Anchored in HOPE

  RoxyIn the spring of 1998, I went to the pound and picked out a dog. Well, in reality, I suppose she picked me out. I didn't like her at first with her multi-color eyes and big curly tail. But she loved me and my Memaw said that "a good dog picks you, you don't pick them." Dogs have a better intuition, afterall. They don't base their decision on all the silly things that we consider. I was picking out a dog for reasons different than most people. Sure, it was fun to get a puppy, but Roxy was destined to serve a much bigger purpose. She had a big job and my life and my future rested on her shoulders. I think she knew that. When I was 14, my battle with anorexia began. I don't know exactly how it started or why it started. I am sure a psychologist could have fun blaming this or that and analyzing the various events leading up to it. But however it came to pass, it sucked me in and consumed my being. Looking back, it's a hard thing to explain. I wonder how I ever did it- how I played sports year round (and even excelled at them), how I covered it up, how people didn't shake me and scream and yell, how I could stand missing out on so many things. My memories of those years are very sparse and there are even periods of months that I cannot recall at all. I do remember the day I asked for help. I do remember that that day was actually just the beginning.

A year after I asked for help, my situation was worsening and my parents were at a complete loss, and I suppose in a lot of ways it was pretty embarrassing for them. Mostly, though, I think they felt like I was sliding through their fingers like the fine, soft sand on the beach. Pieces of me- my personality, my organs, my body parts- were being caught in the winds of time and carried away, never to be seen again. Desperation is what got me to the pound. Desperation is what made my dad agree to the nutritionist's suggestion of a puppy, a therapy dog. The hope was that a puppy would give me a sense of purpose, a motherly instinct to survive and thrive to protect my baby. Even better, I would hopefully learn to gauge how much she needed to eat or not eat or exercise or not exercise and begin to apply those principles to my own life. It was a long shot, a very long shot.

The recovery rate for anorexia is not good. A very small percentage of those who enter the murky waters come away from them and never dip their feet back in. From the day I picked Roxy up from the pound, we were inseparable. I wish I could say I quickly gained back the weight and life was good. But I can't. I did gain back some; I had to because I was playing soccer at Florida Southern that year. My liver was not doing well and the doctor had serious concerns about other side effects of anorexia. I played that season, but I did not do well. No longer could shear will-power carry me through the tough workouts and long days. My body was tired and after just one season, I moved back home. It was a huge loss for me. Soccer had been my sport. I loved the game and reveled in the physical execution. My body was failing me now and I couldn't pretend anymore.

Roxy was at home to greet me. She knew she was needed and stood by me every step of the way. She loved me and gave me purpose, even after I had lost my hopeful ambitions. The summer after I graduated from college, my weight had stabilized within a healthy range and I was considered "cured." I have never gone back. I've never stood on the banks of the murky waters and considered the temperature. I have never dipped a toe in or considered diving in to retrieve the lost memories. Not once. And Roxy was there all along. She walked by my side the whole way, a constant reminder that I was valuable. (Read the whole story here.)

It's been 11 yrs since I was "better." Roxy died of snout cancer in April 2009. Her death was harder than you can ever imagine. She came into a darkness that no one else could enter. She saw me, my heart, in a blackness where people saw loss and hopelessness. She never got mad or frustrated, she never gave up. She took my sickness.

I'm not sure why I feel compelled to share that today. I think so often we allow ourselves to believe that we "aren't worth the effort." I hope you know you are. Everything in life requires effort- losing weight, gaining strength, training for a race... Hell, waking up and feeding yourself sometimes seems monumental. But it is the struggle that creates strength, the movement that creates inertia, and the hope that anchors the soul! Kia Kaha!