Updated: Apr 15, 2019
I want to begin by telling you how Rupert and Elsa became the magical characters of a beautiful story, one that deserves to be shared with the world. It is my dream to honour the rescue dogs who rescued me many times over and my story starts a little like theirs; on a cold day in a dark place, feeling completely lost and alone...
As the winter settles in, the nights grow longer, darker and colder as my mood follows suit. What a year it has been; perhaps the toughest I have yet known, and as my life seems to crumble around me, there is only one thought that sustains me.
Just that one, simple word reignites the fire in my heart and is grateful proof that there are still embers burning somewhere in the depths; that despite the wreckage, there lies something to salvage from amongst the ruins. It’s not a logical choice or feeling, yet it is intense and urgent, experienced as a deep gut feeling; desperate, as though trying to alert me to something which may just save my life.
I feel this deep and forceful pull, like that of a magnet, to a place that I have never even been and yet it seems there are signs everywhere! The words Italy, Italian, Italia, jump out at me from billboards, shops, books, and all manner of household items, as though highlighted by some magic marker, desperately trying to draw my attention. Even whilst asleep the persistent messages keep coming and I can't stop dreaming about Italy.
One morning I awoke from a powerful dream, where I had been walking the streets of Rome; I recall feeling so completely whole and alive! Something that I was unable to feel in my waking hours. Even strangers seemed to be talking about Italy, and every time I heard the word my heart would smile knowingly. Yet I still cannot fathom why! I suppose that in time it will all become clear...
They say it's always darkest before the dawn, and dusk seems to endlessly stretch out before me, with no sign of light breaking. For someone who has always considered herself an eternal optimist, the growing dark brought an unexpected taste of unwelcome pessimism. The nights were long and desperately lonely, the days too short and yet unwelcome. I dreaded each new day, when I was forced to wake and face another fresh hell.
I had experienced something like this before, all those years ago when I was diagnosed with M.E. and lay paralysed in bed for weeks; unable to walk, engage with others or barely eat. I was alive but only in the physical form, I felt as though my sprit had been sucked from me and I was simply existing. Going through the motions; air in, air out, in order to maintain basic human function. But this time I was not sick, yet something inside of me had died, departed and I was left a shadow of my former self. I had no passion left for life, my enthusiasm was gone, and my identity stolen; I felt lost at sea, searching for an island, something I could grasp hold of, in order to survive and prevent drowning completely.
Glimpses of Kezra would visit in fleeting moments. One in particular stays with me and even to this day I love flying for this very reason. It was the clearest night and, as we came in to land at Heathrow Airport, I could see the entire skyline aglow with colourful lights, which were sparkling and dancing before me; it was breathtakingly magical. Looking down upon the cityscape below, I felt a surge, a rush of pure joy; it was so intense that it brought tears to my eyes. These moments although rare, became my anchor, as I held on tight, swinging between euphoria and grief.
So much had happened that year. Life was a string of unexpected events that turned my world upside down, at such a pace that it left no time to process the sheer weight or impact of them. I found myself launched from one disaster into the next and the only way was forward, taking it in my stride, with the looming fear that at some point, I had to fall.
I had launched a private nutrition practice, once I had finished my three year training; continued to work seven days a week on my other commercial business and was still working nights in order to keep both businesses afloat. I had recently got engaged to my partner of eight years and yet life seemed like this merry go round that wouldn't stop, even for a moment, so that I could experience any of it. It was as though I was outside of my life, looking in, never present, feeling out of control and distinctly numb.
This was until, one day I woke up and everything as I had known it was gone. It was as though a forest fire had spread through my life and destroyed everything whilst I slept. In an instant, I was brought to my knees, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Kevin moved out and our engagement ended; a few months later my business started to collapse due to a string of dire event involving my business partner. I was plunged into what felt like a deep, uncontrollable, downward spiral, falling faster and further into a black nothingness. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed and face the day, but instead would manage to reach as far as the floor, where I would lie, staring blankly at the ceiling; completely empty.
I had been fighting since April to save my business, one that I nurtured, loved and sacrificed so much for in the past three years. A true labour of love that I had poured all my hopes, dreams, future plans and resources into. The sleepless nights, the seventy hour work weeks, quite literally the blood, sweat and tears, to enable its growth, and finally we had reached success. Yet when I should have been celebrating, instead I stood powerless as I watched everything I had built crash down around me. Eight months of abusive emails, threats, lawyers letters, unpaid bills, court letters and debt collectors threatening entry into my home asked for me to fight and fight, until I had nothing left to give. Every penny I owned, including my future inheritance, went to help save the sinking ship that my business had become.
Daily life was a series of events that caused shame, embarrassment, public humiliation and panic. Every time I pulled my card from my wallet to pay, I was filled with a crippling panic that people would see who I really was - an absolute failure of a human being. The constant battle to keep my head above water was exhausting, as was the smile that remained forcibly plastered to my face in the hope that people wouldn't see the sheer dread in my eyes and the deep resignation of someone who had already checked out.
