National Eating Disorders Association

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ajwc12
Help with my gf

My girlfriend and I got together this year and I love her. After some time, I found out about her bulimia condition. I've done my best to try to handle it and it has been very hard at times. The one big progress is that she took the step to see a doctor and she is on medication.

Recently her progress has been varied. 2 weeks ago, she went 5 days without binging and purging and I am very proud and happy for her. However this week was when things started going wrong.

After one day where I did not accompany her home from work, she got angry and came to the conclusion that although my physical presence was enough to stop her from doing it, when I cannot be around is when issues arise. She feels angry that I can't be there and angrier still that she gets angry at that thought. She told me that she would rather I shut myself off this issue and let her deal with it herself as she is worried she is becoming too over dependent on me. I tried to tell her that when I could not be around, I can still be "with" her through text. But she got even angrier and said that was useless. To make things worse, she is planning to take on longer shifts at her job so that she can go home without me, giving her some time alone. In anger she told me she would "test out" my text presence over the next few weeks.

I understand that she does not have it easy. I know my presence helps and I have done all I can to be with her, but sometimes I am unable to do so.

I am at a complete loss as of what to do. I feel that whenever there's a solution, this disorder finds a way to break it up. And I fear that my gf is starting to regress. The last thing I want to do is for her to get hurt. I would like to seek advise on what I should do or say.

justgina
ajwc12

Hi ajwc, first of all welcome to the forums! You've come to the right place. I'm so sorry to hear about your girlfriend's struggles, and I am proud of you for seeking ways to help her. Eating disorders are very difficult, and equally difficult to watch someone struggle with. One of the most important aspects of recovery is support, and even though you may not feel like you're helping, or feel like you don't know what to do, your support alone is so important for her.

Of course, she's right, you can't ALWAYS be there. Your girlfriend needs to find ways to be okay without having you physically present, but that will take time. Try to do your best not to let her shut you out - even if she tells you she doesn't want you to be involved, she needs your love and encouragement. Maybe you could try asking her what you can do to best support her?

You also mentioned that she has gone to the doctor...has she ever brought up possibly seeing a therapist? Eating disorders are tough mental illnesses that often require outside help, and I think this could really benefit her. It sounds like she is very aware of her emotions and reactions, and I think it would help a lot to try to get to the root of her eating disorder. I hope that helps!

Keep us posted, we're here for you!

justgina

ajwc12
Hi justgina! Thank you for

Hi justgina! Thank you for your reply. Its nice to find a place to voice my problems and find support.

I understand that support is essential for recovery. And sometimes when I cannot be there for her, I feel like I betrayed her especially if she purges because I wasnt there. She has told me that my presence is a safe and comforting one, but when I'm not there she doesn't know how to control herself at times. I have asked her how I can best support her, however her response was that she doesn't know as she feels that if my physical presence isn't there, even being "there" through text doesn't work. And I do knows when she binges and purges at times and however much I text her it doesn't make her stop once she gets in a "mood".

She is seeing a Psychiatrist at the moment. The doctor did mention asking her to see a therapist but she is busy with work at the moment though she says she will look into this option.

She is a very intelligent girl and is very aware of what she does. She just cannot stop herself at times, which upsets her as well. I do feel very helpless at times when I cannot be there physically and short of rushing to her (which I've done at times), I am unsure what to do.

Thank you for your kind response. It really is nice to get things off my chest as other than her mother, I am the only other person that knows about it.

iwanttolive
ajcw12

Hi. Welcome to the forum
I find your post very concerning. I do not think it is fair that your girl friend is putting so much stress on you and seemingly blaming you for her behavior. She alone is responsible. Please don't take on false guilt. It seems likw she wants you with her 24/7 and that is not possible nor is it good. She needs to take responsibility for her own actions and not blame you. This is not fair to you and ultimately will not help her. There is a place pn the neda web page on how to help a loved one. Gotta go. I am back. I hope you understand that you are not responsible for your girlfriend. I hope this helps you.
iwanttolive

BobJ48
Hey AJ,

I think that some of what you are seeing is some of the paradoxical mental stuff that people with EDs often find themselves going through. On the one hand they want support, but since EDs are often about being in control, on the other hand they feel bad, and like a failure, for feeling they need it. , In situations like that, it can often feel like nothing we are doing is right, and it's possible that she feels the same way herself. Damned if she needs your help, and damned if she doesn't, you know ?

