National Eating Disorders Association

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The Struggle Is Real - GF has bulimia and found out last night

Hard to say where to begin or even what to write. This has been a struggle and it hasn't even been a full 24 hours. Sorry for the length of the post, its just that I don't know of anyone that has gone through this, and I learned about this forum from calling the hotline.

Earlier this week I went to bed and woke up to find my girlfriend of two years standing by the coat closet digging through her purse in the middle of the night. I thought it was odd and questioned what she was doing and she responded that she was checking the front door to make sure it was locked. She was inebriated, and we have a smart lock that notifies you when the lock has changed from locked to unlocked. I didn't receive a notification, thought it was odd, and went to sleep. When I woke up, I couldn't get rid of that nagging feeling that something wasn't right. That my gut was telling me that something was off. I went to her purse and found laxatives. This isn't the first time that I had found it, and even though I'm a nurse, I did not realize about laxative abuse in bulimics. Fast forward three days, and every morning, I woke up, counted the pills, and realizing that she was taking them after I went to bed or during work the next day. I suspect this has been occurring for YEARS, we went to Disney right before it shut down in March, and I found an empty pill sheet inside an item that we used then. I have no idea how long this has been going on.

Last night, I told her that I knew of the laxative abuse, that I was concerned for her health, and listed the symptoms or behaviors that I was concerned about. She always goes to the bathroom after dinner and I have brought this up several times during our 2 years together. She gaslighted me, making me think that I am delusional and crazy. I stood my ground last night, even when asking about the laxatives she lied and told me its a once in a blue moon type of thing. When I told her that I knew it was going on for several days this week, that is when I encountered the full shut down. She only admitted a problem when I said that I hope I was wrong about my beliefs/concerns.

Since last night she will barely talk to me and won't look at me. We live together (a house that I purchased) and she will not be in the same room as me. It is incredibly sad. I don't know what to do right now. Not to detract too much, but my last relationship ended when I found my girlfriend cheating on me with my boss. Needless to say that I no longer work at that company, but that trust is a huge foundation of which I value in relationships, and I have had that conversation with my current girlfriend.

She won't talk to me about normal things: work, the dog, how her day went - nothing. She gives short, terse answers, and says that she needs time, which I am willing to give. She wants an open ended, no goal date for this moratorium and I would not budge on that boundary, which I feel like is important. She, as far as I know, is not interested in therapy or talking to anyone, and has told me that I am the only person to know (which I take with a grain of salt). She says that she will never forgive me if I tell anyone about this without her permission, and I told her that I will not live without a support structure of my own and I will not make that promise. That I have no idea what I am talking about. It seems to me that she is trying to wrest the control of her secret back, now that it has been exposed. I don't know if her family is a trigger or not, and they are halfway across the country. Nor do I know if they know.

I feel stupid for not questioning this sooner, I am a nurse. I asked questions about the little things that didn't add up, but I never put two and two together for the bigger picture. The chapped lips (allergies/climate change from move), the sores/bruising on the back of her hands (manual labor), the constant going to the bathroom after dinner (IBS), constantly being cold (just normal). I saw another post on here that said poor wound healing is a major concern and that is something that is occurring right now. She constantly gets nicks and scraps on her shins and ankles, picks at them, and they will not heal. She is supposed to go for an OB/GYN visit next week and does not have a PCP. As far as I know she has never had blood work done.

Part of me is writing so I can get this all out there and take a deep breath. I am incredibly grateful for anyone that reads it, let alone offers anything in return. I understand that this is the beginning of a journey and I do not know how long it will go for or where it will take me. I will be learning as much as possible, and have immense respect for anyone that is going through this or worse.

I am so sorry

I think your gf might be feeling exposed and might be terrified of other people find out. Maybe she isn't ready for help yet. I'm not sure what the best course of action would be. I'm sorry about you being cheated on. Have you thought about talking to a therapist yourself?


Sure have, and it did wonders for the previous relationship. I'm looking to go back and discuss this with my therapist as I stopped going cause things were better. We've had some progress today, she's at least talking and wanting to be with me. Though she is "triggered" (or at least that's what I think) if she sees me looking up articles or reading about ED. This isn't something that I'm going to sweep under the rug, and I won't force it on her either. Trying to do my part to be prepared and learn to support.

