National Eating Disorders Association

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alyki8
My girlfriend's fresh diagnosis

Hello everyone,

I am a new member of this forum. Unfortunately, my girlfriend was today diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I was pretty shattered by this news, as I imagine many partners/spouses are. I feel somewhat culpable - I should have noticed, I should have acted earlier, I should have helped. I know these are all irrational thoughts and that it is not my fault, but I feel them nonetheless.

My girlfriend verbalised to me about a month ago that she was struggling with eating. She said that if in one month's time she hadn't reached a specified weight (she did not tell me what this was) she would seek professional health. True to her word she did so and received the diagnosis. I know that in the past she has also struggled with anxiety, self-harm and depressive episodes.

We are both in our final year of high school. It has been an incredibly stressful year in terms of school work, friendships etc. She is particularly susceptible to stress. We were also in lockdown due to Covid-19 for approximately three months meaning that we missed all of that face-to-face school. This was a period of time in which she lost a lot of weight, isolated herself socially and struggled with mental health. Oftentimes, I was the ONLY person that she would talk to outside of her family. I am grateful that she felt comfortable enough to communicate honestly but it was oftentimes pretty frightening.

I am the only person outside of her family that knows of this issue. I am trying to be diligent about how I can best support her and have been reading up all afternoon about the disorder itself, different methods of support, recovery time and techniques. I have come to this forum, however, to ask specifically if anyone has been in a similar situation. Has anyone had to deal with their final year of school, all the stress that comes with that, and an unwell loved one? Or being the sole non-familial supporter? The other thing I am concerned about is maintaining an equal and loving relationship alongside a mental illness. She also received a fairly early diagnosis - how can I help her slipping further into the grips of this illness?

I am not sure of what demographic uses this forum (I imagine it is varied), but I hope that you all can understand that despite being young, I really think that this girl is the one for me. I love her so dearly and it pains me greatly to see her suffering. I want to help in whatever ways I can because this relationship and this person mean the world to me. I am in for the long haul.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank-you xx

BobJ48
Diagnosis

Not that many normies are familiar with EDs, so I'm glad you understand that it's OK that it took a while to figure it out. I think everyone wishes they'd figured it out sooner, so you're not alone in that.

And just to say, it's pretty impressive that she got herself diagnosed. You didn't mention if she was going to move forward with therapy though. Has she taken steps towards doing that do you think ?

" I am trying to be diligent about how I can best support her and have been reading up all afternoon about the disorder itself, different methods of support, recovery time and techniques."

Good that you're doing this reading. Not very many guys make that sort of effort, or would come here to post a message, so that puts you ahead of most guys.

You may have figured out that there's no agreed upon magic bullet that cures people either. People really do get better, but the reasons for getting better are often quite individual. So us being able to "fix" the person…it's not really something that we can expect of ourselves. Which can lead to feelings of helplessness if we don't get ahold of the right perspective.

But it doesn't mean there's nothing we can do either. People with EDs often have other issues in their lives that lead to all of this food and weight concern. Worries about not being "good enough" as a person, various other things that happened to them in their past, lots of personal self-doubts just in general. People are often alone with those feelings, and someone to talk to about those things can make a difference I think. So it's good that the two of you are able to talk. It means that you're helping out already.

Anyhow, just some brief thoughts. This stuff can get convoluted, so keep writing if it seems to help ?

BobJ

alyki8
Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for responding, I really appreciate it. It was very comforting to read what you were saying about not being able to "fix" someone. I totally get what you mean and I think I will just have to continue working to establish those boundaries between what is within my power/my responsibility and what is actually the responsibility of her family/a professional.

Yes she is starting therapy this week and, yes, I am very proud of her for visiting the doctors under her own steam. She has always been very brave and straightforward.

