- Sara Mann
I want to take this blog post as an opportunity to talk a little bit about my thoughts and feelings on my husbands Q&A blogs the past two weeks! First of all, I want to thank my husband, Wyatt, for taking the time to answer all those questions and for being as honest as he was! My husband travels a lot for work and I know he sat up late in hotel rooms thinking through and answering all those questions. So I'm really grateful for that! I also know that as cliche as it sounds, he is a guy and he doesn't always love to re-hash the past, or deal with emotions let alone talk about them, so I'm actually really proud of him for sharing how he feels about my time as an anorexic as well as my recovery. Also, I'm the one with the blog and desire to share my recovery with the world, not him. So for him to open up to people he hasn't met with some really personal things I think was pretty dang brave and I hope it helps anyone who reads it!
I know from talking to some of you that you wonder what I thought of his answers, and many of you were really sweet and sent messages saying what a great couple we are for doing this! So, I want to share some of my thoughts about his answers, AND while we love all the praise for who we are as a couple, I want to talk a little bit about who we REALLY are as a couple haha. It's so easy for the internet and social media to paint a pretty picture, and while Wyatt and I are in a really great place right now, we've had to fight for it. Anorexia, recovery, infertility, multiple moves, family issues, and being imperfect people has made the journey not for the faint of heart, BUT through God's grace and a lot of hard work we have overcome a lot and I'll share a bit of this today!
Many people asked if he ever thought about divorce or if he wished he never married me because of my eating disorder/recovery. OUCH! haha! Although, those are fair questions. Being married to someone who is anorexic or recovering from an eating disorder has to be VERY hard. I wouldn't be surprised if he at times wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits, and I'm thankful that so far he hasn't! The thing is, we actually take our marriage vows very seriously and they swing both ways. The problem with this question is that people assume that my eating disorder would be the reason for a divorce, but, although my ED and recovery is what this blog is about, it isn't a blog about marriage and the things that both of us have done that would cause the other to want to peace out. Both Wyatt and I are very imperfect people. Both of us have done things in our marriage that would cause the other to want to say no thanks, see ya! But BOTH of us choose to wake up every morning and forgive, change, grow, seek help when we need it, and try to love each other unconditionally and as you know from reading, faith is a huge component to our lives and our marriage. Wyatt and I fail each other all the time, yet we choose to grow and love faithfully anyway.
DOES HE REALLY NOT CARE ABOUT MY WEIGHT GAIN?!
Hand to my heart, he TRULY does not care. Unless he is a better actor then Tom Hanks, the man still likes my body and thinks I'm beautiful. I'm serious. Every insecurity I have about my weight in regards to how my husband views me is my own. He is CONSTANTLY trying to make moves on me. He tells me I'm beautiful and he really truly would not care if I never went back to having abs and an inverted A chest! haha. I believe him when he says these things, and I also don't believe him at the same time because I feel so bad about myself. I have cried many nights because I felt like my husband didn't marry this. He married a fit, beautiful blonde, not an overweight, swollen, sick woman. It's taken a lot of therapy to allow myself to believe that my husband loves me as I am and that is' my own insecure and culture filtered brain that would lead me to believe that he couldn't or wouldn't. I think God has really allowed Wyatt to love me unconditionally in this way and I'm thankful for it. It takes a HUGE amount of pressure off my healing process.
Wyatt talked a bit about how one of the worst things about my recovery and time anorexic is/was the isolation. I would say this is true! Anorexia made me extremely insecure. Recovery and the weight gain that has come with it has made that insecurity multiply even more. It can be debilitating at times. I fear seeing people. I fear their thoughts and comments about my body and my looks. I fear that people will judge what I'm eating. I fall into a deep and ugly game of comparison. I get terrible anxiety and panic attacks about seeing people who the last time they saw me I was anorexically thin. I also DO have a lot of health problems. I swell daily. I'm in pain from head to toe most of the time and going out like that is simply not enjoyable. I also have a hard time getting dressed. My body has changed so drastically that I don't have a lot of clothing and I don't know how to dress it. I tend to wear baggy clothes and leggings because of my swelling and pain and it just doesn't make me feel beautiful or good enough to be out and seen. It's been very hard. I typically will only go out with people with whom I feel very safe. This has been really hard on Wyatt because he is VERY extroverted. He would literally go out every single night if he could! He comes from a place of yes and fun. As he mentioned, as I recover this has gotten a bit better. I do things to make sure I am able to go out. If we are having dinner with friends I will make sure to rest before we go so my body is less swollen. I deal with a lot of guilt for the things we have missed out on because of me recovery and health issues. I would say I have a panic attack about it once a week. What happens is I feel swollen or in pain multiple days in a row, so going out is unbearable or I have to choose to not go and lay down. This causes me to wonder if I will EVER feel better and feel like myself again. It seems like there is no end in site, so then I will get very very depressed. I do really encourage Wyatt to do whatever he wants and go to things even if I can't and he is very patient with me as I heal. I think we just try not to judge each other and do the best we can with how things are at the moment :)
