National Eating Disorders Association

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Please Help

Hi All,

First of let me say I’ve not done forums before and I feel incredibly guilty doing so now. The thing is I’m 99% sure my partner has been making herself sick several times a day after eating. I believe this because I have both heard and seen things on several occasions. At first I wasn’t sure what to do with the suspicion, I originally became suspicious after hearing gagging an spluttering from the bathroom one day - her usual toilet/bathing habits envolve her having to close both the door to the kitchen and, obviously, the bathroom door (and no body is allowed in the kitchen until she is out) - I was completely oblivious at that point and shouted out to see if she had been unwell as I was worried. To this I was met with anger - why would you accuse me of that, you know I have a fear of been sick, you’re being ridiculous etc - I thought the reaction strange as I had only asked in a worried she was unwell sense and she acted as if I was accusing her of robbing a bank. From that day on I started to notice little things for example her water intake, she has being suffering fiercely for the past year with piles, going to the bathroom straight after eating and she developed this extreme fear of having an allergic reaction which seemed to pop rear it’s head after one of her trips to the bathroom. Upon closer watch I found a toothbrush in a hidden trap in the bathroom, she was taking scented candles in to the shower with her, she would do a lot of spitting, blowing her nose and noises that sounded like porridge being dropped on to toilet paper. I also saw her had reach up to grab some blue liquid product type thing as if she was sat on the floor and noticed that even though the shower was on, she didn’t actually get in it (you can tell because of the sound of the water pressure). Please please don’t think I’m a horrible person for invading her space like this and spying on her, I was just so worried and scared and didn’t want to put this to her again without further evidence. Anyway I decided the best way for me to confront her would be through letter, that way it didn’t feel like and ambush or that I was “accusing” her and she would have time to process it herself. I won’t go into the full details of the letter but I made it clear that she could either talk to me if she felt ready or if not she could ignore the letter completely and I wouldn’t mention it, as if it had never been written, but she knew that when she was ready I was already aware of the situation so she wouldn’t have to deal with the added pressure of a confession. Now her response to the letter is what has made me feel so confused, lost, a little angry if I’m honest but mostly sad. She came down calm and as soft as she could be and said that she appreciated what i had done and thought it very sweet but that there was nothing going on at all, I told her I had heard and seen more than once and her response to that was to tell me I must have imagined it. At first I was shocked, I said that I had definitely seen it because I had most definitely seen it, I could tell her what the bottle looked like and what words were on it yet she continued to deny. She said I had not been myself for the past two weeks (the reason for this being my concern over the situation) and that she didn’t know why but knew my sleeping had been bad and that maybe I hallucinated it all, she stood there and voluntarily swore on mine and her families lives that nothing was going on. At that point I got incredibly upset and said that if that’s the case i think I need help as it was so real to me that I must be going mad, she then started to stroke my hair and was telling me I didn’t need help, I was just a bit stressed and that everything would be ok. I have been with this girl for 8 years, I know her more than anyone and I know what i saw. How could she stand there, tell me that she loves me but make me feel like it was me going mad and swearing on my life to boot. On the other had she is generally an honest person and would never swear on mine or her families life normally. Since then the same things have been going on and more symptoms have appeared in her and I’m pretty sure i have found her on that pro ana website. I just don’t know what to do. Why won’t she tell me? Does she not love me? Am I doing something wrong? This is driving me mad. I’m not sleeping, my moods towards her keep swinging, one minute I want to hold her and tell her I love her, the next minute I’m furious and feel cold towards her...then I think I can’t be mad because I don’t want her to think (if she ever does decide to open up to me) that I would be angry with her. I can’t talk to her family because they would bury their heads and ignore it or blame me (they don’t understand a lot of things when it comes to emotions, they are lovely people and I love them dearly but it would just be a disaster) I feel like I’m betraying her when I even think about it let alone writing this. I just feel alone and helpless. My own partner won’t let me in, I love her so much and I can’t stand the thought of her sitting on a bathroom floor feeling so lost and lonely. Any advice would be really appreciated. I’m so sorry to ramble on, I just needed to get it out.



Dear Ata,

Boy, I'm sorry that things have reached the point that they have, but it's probably not so unusual that they have. I suppose it could all be your imagination, but in my experience we generally don't go around imagining things just out of the blue about our loved ones. Not things of this nature, I mean.

And honestly, the letter-writing approach was a good one. The other person may be shocked at being confronted, but at least they have some time to calmly consider what their response will be, rather than just knee-jerk lying to us, as they might be tempted to do if confronted unexpectedly face to face. So I'm really sorry that that approach didn't seem to work out.

But yes, the toothbrush and the noises and the website. That is indeed what people with EDs are involved with.

But if she refuses to tell you the truth ( which people often do, out of shame or out of not wanting to be a burden on their loved ones ) it really does leave you in a bind. If you give the impression of continuing to spy on her, that's not likely to improve the trust situation, so it really is kind of a mess alright. And a hole that she's digging for herself, to be honest, in that there's the ED, and then there's the untruthfulness on top of it.

I'm not sure what to tell you, other than that as time passes, people with EDs often find it harder and harder to convince themselves that they aren't in actual trouble. This is unlikely to be of much consolation, but just to say, if she is actually talking with other people who have EDs ( I know that website ) it's possible that some of them will be telling her that she needs to come clean with you about the situation. No guarantee about that of course, but others who have been around the block with this themselves for long enough generally don't advocate lying to loved ones as a means of dealing with the situation.

