National Eating Disorders Association

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Feeling Helpless & Guilty

Hello, I am writing as I am confused and I am also needing to organize my thoughts, but also would like some input from fellow people more familiar with this that I am. I met this woman last July and things were electric/karmic I would say. There was an instant attraction and warmth to one another. There was certainly a bond in some same pattern of the past for sure. About 4 weeks into our relationship we were at a restaurant and she had eaten what I seemed to be a bit much, and I could tell her body was not responding well to the situation. She removed herself from the table and went to the bathroom for about 15 minutes. She came back and her body language was completely different and a sense of relief seemed to have come over her, like she was almost high in some way. My instincts kicked in and I was very aware something had shifted in her energy. I thought I wonder if there is something going on her I am not being told about. Sure enough I did some deep research while she was asleep and put all the dots together and thought I think this could be it. Later that night she woke up and we actually broached the subject and she admitted that she has anorexia and bulimia and has been dealing with it since age of 14. She is now 40, almost 41. We continued to date and proceed and I told her I was not sure how to handle all of this or if I could, but I was certainly interested in researching, exploring and assisting if needed and could be done. A few more random dates, a few more trips to the bathroom, one day she did not eat for over 48 hours except some type of food. I started seeing the red flag conductor come out and warn me this is serious and I am not equipped to handle the severity of this. But, I stayed as there is a very serious attraction to her personality and smile etc. There was some more exposure over the next couple of months, but as if about Mid September she just froze up and pulled away. She was back on Match, we got into some difficult communication and bumps in the road and she basically shut this relationship down and was seeking another within 48 hours of a fight. I wrote her a letter suggesting she get help and gave her a resource, found some therapist and have been doing extensive research. However, I feel that I am simply doing the surface work for her and she is not about facing the seriousness of what is going on. I then found out about the end of September that she has been taking medication everyday since she was 15 along side of all of this. It seems she has been prescribed for Narcolepsy. I cannot discount the need for that, but it sure seems a coincidence that it works so well for her eating disorder and that no attempt is being made at alternative choices for a chronic medical condition such as narcolepsy. I am clearly not a Dr, but it seems to fit together to well in her narrative. I am terribly concerned for her. She is very underweight, her body has suffered extreme malnutrition, she has that fine downy hair on her arms and legs, headaches, dizzy, nausea all the time, migraines, and a host of other symptoms that lead to extreme signs of malnutrition. Our relationship has ended, but I ruminate and completely bounce back and forth to letting it go, to extreme guilt. She was lying to me in the relationship about her situation, about other men, and about many things. I can't help but feel guilty, lost and confused as to why she would just up and leave and say no more. When out of her very own lips were the words, I love you, never met anyone like you, want to do this with you, and so much sign of affection while at the same time completely being deceitful, dishonest and hurtful. We don't communicate anymore, and I worry she may simply stay in her realm for the rest of her life and there is nothing I can do. She did say one last thing that she was going to get help but on her terms! That felt to me like an addict saying I can control this and will work it out. One thing I do know is when it comes to mental health is you cannot do your own open heart surgery of if you do it requires some serious tenacity and effort.. Should I just let this go? Is she really in trouble and I just cannot see it? Is she capable of being in a relationship and truly loving someone? I am so confused.. thanks


Hi! We hope that you’re able to get the support you deserve here on the forums! When you get the chance, please take a look at our community guidelines here: you're not communicating with her you did mention that she was experiencing some concerning symptoms and we want to post some signs and symptoms of a medical emergency: The following are just some of the signs of a serious problem that demands immediate medical attention:

  • accidentally or deliberately caused themselves a physical injury
  • become suicidal
  • confused thinking and is not making any sense
  • delusions (false beliefs) or hallucinations (experiencing things that aren’t there)
  • disoriented; doesn’t know what day it is, where they are or who they are
  • vomiting several times a day or has uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhea
  • experiencing dizziness or fainting spells
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  • painful muscle spasms
  • experience pain in the lower legs
  • complaining of chest pain or having trouble breathing
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If anyone experiences anything above, we highly recommend seeking help from a medical professional as soon as possible. Seek medical help soon on an outpatient basis if you:

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Hey there Blue J.

