National Eating Disorders Association

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Looking for Inspiration to Stay

Evening everyone! I've been dealing with a wife whose had Anorexia for the last 2.5 years (I believe it was longer than that, she just kept it under "control"). Following the birth of our first child, she basically went off the deep end. I have watched the woman I love turn into an absolute monster over the last couple years. She is horribly mean to me, my family, and is extremely controlling of our son. Never eats, over exercises, lacks patience, etc.

I have done everything I can possibly think of to help her including:

*Standing by her side, despite being treated like garbage.
*Counseling sessions for me (tried to get her to go, but refuses).
*Meetings with ED specialists to try and strategize on what to do next.
*Read books on ED
*Friends & Family support groups
*Intervention-Last July (She refused to get help)
*She says the issue is "US" but refused to go to couples counseling for over a year. I finally got her to go. In the third session the counselor brought up her ED. She stopped going after that.
*Friends & Family have sat her down to share their concerns.

I've tried to stay strong through all this, but have to admit that I am getting really burned out. I honestly do not know how much longer I can go on like this. I'm basically a live in punching bag for her.

So here's my question. Is there anyone out there that was at the point of giving up, after everything else had failed, and there was a miraculous start to recovery?

Anyone out there recovered / recovering from this illness that would care to share what is truly going through the mind of someone with Anorexia? Obviously, it must be pretty horrible, but I can't figure out how my wife can be so cruel to me.

Thank you in advance for any info.

Help is available

Hi, KAN123!

I would like to thank you for sharing your story with the forums. I can only imagine the uncertainty and other accompanying tumultuous feelings that come along with watching someone you love suffer from an eating disorder. As someone who has suffered myself, I can tell you that a big part of recovery comes from within the sufferer themselves; we must want to get better. I can also tell you that it is a very personal illness that can stem from low self esteem and lack of feeling "in control" of some aspect, or all aspects, of life. I personally felt that treating my disorder would be like taking away the only thing that made sense and was afraid of feeling lost without it.

For me, when someone commented on it I felt like they were intruding on something that wasn't their business. I would also blame other people for how I felt and it took me a very long time to admit that what I was really afraid of was losing their love and attention. Because this illness is so personal and runs so deep, it makes us feel vulnerable and afraid to expose it, especially to people we don't want to scare away. Your wife may feel this way.

Since I'm unsure I can provide any really good advice, I recommend you call the trained volunteers of the NEDA Helpline (1-800-931-2237, M-Th 9am-9pm, F 9am-5pm EST) and NEDA Navigators ( They can provide you with information for support groups and other helpful resources to help you and your wife through your journey.

Please keep posting to the forums. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Thanks for the response and

Thanks for the response and insight , thesporkhop!

Thank you for posting your

Thank you for posting your story. It isn't often that us with eating disorders get to hear how it is affecting our significant others. I myself have destroyed one long-term relationship because of a relapse back into my eating disorder, and I know how it can turn a loving couple into strangers who resent one another. The fact that you have stuck around for this long and continued to be supportive is incredible, and shows your commitment and love for your wife. You are obviously an amazing husband and should realize that.

The unfortunate truth is that, while you are being supportive and trying to cheer her on and say things that make her feel better, that only person that can really push her to get better and recover is herself. Often eating disorders are about so much more than looking good or being thin, they come from a deep hatred within ourselves. In my case, at least, it comes from a deep hatred of myself, and nothing anyone would say could make that hate go away. I had to learn to love myself on my own, and it was a really hard process, but I learned that you can never truly love someone else until you love and accept yourself.

To give you a glimpse into the mind of someone with anorexia, it is kind of like having this bully right by your side 24/7. A bully telling you that you are worthless and you don't deserve to eat. The bully points out your every flaw, and makes up reason that you are a failure. You know in your mind that what you are doing is unhealthy and wrong. There is even a part of you that wants to get better, but every time you try, that bully is right there telling you that you are weak and worthless. The bully is relentless and never stops. I can't even sit down at work for extended periods of time without that little voice telling me how lazy I am. It's pretty maddening, but you CAN learn to control it. Pleasing this bully becomes the number one priority in our lives, which stresses us out because enough is never enough and we have to keep pushing and pushing. We put pleasing our eating disorder above pleasing our significant others, because the eating disorder is much less understanding and loving. The thought of letting go of that eating disorder, and the feeling of control that it gives us, is terrifying. You feel like as soon as you stop your behaviors, whether is it starving or purging, you will blow up like a balloon and become obese. I know this is irrational to anyone on the outside looking in, but it is what we really believe will happen. That is why recovery is so incredibly hard at first. Those irrational thoughts and that bully tell us.

