By: Michelle Phan
I’ve told this story many times and it never gets old because it’s a tale of how love helped me learn how to survive, thrive, and live. I met the love of my life during my recovery, during a period of time in my life where I was unsure of many things, during a time in my life I wasn’t confident in myself, let alone being someone else’s partner. But the funny thing about life is that it doesn’t quite understand when the right time for things is or maybe we just don’t appreciate enough that things happen for a reason at that exact moment when it happens.
I met my partner during a time I was withdrawn from others. But there was something about him and his energy that allowed me to open up and put myself out there. As we became friends, I fell in love with the person he was and eventually we moved to something more than friends. During the start of our relationship I would be extra self-conscious, worried that he’d think differently of me. I never wanted him to have a bad image or view of me so I was always trying to be careful about what I did or said. Then one day, we were on an ice cream date and I bit too much off the ice cream cone he was feeding me. It resulted in me not being able to eat the whole bite and getting brain freeze. I was looking around for a way to spit back the ice cream or do something to alleviate it. He was gracious enough to let me spit the ice cream into his hand. I know, you’re thinking this is sounding like one of those dates where I won’t get a call back or asked on another date, right? Oddly, we just laughed about it.
That night he told me that dates like that make him laugh and have fun, showing a side of me that’s more carefree and it makes him like me even more. It was then I knew I found the right person because he loved me for who I am – a dorky, clumsy, and anxious girl who easily gets brain freeze but loves her ice cream anyway. During that time we met, I was mentally fragile and unwilling/closed to the idea of dating. How was I supposed to be able to love someone else when I was still trying to learn how to love myself? But when you meet someone as thoughtful, nurturing, caring, and kind as my partner, you’ll learn. You’ll learn that the right person stands by you no matter what, that they think you’re beautiful and perfect even when you think you’re at your worst, that they’ll love you regardless of anything. And in that process, you learn too that they give you a newfound purpose and inspiration to be a better person.
You learn that the image they have of you, which is of this amazing person, is real and that you too should believe in it. So in that process of falling in love with someone, you slowly build the confidence in yourself because you learn of all the things they love about you that you never clearly saw. You get to understand those parts of you better that you once hid but show your partner because being vulnerable can be brave. That’s what I learned when I met my partner. I thank him every day for helping me see the person I really am. Behind the distorted image I have of myself is the real image he sees and he helps me not only see it, but also accept and eventually love it. Everyday I am with him I learn how to be a little more confident, more positive, to love the person he fell for, and to better myself to be the partner I want him to have. Finding love or being found by love, gave me the inspiration I needed to get better. It gave me the motivation to live the healthy and happy life I deserve. To the love of my life, you inspire me everyday to use love rather than hate to better myself. To anyone reading this, I hope you find the love you need to shine a light in your life.
About the Author: Michelle is a graduate of UC Irvine and currently works at UCLA. As an eating disorder survivor she now dedicates her time to advocacy and using her voice to help others. She is a recovery mentor, contributor to the Mighty and social media volunteer for nonprofits. During her spare time she likes to indulge in adult coloring books, geek out over Batman, and hunt down the best tacos in town.