In the Beginning: Joe’s Concerns

by Elizabeth on March 11, 2013

Hello everyone! Elizabeth has asked me to share a little bit of our story with you all from my perspective. When I think about all of the experiences that Elizabeth and I have shared both good and bad through her recovery process, it seems a bit overwhelming to put into words?especially in one blog post. I think the best way to share my story with you all is through a progression of the following topics that take you through each step of our journey.

  • In the Beginning: Joe’s Concerns
  • Protecting the Eating Disorder: The Forgotten Struggles of the Spouse
  • Inpatient Treatment: Getting over the Stigma of Hospitalization
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment: Restarting Our Life Together
  • The Victories: Slow Progression and Small Steps
  • Blessings in Disguise: Everything We Learned on the Journey

In order to share the whole story with you all, my goal is to prepare one blog post per week that can be viewed on Mondays. Many of you have already familiarized yourselves with our family by reading the About Me page, and I hope that you have enjoyed getting to know us a little better by keeping up with Elizabeth?s daily posts. My series of posts will attempt to expand on the eating disorder and recovery portion of our story which will hopefully bring some awareness to those struggling with an eating disorder about the effects on their spouse and their overall relationship. I will try to keep each post fairly brief, but it might be challenging for me because I am a detail oriented person. Hopefully these posts will deliver this message, but just for clarity, I strongly urge those struggling within a relationship where an eating disorder is present to seek professional couples? therapy.

Today, I get to start with the fun part, our love story. I am sure Elizabeth has already told you that I am a sucker for chick-flics, so I will do my best to make this story very sappy direct and to the point ;) Elizabeth and I both ran long distance for Texas A&M University, and the first time I saw her was at our first cross country team meeting. She certainly stood out in a crowd to me that day, and her beauty still captivates me today?especially when she wears those sexy sweatshirts and sweat pants!

At the time, I was in a relationship from high school, but I couldn?t help myself from noticing how gorgeous she was. It didn?t matter. She was out of my league and more than likely a beautiful girl like her would not align with my moral values (judgment ? you will learn plenty of lessons about this topic by following Elizabeth?s posts? she always tells me not to judge things!) After several weeks of 6 AM practice together and team gatherings, I eventually learned that Elizabeth was in fact a devout Catholic with a strong moral up-bringing. The more we got to know each other, the more it became apparent that we were destined to be together.

We eventually started dating at the beginning of our second semester, and my grades certainly reflected it!! Actually, the truth is, I studied like crazy that semester and went to tutoring almost every night?just one of the many joys of getting an engineering degree. Elizabeth was and is extremely disciplined, so if anything she encouraged me to stick with it even though it felt like I would never make it though that semester. We always had so much fun together, and I truly believe that we both felt exceptionally lucky to be together. Often times, I reminisce back to our courtship days, and I remember the love that we felt for each other so early in our relationship. Most importantly, we were best friends, and we made each other happy. I knew very quickly that Elizabeth would be my wife someday.

Everything was hunky dory in our world except for one or two ?small? details in my eyes. Elizabeth?s relationship with food was not exactly what you would call normal, and she could not take a day off from running even if the coach advocated it. During the spring we practiced in the afternoon with the whole track team. After practice, the distance runners would head straight to the dorm?s cafeteria to chow down on anything and everything they had to offer. Elizabeth on the other hand, would go back to her dorm room and eat a protein bar or a couple pieces of lunch meat with some vegetables. I noticed that eating disorders seemed to be a common theme amongst the female distance runners, and I know now that Elizabeth probably felt even more justified by the other girls struggling with food as well. It was alarming to me that she could not sit down and eat dinner with me in the cafeteria, but every time it came up in conversation, her eating habits seemed to be vindicated. ?I am still eating, just not the junk down there!? ?The nutritionist said that we should eat power bars like these.? ?I would rather eat extra calories in sweets rather than fatty foods.? ?I am running fine, and it?s not like I am losing weight!? ?It?s not a big deal Joe, I have been eating like this for a long time and I am just fine.?

The more we talked about it, the easier it became for me to start empathizing with her relationship with food. Once I was comfortable that she was not ?harming? her body, it was easy to shove that uncomfortable topic under the rug and focus on the fun stuff in our relationship. The eating disorder would still creep up in everyday life because meal time tends to be our culture?s (and especially my family?s) way of connecting. My family felt many of the same alarming feelings that I did when they first discovered Elizabeth?s relationship with food was a bit peculiar, but I gave them all comfort by using the same excuses that Elizabeth had once given me.

