National Eating Disorders Association

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drlemur
Girlfriend in distress

My girlfriend has a pretty extreme eating disorder. I am from Australia, she is from London. We met online and we were friends for a year until we become involved and I blew up my life and sold everything I own to go to London and take care of her. I thought things would be better once I was here but it feels like they are worse. I really love her and I don't know what to do to help. It seems like any encouragement I try to give only makes her worse and emotionally it's really hurting me that she isolates herself and pushes away from me during her binge / purge cycles. I only want the best for her but constantly I am the bad guy and we fight all the time and it's always around the subject of her ED or food. Sometimes she won't even drink water for days and me encouraging her to try only makes her rebel against that more. I really don't know what to do anymore to help her. She won't seek help and thinks she's fat but she's dangerously underweight in reality. Her main problem is she binges and then makes herself throw up and abuses laxatives constantly.. I stay awake with her as she goes through the pain. I can't stop her taking them she is very stubborn. Also she consumes an appetite suppressant. She often reports heart beat abnormalities and dizziness and her blood pressure is worryingly low. Of course she insists she is fine. Clearly she is not. I just need to know some of the best things I can do as I feel like a failure of a boyfriend and it hurts to watch her hurt herself but I feel the more I try to encourage her the more distant she becomes and the more our relationship suffers but I will not enable this behaviour or pay for her to binge when it only means she will harm herself after. I love her more than anything but I feel like she wants to keep her disorder more than she loves me and that really hurts because it is literally killing her. I don't know how anyone here could even help at this point but just hearing from someone who understands the toll this kind of thing takes on a partner would really help me personally I think. She doesn't appreciate any of the things I do for her or the fact that I care about her health and that is really hurtful. I will never give up on her but I have cried too many tears over this and I don't know how much I have left.

Dan

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Welcome

Hi Dan and welcome to the NEDA forums! We wanted to let you know we edited your post to remove numbers and eating disorder behaviors that could be triggering to our other forum-goers. Please review our Community Guidelines to ensure we can continue to keep this forum a safe space for all of our users: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/forums/community-guidelines 

BobJ48
Dan.

Oh brother, I'm sorry that things are the way that they are.

But they can be this way, that's for sure.

One thing that I hope you can remember is this : Nobody I know who's bulimic likes the fact that they are. They all know it's a bad thing. Same with laxatives. They know it's not good.

But they are trapped in it, which can really put them in a bad mood. Moods just like you are seeing. People who recover - You often hear them bemoan how they treated their partners during that time.

Also, I guess you are seeing how well (at least on the surface) the "Love is all you need" thing is working out. We come to the thing feeling that that will be part of the solution, but then it's like this instead.

I said "On the surface" though. About how your care seems to not be making any difference. While I may be sounding too optimistic, it may be making a difference that's difficult to see at the time. That may sound like hogwash, and perhaps part of it is. But she* is* hearing the things that you say I assure you.

The question for you is how much of this you can be expected to live with. I suspect you see how much it is hurting you. You are not being oversensitive about that. It's not odd if you should feel like getting out of there sometimes. Lot's of guys in your position get therapy of their own. It's something to consider if you get the chance.

Again though. Remember that she probably hates the bulimia, and that she does have concerns about the heart irregularities and such. If she's in touch with other people who are bulimic too, they all pretty much know what the story is, so it's likely that she knows it too.

You have a right to hope that she takes action. She knows that too, which may also explain some of the ways that she's acting towards you.

Keep writing ?

Bob J.

drlemur
Bob

I know she loves me and I know she is trying in her own ways and feels trapped by it all. I don't blame her for any of it I do understand what she goes through I'm just finding it difficult because I really want to help and often just feel like I'm saying the wrong things and triggering her off or in general sometimes feel she'd be better battling this without me and my attempts to help. She doesn't like me to eat in front of her or keep any food in the house which I understand is difficult for her to have around so I tend to eat out a lot.. but it's tough financially and not having the use of the kitchen for anything more than a cup of beverage. It's the only thing I've been able to contribute to that helps though so I am happy to keep doing that.