Paradoxes like this can cause them even more stress, particularly if they are intelligent enough to realize all of the contradictory aspects of the thing.

So good that she is seeing a doctor, and it will be good when she begins seeing a therapist too. Which I suspect she already understands that she'll need to do at some point.

Which can be a stressful thought in itself, not so much that they would need someone to talk to about this, but more from the standpoint that they can see it as symbolizing a lack of the sort of control that their ED was supposed to be about in the first place.

And yes, what to say. "It must feel awful to not feel in control of all this." That really can be quite close to the heart of the matter, so in my experience that's never a bad thing to say. Putting yourself in their shoes, you know ?

This is hard on us too of course, so I do hope that you will keep writing.

Bob J.

ajwc12
Thank you iwanttolive and bob

Thank you iwanttolive and bob for your comments. I find this forum a good avenue to get support. It is hard to do so when you can't talk about this to other people in your personal life.

She had gotten better regarding this issue. Sometimes it takes a while for her to "cool down" and be sensible. But during the time when she in that mood, it is scary to see what she does to herself. She does cut herself and has mentioned killing herself before. That thought terrifies me to no end.

Every week we usually have 1-2 arguments. And each time it is because of something I did or said that causes her to be "triggered". On hindsight, I realise how wrong I was. But sometimes I do not take notice. And the trigger events can be for a vast variety of reasons, some which I deem insignificant or taken out of context and got way overboard. The stress of being in those situations really kills me at times and I feel I cannot cope. Only during happier times when she is better that I feel alright.

I always feel the most helpless when she gets angry due to something I said which unintentionally sounded like a trigger to her. It really kills me to know that I am responsible for causing her so much hurt at times. And the helplessness of not knowing what to do or say when she tells me exactly why she's unhappy and realising that it is my fault.

Again thank you for the replies. It really does make me feel better reading them and this is a safe way for me to talk about my struggles.

rach898
Hi ajwc12,

I am happy that you are finding support on this forum! I'm so sorry to hear about your girlfriend and the struggles that she is going through, but I am concerned about you as well! Have you thought about seeing a therapist? It sounds like you don't have many people to talk to about this issue and a therapist can be a super helpful, unbiased resource. I do not think you should be dealing with this on your own. We are all here to support you, but I think you could also benefit from speaking to a professional.

I hope you are able to find the help you need and please keep us updated!

iwanttolive
ajwc12

Hi there, I just wanted to reiterate again that you are not responsible for how your girlfriend feels. You can not walk around afraid of setting of a detonator. I think that is the correct application. You have to be you. If you live in constant fear of saying the wrong thing, or worried constantly about what she will do if this or that was said or done, I don't think your relationship can succeed. She needs to know that she is responsible for her behavior. People with eating disorders, I know because I used to have a fairly severe disorder, are good at manipulation. I was for sure. But I didn't realize it. I wasn't doing it on purpose, and I am not sure your girlfriend is either. But if you want to help your girlfriend, you can not accept blame for living. Or living in fear. Does this make any sense? I hope what I have said you find helpful. It may sound harsh. And working together is important. But you can not take on the role of the scapegoat.

Again, I hope this helps, iwanttolive

BeatEdnos91
Re Post

I think it is great that you love her very much and want to be here for her that's so admiral of you.

I think you have to look out for yourself as well so that you don't end up burning out, in my experience, it helped for me to know that my boyfriend accepted me for who i was no matter what and loved me unconditionally.

I also echo what others have said that it is up to her to get better not to you she has to a responsibility for her own actions and recovery all you can do is to be there for her and love her unconditionally.

You should not blame urself for her condition that does make it worse and i understand that you move forward with hesitation that you would make it worse but have to accept that you cant always know what happens that God has control over that so have to let it go to God to lead you in moving forward.

God can only know what will happen not you and have to radically accept that and just living in fear of setting things off is will keep you trapped even more which no one likes feeling trapped so i advise you to treat her like normal and let go of that fear if you can.

I would sit down with her and really encourage her to communicate to you in the way she feels the safest way to do so that you want the best for her because ed's can cause fear and isolation in some people and with the right communication things can get better . I would offer to go with her to appts if she feels comfortable with that shows her that you really mean the best for her and that you want to make thing's work.