Oh brother, this has got to be so confusing ! Here she is, with the "I love you" and "I've never meant anyone like you" and then, rather than things becoming more emotionally intimate, instead she shuts the thing down. And being the sort of person we are, somehow we're not supposed to be worried ?

Having said that, I must tell you, after reading literally thousands of posts from partners over the years, this "pulling away" thing is the number one thing that partners show up to talk about. So yeah, it's super common, and it's not because of anything wrong that you did. Unless caring, and wanting to know more about the person can be called wrong, that is.

This is a dilemma for them too. They understand that if they have a partner that cares, they ARE going to care about the eating disorder. I read messages from people who have EDs themselves, and they complain when they have dull-witted partners who don't care. And yet here they are, caught in this condition which A) serves as a coping method, and B) which seems unsolvable. They hate the idea of being a burden on anyone, and feel bad enough about their situation as it is, and so the best solution can seem like withdrawing from the relationship altogether.

Maybe the next time they'll get some guy and they simply won't tell them anything. That would make things simpler, you know ? But I'm sure you can imagine how that usually works out.

So yeah, a person's brain is not fully formed until they are 25, and she's had this stuff obsessively swirling around in her head since she was 14. It's probably no wonder that it's etched itself in and has stuck with her. And that "getting better" may take a whole lot of work, when a person's become all wired up like that.

I'm not sure what to tell you, as far as what to do. As you may be finding, it can be pretty easy to find ourselves falling into that "rescuing" mindset. Which to be frank, really does show that we are a good-hearted person. But it's been my experience that the "Love is all you need" cure rarely works.

It's the person themselves who has to get over this. Can we be supportive, and will it help ? I believe we can. But as you found, the person has to willingly provide us with something to support.

And that can be where the rub is.

Bob J.



Thank you for responding. Your words mean a lot as you have much more experience than I do in these arenas. I hear what you are saying and yes, it seems painfully clear to me that this has been going on for some time in her life and I suspect due to some trauma and or happenings from a younger age. I don't know her past well, but am aware of some issues that certainly could have induced this behavior. I can see that person inside just beaming with life and she exists now as if a (wet, wool sock is smothering) her whole perception of life itself.

I understand that she must be the one to fix it, and she has no support system or family that will be aware enough to encourage change, and I certainly do not believe the environment she lives in is any kind of catalyst for pushing for a healthier space. I truly felt, that something brought us together and that it would so beautiful if she could see that the man that just walked into her life is compassionate, caring and completely desirous for her health and well being.

I know I cannot be with her and enable her and choose to say, "ok this if your lifestyle" let us continue to move forward. I simply cannot be in that much pain watching her slowly harm herself everyday. While on the other hand, stepping away feels like abandonment to me as so many people have done in her life. I am caught because my feelings for her romantically are still tragically entangled in the mesh of our situation, but along side of that I want to be able to step out of that alignment and be a stronger man and give her the unconditional support she needs. However, I am still so hurt and broken from the lies and deceit thrown at me with any regard for our (shared feelings) that I believed were so very real.

Sometimes, I worry that I am being taken advantage of by my caring, empathy and walked on and it is a way to control the relationship and or her life. Maybe it is a way for her to keep control of me and everything around her. Maybe until she decides, I cannot live like this anymore I seriously need to change cause that is no longer working. No matter what anyone says or does, until she is ready to make a commitment and release all control and trust that a higher source of energy can bring her around- I am stuck in silence.

I fear even reaching out and sending her more literature I have done and researched. I have been reading about this for weeks and weeks now and somewhat becoming a bit obsessive as it relieves my pain and sadness that we are no longer. However, I guess I must commit to a boundary within myself.

Again, thanks for the kind words. It truly does help me understand a bit better and to know this is a common thread among ED individuals lessens the sting. But, I still cringe that she quit on us so quickly and walked away from what seemed to be a very supportive male in her life that has been rare in her journey.

Back at you…Our good nature.


Situations like this can be emotionally entangling alright, so I'm sending you all my sympathies for that part. And I know about the reading too. I literally had to build a new bookshelf at one point. I'm not sure how much I learned that I was able to practically apply - when it comes to how people actually recover, as you may be seeing, that part often gets kind of vague. But a person can get a general outline of the condition, so that part is good, and…well….at least it feels like we are doing something, even if it's just reading books.