So Wyatt mentioned a few regrets that he had. Mostly not getting help right away, not seeing it, not being firmer, going on a diet when we first got married. Honestly, hindsight is 20/20 and neither of us had been anorexic or married before. The best we can do is learn, and grow and not repeat mistakes. During my time in therapy I really had to work through resentment I had that Wyatt and my family didn't really "seem" to care about how thin I was getting or they didn't see that I was anorexic and did something about it. I couldn't see it myself because I was lost in the disorder and mental anguish of it all. I had some bitterness that if someone would have seen it and cared enough maybe I wouldn't have gotten to such a bad place that would lead to my body being in THIS much distress and this very long and hard recovery. It's SO easy to point the finger at other people when things go badly. While there is some truth to these things, they just aren't to blame. Anorexia is to blame. Do I wish Wyatt would have said something, or seen something or done something different. YES! But like he said, he just didn't really know what was going on and since we live in a diet culture where thin is glorified, it's not easy to see when someone has a problem unless you are educated about it. We are so quick to play the what if game when things go wrong. I've learned it just doesn't help anything. We did what we could at the time with what we knew, and that's it! We need to move forward with grace, humility and forgiveness and just do out best from here on out!
HIS MENS GROUP!
Some people have wondered if I am upset that Wyatt would share about our marriage, my ED and struggles with his mens group. While at times I felt insecure about it, the answer to this is NO! Just like I needed therapy and support, so did Wyatt. The mens group that he has talked about was full of Godly men that he trusted to give him wise advice, not just stroke his ego and agree with everything he says. While I don't LOVE the idea of being talked about, I think its fair that he needs a place to talk too and I encourage that. I've met some of the guys from his group and they are great! I also kept my distance from it so that he could have a safe place to be free to share without any influence of my opinion.
I think he did a good job of talking about this subject. Thankfully God has provided for us in a way that has allowed me to get the help and treatment I needed. It's NOT fun to pay medical bills and as of today I would say we have easily paid over $60,000 in treatment so far. This is for doctors, (many many doctors), medication, support groups (you would think those would be free....they are not), therapy, dietitians, and more. Most of the best do not accept insurance. The weight of this financial burden is heavy and I've felt so angry at times at myself and my body for going through this. My husband is an incredible provider. He works hard and has allowed me to have the best treatment. I have been a photographer and most of my income has gone towards treatment as well. We have no go-fund me accounts and no one else helping us, and because of his income we are never given sliding scales or grants for help financially. It's really hard. I don't want to come across as whining, and at the same time I do want to be honest about how expensive recovery is, and I'm sure all of you out there who are recovering can relate! But, as I said before, God is good and he has faithfully taken care of us during this time. I'm so thankful for Wyatt and his willingness to give me the best care. Anytime I say sorry for being sick, he say's I don't need to apologize, if he was sick it would be no different.
OUR SEX LIFE
YIKES! I'm not going to share a lot about this on my blog. But I know people do want to know about it when it comes to recovery and anorexia. Honestly, I should probably just write a solid blog about how anorexia, recovery, weight loss and weight gain have affected my/our sex life. I'm going to talk it over with the hubs and if he gives me the green light I'll do it and just tell my mom to sit that one out haha. I'll say this. Anorexia messes with everything, including your sex life. How can you possibly connect with another person when you hate yourself? How can you confidently allow yourself to be touched and loved when you can't even look at yourself in the mirror. Like Wyatt said, there are things on both of our ends that have led to intimacy issues, but yes, anorexia is a big one that came from my end. Stay tuned to a maybe blog about it! haha
One of the hardest things for Wyatt during my recovery has been my breakdowns. Recovery has been a rollercoaster. I have a couple of good days, followed by a couple of bad days. I'll feel confident and not care about my weight one minute, and then something will trigger me and I have to fight HARD to want to get up and live life the next. Some days I feel fine seeing people, and others I'm debilitated with anxiety and don't want to be seen. It's hard on me and it's hard on him. Wyatt is very patient with me and has learned how to help me through a breakdown. I don't have more to say on this other then I'm grateful that he allows me to cry when I need to, feel the pain or recovery, yet encourages me to get up and keep going.