At the end of the day, I made a decision that I loved Elizabeth for who she was despite her struggle with an eating disorder. I remember having a specific phone conversation with my brother one evening because he had experienced dating someone who had previously struggled an eating disorder. He voiced some concerns for me because even after several years in recovery, his ex-girlfriend still had some struggles. I assured him that I loved her so much that even if I had to live with her uncomfortable relationship with food, she was definitely worth it. He was happy for me, but he didn?t want me to fantasize about one day waking up and the problem being erased from our worries. I came away from that conversation with my brother thinking that I had fully grasped the concept that the recovery process was long and tiring, and that it would be trying on our marriage. At this point, Elizabeth had not even started her recovery process because in her eyes (and mine quite frankly) she was doing just fine the way she was. I brought up seeking treatment off and on, but it seemed like it was never the right timing because there was too much going on. NOTE: LIFE WILL NEVER PAUSE AND GIVE YOU A PERFECT WINDOW OF TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR ISSUES. More on timing excuses in my following posts?

Ultimately, I was set on marrying Elizabeth. I was ready to look past the shortcomings of our awkward relationship around meals; especially amongst large groups of people where the food choices were uncontrollable. It was certainly apparent to me that the good in our relationship outweighed the bad by a large margin. Plus, we both had a strong spiritual life, and I felt confident that God would walk us through our issues one step at a time. I knew that Elizabeth had a wonderful heart, and I loved our friendship. Something inside of me told me that we could get through this struggle with anorexia, and I was ready to commit to her for life ?in sickness and in health.?

I know you all want to hear about the proposal next, but Elizabeth asked me to save that part for our engagement anniversary on April 9th.

We were married on July 10, 2010 at Sacred Heart in Conroe, TX. Elizabeth grew up at Sacred Heart and celebrating the sacrament of matrimony at her home parish was very special. The reception was the time of our lives! The best part about wedding receptions ? you have every single friend and family member gathered in one place to celebrate the most joyous occasion in your life!

We honeymooned in the tropical paradise of Antigua and had the time of our lives. I ran with Elizabeth every day while we were there. (Partially because we were newlyweds so I would do anything she wanted and partially because I was still in college running shape). We got see parts of that island that I can guarantee you most people never knew about. We made a promise that we would run together on vacations to get the full experience that we would otherwise waste away. (I am 50/50 on keeping that promise, but I usually at least run with her once or twice if we go somewhere beautiful).

Side note: why was I a collegiate distance runner if I hate running? I loved competing. I still miss racing all the time. Unfortunately when the competition went from division 1 athletics to road racing, there wasn?t enough wind in my sails to keep me going. Now I play ?sports with a ball? to stay in shape because I had to refrain from them for so long while running competitively.

After our honeymoon, we moved into our first apartment in Houston, TX (3 mi. from my office ? why did we ever leave that place??) and started our life together as Mr. and Mrs. Sauvageau. I started work right away at a small private Oil & Gas company, and Elizabeth began looking for her first nursing job (which was a surprisingly difficult feat in one of the most advanced medical cities in the world). I thought we had a grasp on the eating disorder, however it was about to take a turn for the worse and treatment became the only option.

To be continued?

Questions:

1. Have you ever suffered through something like this or watched a love one do the same?

2. How did the situation improve (if it did)?

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carrie March 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Hi Joe! I just wanted to say thanks for writing about this. I wrote on here a posts back that I was excited to hear your perspective. I’m engaged and have been dealing with a similar situation except from the other side. Look forward to the rest of your notes in this series. I know it must be hard to write so thanks again!

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2 Tamara March 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Joe and Elizabeth, thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences with an eating disorder. I can’t imagine it is easy but I hope you know that you will be helping so many people in doing so.

I have watched my mother struggle with an eating disorder for many years. She, actually I should say we, continue to struggle with this disorder even with in and out patient treatment. I struggle as an outsider to her disorder on what I should/shouldn’t do. I have enjoyed all you’ve shared so far and look forward to the rest of Joe’s posts.