That's progress

I think she'll slowly start opening up, but it could be a while. Perhaps she's shocked she has been found out, and those secrets are huge fears. Sometimes those suffering feel bad they're hurting the ones they love and don't know how to explain it. Sufferers don't want others to know or worry about them. I suffered for 30 years, so I can have an idea of her thoughts. Keep me posted on what happens. It's a really great thing for you to get the support you'll need. My husband just being there and going through intense treatment (inpatient at the hospital a few times,residential a few times, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient at a day program a few times, and then outpatient once a week a few times) and not feeling pressured to have to eat as well as therapy and my faith have really helped me recover. I hope that helps to hear. I wish you the best.

Hey Chuck.

Oh boy, what a situation huh ? For her, and for you both, it sounds like.

For her, it was her secret thing, and now she's busted. When it's your secret, you can put off coming to terms with things But now that someone else knows…you saw how unsettled she was, and how unsettled she'll probably be for a while.

People who do laxatives generally know its' a bad thing, and which that they weren't hooked on them. With the bulimia they can want to keep doing it, but it's not uncommon that they feel shame. about it.

The general feeling among the ED tribe is that boyfriends will find out sooner or later, so she knows she should not feel angry at your.

But yeah, she didn't expect all this to happen so abruptly, so she may not know what to do next, because sheproably can't just turn it off.

Keep in touch, OK. As I suspect you are finding, this stuff can be complicated, with no easy answers, and you're just a couple of days into it.

Her too, for this new stage in things.

Thank You

Thank you both for your words and thoughts around this. I think she is definitely coming to terms with the fact that now someone knows. I found out, little by little that this has been an on going thing for a fairly long time, and her best friend introduced it to her (her best friend was anorexic).

She's trying to go cold turkey right now and be really strong about it, but I can see that it is getting to her. She's having a lot of anxiety and wants to eat but is afraid of the binge and the purge that must closely follow. I keep telling her that I'm here for her, no judging, no shame, just love and support. I'm hoping we can get in touch with some therapists tomorrow, she did do some searching on her own and found some, so it is a step in the right direction.

Thanks again for the words and reading my post.

Hi chuckdiesel, thank you for

Hi chuckdiesel, thank you for posting. We’re sorry to hear about this difficult time. We hope the forums can be a supportive space for you, as you support her in turn. You mentioned some medical symptoms your girlfriend has experienced. 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
  • too weak to walk or collapses
  • painful muscle spasms
  • experience pain in the lower legs
  • complaining of chest pain or having trouble breathing
  • blood in their bowel movements, urine or vomit
  • a body mass index (BMI) of less than 16
  • an irregular heartbeat, and fast heartbeat, or very low heart beat (less than 50 beats per minute)
  • cold or clammy skin indicating a low body temperature or has a body temperature of less than 35 degrees Celsius/95 degrees Fahrenheit
  • experience dizziness, nausea, fever
  • wounds/cuts heal slowly
  • feel tingling in the hands or feet
  • blurred vision

Seek medical help soon on an outpatient basis if she:

  • have significant heartburn and/or a burning sensation after eating
  • have other gastrointestinal concerns
  • have high blood pressure
  • struggle with significant joint or muscle pain
  • have difficulty sleeping (falling and/or remaining asleep)
  • struggle with fatigue, sudden weight gain, and/or hair loss
  • have frequent urination or unquenchable thirst
  • have gained and lost significant weight repeatedly
  • have gained significant weight in a short period of time
  • struggle with chronic diarrhea or constipation

We recommend that your girlfriend seeks medical attention whenever possible. The NEDA Helpline phone line can be reached for help finding resources at 1-800-931-2237 (Monday-Thursday 11:00am-9:00pm, Friday 11:00am-5:00pm EST). Helpline chat hours are Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM ET and Friday 9AM to 5PM ET. Please take care, and we wish you the best.

You're welcome

I'm encouraged to hear things are slowly progressing. It definitely takes time and a lot of hard work. It's good you are there for her. It makes a world of difference. Keep us posted.

Good Sign.


