The One I Lean On: Thank You For Changing My Life

I’ve been asked how my recovery journey started and the answer is simple: Ethan Rogge.

This man deserves a noble peace prize for the shit I have dragged him through, and yet almost 3 years later he is still holding my hand.

Yes, he is my boyfriend but he is so much more than that. You know how they say people come into your life to teach you something? Our relationship is a prime example.

While I was deep in the eating disorder, which was unknown to any of us at the time, Ethan was a champ. As I trained for my bodybuilding show, he sacrificed pizza nights, ice cream dates and even dinner dates. He allowed me to plan our days around my two a days and helped craft my workout routines over and over again until I felt they were hard enough. He listened to me stress about my macros and freak out when my gym schedule didn’t happen as perfectly planned. He would wake up at 6am with me to get a workout in before we went hiking. He would eat plain chicken, brown rice and steamed broccoli every damn night because that’s all I would eat. He would smile sweetly when I was being a complete bitch (which was generally because I was having a bad body image day but I was unaware at the time- it seemed so normal I had never questioned the mood swings).

When things started getting more severe while we were abroad, Ethan wrote a 9 page letter to my mom and dad. That letter changed everything.

As I started treatment, Ethan was my backbone. Treatment was an emotional rollercoaster, some days I was happy and motivated, other days I couldn’t get out of bed. Some nights recovery seemed overwhelming and he held me and promised we would get through it. He listened to me freak out over the voices in my head-poor kid got really freaked out the first time I told him I had a different voice in my head- but he was always there, listening, holding my hand. He came to therapy sessions and group sessions. At a time when everything was so confusing, where for the first time I was learning the difference between the ED voice and my actual voice, Ethan was my sense of reasoning. I have no idea what I would have done without him there, helping me work through every experience, breakdown, and breakthrough.

Now as I work through recovery, he continues to stand strong for me every step of the way. There are weeks when every conversation we have revolves around what I ate for lunch, how long I spent at the gym and rationalizing every triggering comment someone made that day. Almost every social event is a dilemma but he is still there, whispering in my ear that I look beautiful or that I can totally eat the food in front of me. Anytime someone makes a triggering comment, he makes sure to explain to me why what they said is not what I think they were inferring. He checks in with me everyday, always reminding me that attitude is everything. There are days when I pick up the phone and do my best to pretend I am all alright because I can’t bare talking about my eating disorder for yet another night in a row. But he usually see’s right through it and offers support always asking “How can I help?”

The worst part is knowing how long I loved my eating disorder more than my boyfriend. There are so many times he should have left. There are so many times I put my diet, exercise, and body before our relationship- before him.

Any young romance is difficult. Add an eating disorder and shit hits the fan. Add living across the country from each other and it’s just plain hard.

Ethan and I graduated in May of 2016. We faced a hard decision: Am I moving to California?

It wasn’t an easy “I love him, let’s do it!”

We were both so broken. For the past year he had been my backbone in support. Our relationship had shifted from two independent beings in love to one of complete dependence. I was more like a child and he was practically babysitting me each day. We didn’t speak of things young lovers did, we didn’t get drunk on the weekends and or go on fun trips: it was recovery focused 100% of the time. And let me tell you- that takes a toll on the individual as well as the relationship.

But we both seemed to hold on. As torn down as we were, we both seemed to want to pursue this. We wanted to see just how powerful our love could be without the eating disorder- with just each other. Only him and I.

After graduation, he moved back home and I found a fabulous job that allowed me to work from anywhere. We decided once he landed a job I would move to California. But life happens, complications come up and we ended up living the long distance relationship lifestyle with occasional visits for 9 long months. At first, I hated it. I was so impatient, so confused as to why we had so many complications and commitments anchoring us to separate sides of the country.

But I now see, I was not ready before. It took 9 long months to make me stable enough to come here. Our relationship is now about us. The eating disorder certainly makes its appearance, and some weeks are still tougher than others- but I’m actually me now.

I don’t really know how to describe it, but it feels as though we are starting over. Neither of us are sure if we’ll be getting married, but we are just taking it day by day and we’re having fun. I find myself trying to plan out every detail and get a definite answer on whether we can rebuild our broken relationship, but he reminds me to just be in the moment. To enjoy what we are creating and see where it takes us.

Each day, I see more and more how much he has sacrificed for me. For so long, I took him for granted. Not because I’m a cold-hearted bitch, I’ve always been grateful for him and I’ve always known he had a beautiful heart. But there was so much I missed as my focused remained on getting skinnier. The way he watches so carefully what he says about food and working out, they way he remains patient and calm with me in moments of stress, just so many behaviors that as I hang out with more people (because recovery makes you social again!) I see how special he is.

I can’t really say I mean this in a sappy way. Not the way that girls gush over their boyfriends about how perfect they are- he’s not (but neither am I).

But his heart if full of love for anyone and everyone and no matter what happens between us, I wish nothing but the absolute best for him. I’m happy to call him mine, I’m pretty damn lucky- but if we ever move apart, I know it’ll be in a loving manner. That we both had this relationship teach us and shape us so much, and I can honestly say he has changed my life in a way that no one else has. He has awakened me- he has inspired me to beat my eating disorder and to live a happy life and I will forever be grateful for that.

I think it’s incredible that at such a young age, we are able to look at each other with such respect, understanding, and compassion in a way that extends beyond our relationship. I look at him more than a boyfriend, I see him as a beautiful soul that impacted and changed my life for the better.  I certainly would like to keep calling him mine, but we both understand the future is still uncertain. Regardless, wherever and whoever this man ends up with, I’m certain he’ll be bringing light and love to all those around him and I will forever be grateful for his love & support.

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