Disclaimer: This story contains mentions of suicide that may be upsetting to some.
“Expectations are thrown out the window when you’ve gone through a kind of life like mine. Undiagnosed bipolar. Eating disorders. Suicidal ideation. Loss of a best friend. Family members with dementia. Generations of guilt and shame layered on top of the next.
But it’s when you stop having expectations that life begins to unfold into the beautiful story it’s meant to become. At least it did for me. It’s what brought Jason into my life. The man who walked with me through grief and depression. The person who held me up long enough to get the help I needed.
And it all happened because of a message on Instagram.
Sitting in the airport car phone lot, I impatiently waited for Jason’s plane to arrive. My phone buzzed in my lap causing me to jump. It was my mom, asking if I was excited to meet him. I could barely hold my phone through my clammy, shaking hands to text back. Another buzz in my lap. I finally got the call. Jason was off the plane heading towards the front doors of the airport.
I was about to meet my future husband and I had no idea.
I rubbed my hands against my shorts to dry them off. The Florida heat didn’t exactly help. I looked at myself in the mirror, took a deep breath, and whispered the words, ‘He’s a person, just like you. You’ve got this.’
Jason and I didn’t exactly fall in love at first sight. In fact, we didn’t meet until a few weeks after he slid into my DMs on Instagram. It’s one of those scenarios where you have to ask yourself what series of dominos were lined up for us to meet.
In February of 2019, I went through yet another breakup. My life felt like a series of breakups. Each one left me more broken than the last. I’d been in abusive, narcissistic relationships before. So you can imagine my skepticism when someone wanted to fly down to take me on a date without having met him in person before.
After my previous failed relationship, I packed up my belongings with my dog, Luna, and moved from Denver to Florida. I had to start my life over, yet again. During this time, I was also preparing to publish my first book while going through a relapse in my eating disorder. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and quite frankly, burnt the hell out.
But I’m of the mindset that you don’t give up on yourself. In 2018, I attempted to take my own life. I lived for years with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. My depression was at an all-time low, but writing my book is what gave me power back in my story. Words, and my dog, saved my life.
So I kept trucking on. I kept doing podcasts to promote my book and persisted with my social media presence as transparent and authentically as I could.
Enter stage left, Jason.
I was a guest on a podcast that turned out to be hosted by one of Jason’s longtime college friends. Mind you, I had no idea who Jason was at this point. But he followed my account and I didn’t think much of it at the time. One day, I posted something on my Instagram story and Jason responded with a simple, ‘Needed this,’ response. This opened the door to the rest of our lives.
Jason, from what I learned, was in the middle of a divorce due to his wife having an affair. The life he’d built for fifteen years had broken apart beneath him.
‘All I want to do is put my feet back on the ground,’ Jason said to me. The more he opened up about his struggles, the more I began to do the same. Messages turned into texts. Texts became video calls. We quickly bonded over intimate details about the experiences we’d been going through. Both of us simply trying to find a place to put our feet back on the ground.
A few weeks later, Jason was on an airplane to fly from Ohio down to Florida just before my 31st birthday so he could take me on a proper date.
When I finally pulled the car around to the front doors of the airport, I jumped out of the car and wrapped my arms around him. I could tell both of us were sweating beneath our shirts more than we would’ve liked. But we didn’t care. He was there. No more screens. I could touch his beautiful face in real life.
Our story only continued to unfold. I was afraid of committing myself to anyone again after going through so much hurt. But Jason persisted that he would wait for me until I was ready. He spent the next several months not telling me, but showing me what it meant to respect someone down to their core. To love them with their whole heart.
He drove back down a few weeks later. And a month after that, I was flying up to Jason where together we’d drive our newly purchased bright yellow Ford Econoline down to Florida for good. Jason was moving in.
It all was happening fast, this much I knew. Friends and family were skeptical. But there wasn’t a bone in my body I didn’t trust in this decision. I knew the exact moment I fell in love with this man. And I knew there was nothing in this world I wanted more than to spend every day with him for the rest of my life.
Over the next six months, we went through more struggles than either one of us anticipated. Finalizing his divorce. My stepdad’s declining dementia. Recovery from my eating disorder relapse. Finally being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and starting medication. Depressive spells that sunk me into bed for days on end. But the worst of all was the loss of my sweet Luna. On Christmas, she was hit by a car at the young age of three. It was Jason and I’s first Christmas together and we spent it crying over her ashes.
Jason was a rock through it all. He always reassured me that no matter what life brought our way, he wouldn’t be there for me, but would walk with me in it all. He has countless times shown this to me and still continues to do so.
Those next two months after losing Luna were the worst my depression had been since 2018. Luna was the one who saved my life, crying at the door to stop me from making the biggest mistake of my life. And now she was gone. I felt her little tail everywhere I went brushing against my calf. I heard her footsteps around our 600 square foot apartment. I coped with an ungodly amount of whiskey and cigarettes that my body could barely stand most days.
But Jason never once batted an eye. He held me and cried with me. He knew God would help us find a way out together. We just had no idea what that was going to look like.
Enter stage right, Miles. A 9-week old Shepard-Dauchsaund mix who came from a broken home. You see, Miles was part of a litter that was thrown out of a car. Only three survived. This little boy knew, just like Jason and I, what it meant to be thrown away. The three of us needed each other more than we ever realized. Miles came home with us and turned our family of three into four, with our sweet Luna watching over us to make sure we always walked together as a pack.
By March of 2022, our lease would be ending. We knew we had to leave our little apartment in Tampa. We couldn’t stay there staring at the walls of everything we lost. But in a way, it was bittersweet because that apartment was a part of our story. Jason Facetimed with me while I walked the streets of the neighborhood for the first time when I decided that’s where I would live. It was where we said I love you. It was where we became us.
But we knew, more than anything, it was time to say goodbye to Florida. We needed to start the next chapter of our lives with a clean slate. We needed a place to put both our feet back on the ground.
After taking a few road trips, we landed in Greenville, South Carolina. It was close enough to various members of our family while being within proximity of the mountains. Having hills in our neck of the woods was nonnegotiable. By the end of March, we smushed everything we owned into our big yellow van and headed north.
On March 20, 2022, we arrived at the front doors of the lofts we now call home. Jason and I grabbed a few backpacks along with Miles and headed up the stairs to scope out the new place. The landlord told us we’d have a view of the mountains and we wanted to take a moment to breathe it all in before we began unloading everything.
It felt like opening the first page of a brand new book. Crisp paper with that freshly printed smell. It was perfect. As we entered the kitchen, my jaw dropped open when I saw a bouquet of sunflowers (my favorite) with a bottle of Nobilo (my other favorite).
‘Wow, how did the apartment complex know so much about me?’ Of course, my naivety thought it was a welcome home gift from our landlord. ‘Wait,’ I asked Jason, ‘did you do this?’ Jason nodded his head. I was stunned at the scene he set to start this new life together. I gazed out at the view of the purple mountains’ majesty. It was everything I could’ve ever wanted. As I turned around to look back at Jason, there he was holding a little black box.
My jaw dropped as he opened it and went down on one knee.
Who I was when Jason and I first met is not the same person I am now. I have evolved and will continue to evolve as my story continues. But I now know more than ever that there is no one else in this world I want to evolve with, and it all started with one simple message.
The most valuable thing any of us has in this world is time, a time that I almost took away from myself just a few years ago. So when you find someone worth spending your wild and precious life with, someone you want to give those moments to, grab on and don’t let go.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Dow from Greenville, South Carolina. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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