The binging seems to trigger everything and she doesn't work so gets her money from me. I was wondering if it might be an idea for me to just buy all her food and have her plan what she will eat for the day before hand and I could then buy all the food for each day at a time and it might help control things. But I worry about even suggesting this because it might be too controlling or make things much worse to even bring it up. I always just try to think of practical ways I can help solve issues and I don't know how helpful that is in this case though.. I don't want to seem controlling so it's probably a terrible idea.

BobJ48
Choices

"I really want to help and often just feel like I'm saying the wrong things and triggering her off …"

Searching for the perfect thing to say is really too much to ask I think. And in situations like this, there may not even be anything that's perfect. In the end, you do care, and despite what you may or may not find yourself saying, that's the part that's worth paying attention to most. And a thing I expect she understands too. So try not to beat yourself up if somehow you're not perfect with all this. You get to be a human being too, you know ?

" She doesn't like me to eat in front of her or keep any food in the house…"

Again, at some point us humans have to be realistic about things. It's unreasonable to expect there to be no food in the house, or for you to have to eat by yourself. Or just not eat at all ? There's only so much accommodation a person can be expected to do I think. If she takes your food, that's something that will inevitably need to be confronted at some point, rather than simply keeping food away altogether. I know that sounds harsh, but "going along" with unreasonable stuff, you have to wonder how healthy that is in the long run. You'll both have to decide about that I think, as I know you don't want to seem uncooperative, but the issue is about more than just cooperation, as I suspect she might agree.

And actually, it might be a good thing if you could try the meal plan thing. With things planned out ahead of time, the person doesn't have to find themselves constantly up against the food-choice thing. She may see it as too constricting, but at the same time, she might admit that food-chosing is a trigger in itself.

Just some thoughts. Keep writing ?

Bob j.

drlemur
Food

Any food I buy for myself in the house will be gone before I get to it and soon after she'll leave the house to get a load of food to binge /purge so I always felt responsible for her being triggered off by having bought that food in the house to begin with. Maybe when I do buy food I could get it just before I'm going to prepare it if I'm not eating out alone. It's not like she demands I accommodate her in this way or keep no food in the house but she has strongly suggested that and I just see the results of what happens when I do stock the cupboards and it never leads anywhere good so I'd rather not.

The hardest thing for me is that when she gets deep into her ED she just shuts down completely puts headphones on is on her phone and won't say a word to me for days and I'm someone who really needs to communicate. I have an instinct to want to sit and talk with her and try to comfort her obviously during the worst times but she doesn't want that at all she just wants to be completely alone and can be very cold.. which is the total opposite to her usual self so this contrast even though I know it's caused by the ED is very difficult not to effect me emotionally. I never know if it's best to leave her alone or keep trying to talk but I end up leaving her be and work in another room on my computer or watch TV elsewhere. It's very hard to do knowing the person you love is hurting themselves or in pain and you can't do anything about it or even be there to listen and help. I don't know if this is a common thing with people who suffer from EDs or just her but it's against the grain for me because I'm really close to her and we usually talk about everything. I want to encourage her to get some professional help but I just don't know how to raise the subject with her at all without making things worse. I think it's getting to a point where I definitely need some support and people to talk to about this outside of her. I am having a really difficult time with it all and it's effecting our relationship and I really don't want that.

BobJ48
Accommodation and Numbness

Dan,

"Any food I buy for myself in the house will be gone before I get to it and soon after she'll leave the house to get a load of food to binge /purge so I always felt responsible for her being triggered off by having bought that food in the house to begin with."

Remember though, in the long run it's the ED that's the trigger, so try not to lay too much of this on yourself. I know you understand this, but still, it can be easy to fall into the self-blame thing, and that's something you'll want to avoid. For the good of the both of you, you know ?