Just be urself as well and know that even though the ed makes it hard with proper communication things can work out for the best.Be compassionate to her and soothe her in hard times like doing little things to show her that you are there for her no matter what.

ajwc12
Thank you rach,iwanttolive, beatednos

Thank you all for your comments. Yes it is a good resource for me to talk about things as I do not have someone to confine in my personal life.

I do realise that the detonator metaphor is very relevant to me. That is exactly how I feel. We can be super happy and having a good time, when all of a sudden one small thing becomes a huge issue. For instance, just because I didn't "insist" on meeting her, she blew up on me and got angry at that. And right now she is saying she can't be reassured that I am free and I have to keep on telling her otherwise.

It is very tiring and stressful. Sometimes I do not even know I said something wrong until she has long overthought it and things start to blow over. I have told her many times that communication is key and she knows that. Just that in her mind, it often takes over and overthinks all the stuff I said to extreme degrees.

I know I cannot accept blame for all this. It is her behavior and not something that is my fault. However I still feel very guilty and take it on as my issue. I know this isn't good and I really don't know how to deal with it. I am worried that if I bring this up to my gf, she will react the same way and push me out completely. I just do not know how to bring this up in the right way and I know saying something wrong will cause her to go into a fit of anger.

I do feel like I need to speak to someone professional. I have been asking my gf to let me speak to her psychiatrist for a bit when she goes for treatment and despite me asking for it (and I've been with her to all her hospital visits), she doesn't want me to speak to him, which I respect as its a doc patient confidentiality.

I guess that what I'm looking for is a way to talk to her about getting better without letting my life be like carrying a detonator. I am just so afraid she takes things the wrong way and overthinks it. Thank you guys for your time and efforts in writing to me, I really appreciate the support.

BobJ48
AJ,

Everything you've talked about....it's interesting how most people just think of EDs as something where people just need to eat, or they just need to stop throwing up, or change some other behavior, and that would be the cure for things. I really do think that's what most people think, when they think about EDs. But as the old saying goes "It's not about food" and as you are seeing, it's about so much more than that. Not that the world needs an education on the subject, but still, I don't think that most people understand just how complicated and frightening things like this can be.

Even though your GF is still in the thick of things, and can't always control her feelings, I get the feeling that she is gaining a perspective on things too. As people will often say , EDs are about control, and so when people who are battling them find themselves further and further out of control instead...well...I guess you've seen just how unsettling that can be for them. The whole paradox of the thing is something that can really strike at their soul, and cause them to doubt and question themselves in ways that no one deserves.

Staying level-headed yourself will be important. Because someone needs to be, you know ? Not that it's easy to do that, in the face of so much that seems irrational, but perhaps you know what I mean. "Being a Redwood" is what some people have called this stance. The winds and storm can blow, but we still stay steady. Rather than being reactive ourselves.

Which...can feel impossible at times I know, and may be something that we have to learn to fake sometimes, but even so, it can be one valuable way we can help I think, in a situation that otherwise can be changing and inconsistent.

But yeah, we are going to have feelings. So things like writing here, or getting some therapy of your own will be important too. You can't really expect to be Superman, when it comes to your own feelings, but for the sake of the situation, you'll want to avoid dumping those feelings on her. Which it sounds like you are doing a pretty good job at.

In any case, just joining in with the others to send the both of you good wishes, in a situation that a lot of other people won't necessarily understand unless they've had experience with it themselves.

Bob J.

ajwc12
Hi Bob

Hi Bob, thank you for your kind words of advise. Yes it is a misunderstood illness for sure. Before I learnt she had it, I had so many misconceptions of it as well. And it is still considered a "taboo" issue unfortunately.

I am sure my gf knows she is being unreasonable and all. But she just can't help it. Its due to her struggle to control her hunger and in those bad states, everything (including me) can be a trigger. Those times really leave me scared. She tells me to basically "back off and shut up". And sometimes idk if she wants me to try talking to her (and risk making it worse) or actually shutting up (which might make things worse...). It really isn't easy at times especially to try and control my feelings.

Sometimes I just want a guide to tell me what to say, but I know that isn't possible. Sometimes I really have no idea if I really am making things better or worse.

Thank you for replying Bob. Really comforting to at least get things off my chest and get some support from others.

