National Eating Disorders Association

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am I doing this right?

My girlfriend and I are both women and 21. We have been dating for two years, and she has been open with me about her disorder for as long as I've known her. I have been pushing her for recovery this whole time and I think now it's finally a possibility. However, I have watched her attempt recovery before and fail because of lack of support. We have no family that we're on speaking terms with, few friends, and we live paycheck to paycheck with no insurance and no wiggle room for therapy. It's just her and me.

She is completely controlled by the disorder at this point and simply is not able to change her thoughts, behaviors and habits on her own even though she wants to. She is (understandably) terrified of recovery but trying her best. She needs help, but there just isn't any besides me I am her only support and am finding myself playing her therapist and nutritionist as well as lover and best friend. I know you're not supposed to do that but there isn't any advice for when other options aren't available. I'm overwhelmed and scared of what will happen to her and to me if I fail.

I've promised her I won't leave her because of this and I intend to keep that promise. We are currently working together to find self-worth and confidence for both of us, and I have her writing down disordered thoughts so that she can learn to tell the difference between disordered thoughts and healthy ones. I don't know if either of these things are the right thing to do, but I also don't know what else to try.

Like the bird

Hey Bird,

Yeah, it's not like everyone has access to professional help, and to be honest, professionals can only do so much. Plus the quality of connection can make a real difference in situations like these. As you said, trying to play all those different roles at once is probably not ideal, but the caring part can still make a difference I think.

Although as you may have seen, the "Love is all you need" cure doesn't always work either. There really is only so much we can do from our side of things, so keeping that part in mind can help us with the sorts of reactions we inevitably find ourselves having too.

Having said all that, it really does seem like you are taking a sound approach with your efforts. Gaining a better perspective can help I think, so the part about writing out her thoughts…that really does seem like it could help with that part. Because as I'm sure you have seen, a lot of those inner thoughts and self-judgments can seem pretty over the top, once viewed objectively in the clear light of day. This is not to say that people should not be effected by these sorts of thoughts, because simply as human beings we're often effected by unreasonable thoughts, but even so, I think trying to give such thoughts a dispassionate examination can be a helpful thing. Plus just getting them out there, rather than keeping them bottled up helps too I think.

Working on the idea of personal worthiness, and the whole "good enough" concept is important too. Do we deserve a worthy place in the world, as the person we already are, or are we stuck with constantly striving for some kind of elusive perfectionism that simply saps our energy in it's pursuit ? It's true that it's worth striving to be a better person, but it's not some set of numbers on a scale that's really going to provide us with the sorts of inner judgments we're looking for.

Being able to enjoy normal life is important too. People can shut themselves away if they don't watch out, so "getting out" and staying engaged in the outside world can be a mindful thing that you'll want to try too.

Anyhow, this was kind of a rambling response I know, so if it helps, I hope you'll keep writing.

Free and Low Cost Support

Hi likethebird,We're glad that you're aware of your partner's disordered eating and want to help her make healthy changes. You mentioned that your girlfriend does not have health insurance and we here at NEDA understand how frustrating it can be when financial constraints prevent someone from getting the help they need. Below you can find information on our website about low cost and free support options that may be helpful at: The NEDA Helpline would also be a good place to discuss ways to best support your girlfriend and yourself through this difficult time. The number is: 1-800-931-2237 or you can chat with a volunteer online at: