basically focused on him 24/7, 7 days a week for 4 weeks. I watched him die. I saw him take his last breath. I buried him in my back yard at the time. I was devastated. I spoke with a specialist I knew, and he told me it may have been FIP. When I say it was hard on me, I mean I changed after that. I didn't express grief then, and just downward spiraled. I still feel sad thinking about him. I vowed to never do that to myself again, ever. And that is when I stopped fostering kittens.

I worked with one lady that has been in the field for about 20 years. She has also been fostering bottle baby kittens and that is all she fosters. She loses some. Some get sick and die despite the excellent care they get with her. She is sad when they die but immediately has another bunch of bottle babies. I don't know how she does it. I have asked her, and she speaks about it rationally noting the amount she is able to save etc.

It is important that you work with a reputable rescue that is doing things "right".

Sorry about all the rescue drama. I hope your cat is doing well.
I'm so sorry you had that experience. When you spend every day for so long fighting to avoid a loss that happens anyway, it's very traumatic. I think everyone processes these things differently.

My boyfriend is processing by avoiding anything similar to what we went through. He would rather us not have any foster animals, but for me, the sudden emptyness of our home and not caring for her every day was too hard for me. I spent days on end doing nothing but crying. The only days where I wouldn't cry about it were days that I had foster kittens. He wanted to let me foster, but said if they get sick or pass we wouldn't be able to handle it, or the anxiety possibly putting our 2 cats left at risk, and he was right. But he agreed I should do it as long as I promised that I would not care for high-risk fosters and let the rescue take over if things took a turn that direction.

I think for me, caretaking helps me cope, like the lady in your story. I probably would take on these more difficult cases once I'm more healed. I want to use everything I've learned to help as much as I can. But right now I have to protect my mental health just to keep functioning. I completely understand never wanting to do something similar again. I certainly never want to do it in the same way again, because it almost completely destroyed me. I know exactly what you mean when you say it changed you, because it changed me too.
 
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