BobJ48
"Taboo"

AJ,

Interesting what you said about the "taboo" nature of eating disorders. I spend a lot of time on that other site, and while people with EDs like to talk to each other in that context, pretty much everyone agrees that when they see other people in real life, who they pretty much know must also have an ED too, just how impossible it is to say anything to that other person. Like that even among those other "tribe members" EDs are still a really hard thing to acknowledge in face-to-face situations.

My sense is that a lot of it has to do with shame, you know ? And when you stop and think about it, what emotion has more power than shame ? Most people will agree that EDs have a whole lot to do with the idea of being in control, and yet for most people with EDs, the very issue of control turns out to be hugely problematic. "Yay, I'm in control", except maybe I'm not. In fact maybe I'm being a failure instead. And when we worry about being a failure, then that old shame thing comes up. Along with the confused irritation.

It really can be a big tangled emotional mess for them. And having others who care can often feel like it's just making things worse.

So I think that we need to trust that our care is not making things worse, and try and stay solid in our belief about that. Often you will hear people with EDs talk about how grateful they are that someone actually was able to stick with them, even when they were at their most ungrateful and unpleasant worst.

Not that things always work out that way, but often they do, I think. You certainly hear people say that sometimes.

In any case, I think our best stance is to try and stay steady and solid, in the face of their own reactiveness and emotional changeability . And try not to get too drawn into the moment-to-moment paradoxes or emotions of the thing. Like stick with our own bigger picture, you know ?

And keep in mind the themes of shame and control and failure, which are often behind a lot of the emotions they are feeling.

Bob J.

ajwc12
Thanks Bob

I do agree. The shame from society can have an enormous effect on us. And ED cases are no exception.

It is very hard to know you're helping. Sometimes she just tells me to shut up, or get in moods due to triggers. The worst part is that I cannot directly help her. When she sinks into those states, she does not even want to see anyone.

Thank you for your kind words about seeing the big picture and being strong. It is something I too need to work on. And I am getting a bit stronger at it.

My gf says she is considering going for therapy. She has told me her binges are due to her "restricting" herself and causing that hunger to build which leads to that binge. And after the binge, the purge. It is not something that is easy to fix. Even with the doc telling her to have a proper meal plan, it is not easy to follow. But at least she is willing to consider going for therapy.

Any advise on what to do/say when she goes into her angry states or when she wants to be alone? It kills me sometimes to not know what to say and make my dear feel better.

Thank you for the replies Bob. Your words do comfort me.

BobJ48
Restrict, then B and P, then Shame.

AJ,

Yeah, that's pretty much how it can go. So you restrict, which to you feels like you are finally exerting some real control over your pathetic life, but then the body gets so hungry that you can't stop eating once you finally do eat something, which just goes to show that despite what you might hope to think, you are actually completely out of control and a big failure, then you purge and become filled with shame and YOU REALLY DON'T WANT TO TALK TO ANYBODY ABOUT ANYTHING SO JUST LEAVE ME ALONE !

:-(

I'm not sure what you can say that helps, but keeping in mind the contradictions they are dealing with can sort of help us put ourself in their shoes. Not that we really can put ourselves in their shoes, but there probably are parts of it that we can identify with.

"All of the different contradictions of this : I can't even imagine how frustrating they must be for you."

Not that any of our words are going to fix things, but at least they can show that we aren't totally clueless and can get it about some aspects of what they are up against.

And you are right about the frustrations and feelings of helplessness that *we* have to deal with. That's kind of our angle of things in all this. Us guys like to take direct actions and fix things, but as you are seeing, this whole "support" thing doesn't really work like that. Instead we just have to trust that we are making some positive differences, even when they get angry and irritable and act like we are just making things worse. It's like feeling our way in the dark sometimes, so we just gotta have faith in our general good intentions, and be able to forgive ourselves at those times when we do end up doing things which may be stupid or off the mark.

And yes, a positive thing that she's considering therapy. People with EDs pass through a number of stages in their thinking, and getting to the stage where she's ready to consider some outside help, that does show that she's moved through some stages already. So I think you can see this as a positive sign, Not so much from the "Oh boy, she's going to get fixed" angle, but more from the standpoint of moving forward, and not wanting to stay stuck where she is.

People can worry about doing therapy too, so there may be some new emotional challenges ahead about that part. But for now...simply being able to think about going...that's some progress right there.

