I am reluctant to share my story. My dilemma: my wife has a disability, and I don’t want to give the impression I’m putting her down. But I also feel like I need to talk about it.
It has been a very difficult journey. For both of us.
My wife has anorexia; it‘s not her fault she has this illness. But living with her illness breaks my heart in two.
Jolene and I have been married 14 years. We have no kids. (But we do have a dog named Rapha.)
Eating a meal with her is next to impossible, and she only likes to eat one meal — dinner. To say she’s unhappy with her weight would be a gross understatement; actually she’s the most despondent when she looks somewhat healthy. She packs a scale on our vacations, and exercises excessively.
On vacations, I usually end up eating breakfast alone. When I look around the resort, I see many other couples having their routine meal together. But here Bob is, sitting alone again, eating all by himself.
Once my wife has enjoyed a meal or that “mean plate of nachos with cheese,” she feels remorse and guilt over the many calories consumed. She can’t just enjoy the greasy snack without punishing herself. Most of us eat whatever we want and we don’t think twice about it. Most of us can treat ourselves to some drinks and a plate of potato skins and just walk away saying, “Man that was tasty!” Not my Jolene. She pays every time.
And it doesn’t matter how often I tell Jolene she looks good, or how often I say how much I love her body: she won’t believe me.
My wife is unlike many women — she hates shopping. So she wears baggy clothes and rarely changes her wardrobe. She hates to be seen. Jolene is happiest when she is “hidden.”
She claims she’s fat and ugly.
And not only on the outside. My wife is the most giving person I’ve ever met. She actually has a gift closet in our office, and never misses anyone’s birthday. At Christmas she stuffs all sorts of goodies into about 50 stockings, making sure each member of our family knows they’re special.
She’s also an amazing cook — the best of the best. Her specialties include making the best roast dinner in town, and her homemade wings are lethal (in a good way).
She’s so much more than her illness; her sweet personality can make anyone smile.
I have tried my best to understand Jolene’s disease, but a lot of the time, it’s beyond my comprehension.
I’ve studied up on anorexia. I’ve attended a family support workshop at a hospital. And I try to encourage her when she’s eating well.
Over the years, I’ve learned anorexia is a whole lot more complicated than just someone not wanting food. I first started to realize this when Jolene and I started dating; there are deep-rooted reasons behind it all.
And when I talk to others about eating disorders, people generally don’t get it. It’s hard for the average person to understand how someone can’t just enjoy a plate of food without having a guilty conscience.
So I’ve questioned God, I’ve been angry with Him. Why is Jolene plagued with this condition? Why does this woman I love so much have to suffer so incredibly? Of course, I know in my head, it’s not God’s fault, but…. It doesn’t make it any less hard.
Through it all, my faith has been stretched. My world of empathy has expanded; I am much more understanding to others who might also suffer with this illness. Now, in some small way, I get it.
My wife should be able to enjoy food the way God intended.
But she can’t.
She should be OK.
But she isn’t.
So in the meantime, I must somehow find a way to better support her and love her and let her know how important she is to me.
Flickr photo (cc) by tsnoom