If you wouldn't mind, I just have one other question that has kind of come up in the last few days - sometimes when she gets to a really low place, she will lash out or be really cold. She has told me that she does this in order to 'protect' me and because she doesn't feel worthy of friends. I know it is only coming from a place of insecurity, not malice, but I still find it really tricky to navigate. It definitely hurts when she becomes super flippant/callous/mean. Have you ever experienced something like that? How do you navigate it?

Thank you once again. It is so helpful being able to type all this out and send it off, if only because it helps me order my thoughts.

dittoditto
The weight of the world

One of the things we have to learn in life is how to empathize but not cure other people. By this I mean we have a responsibility for our own actions. We cannot make someone else do something. We cannot give them the thoughts they should think. We cannot cure them, and it is not our responsibility to even try. We are not doctors.

We can empathize. We can let them know we are sorry they are struggling, but in the end, it is their responsibility to do the work to get better. It is their responsibility to love themselves enough to save themselves. You cannot instill that in them no matter how hard you try. It is their life to live as they want to live it.

Instead, you might want to look into yourself to find out why out of all the mentally healthy girls that are around you, you are choosing to spend time with someone who causes you to worry and to deal with mental illness. That is not a recipe that ends well.

Sending best wishes.

alyki8
Thank you so much for getting

Thank you so much for getting back to me. As I was saying to Bob above, it is so helpful and comforting being able to type out all of my thoughts and engaging with people in similar positions. I really appreciate your time and effort.

"We can let them know we are sorry they are struggling, but in the end, it is their responsibility to do the work to get better"
I think I agree with you on this in principle but I'm finding it hard to implement. Do you think that's really all we can do? Tell them we are sorry and that we are here but otherwise let them fend for themselves? How can we encourage them to love themselves?

"why out of all the mentally healthy girls that are around you, you are choosing to spend time with someone who causes you to worry and to deal with mental illness."
I appreciate your concern and see where you're coming from. Unfortunately, this girl is a keeper lol. I am really committed to making this work, ups and downs aside. She is worth so much more than her mental illness. I also worry that in leaving her I would be leaving her feeling even more worthless/isolated/unloved than she already does (As a result of her insecurities).

_admin_moderator
Resources

Hello, you mentioned that your girlfriend has struggled with self harm so we wanted to provide you with some resources that you can pass along to her in case she may need support:

Please take care!

BobJ48
Lashing out and being cold.

" She has told me that she does this in order to 'protect' me and because she doesn't feel worthy of friends. I know it is only coming from a place of insecurity, not malice, but I still find it really tricky to navigate. It definitely hurts when she becomes super flippant/callous/mean."

Yes, the "worthiness" thing can be big in people with eating disorders. They can feel full of self-hate, and unworthy of love and concern. People with EDs can also be "Hangry" - the sort of cranky mood that people can find themselves in when they haven't been eating enough.

Acting mean, and like she doesn't care about about your feelings is often a way that people try to prove to themselves that they actually are a bad and undeserving person. "Having feelings" ; it's all just so tedious, you know ? So the person can put on a show where they act like they are uncaring. And above any of those boring sorts of feelings. On the eating disorders boards, you'll often see topics like "Are you a bitch?" and people will talk about how terrible of a person they are. When actually they are pretty nice people.

" She has told me that she does this in order to 'protect' me." This is probably true to some degree. She doesn't want you to be disappointed in her, so she works up an act where you actually would have a reason to feel disappointed in her.

Plus the person can be legitimately upset with themselves as a person. So maybe you are seeing some of that too.

While it's convoluted ,it's also probably the most common thing that guys come to ask about. The "pushing away" thing I mean. So you are not the only guy who's found themselves in this same boat. It's an awfully big boat to be honest.

How does a person respond to it though? I'm not sure. But you could say something like, "I know that you're working pretty hard to be a bitch, but I'm not buying it."

Which is kind of the truth, you know ?

Bob J

alyki8
Thanks Bob, you have been so

Thanks Bob, you have been so helpful. I really appreciate it and am glad to hear that this is a common problem.

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