October 29, 2013 will be a date that is forever engraved on my heart. Why? Because it is the day that my parents made the greatest worst decision of my entire life.
As some of you may know, during the fall of 2013 I was on medical leave from school and, at the time, faking an attempt at recovery from severe anorexia. It’s not a time in my life that I am proud of, by any means, but I’ve come to terms with it being what it was at the time. Eating disorders are tricky, deceiving, diseases and although I’ve always been a very honest, trustworthy, reliable, and respectful person, my eating disorder turned me into someone I’m not and someone I’m not. I was so sick, malnourished, and entrenched in the patterns and addictions that come along with an eating disorder that I was lying to my parents, my friends, my treatment team, and ultimately even to myself. I had convinced everyone that I was trying to recover all the while I was still engaging in behaviors, losing weight, and finding ways to get around rules and responsibilities.
I convinced my parents in early September that if I gained weight 6 weeks consecutively that I should be allowed to get a puppy. Our old english setter, Chloe (who this blog is named after!!) had recently gone blind the previous summer and wasn’t able to do the same things she used to be able to do with me – I was literally starving for love and affection and I thought a puppy would provide the perfect solution. I convinced my parents that a puppy would give me motivation – something to live for, a reason to get out of bed in the mornings, and a reason to eat and work towards recovery even more. They fell for it. My poor parents were so desperate to cling to some form of hope that I would make it out of this dreadful disease alive that they gave in to my pleadings and arguments for a puppy and they agreed.
At the time, I was seeing a dietician once every 2 weeks (that’s all insurance would allow) and so we agreed that if I went three appointments in a row with an increase in weight that I could look into getting a puppy from the local humane society. I was so desperate for a puppy. I was so desperate to keep up the facade that I was truly recovering even when I wasn’t. I knew all the tricks and all the ways to get around things. I water loaded before being weighed, I wore heavy clothing, I even went so far as to show up to appointments with wet hair because I thought it would add a few extra ounces (plot twist: it doesn’t, but drinking water and wearing heavy clothing DID). My weight crept up by decimal points over those 6 weeks – or so everyone thought.
Next thing you know – I am walking into the humane society and grabbing up the first puppy I see. She was cute and only about 3 months old at the time. She was rambunctious and wild and full of life and energy – she was everything I WANTED to be but couldn’t be because of my eating disorder. I named her Rachi (pronounced like Rocky) because my favorite composer is Rachmaninoff. I fell in love with her instantly, as did my parents, and for a few short weeks she DID provide the help and encouragement I needed to begin to get on the track towards recovery. But, it didn’t last long. At the time I got Rachi I weighed just barely over 100 pounds and I was already so sick that my mind couldn’t even fathom the actions and steps it would take to fully pull me out of the cycles I had fallen into.
A few weeks after getting Rachi I was right back to my old ways and my weight began the downward spiral that I had previously been hiding, but I couldn’t hide it any longer. I was not in any place, physically, to be able to handle a puppy and, had I not been living with my parents and had their help, it would have been a recipe for disaster. But my parents loving Rachi – even HALF as much as I do – made all the difference in the world and, maybe selfishly, they never once threatened to get rid of her despite my lying, deceiving, and manipulating.
Despite my physical, mental, and emotional condition Rachi and I formed a bond like no other during those months after I first brought her home. This little bundle of unconditional love and energy brought so much life into our family home when so much life was being sucked out of it by my eating disorder. Rachi kept me warm at night when anorexia stole all the heat from my body. Rachi curled up and nestled into my chest at night when I was sure my heart was about to stop beating and my chest ached from all the strain is was under. When I got sick in the middle of the night – entire boxes of laxatives firing their way through my mid section, when I was sure I was going to die on the floor of the bathroom – moaning and in pain, Rachi would bark and scratch at my parent’s bedroom door until they woke up and were able to help me. When I say that my rescue dog rescued me, I mean it quite literally. Through the panic attacks when she would wrap herself up in my lap, reminding my to breath; through the dissociative episodes when she provided kisses and warmth that brought me back down to reality; through all the times when suicide seemed appealing – she was there and she kept me grounded and alive. She is literally an angel sent by God because I fully believe that, had I not had her with me during those months, I would have died.
My weight dropped lower and lower…and lower and eventually I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Reality really hit me hard when I tried to enroll in a couple of residential programs on the East Coast for treatment and none of them would accept me as a patient because I was seen as a liability for their program. I felt more helpless and hopeless than ever and during those long days and nights, I clung to Rachi as my lifeline. Finally, I did a phone assessment with Eating Recovery Center’s inpatient program in Denver, Colorado and within a week they had admitted me to the hospital there where I spent over 3 months in treatment. I missed Rachi more than ever during those 3 months which were, without a doubt, the toughest, most grueling, most difficult months of my life. I was stripped of everything I knew – all my eating disorder behaviors, all self harm behaviors, all my coping mechanisms, and even my puppy. However, my parents still had Rachi. As Rachi spent those months with my parents back in VA they grew to see in her what I saw in her in prior months – she provided them with a life line, something to cling to during tough times. My parents received phone calls from me periodically which always, without a doubt, included a plethora of tears, threats, anger, and sadness. In those moments, they clung to Rachi for support. My mom told me that when sadness overcame her, she would hold Rachi and that in those moments she would feel close to me, and she would feel hope for both me and our family.
When I came home from Denver I was a different person than the sick, emaciated girl I was just three months prior. During the past 2.5 years since being discharged from treatment there have been struggles, ups and downs, battles, etc etc. But Rachi has been there through it all. Rachi has allowed me to grow, change, and evolve, and yet loved me all the same. She has been my best friend, side-kick, secret keeper, confidant, cuddle buddy, and on and on for 3 years now.
I don’t ever advise parents to make deals with their sick kids like my parents made with me – it will rarely ever end like my story with Rachi. But I am so grateful that my parents made the bad decision that they made in their time of desperation. They were frantically clinging to the hope that a dog could save my life – and even though it hasn’t played out exactly how they envision, this pup HAS saved my life time and time again and she continues to do so. As I sit on my couch with my sleeping babe lying next to me I am overwhelmed with gratitude and my heart is bursting with love for her. I can’t imagine doing life without her by my side. When depression pops up and rears it’s ugly head – she drags me out of bed in the morning. When my eating disorder waves a hand in the air and says, “hey, choose me, choose me!” she reminds me of all the reasons why I should choose life instead. When anxiety overwhelms me, she offers support in the form of kisses and cuddles. When tears run like rivers down my cheeks, she is there to sit and listen to me.
Allowing me to get Rachi was the best worst decision my parents have ever made. God sent me a life-saving angel in the form of a little rescue pup who has saved my life time and time again.
I love you, Rachi. Happy Adopt-versary. ❤
“I feel like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien. I cannot cast out the old way of writing and I cannot acquire the new. I have made an intense effort to feel the musical manner of today, but it will not come to me.”
― Sergei Rachmaninoff
“That was what a best friend did: hold up a mirror and show you your heart.”
― Kristin Hannah
“A dog has one aim in life… to bestow his heart.”
― J.R. Ackerley
“Dogs are here to remind us life really is a simple thing. You eat, sleep, take walks, and pee when you must. That’s about all there is. They are quick to forgive trespasses and assume strangers will be kind.”
― Jonathan Carroll