So it's possible that you may be stuck with letting things develop to the point where she finally is honest with you. Which unfortunately often means waiting for things to get worse. Unless you happen to catch her in the act, I mean. Which may need to happen by chance, rather than you doing the detective thing.

But here's one thing...She did read your letter, and now she knows that you know. Even if she continues to deny things, that still counts as progress I think.

In any case, I hope you will keep writing. That's not much I know, but at the same time, I think you are seeing how it feels to be alone with all this, so if only for that, I do hope that you'll stay in touch.

Bob J.

PS, Sorry for the slow reply. My computer has been in the shop for almost a month now, so it's been catch as catch can for me recently, as far as access is concerned.

Hey dude. I respect and

Hey dude. I respect and appreciate your coming here seeking help for your partner. I don't think that coming here is betraying her. I think its quite the opposite. By coming here despite your apprehension, in my opinion, you're showing how committed you are to her wellbeing. I personally don't have much experience with dealing with a close person in my life who's had an ED, but I do think that NEDA has a few resources that might help you head towards the right direction. I've put them below. I know its much but I think you're headed in the right direction, dude. Best of luck and keep us updated. (not just for parents)

- Adage

Hi both, thank you so much

Hi both, thank you so much for your responses. I’m struggling quite a lot at the moment, things have progressed since my last post. I decided to stop looking for signs and to just try and let it rest but funnily enough just after decided this I accidentally stumbled across another hiding spot and in this was what I can only describe as sick bags, they had been shoved right to the back under our bath. Before I go any further, it is not so much the ED that I am struggling with, i get that it’s an illness and that people can only begin the process of healing once they are ready, it’s just what she is doing or putting me through in an effort to keep it hidden. When I have put things to her she has told me that I am loosing it, I mean to the point of where the other day she was saying you need a mental health assessment now, today because I’m worried about you. I am going to call your mother and tell her what’s been going on. Obviously when I admit defeat and break down crying she then flips and goes into the loving concerned partner and starts saying no I don’t think you need an assesment I think you’re just stressed, everything will be ok, I love you etc etc etc. Now I know this is going on, I’ve had physical eveidence in my hands which she is trying to tell me I have imagined. I just don’t know who the person this is that is doing this to me, one minute I’m ok, next in angry. I don’t get how you could go to such lengths as hurting the person you love in an effort to keep something hidden. I just don’t know this person. Is it normal for someone to put their partner through something similar? Does she hate me? Does she even know herself what’s going on! Is it healthy for me to continue to be with her whilst she is lying to me, trying to manipulate my mind. I love her so much, well the person I fell in love with but does that person even exist anymore? How am I supposed to trust her anymore? I’m really sorry I know I’m going on and on about myself when it’s her that really needs the support, I’m just so very confused and feel a little bit lonely really. Thanks again to the both of you for the responses. I’m really sorry to prattle on.

Back to you, Ata.

First off, please doing feel bad about "going on" about this. When things get strange like this,sometimes we just gotta tell our story, even if it's the very same story as last time. Like we are still unsettled, and yet we still aren't getting any sort of new information, of the sort that might help us begin make sense of things. Then who starts feeling like the crazy one !

And yeah, the bags. That's a pretty common thing too. One would think that the person would just get rid of them, but for some unknown reason there can often be the hoarding thing that you noticed.

But I really do have to wonder about why she's going to such lengths to try and deceive you ! It's getting pretty elaborate alright. If she was talking to other people who also have EDs, I do think they would be telling her that it's about time she came clean about her situation. Rather than just trying to make you feel more crazy, with the sort of gas-lighting that she seems to be doing. While it's probably wrong to generalize, in my experience most people with EDs start feeling bad when they see the sort of pain they are causing their loved ones. It's possible that she feels she is somehow trying to protect you by continuing to simply deny everything, but it sounds like it's having the opposite effect instead.

I suppose it's possible that she's still in denial, and is hoping that you can join in with her on that, but that's kind of crazy too. This is just a wild long-shot sort of thought, but people actually can have multiple personality disorder, where one of their personalities does things that all of the other personalities have amnesia for. But unless you've seen numerous signs of her "not acting like her regular self" in the past, then I don't think that's where you want to go for an explanation of this..

So yeah, I wonder how much she realizes that she's boxing you into a corner ? Again, this is just from my years of talking with people who have EDs, but most people really don't like making their partners feel this way. Particularly people who are otherwise really nice people, like so many people who have EDs often are.

As an aside, when she goes on about the therapy that you may need, you might want to actually give some thought to doing that. But what I mean is....couples therapy, where the both of you go in together. Oh, you are so confused about everything, and what you feel would really help you the most, was if the two of you had some sessions together. That would be kind of upping the anty in all this, and it would be interesting to see how willing she would be to subject herself to something like that. Granted, "it's you who needs the help", so she may use that as an excuse to not want to go, but if you were to tell her that's what really feels like what would be most helpful for you....if she loves you as much as she says that she does, it might be hard for her to refuse ??

In the mean time, I hope you can keep writing. Trust me, it's not just "going on" about this - It really is an important matter.

Bob J.