You wrote :

"... it would so beautiful if she could see that the man that just walked into her life is compassionate, caring and completely desirous for her health and well being. "

Indeed. That sounds like something that anyone might want. And there were all of those positive things in the beginning. So it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense when they begin acting as though they see the good parts you listed as some kind of threat instead.

But the thing is, their eating disorder sees it as a threat. If one is willing to personify a disorder that way.

I mentioned that this scenario is common, and the way it goes is generally like this : Everything is wonderful between the two people in the beginning, and things look like they are heading in a loving direction. Until the beans get spilled about the ED, that is. The fellow is concerned and compassionate, but it's almost like the more they care, the more the pushing-away thing happens.

And it's because the person's ED feels threatened by all the concern, and fights to perserve itself. Or however one cares to frame it.

The scenario can be different if the person truly wants to get better, and they have some shreds of hope that recovery actually might be possible for them. Allowing themselves to have some hope; that seems to be what makes the difference.

But if their ED is ingrained to the point where they believe that it's going to be with them forever, well, I think you are seeing how it can be. Having a partner who is eager to see things get better is not always something that they can emotionally welcome.

And you are right, it is kind of tragic. They may want a relationship, but having one in which everything is out on the table…it can feel like too much for them. So it's a sad thing for sure, and can leave us feeling helpless as well.

Taking care of our own mental health in situations like these is important as well. Just writing some words on some website may not seem like much, but I'm glad that you have, and hope it feels like it's helping a little.

Bob J


Sometimes escape from an emotionally damaging relationship is a blessing. Maybe you are meant to meet a healthier partner.

Sending best wishes.



Thanks for your comments and information. I have talked with a few therapist to get through some of this. I will share this in my discovery.

When this woman first admitted to her ED with me during a stay at a hotel. It was very interesting how she treated me. The issue became me leaving the relationship and her anger that I may leave and so our focus became that and not the ED itself. It was very sad to me, as we never discussed the Elephant in the Room so to speak. Now looking back on my experience with her I found myself navigating my behavior to work around her ED. There was never again a discussion about her making a choice to finding a solution. It simply became now part of "our" relationship and I found myself asking her..

Did you eat enough? What would you like? Did you drink any water today? Did you eat today? Try these vegetable drinks? I found I was no simply working around something that is very serious and she never once said.. Maybe I should take a look at this as a I am certainly not coming into this relationship with the healthiest frame of mind..

My point being is that now the relationship was all about controlling my behavior around a very serious mental condition that pervaded the relationship fully. I am understanding at the depths at which she is struggling now. It is very deep and very much a part of her so much so that she talks about it freely with me when we were together accepting as a way of life.

I now see how much she raged at me when ever I tried to approach her about the seriousness of it and she never again engaged in taking any responsibility in the relationship or her behavior and I now see everything was my fault and I was made responsible for it ending..

I think my point it as much as I wanted to believe that she was engaging with me on a pure healthy level, I was unaware of how much this was truly controlling her and how much control she needed in EVERYTHING in her life, including her partner.

I am still sad, and frustrated as I thought I saw someone peeking out at times that was just simply amazing to be around.. But I got devalued, discarded and pushed away...

Thanks for all the help..

I have not had communication in over 3 weeks and I doubt I will hear from her and I suspect that her journey has not shifted and won't until she admits the seriousness of her mental state..

I hope she does, I really do - there is more out there in life..

It is sad when you only dance in the brown and black hues of the crayon box, when there are so many other colors of life to experience..

I miss her..

Blue J - Control.

"...I was unaware of how much this was truly controlling her and how much control she needed in EVERYTHING in her life, including her partner…"

Yes, at their heart, EDs are about control. And really, don't we all want to be in control ?

But with EDs the whole subject can become pathological. And folks lose the ability to be flexible. And things can really start to get bad when the person begins to realize that they are really no longer in control - It's the ED that is in control of them.

Three weeks is a long time I know. And it's likely to be longer. Because it does sound like your relationship with her was challenging to her eating disorder in ways that she could no longer tolerate.

Hopefully things will finally turn in a good direction for her, and you'll hear from her again sometime. But it sounds like she's off on her own voyage now, and all one can do is wish her good luck