Have a Puppy, He’ll Fix You

Continued from here.

After one month as a day patient at Huntercombe, my parents and the hospital staff decided that I should be discharged because the situation wasn’t working: I had not gained weight, I wasn’t receiving therapy, and the nutritionist was terrible, which is said from a non-anorexic viewpoint; the baseline is that a nutritionist treating sufferers of eating disorders should not encourage calorie counting. Interestingly, despite moaning and groaning everyday that I was there, when the time came, I didn’t want to leave. Huntercombe had become safe, and it was the only place where I felt I could eat; to me, going back to America meant I was going back to hunger, and hunger meant pain, anger, and torment. The untreated emotional issues that plagued me were not going to permit recovery at home. We all knew it, but we were all at a loss for what to do.

My dad and I returned to my mum in California the weekend of my 19th birthday. On the way home, we took a detour and ended up at an unfamiliar house. At first, I panicked because I thought I was being taken to see an acupuncturist, but, much to my surprise, it was actually the home where my new puppy was patiently awaiting our arrival. The funny thing is that when we were driving to the breeder’s house, despite having absolutely no clue what was about to happen, I randomly started to talk about cool dog names. In turn, when the breeder asked what I wanted to name the puppy, without hesitation I said Deefer (as in “D for Dog”) because this was the name I was most enthusiastic about during our name conversation minutes earlier.

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Meeting Deefer for the first time.

Deefer was welcomed into the family in an effort to help me get better. My parents thought that taking care of a puppy would urge me to take care of myself too, and although I fretted when Deefer didn’t eat all his supper, I didn’t think twice about how I was skipping entire meals. Of course I loved Deefer pretty much more than anything, but I often got frustrated when his needs interfered with my relationship with anorexia. What’s more, being so underfed made me grumpy and impatient, which meant that I had no desire to play with him.

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Regrettably, I came to use him simply as a way to get out and exercise more. Yes, he needed to be walked, but no, he didn’t need to be forced to run around the block during blizzards. I even hated to stop when he wanted to pee, and I often just tugged him away when he found something to sniff; all I cared about was burning calories, and I sacrificed my dog’s pleasure for my anorexia’s needs.

It's hard to admit, but I was actually annoyed with this little when I took this photo. He had just come back from getting "fixed," and instead of hugging him, I was annoyed that I wouldn't be able to take him out for some exercise.

Here, my dad is comforting Deefer because he had just gotten “the snip.” Shamefully, I was too annoyed to lay down beside him because I just wanted to take him out to exercise.

That winter, despite my frailty, I taught young children how to ski. The logic was that combining the two things I am passionate about – skiing and children – would entice me to get healthy. Teaching distracted me from thinking about food – though food was almost always on my mind – but I remember feeling extremely envious of the kids’ ease when it came to lunchtime, and especially their ability to eat whatever they wanted, which I thought I would never be able to do again. I was scared about the damage I had done/ was doing to my body, but such glimmers of hope that I truly did want to return to my old self were quickly blocked by the fear of weight gain. Sure, I felt pathetic knowing children could take care of their bodies better than I could, but I suppose this lack of personal responsibility made me feel more childlike, and thus safer. Once again, ‘vicious cycle’ comes to mind: being a child made me feel more cared for by my parents, and although this was true to a degree, they also felt very distanced from me; they felt they had lost their daughter.

Even though my mum was suffering so much, she was proud of me and my first job, so she took this picture in the staff locker room.

Even though my illness was taking such an emotional toll on my mum, she took this picture of me by my locker in the staff room because she was so excited about my first job.

IMG_0031Having undergone months of weekly visits to a doctor and nutritionist three hours away by car, as well as attending group therapy fours hours away in San Francisco, it was decided that, once again, I needed inpatient care. This time, however, my parents wanted to make sure their money would get me quality help, so they sold some of their land to pay for specialized treatment at a center of their choice. The place we chose was in Oregon, and boy was it a lifesaver; let’s just say that after 9 months of intensive treatment at Rain Rock, I have been able to maintain good health for a little over four years… And that, we all agree, is priceless.

To be continued. And the road only gets better from here on out.

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4 responses to “Have a Puppy, He’ll Fix You

  1. I just read through your posts. All. You’re a wonderful writer, and it’s interesting to read your story. It’s also interesting to read this through your current perspective. Anyway, I want to thank you for sharing and let you know that I look forward to reading more. 🙂

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