National Eating Disorders Association

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duncsvoice
Coping with my girlfriends bulimia

I understand the fairly narcissistic of the topic, but I certainly don't mean it to come across that way. I'm looking for guidance on how best to keep myself strong, to help my girlfriend, the love of my life, to recovery.

We had a bit of a difficult beginning to our relationship (we are long distance, but within the next few weeks I am moving down to live with her). She disclosed to me on our first date she had bulimia, and frequently tried to push me away. I didn't understand why, and I had no idea of the impact of bulimia on her life. I fell in love with her almost immediately, and when we realised we both started to feel the same I began researching in to bulimia.

She's let me in recently, more than anyone she admits. She's told me the reasons why she has it, what it causes her to do, and how low it is making her. She knows I'll help her through it, she's recently seen a doctor to get referred, and I know that with my love and support she will absolutely get through it. Even though a lot of what she tells me is incredibly difficult to hear, I do my best to understand why.

She struggles to understand why I love her. She recently told me that she doesn't believe why anyone would love her, so she gets fat, so no one has to. I tell her every day how beautiful she is, and how I love her, however she comes, but I know it doesn't make a difference. We recently had a blazing row after some drinks and it really hit home. She doesn't remember any of it, but she was on the stairs in the hotel begging me to hit her. Her ex dealt with her bulimia by literally trying to beat it out of her. I managed to calm her down, held her and she wept and wept until she fell asleep. It happened again the other night, she thought she upset me on the phone (when really my 'silence' was poor reception) and again, she just broke down and it was heartbreaking to hear. I always stay on the phone until she's laughing again, but it's difficult to hear her like this.

When we talk, I can sometimes feel like I'm on eggshells. Her mood, tied in with her body confidence, causes her to interpret what I'm saying in a completely different way and creates an atmosphere. I know this is entirely to do with her ED, and I keep reminding myself of that. She calls me her rock, and believes I will help her through this, and I'm desperate to do anything I can to help. I am finding it a struggle. It's affecting my work. I'm losing sleep with worry, because if she has a bad day the ED will strike (although she did have a good eating day yesterday, and I was over the moon). I'm typically a pretty happy go lucky guy, but it's making me irritable. I guess I feel totally useless. I adore this girl. I'm completely infatuated with her, and I know she'll be the girl I marry, I just need to find a way to keep myself from being dragged down by it, so she can get all the love and support she needs.

Thanks for reading, and your help in advance.

nanzhu
Hi duncsvoice,

Hi duncsvoice,

First of all, it is truly inspiring to hear about how much you are doing to help your girlfriend through so many difficulties, and it is clear that you care about her so much and are willing to go above and beyond to support her unconditionally. You are doing the best you can and it's important to give yourself some credit! I know it can be extremely frustrating when it feels like you are not making a difference, but as someone who has gone through an ED and also tended to push away people and have a rather slow recovery process with lots of ups and downs, I can tell you that being by her side and being there for when she wants to talk or needs someone to help her calm down is really the most you can do in those situations. It can be tough to accept this, but as her boyfriend, providing the emotional support that you have been WILL make a difference in the long-term.

You mentioned that your girlfriend has seen a doctor to get referred - do you know what type of referral she was given? I think this is a step in the right direction, and that getting a professional to help is the best thing to do at this point, especially an ED specialist (such as a trained psychiatrist or a therapist). Especially since her mood and low self-esteem are causing severe and quite scary situations, it's important to help her seek professional treatment to prevent any incidents from escalating even further.

Also, it is just as important to keep your own health in mind too! It's important that you've acknowledged that your own mood is starting to wane with dealing with the worry/stress of trying to be as supportive as you can. I think that even going with her to see a therapist or psychologist could help your relationship as well and help you both work through your respective roles in getting through this recovery process as a team. It can also help you get advice from a trained and experienced medical provider who can offer suggestions on what to do to help, or reassurance on what you are currently doing. You need to make sure that you are maintaining your own physical and emotional help, because this will allow you to offer the most to your girlfriend in return. If you feel comfortable with it, even going yourself to talk to an ED specialist or therapist could be helpful in getting an objective view on your situation. They can also help you find ways to cope with your anxiety and any other negative feelings, so they don't accumulate or become more frequent.

The NEDA Helpline (1-800-931-2237, M-R 9-9, F 9-5 EST) is a great place to call for more advice or support, and here are some more links that might be useful:
Seeking and securing treatment: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/seeking-and-securing-treatment
Treatment basics: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/treatment-basics
Information for family/friends: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/parent-family-friends-network
Stories of hope: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/stories-of-hope

Hope this helps!
Nan

duncsvoice
Hi Nan,

Hi Nan,

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. It's great to know there is the support out there!

I'm not sure what type of specialist she has been referred to. Over the weekend she had to fill out a pretty big questionnaire which brought up a lot of past issues, so she has been feeling very raw. Her previous counsellor called her too 'high risk' and didn't want a death on her record, so refused to see her. I can understand her apprehension about seeing someone new, but I found this shocking. She disclosed why she has an ED, due to abuse when she was younger, so it's highly sensitive and I try to tread as lightly as possible, but a misunderstood comment (aimed to make her feel better) caught her in the wrong mood and it caused great upset. I talked her through it, and she's ok, and I explained that I know her ED is trying to push me away, but I know SHE doesn't want me to go.

I have offered to go with her to the counselling sessions, even if I just sit outside so she knows I'm there. I'm more than happy to sit in with her, although a lot of it will be difficult for me to hear (the abuse, sexual partners). I understand it's all to do with the ED and I need to be there for her, and I am building up quite a resilience. My main priority is making her feel better, and getting her to believe I'm not going anywhere (she's now decided I'm too attractive to be with her).

Thankfully, I went through an awful lot as a child and a teen, that I have dealt with so I feel strong enough to understand her, but I'm desperate to not feel resentment towards her. I genuinely don't feel like I will, but it's still a concern.

I've read through the stories of hope, and I know she'll get through it. She's already seeing a very small glimmer of hope, and her eating has been brilliant this week, so I just focus on that. I'm mentally and emotionally 'preparing' myself for anything that comes along, and she's warned me it may become too awful for me to manage, but regardless I'm not budging.

Many thanks again for your post.

michael26
Hi there!!

I'm very happy that you were able to find these forums!! It sounds that you are very grounded in yourself and that will truly be a great thing during your efforts to help your girl friend. You are a gentlemen and you've shown nothing but love and respect for your girlfriend.

I just wanted to say two things!

Have you heard of the NEDA Navigator program? A Navigator is a trained volunteer who has experience either recovering from an ED or supporting someone who is in recovery from an ED. The Navigator gives you free, one-on-one support and advice for you and the people who you are trying to support. I think the program is an awesome way to receive private support without needing to worry about being judged. Here's a link to request a Navigator or to learn more!!

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/neda-navigators

The other thing I wanted to mention was that relationships and ED's are very complex things. I know from my recovery from an ED that I had just as much a relationship with my ED than anyone else in my life. This of course can result in a lot of strain and stress on other relationships as well. So, I think it is important to really have a well defined scope of responsibility in helping your girlfriend. It is only for the best for the both of you to keep in mind that receiving treatment for an ED is way way different than receiving support for an ED. It is when we start assuming the responsibilities of treatment providers that really hold great risk in harming you guys. Just being there to support her in her decisions is the best help to give!

Just my two cents in the matter, of course. I too had a girlfriend with an ED and the ED took both the one I loved and part of me away.

Please let me know if you have any questions! Hope you're well!!