A dance teacher battling anorexia was given a poignant list of reasons why she should beat her illness by her doting boyfriend which was rounded off by a marriage proposal.
Twenty-five-year-old Emma Stokes developed the eating disorder following her grandmother’s death in 2013 and saw her weight plummet to just six and a half stone.
To help her on the road to recovery, Emma asked boyfriend Chris Weir to pen some reasons why she should keep fighting to get well again.
Chris revealed he wanted to have the chance to have children with Emma, for her to realise her ‘true beauty both on the inside and out’ and for her to ‘live a life and not just exist’.
To her surprise, his reasons wrapped up with one very big question, which Emma credits as an important turning point in her recovery.
The couple, who have been together nearly three years, met on a night out in Liverpool nearly three years ago and live in Huntington with their sausage dog Colin.
Now former Tarporley High School pupil Emma, who grew up in Tarvin, is sharing her story to encourage others suffering from eating disorders to seek help and realise they are not alone.
Emma told the Chronicle she suffered from bulimia in her late teens, after her grandad passed away.
She sought treatment when her mum found out and made a good recovery.
But the death of her nan, to whom she was ‘very close’, triggered another eating disorder.
She explained that she kept busy by helping make arrangements for the funeral and sale of her nan’s house but when her parents went away on holiday, Emma was in sole control of what she could eat.
With a getaway with her friends looming, she decided to go on a diet.
By the time her parents returned two weeks later, she had lost nearly a stone.
Thankfully, Emma admitted what she had been doing straight away and was referred to the Countess of Chester Hospital for cognitive behavioural therapy.
The treatment did not work for her, however, and she continued to lose weight, becoming so poorly that she had to stop teaching the dance classes she loved.
She said: “I was just so tired all the time.
“I couldn’t stay awake or exercise like I wanted to.
“My skin was flaky, my hair was falling out and I was so cold all the time.
“I also bruised really easily. My old mattress was hard and I would wake up with bruises so had to swap it for a softer one.”
With the support of her family, she decided to seek treatment at the independent Priory Hospital in Altrincham, where she was introduced to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – a psychotherapy approach used to help victims of trauma, which is not available on the NHS.
“EMDR has really worked for me,” Emma said.
“It’s something I think a lot of people would benefit from.
“Everybody at the Priory has been brilliant.”
Last year, Emma contracted a virus during a hospital stay after falling down the stairs.
On the day she was finally released from hospital in March, she and Chris took Colin for a walk in Chester but she recalls that Chris was acting strangely.
When they got home, Chris presented her with his list, entitled ‘why I want Emma to fully recover’.
She said: “I read it and then turned over the page, read ‘will you marry me’ and then he was down on one knee.
“It was a real boost, a turning point.
“I had been doing really well myself but I knew that was what I wanted to go for.
“Everybody said ‘make sure you get better for yourself’ but I knew I had someone who had stuck with me through it all.”
After receiving comments such as ‘there are people starving in the world’ and ‘just eat a burger’, recently qualified fitness instructor Emma is speaking out to educate people.
“I am doing everything I can to get better,” she said.
“Yes there are starving people in the world who don’t have a choice, but I didn’t make the choice to have an eating disorder.
“It’s a mental illness. For me, it’s about control.
“If I’m not in control, that’s the worst thing and I take that out on food.”
With the couple due to tie the knot in August at the church where her grandparents are buried, Emma’s thoughts are very much focused on the future.
Among her goals are to teach more classes, run two half marathons this year, to start a family and to raise even more awareness of eating disorders.
“Even if just one person gets something from my speaking out,” she added.