National Eating Disorders Association

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Girlfriend with bulimia

Hey guys,

So this is actually my first time posting on a blog or in a community like this, so i'm a little nervous.... let me first introduce myself and my girlfriend: We are both from the Netherlands and we've met at highschool in 2013 when we were just 14 years old. When I met my girlfriend she was having trouble with being bullied and she allready had a light form of bulimia. After a couple months she got rid of it by herself and she was healthy for a couple of years until we both went to university. Slowly but surely it returned unfortunately. However, she allways managed to controll her "disease".

Since november 2019 however, her situation got worse.... she started getting massive eating frenzies which was the cause of her throwing up multiple times each day. At the beginning of januari she opened up to eveyone close to her, about being really ill, and being in need of professional help.

Since that time, I've been trying be with her as much as I can. Of course, sometimes it is simply not possible to be with her, however we did go for a week of skiing together, and after that we were a full week together by ourselves.

At the beginning of the period where her situation got out of hand, I felt like I was kinda in control of the situation. However, right now I'm starting to feel like I'm losing grip because every bit of enerty I put into her feels like it doesn't help at all, sometimes maybe even work against her persuit of eating normal again.

The reason I write this is because I'm pretty much losing track of my own mental state. I do want to be happy towards her and I do want to cheer her up as much as possible. However, looking back at the past couple of weeks, it doesn't seem like anything i've tried to do for her, made any difference. This means that I've reached the point where I do not know anymore how to help her properly, which is why I've come here.

If there is no response to my post at all, it'll be allright. Just putting my story out here helps me a lot personally. However, if someone has any tips or do's and don'ts for me, just to be able to help my girlfriend as much as possible, I'll be very happy to hear them.

Yours sincerely,


Hey Vincent,

Eating disorders are difficult things. You mentioned that she's had some bulimia issues when she was 14, and you are probably right in thinking that it was connected with the helplessness she felt over being bullied. Eating disorders can give people a feeling of control, and bullying is something that can cause people to feel like they have no control.

As you have seen though, EDs can return, and when they do, instead of giving the person a sense of control, it can be just the opposite, and can turn into a cycle that's really hard for them to escape.

"... now I'm starting to feel like I'm losing grip because every bit of energy I put into her feels like it doesn't help at all, sometimes maybe even work against her persuit of eating normal again."

Yes, it really can feel like nothing we do is helping. And like the whole thing is beyond our control. Kind of like it must feel to her as well. Like the ED has taken over.

"...I write this is because I'm pretty much losing track of my own mental state. "

Yes, I understand, and you are not alone in feeling this way. In life we are accustomed to our efforts making a difference, and when they don't seem to be doing anything at all, we really can begin to question ourselves. And even question reality sometimes.

One thing which may help is to try and accept what you can and cannot do. We would like to think we can rescue the person and make them better, but changes like that can be out of our hands. We can also think that "Love is all you need"…but often that doesn't work either. So things like this can challenge a lot of our assumptions about life, and leave us feeling unsettled and questioning things.

But if we can't cure the person, does that mean that there is nothing we can do ? And that none of our efforts are making a difference ? Often we like to see things in black or white : either we are helping, or we are useless. But that's a way of seeing things that we need to guard against I think, even though it can be human nature for us to see things that way.

What I mean is, I do believe that you are helping, even if it doesn't seem like you are. And while we can't fix them, I believe that we can be supportive of them during their difficult times. We have to be prepared for the person seeming discouraged, but we can't let that discourage us.

But you are right :Sometimes we can need help ourselves too, so I'm glad that you took the time to write here. I know that this note may not have contained much in the way of magic solutions, but just being able to talk to someone else who has a feeling for what we are going through can help I think.

So I do hope that you can keep writing.

Bob J.

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