I felt deeply ashamed and desperately alone; unable to speak up and honour that I was struggling, would take more strength than I was capable of. I felt there was no one I could talk to, that would truly understand what I was going through, so I retreated further, shutting out everyone around me. The fear and overwhelm becoming so great, that I had no resources with which to find a way out of the place I had somehow found myself in.
The turning point came when I had no choice but to surrender, I could no longer go on, I had nothing left. I felt that I was stood on a dangerous precipice and I was close to falling onto the rocks below. I wanted to fall; somehow the pain of death seemed preferable to the the pain of living. I realised that the fight was over, I simply couldn't go on. Was I really able to preserve any dignity or sanity that I may have left? Feeling like a shadow of myself, I mustered the last of my strength and courage to let go and walk away.
Looking back I can see that there were guiding points along the way, begging me to surrender, but I thought I knew better and that there was something to save.
One night I was driving home after a long night shift at work, I had taken this road many times, and knew it well. I was driving faster than I should have been, too fast for the tears I couldn't see through, for the drink in my system and the tiredness I felt, yet I didn't care. It was 5am, the road was empty and the desire in me to end my life was so strong that I found myself wishing I had the courage to make one, small mistake. Surely one sharp turn of the steering wheel at this speed and it would all happen so fast, I wouldn't know a thing and no one would be any the wiser that it was simply an accident. As I sat crying, convincing myself it was for the best, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a shape run into the road.
Instinct kicked in and I swerved at 70mph, there was no time to brake, losing control of the car, I spun onto the other side of the road, feeling the car rock from side to side as I waited for it to roll. Unsure of how I ended up there and, more importantly, alive, I sat shaking in my seat, both shocked and surprised. I expected to feel disappointed, yet I was relieved. It felt like a sign for, in that moment all I could think about was how one moment, can change our lives forever, so quickly in a flash. Surely then, what was to stop my life from being just a moment away from something incredible..? I had a glimpse of what ending my life might look like, it shook me up and made me want to live.
I had a thought, that perhaps this obstacle that I was facing was in fact, a gift; a compass given to help guide me in the right direction, because truly I had been lost and didn't even realise it? I know now that it was not just a breakdown, but also a, 'spiritual awakening'.
What I have learnt since, is that forest fires are a natural and necessary part of nature, and after they burn, they create room for new life to grow.
It was Kevin, who reached out and sat with me in my shame, grief and despair, without judgement and when he witnessed that I could bare it no more; outstretched his hand and guided me out from the darkness, one step at a time. I felt that day his deep capacity for empathy, for not once did he offer sympathy or bumper sticker advice, but instead became the person by my side who said, 'We can get through this together', and 'This is what we are going to do'. He physically took the practical tasks that needed to be done and lifted the deadening weight from my shoulders.Once the paperwork had been taken care of, and Kevin had loaned me the funds to pay the debts, denial could no longer keep me safe from the truth.
A few weeks past until I decided that it was time to clear everything out from my home.I walked into my old office, where in front of me lay stacks of leaflets, packaging, designs and banners that towered above me. I took a long, shaky yet determined breath and started to clear everything out.
The grief was shattering, like a knife deep in my chest, a lump had formed in my throat that made it impossible to swallow. I felt the last stubborn part of me that refused to let go, thinking, "But what if... If you do this, then there is no going back".
As I looked at the items I was slowly putting into refuse bags, all I could see were years of my work, dreams, hopes and love being ripped from me. The pain inside turned to a deep rage, that burned through me like a wildfire; I grabbed a knife and started tearing at the boxes, stabbing them repeatedly with all my force, until I fell, exhausted onto the floor. I collapsed, knife in hand, defeated, whimpering as desperate, agonising sobs shook my body with force. I felt as through my child had died and I was clearing out the room where she had once slept; the grief consumed me.
One of the things I admire most about dogs is their ability to live in the moment; every second is an opportunity to embrace life and enjoy the simple pleasures that their untameable curiosity drives them to explore. They remind me daily, that each moment is one to be treasured, embraced and seized! They are a constant source of inspiration to me.
On my darkest days, they sit with me as I cry, and lick my tears, and lie by my side on the days I am unable to leave my bed. They run and play with me on my stronger days and drag me out me out into nature, which always lightens my heart.
It is hard not to erupt into laughter, even through tears, when Rupert dances with his big paws, sending them flying in all directions and Elsa, not knowing how to express her excitement, flips in circles on the spot, chasing her own tail with glee.
I do believe that if it wasn’t for the abundant and beautifully pure joy that they brought to me each day that, perhaps, those darkest days would have been my defining story.
I am deeply grateful to them every day, for loving me unconditionally, and inspiring me to fight through the darkest and longest moments before the dawn.