National Eating Disorders Association

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mountainsmts
I don't know what's right and what's wrong

My girlfriend and I have been together for 7 months. We're both 17, and she has an eating disorder. She told me about it around the end of the summer, and its been difficult for us to deal with. More so for me to deal with I guess. She's not underweight, but she expresses a desire to be underweight. She feels she can't get help until she gets to that point. It scares me so much. Even the fact that she has it at all now scares me. The threat of losing her brings me so much anxiety. As a result I feel constantly obligated to worry about her and feel as though the disorder will take her away from me. She has told me repeatedly that she does not want help yet. She mostly just doesnt want help because she doesnt want her parents to know and mess everything up more, and i do agree with that but im still greatly concerned about her. I have allowed my self to kind of step back and realize that I dont need to be responsible for her, and that i don't need to worry about her constantly, but I just dont know when is appropriate to express concern. I want to encourage her to eat more, while at the same time letting her be responsible for this, but I dont know how to balance the two. It feels like i either need to not care at all and never check up on her, or be constantly worried and push her to make the decision to eat. Sometimes I ask if she's had anything to eat for the day, or ask if she's had breakfast, and sometimes she says no, and I just don't know what to do after that. What immediately comes to my head is to express that I wish she would have eaten something, but that seems as though it would only hurt her. I dont know exactly what I expect to gain out of posting this, but i guess I'm just looking for some more guidance. Ive read different guides on helping a partner with an eating disorder, but none of them answer all of my questions. Theres just so much im unsure about.

BobJ48
What to do….

Mountains,

Yes, figuring out a helpful approach…I guess I don't have to tell you how confusing that can be. When there seem to be so many factors to try and balance out.

And just to say, the seemingly contrary concerns and attitudes she expresses are not uncommon at all. On the one hand, she doesn't want to burden or be a bother to anyone, but on the other hand, the only way she feels she'll be worthy of getting the help that it seems she understands she will need, is if she gets even more deeply into her ED than she is now, and really gets sick. Which of course will really alarm her parents, and with good reason.

The other danger in this help-getting strategy is that the longer she lets this stuff etch itself into her brain, the harder and harder it will be for her to get quit of it, once she does decide its' time to get help. So yeah, the whole " I don't deserve help until I've made myself a whole lot sicker" (which is a *very* common belief among people with EDs) is not a good approach to this at all.

And you are right : How are we supposed to express our concern in any sort of way that will seem helpful to them ? "Gosh, I wish you would eat"…you've probably figured out how helpful comments like that are likely to be. Stuff like that just makes them feel guilty or ashamed. Which is not the greatest motivator.

My approach is to try and be understanding, and see if I can put myself in their shoes. Because people with EDs can feel really alone with the thoughts they are having. " I know it must be difficult to think that you aren't worthy of help." "I know that people can feel like they are losing control they allow themselves to eat." "I can understand where you don't want to bother your parents with this."

None of that is going to help them to eat of course, but there is value in believing that someone else understands some of the thoughts they are trying to deal with. And might help her express and confront some of her fears and feelings.

Rather than "fixing", it's more of a support thing, you know ?

Anyhow, just some suggestions. If you have more questions, or it seems to help just to vent, I do hope that you will keep writing.