Never did I dream that I would have an eating disorder during my engagement. Never did I dream that I would be “medically unstable” as a 20-year-old college student. Never did I dream that I would be so ridden by anxiety and depression that I feared eating. Never did I think that I would be experiencing the most painful and the most joy-filled thing in my life at the same time. None of that was a part of the plan….at all.
In March of 2016 I was diagnosed with anorexia. All of a sudden, “in sickness and in health” became a real and daily reality in my relationship with my fiancé, Josh. We didn’t understand why God wasn’t answering our prayers, why the progress seemed so slow, and why all of a sudden life had gotten so hard. Our relationship wasn’t filled with fun and laughter…often times it was filled with frustration, confusion, and pain. I wasn’t myself and my eating disorder had overtaken me. I was often irritable, moody, emotional, angry, frustrated, and sad because I was slowly starving. There was a period of time where I wasn’t able to separate myself from my eating disorder. I thought that the worst parts of my eating disorder were the best parts of me. I felt unlovable and hopeless. I often wondered why Josh would want to stay with someone who had an eating disorder, in addition to anxiety and depression. I wondered how he could possibly have loved me in the state I was in…I often wondered how much longer he could handle taking care of me.
It isn’t over-exaggerating to say that God has used Josh to save my life. I can’t count the number of hours Josh has sat with me while I cried and scratched my back until I fell asleep. He has genuinely tried to understand what most people will never understand. He wasn’t afraid to drag me out of isolation to go hangout with friends, but he also understood when I needed a relaxing night to unwind. He listens to my fears and reassures me of his love for me, as well as Christ’s love for me. He constantly prays for me and encourages me, reminding me of how far I have come. He reminds me that my eating disorder, anxiety, and depression aren’t my identity, and that I am a child of God. He encourages me to take care of my body while also not being afraid to have pizza or some ice-cream with him. Above all, he has loved me when I have had nothing to offer him in return.
As one might expect, my engagement didn’t quite go how I planned it. I hadn’t washed my hair in a few days, so I just threw on a hat and pulled my hair back into a side braid. My nails weren’t painted, and I was wearing a tank top and athletic shorts. We both probably smelt like a combination of bug spray and sweat. No one was there to take pictures or greet us with an engagement party. Josh and I had planned a trip to go fishing on his gram’s property to get away from the stressful demands of school. We spent some time fishing and kayaking, and we ended the day just sitting and talking by the river. I remember jokingly asking Josh when he was going to propose to me & he kind of brushed it off and changed the subject. I expected that I would be proposed to later on in the summer after school had ended, so I wasn’t too concerned with his answer. That semester was the hardest time in my life and I was ready move on.
Little did I know, Josh ended up proposing to me 20 minutes after I asked that question. I was truly shocked when Josh proposed to me. It was special, intimate, unexpected, and filled with joy. I didn’t think that Josh would propose to me until I was a little “less sick” or a little “less broken”. I didn’t expect to be fully recovered, but I didn’t expect him to propose to me until I was doing a lot better. In April of 2016, I wasn’t in a good place. Emotional breakdowns were still plentiful and I was still in the very beginning phases of my recovery. Life was difficult and it was taking a toll on our relationship. He proposed to me when everything seemed to be going wrong and the bad days outnumbered the good. He looked at me and didn’t think that I was his anorexic girlfriend; he looked at me and saw the girl he fell in love with.
This is the type of relationship that strengthened my recovery in ways that I couldn’t have done on my own. I was truly blessed to be surrounded by such a supportive fiancé, family, & a few close friends. It’s important to understand that not every person in our lives are meant to be on our recovery team. In recovery, I was taught that I needed to be able to identify the “safe” and “unsafe” people in my life. The “safe” people were the ones who would support me, listen, hold me accountable, and empathize with me even though they didn’t completely understand. On the other hand, the “unsafe” people hindered my recovery rather than helped it; they were the people who continued to talk about dieting and weight loss even after I had confided in them. They were the people who didn’t try to understand and didn’t care to. I still have relationships with these types of people in my life, but they weren’t cut out for my recovery team, and that’s okay. Other people cannot recover for me, but what they can do is strengthen and reinforce new and healthy habits