National Eating Disorders Association

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Wife with ED for 15 years and little change

There are very few places I feel that I can be truly honest with what goes on. My wife who's almost 30 has had an ED(NOS) since she was an early teen. She's on disability for that and depression. She goes through cycles of binging and purging and then restricting (and usually many hospital visits, as much as 5 per week).

Needless to say her eating disorder rules her life and mine as well. She had a near death experience with electrolyte issues when she was younger and now if there's any question about feeling weird she runs for the hospital. She also went through refeeding syndrome which sounds extremely difficult as well.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, more medical stuff cropped up and her anxiety and panic attacks went through the roof. Ever since then she needs someone with her almost all the time in case something medical comes up. When this escalated I had to leave work to hopefully settle things down, but she became used to someone being there and nothing really changed (even when we had regular visits with the doctor). I'm still trying to get back on my feet and to work (and her mum has to be here when I work), but everything is extremely difficult.

Our relationship has all but dissolved, and I occupy more of a caregiver and friend role. I am trying to get my life back at least very minimally but the demand on someone being with her all the time just makes things extremely difficult. Her mum and her do not get along well a lot of the time and thus I find myself sacrificing myself for the good of everyone else. She's been through some treatment programs and lots of therapy but she has a complete mental block when it comes to applying anything to her life and thus nothing ever changes.

Everything is so tangled that it feels like I will never get any parts of my life back. I have growing resentment for the situation, and while I know I'm there for her when she needs it, I have been saddled with tasks like grocery shopping for binge foods and cleaning the entire home (almost daily). Her parents were older when they had her and she has very few people to turn to close by. I'm growing more concerned that the only way I will have anything for myself in life is to leave her... but it's mostly the guilt that she doesn't have anyone else. In the early stages of our relationship that already popped up as a huge concern for her and that she doesn't think she could go on living (if that's what you want to call living) if we broke up. I have no friends, very little work, little contact with my family, it's sometimes it's difficult to even take the dog for a walk (if she's feeling bad), we do basically nothing outside of the house, etc. It's no way to live life and it just makes me wish I'd never gotten involved in the first place (even though I do love and care for her).

Has anyone else had someone's ED drag them so completely away from a life they once had? What did you do? Did anything change?



Your story is very moving. I am so, so sorry to hear about your wife's struggles and the challenges that her ED has brought upon your life. You are truly incredible for staying by her side through this battle, and while your story did make me sad, it also made me feel very positive and hopeful about the fact that there are some wonderful, caring, compassionate people left in this world, you being one of them. From the way you speak about your wife I can tell that you love her, and the two of you deserve a relationship that's a twosome and not a threesome with you, her, and her ED.

I know that you mentioned your wife has been in treatment/therapy before, but I really recommend you encourage her to try it again, just differently this time. There are so many different approaches to ED treatment and maybe she just hasn't found the right one for her yet. If you call the NEDA helpline (Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (EST), at 1-800-931-2237) they can give you information about the various options in your area, and while you might feel like you've exhausted all of your options already, you might find out about something new.

Secondly, I really hope that you can take some time away from helping your wife in order to help yourself. In order to be the best caregiver and lover and friend possible, you need to take care of your own mental/physical needs. She should understand that, as you've already sacrificed so much to support her. I don't know you, so I don't know what kind of "help" would be beneficial to you, but I really do encourage you to do something, either something fun (like joining a local sports league) or something focusing directly on your mental health (seeing a therapist, etc). It could also be really helpful to see a therapist together, or together with your wife, her mother, and you.

I've been in similar shoes to yours, though admittedly my situation was not as intense. I really want you to know that you are not alone, and things can get better. What helped me was remembering that my partner's mental health struggles were not a choice - any time I felt taken advantage of or unloved, I had to remember that it wasn't my partner talking, it was the illness. Please know that your wife loves you and appreciates all you've done for her, even if she sometimes has a hard time expressing that.

My last advice is to see if your wife would be up to doing some sort of activity outside of the house with you. I recommend trying volunteering for a local shelter or animal shelter (or whatever kind of volunteering seems interesting to you). When a person is mentally ill, guilt can be a major issue that worsens their depression. By getting out of the house and volunteering, you will be contributing to a good cause which always feels good emotionally. Maybe once she starts feeling a bit better about herself, she will be more motivated to recover.

BlueS, know that your story truly touched my heart today. I will keep you and your wife in my thoughts and I wish you both all the strength in the world. You deserve to be happy, and I have a good feeling that better days are on their way.

xx Hannah

Thank you for the reply. I am

Thank you for the reply. I am trying to focus on myself a bit more. I have been neglecting most of my wants and needs because I thought the extra energy helping her would be useful. It's quite obvious that the change will have to come from her (and I can cheer on in support).
Some of the troubles I've run into are that her anxiety and past traumas put her in a position where she asks a lot of others (mostly me). Work is difficult to arrange and outside activities are difficult to plan as I may be asked to drop everything without a moment's notice. She isn't up for leaving the house unless there's something she desperately wants to do (and as long as she's feeling comfortable in her skin). Unfortunately that means we have little shared quality time outside of a few conversations here or there. Getting out of the house to *do* something productive would be amazing and I think it could help tremendously, but at the moment it isn't a possibility.

Man hugs!

I feel so much of where you are coming from BlueS! I seriously wish we could sit down and have a long drawn out vent session with each other. I suspect it would do us both some amount of good. I cringed when I saw the shopping list comment. I also hate constantly finding drive thru bags and cups in the car.... I also understand constantly trying to keep the house clean in effort to present some smidgen of order in the slimmest of hopes that it will make a difference for a fleeting moment. I definitely relate to feeling much more like a caregiver and wondering what it would be like to leave that role behind. I have often deluded myself (despite the insurmountable evidence to the contrary) into believing that love will be enough to see her through it all. Deep down, I know it simply isn't true, but I crave that movie ending just the same. (The one where a character's mind is under control, but in the end they shake the glaze from their eyes and recognize themselves because love is stronger than whatever magic held them under a spell.) I wish I could stop trying for that....just like I'm sure our wives wish they could stop what they are doing. The truth is that this stuff is very hard for everyone involved. You are not wrong to feel the way you feel. It's easy to dismiss those on the near periphery of eating disorders as being luckier somehow because they don't have the actual ED. But what is not always considered is that EDs often rule their lives as well. You know the loneliness and isolation. You know the cruelties inflicted on the heart and mind. You know real pain. You deserve the right to express that, so I applaud you for taking that step in this forum. I wish I could give you the answers...and if I ever get them, I promise I will be sharing them! But I can assure you that you are not alone, and you are not crazy for feeling the way you feel. You are an awesome person for trying as hard as you have. Don't let the disease take that from you. Hang in there my friend...