Not that I would tell her that you think that, because you may want to keep that to yourself, but it is none the less.

Bob J.

ajwc12
Thank you Bob

The thought process you described is very helpful. Now I am aware of how frustrating it can be for someone in that state.

The guy thing is very true. This need to fix things but knowing you can't as well. The forgiveness thing is still hurting. There's been so many things I've unintentionally done or sad that made her upset. And it still hurts knowing that I've done that. I can only hope that I am doing the right thing even though I have messed up and "broke down" before.

The therapy thing really made me happy to see her progressing. Latest update from the docs is that she is doing better (b & p occurs much less, used to be nearly daily). So her next appointment is 8 weeks instead of 4 weeks later. She does have the option to push it earlier if she feels she needs it. I am slightly worried that having this "long" a break to the next appointment might be lax but I can see she is progressing so I suppose this is for her own good as well

BobJ48
Self-forgiveness.

AJ,

It might sound corny to talk about self-forgiveness, but it's going to play more of an important role in this than you might think.

Your GF : There are certain to be slip ups, and given the themes of control and perfection that are so central to EDs, people can feel devastated when the inevitable slip-ups occur. Oh they are such failures as human beings ! How could they have ever fooled themselves into believing that they might be otherwise !! People with EDs can be super hard on themselves, so that's where the self-forgiveness needs to come in.

Because really, say they have gone a week without purging, and then they slip up and they do. If they had told themselves that they could have gone that long and only purged once, in the beginning they probably would not have believed it. Only one time in a week ?? But then when it happens, rather than seeing it as an accomplishment to have made it that long, instead it just proves what a failure they are. So self-forgivensss : They'll need to get a handle on that part, if they don't want to keep getting emotionally set back.

Same with you. Sure we would love to say all the right things at all the right moments. But we are only human, and somewhat like them, we can't always expect to be perfect either.. So that's kind of one thing we share with them., and like them, see what we can do to forgive ourselves. Plus in some cases there really isn't any "righting" we can say.

So yeah, the next 8 weeks could be a challenge alright. If it helps, I hope you'll stay in touch.

Bob J.

ajwc12
Thanks Bob

Hi Bob

It certainly is something that sounds easy but I know its hard to do. Goodness knows I can do with a lot of self forgiving myself. This is an issue that both of us know and acknowledge. But it is easier said than done.

So far she has gone a week without binging or purging. But it has been marred with conflicts. A lot of arguments and anger when she gets into the moods. And I have unknowingly triggered some of it again. She has revealed to me that she really does want to recover and that she needs me to be strong enough to stay with her no matter her state and make her stay the course, including her diet plan. So far it has been tough. When I don't see her, it gets hard. She overthinks constantly and gets into moods. It isn't easy on me and it has honestly required some emotional toll. I hope it gets better. But she has told me that it is not a simple fix and things might be as hard if not harder.

As for saying the right things... I can only try my best and learn not to say things that trigger her when they come by. When she gets triggered by my words I have to learn not to say it. But the process of her getting mad and upset at me hurts.

I really wish that she could listen and know that I will always be there for her. But the moment her mood hits, all the promises she made (listening to me, seeing it from my pov etc) goes out the window. And it is hard to get her back. She does comment that she would rather be dead sometimes and that is something I never want. It is very scary.

Thanks for you words Bob, will definitely try my best to update and stay in touch.

Anon25
Re:

Hey, friend!

You are not alone when you feel lost during these arguments and whatnot. This is fairly common when you are caring for someone with an ED. A week without purging is something to celebrate! However, I have made the mistake in past relationships of weighing heavily on how long my partner went without purging, and it ended up creating too much pressure on her, and triggering her because all she thought about was disappointing me and her "streak" if she purged.

Honestly, I'm not sure what all great advice you have already received, because I am slightly too lazy to scroll through all of the above messages (my apologies) but know you are not alone with these feelings and struggles. When my girlfriend gets triggered or falls into a depression, it's very hard to get her back. In my own desperation I want so badly to "fix" the situation and bring her back, but it is something that's beyond our control. When she IS in a better place, maybe it could be helpful for you two to come up with a "game plan" of sorts for when she begins to fall into a depressive state to either try to help her come back faster or not go into it at all. Doing this while you are both in a good mindset would be great, and an opportunity for you to work together.

Hope things are well!