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3 Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom March 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I love this. It’s so interesting to see an outside perspective! I can’t wait until next Monday… you’ve got me hooked :D
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4 Megan D March 11, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Thank you guys so much for sharing your story. I want to say it is captivating. But to enjoy reading about someone else’s trials just sounds terrible, right? I swear that is not why though! I can totally relate to this story as I had gone through something similar. My ‘recovery’ was pretty quick once it happened (meaning, I finally realized I HAD a problem) but it is something I still struggle with. Does that make sense? Even though I can eat socially again, am of ‘normal’ weight and what not, I have a hard time finding the balance. I feel as if I am an ‘all or nothing’ person. Either I am completely rigid or I eat everything in site. Neither is a good way to be and I feel like food consumes so much of my thoughts (probably because it is so delicous and looking at cake balls doesn’t help ;) ) Ha! And that my relationship with food is still unhealthy because I am either proud of myself or hate myself all depending on how I have been eating. Any who,I look forward to the future posts. Is it Monday yet?

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5 Amy March 11, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Joe – Thank you for taking the time to w rite this. I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was first diagnosed at 14 which was 15 years ago. 5 hospital stays, countless hours in therapy, and lots of work. I am as close to recovered as I think I will be. Sometimes its hard for my husband to understand especially since he met me after I was pretty recovered. thank you for your perspective. After two kids, things got crazy again but I love you line that life is never perfect for figuring out your issues. Sometimes its hard for me to spend money on the dietcian or the therapy but I know were it leads and my kids and husband are so much better off when I am well. Good luck. I cannot wait to read every monday. I will share with the hub.

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6 Sara Conner March 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Thank you so much for this perspective – it will definitely help anyone who has disordered eating and is in a relationship. I struggled with anorexia for 10+ years and was hospitalized inpatient about 7 times, once long term. As a 35 year old “recovered” competitive runner and mother of 2 girls I know that the family and significant other can suffer almost as greatly, if not more as the person with the eating disorder. I say “recovered” now because it is something you can put behind you but will always be in the back of your mind to some extent. I hope the best for you both and look forward to reading more about your journey!

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7 Brittney @teaberrytrails March 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I have to say, I think that this is an amazing story (at least what has been told to us thus far.) Although I have never personally dealt with an eating disorder, I know a few who have. I’ve seen the toll it has taken on that person and the people that love and care for them. I’m glad that both of you are brave enough to share this and I look forward to reading more =)
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8 Jen Floyd March 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

This is a graet post!!! I have struggled with an eating disorder that I feel like starting in high school where I was a cross country runner. I feel like I had a similiar pattern of simply strange eating habits. I eliminated a lot of foods and basically had several foods that I would eat and I ate the same thiung every day. I also ran every day without fail. I ran every day of both of my pregnancies until the day before they were born (maybe not fast but I ran). I hated eating out or going to peoples houses to eat, it made me sooo and I felt like people watched me. It was hard for me in when I worked because most of the teachers sat down and ate together. I did my fair share of lying…”I’m not hungry, going out to eat later ect”. I always felt I had weird and rigid habits but that was just how it was. It was about 5 years ago that I just decided I wanted to be under 100 pounds so I went for it. I hardly ate and even threw up some of the few things I did (really ashamed of that). I have a friend who was seeing what was happeneing and her and my husband totally intervened. My husband has helped me through a lot , and I sure it must have been so hard for him. He took away my keys and watched me eat certain things and basically would not let me run until I gained weight. We talked every night and he really helped me. I am in a much better place right now and 20 pounds heavier. I really don’t know how I got to that place or did that to myself. It astually hurts to think of how selfish I was but I know through this experience I can help others which is exactly what you are doing. Praise God for such wonderful husbands who love us despite our struggles and motivate us to be better people!

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9 Jen Floyd March 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Every Monday is a long time to wait in between such great posts :)…just saying :)

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10 Alex @ therunwithin March 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I really appreciate you all being so open and honest about the experience. I think telling her story, just like me telling mine, is the best sort of awareness out there.
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11 Karen @ Runner Girl Eats March 11, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I think it is so great that you guys are sharing both sides of the eating disorder story. I work with a lot of patients suffering from disordered eating and it really affects the whole family. Great post.
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12 Nelly March 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm

He is a GREAT writer and I cant wait to read more…what a supportive husband you have ;)
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13 Sarah @PickyRunner March 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I gave my parents a lot of the same excuses elizabeth gave you. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of this story. It’s really interesting to hear the other perspective!
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14 Keela March 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I would love to subscribe to your blog, but I am unsure of how to do that exactly.

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15 Keela March 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

I would love to subscribe to your blog, but I am unsure of how to do that exactly.

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16 Keela March 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I would love to subscribe to your blog, but I am unsure of how to do that exactly.