" The hardest thing for me is that when she gets deep into her ED she just shuts down completely puts headphones on is on her phone and won't say a word to me for days…"

Yes, and people with EDs will often talk about this. "Going numb" is how it's often referred to. Things get to be too much, so they just check out, and do everything they can to protect themselves from feelings or emotions. On some level binging is sort of the same thing : They go off in that food trance, and are free from their feelings for a while. For a while, that is.

" I never know if it's best to leave her alone or keep trying to talk but I end up leaving her be and work in another room on my computer or watch TV elsewhere. "

I suspect she understands that this is a problem for you. And would admit that she understands during the better moments you guys share. So during those better moments, perhaps you guys could make a contract or something, where you agree to have…maybe 5 minutes or so when you will speak to each other, when she's in the middle of one of her withdrawing spells ?

Because at some point she's going to need to start making some kind of effort to fight this stuff. You rcan't reasonably be expected to hang around if she doesn't . If she's making an honest effort to get better that's one thing, but if she's OK with just rolling with it now…where does that leave you ? What has she provided you with to support ? You love her of course, but then again, perhaps you know what I mean ?

Of course she might urge you to leave, but that would be kind of a cop out her part. Like she loves ED more than she loves you ?

I bet she would not want to find herself saying that, you know ?

She might say that she doesn't want to be a burden on you, as many people with EDs feel that way too. But that brings us back to whether she's making any sort of organized effort to fight this or not. If she's fighting it, then there are reasons for us to put up with the bad times. If they aren't, then that's different.

Anyhow, just some thoughts.

Keep writing ?

Bob J.

BobJ48
Locks.

This is probably a bit off topic, but I'm on another forum, for people who have EDs themselves, and are not necessarily trying to recover. There was a topic where someone mentioned that their mom had put a lock on their fridge.

Here are the responses in order :

" My husband has always threatened to put a lock on the fridge during my bulimic phases. I kind of wish he'd do it."

"I agree I wish My husband had a lock on our fridge! "

" there are so many times i wish there was a lock on the fridge. "

Would these folks throw a fit, and accuse their partners of not loving them if they actually did that ? Most likely they would be really angry. And really, it's *nothing* that I would recommend as it might imply that you are interested in controlling and perhaps bullying her. I mentioned it mostly to show how despite outward appearances, many people are often of two minds about their situation, which is a thing that's important to remember.

drlemur
Control

Yeah that is a very good point. In her good times she often asks me to stop her binging but I'm sure if I actually did it would be a nightmare. I've never sought to control her or bully her about this issue in any way. The most I've ever done is while taking too many --------- I've said "Please don't take too much.. how about a few less this time. I don't want you to hurt yourself or be in pain." The thing is once she actually responded by taking less and another time she took more almost to spite me. So it's never easy to know what to say.. or when to keep quiet.

BobJ48
To spite you.

I suspect she felt bad about that later, but it really goes to illustrate why this sort of thing is labeled as mental illness. That sounds like a cold and condemning term I know, but at the same time, the way EDs cause otherwise-good people to act in such irrational ways is something that's hard to ignore.

It's good to keep in mind the control thing though. The urges they have are directly related to that, but expressed in some pretty dysfunctional ways. Even so, I think that all of us are comforted by the primal thought that we are controlling certain aspects of our life. It's something that's just human I think.

How the food and weight thing gets so incredibly associated with the concept of control is probably a whole other topic, but somehow it does, and has imprinted itself in the person's brain with an intensity that becomes resistant to logic.

Even their own logic, you know ?

"I've said "Please don't take too much.. how about a few less this time. I don't want you to hurt yourself or be in pain."

Well yes, and that would seem to be a logical thing to say. But remember what I said about trying to put yourself in their shoes, when trying to craft a response ? And how it might take mindfulness and practice ?

" I know things must feel pretty out of control right now, so I can understand why you might feel like taking those. "

OK, that sounds like you're trying to be Dr Phil or something I know, but still, you might try something like that next time, and see what response you get. While it might not stop her from proceeding, it would show her that you're starting to get it, and that's always a good thing I think. And sometimes can open up new areas of conversation.