It’s Sunday night. I’ve made it through a stressful, emotional weekend without blowing my abstinence. Instead of running to food to cope with the upset of Pyxi’s ailment, I ran to program. I kept using the tools of committing my food in the morning and logging it in the diary. I went to my newly discovered online support group and read their posting while posting my own note.
This morning was the worst. Pyxi has not been drinking a lot of water. She is still interested in food but is not always able to keep it down. Even a couple of hours past a meal, she may throw up. Even though our veterinarian and his wife are friends of mine, I am reluctant to bother him on a weekend when I know he is not on call. So, I called the emergency number and the on-call vet got back in touch with me pretty quickly.
I conveyed Pyxi’s symptoms and condition to her since she wasn’t in the office with access to the medical records. I wanted to know if I could start giving Pyxi an over-the-counter acid fighter to help with the vomiting. I wanted to know if the vet thought that it was time to give her some fluids since she wasn’t drinking much. Let me preface what I’m about to write by saying this other veterinarian is a good doctor. While she hasn’t seen my kids often, the couple of times that she has she’s been good and thorough with them. I trust her knowledge. Besides, I know that my regular vet would not have invited her to join his established practice if she wasn’t up to his standards.
Okay, that said, I question whether it was necessary for her to give me a quick and sudden lesson in the nature of kidney disease in dogs, including how it is incurable and we focus on managing symptoms until we reach the point where we have to consider our dog’s quality of life and weigh other decisions.
At some point in her talking, I stopped hearing her actual words because my brain started saying, “Pyxi’s dying.” I ceased being able to process things rationally at that point. All I could really say was that this was dramatically more somber than M had been on Wednesday and, while I knew her condition is serious, I didn’t think we were at the “assessing quality of life” stage yet. I felt like my hope that we might be able to at least stabilize Pyxi had just disintegrated.
I guess I was able to participate enough in the conversation to hear the vet say to start her on the anti-acid meds twice a day. She also suggested that I could try to syringe some water into her and, if she didn’t get in some fluids today to call and I could bring her in for some subcutaneous fluids. I told her I’d call her, thanked her, and disconnected the call.
Then I lost my mind. I went into a complete emotional meltdown with my chest heaving, tears pouring out of my eyes and my arms wrapped around my mid-section. It was awful.
Through it all I kept repeating, “Don’t eat. Just don’t eat. Don’t eat. It won’t help. Just don’t eat.” I don’t often fall apart, but when I do, I’m thorough about it, let me tell you. It was a good 15-20 minutes before I pulled myself together enough to think. I decided that my friend would absolutely not mind me reaching out to him in this case. I was such a basket case that I didn’t even remember that I actually have his cell phone number, so I texted his wife, apologized profusely for bothering them on a Sunday and asking if he had a minute to call. I even said that I was probably overreacting but I was losing my mind over it and needed verification on what I should do.
My vet is the calmest, nicest and most gentle of people. He called me within five minutes. The first thing he said was that I should never feel bad about calling him any time and that he actually preferred that I call him directly because he has Pyxi’s history in his head and knows her so well. The second thing he did was reassure me that, while Pyxi’s condition is serious, he does still have some hope that we can stabilize her so that she doesn’t worsen and that we might even be fortunate and see some improvement. He feels we need to look at more than her numbers and assess her behavior. Even though she sometimes throws up, it is still encouraging that she is eager to eat and there are things that we can do to treat the vomiting symptoms.
This immediately calmed me down enough to tell him what I’ve been seeing in the last 48 hours. He wasn’t surprised that I’ve kept a log of when she eats, drinks, pees, vomits; what her behavior and demeanor are like, etc. He reiterated to keep her on the anti-acid medication. He told me at this point not to force her with syringing fluid into her mouth but to keep monitoring her intake and output. We agreed to touch base later in the day. If we thought it necessary he would meet me at the clinic at any time and give her Sub-Q fluids.
Before we disconnected, I wanted to let him know that I understood the seriousness of the situation and that I accepted that it might not turn around for her and she could deteriorate to where we’d have to face that quality of life discussion. He told me he knew that and that I knew he would always tell me straight. This helped settle me in my mind even more and I truly felt that we aren’t at that point.
As the day went on, Pyxi didn’t get any worse. She did throw up several hours after her first dose of anti-acid med, but at least she had time to digest some of her breakfast. She continued to be pretty quiet, sleeping most of the day. She’ll get up and go outside or follow me into the bedroom, but then settles down again. I was on the point of calling him and suggesting the sub-q fluids when she went into the kitchen and drank more water. Dinner was several hours ago and it’s now three hours since she drank and, so far, everything is staying down. He called me for an update and we decided that if her water intake doesn’t increase by mid-day tomorrow, I’ll bring her in for fluids.
I am so fortunate to work where I do. They are completely fine with me bringing both dogs to work when I need to do so. Nat and Pyxi behave very well in my office so I can get work done and they don’t disrupt any body else in the building. I’m going to take only Pyxi tomorrow. Normally, the two of them go everywhere together but I just have a feeling that she’ll be less ramped up on the trip and in the office if it’s only her tomorrow. Natty won’t like it at first but I also know that he’ll go back to sleep within minutes after we leave.
The day is winding down now. I’m going to bed soon and plan to still go to my 7 a.m. rowing class in the morning. I am so happy to have gotten through this day without mindlessly abandoning my food plan and attempting to use food to cope with the upsetting situation. I stayed on track. I even went out and did 35 minutes of water aerobics. Then I prepared a delicious dinner (Grilled lamb steak with roasted rainbow carrots and fingerling potatoes) and enjoyed eating it — without overeating more than I’d planned.
Given my decades-long history of using food to cope, this is sort of miraculous. That brings me to the point I wanted to make when I named this post. Using food or any substance, heck, using behaviors in ways that could be destructive, are not really coping. We call them coping mechanisms, but when we use them, we aren’t truly coping. In my case, when I’m upset and plunge into compulsive overeating, I’m actually running away and not dealing.
As emotionally upsetting as it was to sit here sobbing and think about possibly losing my sweet little furgirl, I needed to go through the process, experience the emotions and get to a place where I was functioning and thinking straight. I need clarity to properly manage Pyxi’s care and get her whatever she needs. Drugging myself with food is not going to help.
It will only make me feel worse and then create even more stress and upset when I get mad at myself for overeating.
For today, coping means feeling the emotions, no matter how uncomfortable or painful or scary, and doing what is necessary regardless. It means not looking for false mechanisms to make it easier but choosing effective, not destructive methods.
It means that, no matter what, don’t eat. Just don’t eat.