The fact that she seems open to therapy is a really good sign. Lots of people are terrified at the idea, and don't want to have anything to do with the idea of giving up their behaviors, so the idea that she seems to be beyond that stage is worth being cautiously encouraged by.

From a practical standpoint, she may have difficulties going cold turkey with the laxatives - people's systems can develop a dependency on them, so if she has issues in the regard, try not to be too discouraged, as it would not be unusual if she finds herself having problems going off of them.

As you may be finding from your reading, all this stuff can be psychologically tangled up with the issue of "being in control". And who of us feels comfortable with the idea of not being in control ? No one that I know of. So it can be really unsettling for the person if they don't have their old behaviors to turn to when they feel stressed about things. Which…the idea of having to recover is going to feel stressful.

Perhaps you see what I'm getting at. People with EDs are accustomed to being instinctively strict and self-judgmental about their eating habits, and so one of the changes that may be difficult for her is giving herself permission to be gentle and self-forgiving with herself when she does eat, as well as when she has some slip-ups.

Which are likely to happen. Learning to deal with them while trying to keep the old forms of self-condemnation at bay, is a big part of recovery too.


Makes sense BobJ. I'm having some trouble (and working to get in with my therapist) over her words vs actions. While she says she wants help and I've provided some resources for her to look at when she wants to, there is no action. She was supposed to go to the OB/GYN tomorrow for an annual, her period just started, and the appointment has to be pushed back several months. This is an atypical cycle (I know that can be a side effect of the disease), it just feels too convenient. How do I approach the truth vs the old habits where she lied/gaslight about things that she didn't want to do?

There also seems to be an uptick in not eating at all and wanting to exercise, which now has me worried over the reverse of what was happening. At least before there was some caloric intake where as now there is little to none.

Chuck -

"There also seems to be an uptick in not eating at all and wanting to exercise, which now has me worried over the reverse of what was happening. At least before there was some caloric intake where as now there is little to none. "

Yes, and this is not surprising. EDs are a way for people to cope with stress, and now that someone else knows, and she understands that she may have to do something about her situation…now there's this new and threatening source of stress. Plus, as perhaps you've read, EDs are also about control. And when things seem like they may be slipping out of her control, then it's not uncommon to see behaviors ramp up then as well. So yeah, if it seems like her behaviors are increasing, it's probably not your imagination.

Plus when the subject of getting help comes up, there's this whole big thing about "I'm not sick enough to deserve help yet." This is a *really* common thought too. So sometimes people will purposely "get worse" so that they can finally feel that they are worthy of getting kl help. This may not be what's going on with her now - that part often comes once they've realized that they have a problem. What you are seeing now may be primarily a stress reaction, and from her ED feeling threatened.

Is she doing this stuff just to be difficult ? It would be wrong to believe that I think.

In the beginning EDs are about exerting control, but as time passes things get to the point where it's the ED that's in control instead. It can take people a while to realize that, but once they do, it can be the beginning of a new stage in their eating disorder. The contradictory nature of the whole thing can cause the person to feel depressed, and often desperate. Which, if EDs are about control, their symptoms can often get worse then too. So it can turn into one of those "snake eating it's own tail" sorts of paradoxical things, where what they do to try and feel batter is the same thing that was making them feel worse.

"How do I approach the truth vs the old habits where she lied/gaslight about things that she didn't want to do? "

On the message boards woman often talk about this. About how they would lie to their partners in order to try and hide their ED. The general consensus among "the tribe" is that this is something that you aren't going to be wanting to do for any sort of prolonged period of time, and that sooner or later it's best to come clean about what your situation is. Because what : lying to someone who cares about you is what that person deserves, simply for caring ? Most people come to the conclusion that that's unfair to their partner, and is just playing into the hands of their ED.

So my guess is that you're going to be seeing some changes - ones which may involve a certain amount of emotional chaos and distress, as she tries to make sense of her situation. The urge is always going to be to keep doing exactly what she's doing though, because it's her way of coping with stress and disorder. So you may continue to see more of that.

But yes, what she decides to do with these new realizations….you may need to be patient with her as she tries to work that part out.

And moves on to the next stage, which is being able to say, "Yes, I do have a problem".

She still may have a ways to go before she gets there, but sooner or later folks usually do.

But again, you may need to be patient.