National Eating Disorders Association

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Girlfriend has an ed and says she doesn't deserve to recover or live.

My girlfriend has been fighting anorexia for almost three years now. She recovered once about a year ago but she is on the decline again. She has seen therapists, been hospitalized, and now goes to check-ups weekly at an ED clinic. She recently stopped going to her ED therapist because the therapist "didn't want to talk about anything but her ED." Both I and her mom tried explaining that once she gets through the ED, everything else will follow, but she does not want to listen. Her doctors strongly suggest that she goes into a residential program which would help her, but she is resisting and saying she does not want to go. I want to help her but she does not want to help herself. She has recently told me that she does not want to get better because she does not deserve to. She thinks of herself as a bad person that does not deserve the help.

There is a spot opening up at a residential facility in 3 weeks, and her mom and I are trying to get her to go, but I don't think she will make the choice to go. She says she is scared to go because she will be alone and that terrifies her, but I can't see any other choice. She will have good days where she will eat every meal and helps me to find therapists, but the next day she shuts down; sobbing at the sign of food and not wanting to even talk about therapists and residential. I don't know what to do anymore, because she is riding on a knife's edge and her doctors are saying she is dangerously thin and her heartrate is dangerously low. I am afraid we won't be able to convince her to go to residential and that could be the death of her. Please give me some advice.


Hey there, I'm glad you decided to write.

" She has recently told me that she does not want to get better because she does not deserve to. She thinks of herself as a bad person that does not deserve the help."

I work on a site for people who have EDs, and I can't even tell you the hundreds of times I've heard people say this exact same thing. They are "a bad person", they are unworthy of getting help; so many people with EDs will say these very same things.

Also, like you said about the knife edge situation. They'll have days when they seem be able to feel OK, and then they'll have an emotional wipe out.

As you said, they can be very ambivalent about doing programs. I can pretty much promise you that she knows she's in trouble. And that she's aware that people in her position often end up doing programs. I'm sure she understands that.

But then there's the fear thing. How's it going to be when they maker her gain weight ? What if she turns out to be no good at the program, and turns out to a big failure ? Just the thought of outcomes like that can be emotionally intolerable, and maybe it would be better if she didn't go at all !

So here's the thing : People who are actually bad people…they don't worry about the fact that they're bad. It's only good people who find themselves concerned about that. Is she the sort of person who wants to see unfortunate things happen to other people ? I bet not. And yet people who are actually bad would never worry about such things. She may have depression, but that doesn't mean she is a bad person. She may worry that she's being a burden to others, but that doesn't mean that she's a bad person either. As a person's parents or partner, it's part of our obligation to be concerned about the people we care about. If she had a friend who was in trouble, she'd care about them too. So how bad of a person could she really be ?

As to doing a program or thinking about recovery, she's right. It's possible that things might not work out. Which it's not unreasonable to be afraid of that. But if a person is afraid of even trying, then that pretty much assures that things won't work out.

So it's true : A person has to be willing to take a risk, and that's the idea that you may want to work on. Will she be willing to take some risks for herself…or not ? Because yes; things might not work out, but then again, they might. But a person never finds out unless they take a risk.

Again, I'm sure she's not happy about her ED. Getting whipsawed around by her emotions all the time, and constantly plagued by all of those food preoccupations. Not very many people with EDs enjoy finding themselves controlled by all that, and I imagine that she doesn't like it either.

So yeah, as much as she hates the situation she's in, she probably knows that she's going to have to make some decisions.

Which honestly is a scary thing. And you can tell her that you understand that part too.

Keep writing ?