In the end, your wife is the one who has to decide for herself to get help. All you can do is take care of yourself and try to be as happy as possible. You have gone above and beyond for her, and that is all you can do. You really seem like an amazing husband, but you need to take time and look at what is best for you. Whether that is staying with her and continuing to try and get her help, or perhaps giving yourself some space for a while. Don't let her and this horrible eating disorder turn you into an angry and resentful person. Stay strong and I wish you the best of luck!

*** I wanted to add this edit because I am actually going through a little relapse right now, and am currently with someone who I plan to be with for a very long time. He knows about my ED, and like you, is extremely supportive in any way he can be. Your post was extremely insightful for me to see how what I am doing to myself effects those I love. One of the main reasons I am scared to gain, and maybe your wife feels the same, is because I think my boyfriend will not be attracted to me anymore. Your point of view shows me that that is really an irrational fear, that you only want to see your wife happy and healthy again. I don't want to make the same mistake that I have made before with ruining a great relationship, and I hope your wife realizes the same.

Brooke, Thank you very much

Brooke, Thank you very much for your response! I really appreciate hearing from someone on the "other side" of this.

I used to think that I would weather this storm, but with each passing week I doubt my endurance more and more. I have, over all, kept a positive attitude and I know that the actions of my wife today are not the actions that she would like to put out. This is the ED. I mostly feel terrible for our son. He does not deserve this. He doesn't deserve what potential lies ahead. He deserves to have a happy home with a mother and father whom love him. Now, if I give up, he gets a broken home with a sick mother. At some point she'll start dating again, and I can only imagine the quality of man she'll attract with her current appearance/attitude. That is the man that will get to tuck my son in for bed. The man that will get to be there for dinner time, bath time, etc. It makes me sick. I am far from perfect, but I'm not the type of husband / father a woman pushes away.

Brooke, I encourage you to fight with all your will to get better. I think just acknowledging that you have a problem is a huge step. 2+ years into this and my wife still wont admit it. Straight denial. Fight for your yourself, your boyfriend, family, and friends. Fight to be someone who recovered from this horrible disease and came out the other side. You have a story to tell and it can help deliver others from the hell that they are in.

Thank you again for taking the time to respond. It means a lot!

You're Not Alone

I read your post and can't help but feel that after the first couple sentences I could have completed the rest of your post for you as it has been the same for my wife and me. After she gave birth to our daughter five years ago, she suffered from postpartum depression which ultimately lead to a relapse of her eating disorder, which she had for over a decade prior to us meeting. At the time we met and fell in love, she had it under control and I was fully aware of her past.

Since that relapse, I have gone through everything you describe. The closest I came to leaving was when she was irate with me and threw our daughter's piggy bank and shattered it. I can handle it for the most part but having to console our daughter in that situation was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It is always up and down and I never know what to expect. She admits her problems and mistakes and does participate in treatment, so I know I'm lucky in that respect. She is currently in an intensive outpatient program and that is helping. It's just so hard to see someone I love so much be this way. Our finances are in shambles. Our daughter depends on me for everything. I am having trouble advancing in my job because I have to take so much time to help her.

To answer your question, my wife was in recovery for several years until the current situation, which has lasted for almost three years. Recovery is possible but I am beginning to wonder if it is possible for that to last. If she is not wiling to undergo treatment, then recovery is not possible. No matter how many times she says she can do it on her own, she can't. If my wife is not willing to continue with treatment, that is the line I draw. I have pledged to help her through in any way I can so long as she is willing to continue with treatment. Lately, I'm not so sure about that pledge, as I'm not sure how much more I can take, but with treatment I remain hopeful things will get better. I hope this provides some inspiration for you to stay.

balawson, Thanks for the

balawson, Thanks for the response! Think it's been a month or so since my original post. The struggles continue, but my wife did agree to go to a Christian marriage retreat. It's a weekend retreat with follow up sessions that basically helps couples start communicating again. It has certainly helped with our communication struggles, but the underlying issue (ED) to the majority of our problems still lies unaddressed. With the exception of the 3 marriage counseling sessions she attended, it's the most traction I've gotten out of her in almost 3 years. So that is a small win for us.