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17 Carly @ Snack Therapy March 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm

What a beautiful perspective. I’m so looking forward to reading this series of posts, Joe! I think many women struggle with disordered eating, and the men in their lives have to find the balance between being respectful of their needs while still providing strong support, and even a push in the direction of recovery.
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18 Kathy March 11, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Great thing you are doing sharing your story .

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19 Debbie @ Deb Runs... March 11, 2013 at 6:57 pm

How great to read your perspective, Joe. I look forward to reading the rest of the series! As a trainer, I see a very different type of relationship that some people have with food, also not normal, but very different from what you saw.
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20 Heather @ farmgirlgonechicagoan March 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Your husband should be an author! I can’t wIt to read the rest of the series. Great writing Joe!
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21 Jackie March 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Thank you Joe for sharing your perspective. I really commend you and Elizabeth for opening up about your story and being so honest. I look forward to hearing more from you!

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22 Sandy March 11, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I love that you are doing this and I can feel the love you have for Elizabeth. I admire both of you so much for being so open and willing to share your story. Eating disorders are such a sensitive topic but I am sure it is part of the recovery process. You are such a beautiful family and I look forward to hearing more of the story.

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23 Jenn March 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Thank you so much for writing this post. As someone who struggled with an eating disorder in high school and continues to struggle with disordered eating in college, I have seen many of my relationships significantly harmed by it, including a very bumpy long-term relationship that I knew had many problems deeply rooted in my obsessive food tendencies. I loved hearing this post because it strengthens my new resolve, which is not just that I’ve admitted to having problems, but wanting to change because the relationship I am in now, my boyfriend is so supportive in every way and I owe it to not only myself but also to him to do my best to be the healthier and happiest person I can be. I look forward to next week’s post!

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24 Jenn March 11, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Just a follow-up, I totally understand and love that you noted the “it’s not harming your body” and “i’m eating the same amount of calories” reasons for not needing treatment- definitely makes it harder to “diagnose” disordered eating, and I think it’s important for people to recognize the more obsessive and rigid tendencies that can take place without super serious calorie restriction

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25 Amy N. March 11, 2013 at 8:44 pm

What an excellent post! My husband has struggled with addiction himself and it took me a long time to separate myself from his struggles (http://www.mormonmommyblogs.com/2013/02/who-i-am.html) but I also found comfort in my spirituality.

I’m excited to hear more about your point of view!
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26 [email protected] March 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm
27 kendra @ http://www.kennygump.com/ March 11, 2013 at 9:55 pm

oh my gosh joe, you are such a great guy. what a sweet story (minus the eating disorder part of course) i can’t wait to read the rest.
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28 Jenn@ Be Me March 12, 2013 at 7:45 am

I appreciate your willingness and openness in sharing this story. I struggled with an ED for years and was in out of inpatient treatment settings. I am passionate about sharing my story because it brings awareness and hope to those struggling and their loved ones. In fact, I started a non profit organization for ED’s and would love to have you both guest post for me, if you’re interested : )
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29 Rachel @ RachelRuns29.11 March 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

Such an awesome series for your blog. I am captivated and have many friends that struggle with disordered eating. I look forward to your husband’s perspective and love he was included in the series. Thanks for doing this!

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30 Thais @ Eats n Miles March 12, 2013 at 11:41 am

Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I love the fact that it is written from a different perspective. I can´t wait to read the rest of the series. :)

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31 Danica @ It's Progression March 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm

I can tell already that I love this series….my little sister battled an eating disorder when she was 13-14 (about 4 years ago now), and it completely shook up my life, along with my entire family’s. I learned so many lessons and my life hasn’t been the same since. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of your posts, Joe!

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32 Christina @thetinyrunner March 12, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Thanks for sharing! I think that I often struggle with body image and learning to be thankful for what I have. I never thought it was a problem until my fiancé pointed it out to me. We have been continuously surrendering it to The Lord and I feel that The Lord is slowly but surely walking us through this!

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33 Megan March 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I think hearing how eating disorders affect the family and friends of those who suffer is very important. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own issues with food and exercise/running that I forget that MY issues aren’t just MY issues; they affect everyone who cares about me. I can’t wait to read more.

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34 Karla @ myhighonlife March 21, 2013 at 7:46 am

Thanks so much for writing this Joe! It’s so great to hear a spouses view of everything. While I do not suffer from an eating disorder per se-I do have an incredibly unhealthy relationship with food and an addiction to working out to justify eating anything ‘bad’. It has become somewhat of a problem in my otherwise flawless relationship with my boyfriend. It’s really opening my eyes to hear your side of it to try to understand what he is going through with all of this. Looking forward to reading more :)
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