This is a very painful subject for us. When we got married I already knew having children would be hard for me because I have endometriosis and had already had a surgery because of it. He knew this and we decided to just move forward and take whatever God would give us. Then I became anorexic and lost my cycle for seven years. It took me three years of recovery before I even started to get somewhat of a "normal" cycle again. Even then, my hormones are way out of balance, I swell every day,and my doctors have advised me that I'm not healthy enough to carry a healthy pregnancy. (my body doesn't absorb food right, I swell badly, I have hormone imbalances that can cause problems, I am still at high risk of heart attack, although as I heal it is getting better.) As you can imagine this has been devastating. People are rude so I rarely share, even with my closest friends and family, how I feel about this and how painful it is to me. Wyatt and I do our best to love the children that are in our lives and we enjoy being youth leaders and wait on God's timing. We are moving into our late 30s and we don't know if it will ever be possible for me to carry a biological child. It's most likely a no. This is something that over time we have gained a peace that surpasses all understanding about. We do have big hearts and would love to adopt though and hope to start that process soon! This is another area that gives me a lot of anxiety and panic though. I don't want to adopt until I'm healthy enough and it again doesn't seem like I will be any time soon. This leads to a lot of tears and overbearing thoughts of the life I'm missing out on because of anorexia, recovery and swelling. We prayerfully wait for God's timing on this though and for him to send us the perfect child in any way he chooses.
As you can see, our faith plays a HUGE roll in how we are navigating and getting through all of this. I honestly do not think we would be where we are today without it. God's word has given us hope when we feel hopeless. Identity when we have felt lost. Direction when we didn't know which way to turn. Encouragement when we are discouraged. Strength when we feel like giving up. Friendship when we feel alone, and confidence to keep going. It has kept our marriage strong and our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. I don't want to turn this into a sermon, but if you don't have a faith, I'm happy to share mine with you over a coffee or a glass of wine :)
IF I THINK A FAMILY MEMBER IS ANOREXIC, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
He said that I would probably be able to answer this better, so I am going to write it on my to do list of blog topics in the next few months. I have a lot of ideas about what to do. What worked with me and friends I know that have recovered and what didn't. Stay tuned!
BEING CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT HE SAYS AROUND ME
This one has taken a lot of time with a huge learning curve for both of us. I know I've spoken about triggers before and how they can send a person in recovery very quickly into relapse. This has been the case for me many many times throughout the past 3+ years. If someone calls me pregnant or fat or mentions a diet and I'm not feeling confident in my recovery, it's almost guaranteed I will restrict the next couple of days, so it's crucial for the people around me who love me and support me to be careful about what they say. Maybe this is a burden on them, but how I like to see it is, if they love me, they won't mind filtering around me. I've had to educate a lot of people around me on the harmfulness of their words. You might think it's harmless to talk about a diet or calories around me, it is not. Wyatt has learned so much and truly does a good job of creating a space in our home and in our relationship where I feel safe and where his words won't send me into relapse. Our home is a diet talk, body shaming (other then my own evil words to myself) free zone. Don't come in our home and talk about keto. Seriously, don't do it. We don't care about how many calories are in a cookie and we don't villanize sugar, carbs or calories. We exercise for enjoyment and not for control. If you think I'm fat or my husband has gained or lost weight, keep it to yourself. We compliment each other on qualities not weight so we know our worth beyond size. Are there times that he will say something that I get all bent out of shape about, definitely. But then again, I'm not perfect either! We just do our best to consider each other and speak to each other with respect to what we both are going through. It's pretty much that simple!
A GLUTEN FREE HOME
Wyatt mentioned that I have a lot of food restrictions right now that we have to navigate in our home. I haven't shared much about this yet. Probably because it has been very difficult. Imagine recovering from anorexia, finally eating again and then BOOM, the doctor tells you all these foods are inflaming your body, making you swell and you need to cut them out. ummm I thought recovery meant free from restricting food?! I was gluten free when I was anorexic because it was another way to restrict food groups, calories and make a new rule to follow. I was SO excited to eat gluten freely when I first started recovery. When I was then tested and told my results and that I had to be gluten free, I was truly devastated. I went into a bit of depression and felt lost. There were other foods I had to cut out as well and honestly, it made me feel like I was anorexic again with all these food rules and limitations. It was triggering to the MAX. Eventually we accepted it and with the Wyatt's support we were able to re-learn how to eat and what to eat. We have a gluten free home, but Wyatt can eat whatever he wants when we go out or he goes out. It's another thing I feel a lot of guilt about, but he doesn't make me feel bad at all. I think it's also not so bad for him because like he said, he travels a lot for work. PLUS, not to brag, but I actually am a really good cook, so Wyatt eats just fine :)
DOES HE THINK I WILL RECOVER.