The insanity of this illness never fails to amaze me. My wife recently ran in a race. She ran at 7:00 AM in the morning and somehow managed to run a decent time. I can never figure out how her body does not collapse on the course. By 1:00 I was ready for lunch. I recommended a a family restaurant that has a menu 6 pages long. The waitress comes by to take our order. I order a full meal. She orders a full meal for our son. Then the waitress asks what she'd like for lunch. My wife asks a few questions about the menu and the waitress goes off to put the order in. I asked her how she's not hungry and she shrugs her shoulders and says she's not. Then she rolls into a rant about how she didn't want to eat at this restaurant and that she apparently needs to tell me NO more often. Following this she starts to cry and says she's overly tired. Our 2 year old son starts to get restless and she leaves the restaurant to go for a walk. I convinced her to eat at the end of that day. She complained following the meal that she was overly full and bloated.

One of the hardest parts about all this is that she still refuses to admit that she has an ED. She still blames all of our unhappiness on "US". Us is an issue because of the ED and the way that it has changed her as a person. You can draw a line to NEDA's Anorexia warning signs with every comment she makes. "Why am I so cold?" She walks around holding a hot cup of water when this happens. Completely normal right? "The reason I don't sleep at night is because of you." Yet when on business trips, in an empty bed, she still can't sleep. "I don't need it" When asked if she wants a sports drink following a long run. On and on and on.

Ranting over for the morning. Hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Spouses, Partners, & Loved Ons, keep your head up!

The thing about ED's are that

The thing about ED's are that they are not rational at all. To an outsider looking in, it is the craziest and most self-destructive pattern of behavior they have ever seen. I'm glad that you two were able to do a couple's retreat and at least try and communicate through group therapy. Hopefully that communication continues and broadens into the deeper issues. However small a win it may be, it is still a win!

You'd really be surprised how resilient our bodies are, even when we put them through so much torture. I run races as well, and that actually contributed to my relapse. I had to change my attitude and realize that doing these races was a privilege that I enjoy, and shouldn't be turned into another method of self-destruction. Now when I race and run, I enjoy it, and make sure to think about how blessed I am with a body that can do such amazing things, and that I need to continue to take care of it. Hopefully your wife can start to change her attitude and see things this way.

I know you can't force her into treatment, and I wish that she would just realize that she has a problem and get help, not only for herself, but for the sake of you and your son. The fact that you are still sticking around after all of this mental torture is truly amazing, you are a husband to be admired. I wish she would realize what she has and just bite the bullet and help herself and your marriage and your family. She is so deep in this disease, and unfortunately it usually takes an intervention or health issues to bring her back to reality. Would she ever consider inpatient treatment? That really sounds like the best option for her at this point.

Stay strong, and keep posting on here anytime you need support!

This thread has been a huge

This thread has been a huge inspiration for me to take my recent relapse seriously. It absolutely breaks my heart to hear the perspective of a spouse/boyfriend, because it has helped me see what my boyfriend is going through when I am struggling and getting angry with him. You both sound like amazing husbands, and I hope that your wives realize this and take their recovery seriously. This post has really helped me make great strides in my own recovery, and I think you both are so strong and brave for dealing with this horrible disorder from an outside perspective. Speaking as someone with an eating disorder, I can tell you that recovery is one of the hardest challenges I have ever had to face in my life. It is like there is this constant voice in our heads telling us that we need to be healthy and happy, yet another voice tells us that if we eat, we are a failure and are weak.

Recovery is possible, and it can be lasting. It has to come from the person wanting it though. You have to want to recover more than anything, and change your mindset, which takes time and patience. I am lucky to where I am at that point where I want to get better and want to do whatever it takes to change my mindset. I hope your wives reach the same realization and see what amazing support they have for this tough journey. Stay strong, both of you.

brookespre, Thank you for the

brookespre, Thank you for the continuing conversation!

I am very happy that this post is helping you! Please keep fighting to overcome this. While life throws us curve balls every once in a while, it is not meant to be a hostile, miserable place.

Continue to look around and count your blessings.

Continue to work hard on recovery.

Continue to love yourself.

Be sure to let your boyfriend know how much he means to you and how much you appreciate his love and support.

Best of luck!