Wyatt DOES truly think I will recover. I don't think he knows how long it will take or what my body in the end will look like, but he has been able to maintain a really strong stance that everything I'm doing will pay off and my body will eventually go back to a healthy weight, I will be able to run and play sports and be fit and feel good in my body again. This has actually been really key to my recovery because I feel pretty hopeless in this aspect. I often feel like I will never recover and I will be stuck like this. Overweight and swollen. Living with some who has the ability to encourage me genuinely is super super helpful. When I get down he is able to let me know its not over until it's over and that it's a process and I have a lot of healing to do. Even last night he did this. I have been very swollen and in pain the past three days. I was traveling and visiting family, and by the time I got home I was so physically and mentally drained from trying to keep it together that I found myself in a really dark mental place. I have thoughts that this will never get better and life swollen and in pain like this isn't a life worth living. When this happens Wyatt usually just helps me ride the wave of the pain and get through the day. He reminds me that my tests keep getting better and my hard work will eventually pay off and I'll go back to normal. We don't know if I'll be normal next year or in five years, but he really carries the hope for both of us a lot of the time. He mentions that he thinks he can do a lot more to help me, but to be honest, this REALLY helps me the most.
WHAT CAUSED MY EATING DISORDER AND DOES HE EVER BLAME HIMSELF
So this is the biggie, and honestly I should probably save it for another blog, but I thought I should at least mention it in this one. The reason I became anorexic is multifaceted. I heard a metaphor once that anorexia is like a gun. Genes shape the gun, environment loads it and stress pulls the trigger. In my experience I would say this is 100% true. There are many studies out there that have linked genetics to eating disorders. Like I said, this should be another blog. I'm sure I have this gene because my family history is not eating disorder free and I've had other family members dabble in them. The environment that caused my eating disorder was a mix of societal body pressures, female pressure to be a certain body type, being an athlete, my perfectionism, how I was raised and things that happened while growing up, extreme diet culture, living in NYC where people ARE thinner, more competitive, and stylish, the death of my grandmother, family problems from both mine and my husbands families, my insecurity because of my body, college and relationship hurts, and some things that happened in the first couple of years in my marriage that were very painful. You throw all that into a basket of predisposed genetics, add a little stress and BAM the gun goes off. Wyatt described it well. My life was spiraling in every direction and dang it if I couldn't at least control my body, my food and my weight. I could be consumed by counting calories and weighing myself 30 times a day just to avoid the pain of a marital issue. I could run 7 miles a day just to not have to think about losing my grandmother whom I grew up with, literally in the same home. I could eat less and less so my body would feel numb to the pain of rejection from in-laws or the inadequacy I felt in college. I could be consumed with food rules just so I wouldn't have to really feel the loneliness from moving far from family and having no friends in a new city with a new marriage that wasn't as easy as the movies promised. It was hard and anorexia was sadly the best way I knew how to get through it. While things my husband did certainly contributed to my eating disorder, he is not to blame. Anorexia is just a really bad coping skill. It feels so good at the moment. It makes you feel in control, but then it slams you and almost kills you and you don't even know what happened. Recovering from it feels almost impossible. Not only do I have to recover from the literal physical and health damage that was done (which is glacial at best and embarrassing AF because of weight gain and those societal standards I already spoke about), but also the mental anguish of everything I was running from and coping with that started it all, as well as trying to come up with new and healthy coping skills so that it doesn't happen again. It would be so easy to blame everyone else and all of those things for why this happened, but you know what? At some point you have to stop blaming other people and get things right with yourself. I'm the only one that can get out of anorexia, no matter how I got into it. The more time I spend blaming other people, the less time I'm spending fixing the anorexia. It's important to address the triggers that caused the gun to go off. I've addressed some with my husband in extensive therapy, some by myself in therapy, others by setting boundaries and finding my voice again. I've learned to allow myself to grieve and feel the emotions that anorexia stuffs down through journaling and self care. I've spent many hours in prayer and God's word to find identity outside of the number on the scale. Educating myself on diets and the body has also REALLY helped me deal with triggers. There are some things that have happened and that trigger me that I will never be in control of, for those, I simply learn better coping skills and I find a way to let those triggers go so life can move forward.
There is a reason I named this blog Inwardly Renewed. I had to fix what was going on the inside before I could EVER feel ok again on the outside. Through God's grace and a lot of therapy and support, I'm getting there :)
Wyatt has been a huge support to me during this time. We are far from a perfect couple, but we choose to remain faithful to one another and see each other through the deepest valley's. We do our best to love each other like God speaks of love in 1 Corinthians 13, but hey, sometimes I can be really rude and there are definitely times he can be a bit self-seeking, but then we get the opportunity to practice humility and forgiveness. Anorexia and recovery may be one of the worst things that has happened to us, but you know what? It might also be one of the best. It has made us really have to lean on each other, face some of our problems and love each other in a deeper way!
Thank you Wyatt for guest blogging the past two weeks, for answering my readers questions and for loving me through my recovery! Love you!