National Eating Disorders Association

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Codman123
Partner/Ex Broke up with me due to an ED and now I’m concerned for their health.

Hi,

I would first like to say that reading just a few of the forum posts has been very helpful as I can relate to every single one I’ve read which is of great comfort to me in my situation. And a special mention to BobJ who has provided some excellent advice to others on the forum.

I would like to know if it was possible to talk to BobJ privately about my specific situation. I understand by replying on the forum could be of benefit to others but my partner, current ex, asked me specifically not to talk to anyone about this so I feel posting on an open forum somewhat betrays the trust they have put in me, and in addition they have previously mentioned that they have been seeking help via helplines and forums. So in short I am worried about them seeing this post, despite its obvious anonymity. However if necessary I could be willing to post some details on the forum.

Thanks in advance for any response.

_admin_moderator
Welcome!

Hi, thank you for posting. We’re sorry to hear about what’s been going on and the concerns you’re having. Per our community guidelines, we don’t allow for people to post their personal information including contact information to keep this a safe place. You can take a look at our community guidelines here: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/forums/community-guidelines. You mentioned how you’re worried about their health so for precaution we are providing you with this list. If they’re experiencing any, please make sure to talk to them about getting medical help as soon as possible. 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

If they experience anything above, we highly recommend seeking help from a medical professional as soon as possible. Seek medical help soon on an outpatient basis if they experience:

  • 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

If you’re looking for resources, please feel free to contact the confidential Helpline at (800) 931-2237. Phones are open Monday-Thursday 11AM-9PM EST and Friday 11 AM-5PM EST. Our Click to Chat is open Monday-Thursday 9AM-9PM EST and Friday 9AM-5PM EST. You can click the chat now option at the top right hand corner! Please continue posting.

Codman123
Reply

I understand the above, and I might just post the message in this reply. As far as I know the symptoms don’t require immediate medical attention, but it is something that needs monitoring. I was only wondering if there was a private messaging option on this forum but it appears not. So here it is below.

Codman123
Reply

Hi

Sorry if this is poorly written, I’ve never been a great writer and apologies as I may have missed out details of their recent relapse of ED as we only spoke about it once when we broke up so I was pretty emotional at the time and I’m not sure I know the full extent of their suffering.

I’ll give a little background to fill you in. We met just over 1 year ago and it was everything I could have wished for in a relationship. We were apart for 2 months because of a national lockdown, and afterwards we lived together for 3/4 months. In September of last year we had to move to a long distance relationship (around 2 hours) and we managed perfectly, seeing each other at least every fortnight.

We last saw each other just before Christmas and multiple things have prevented us from meeting up since. These include their housemates having to be especially careful with COVID as they were teachers and nurses, as well as their ever growing workload that comes with being at university. On my end helping my parents to build their new house would also take up a lot of my time so I was also to blame.

However initially this year things were normal, we would FaceTime a couple of times per week and we would message each other around 30 times every day, so it was quite intense but I feel that was needed to maintain a long distance relationship. But over time, specifically since their exams were over (they have anxiety for which exam season is a particular trigger) we would talk less and less. We stopped FaceTiming completely and they’d only send me 2 messages per day, which were typically either answers to my questions or one lined responses, which would avoid any emotional content so I’d end up having to carry the conversation.

This continued for around a month or two before I asked to meet them on their way home from university. This is where they explained to me that they were suffering with a purging ED. They mentioned feelings of being overwhelmed, not being able to give 100% and that I deserved someone better than them, all I assume stemming from the ED, for reasons that they were going to break up with me, despite me offering to try and help them with the situation. They even said I was free to hate them for how they hadn’t been a good partner and encouraged me to block them on social media. They found it especially difficult when I had mentioned to them about a month prior that I was struggling long distance and that it would amount to almost 4 months between seeing each other. They felt that I shouldn’t have to go through this with them as we’d been through too much already and that our relationship was a case of right person wrong time. In addition they mentioned control, as they couldn’t control when we could see each other so they then focused on controlling their weight as that is the only way they could be ‘perfect’ for me. Something I didn’t notice at the time but upon reading other posts I realised that they were lacking emotion when talking to me which seems common with people suffering from an ED. I asked if we could just take a break and they said they couldn’t commit to being ready at a certain point. I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to respect their decision and give them some space and time, especially as they had mentioned seeking help on helplines and forums. However they trusted me with this bit of information as they haven’t told anyone about the relapse, not even their family.

My partner had mentioned to me mid way through our relationship that they had suffered with a restrictive ED when they were in their early to mid teens. They were almost hospitalised with it if I remember correctly but they managed to overcome it without any treatment for their mental health so if I’m right it was never dealt with at the root cause. In their family it is never spoken of, and all pictures have been either deleted or binned from that time so they have had hardly anyone to speak to about this. In addition to this they have struggled with anxiety after a serious case is septicaemia (this was just as we began seeing each other), but as a couple we worked through this and they got professional help for this. It also hasn’t helped that over this year they have been dealing with food intolerances, so they put themselves on a very restrictive diet to find out what was causing it, and it turns out as soya and probably wheat.

Anyway, now it’s been around a week since we broke up and we have had no contact. I’ve drafted a message to send to them but I was waiting at least a week to send it, just so they have had a bit of time and space. Even though I’ve seen them upload stories to their social media portraying like they’re having a good time with friends and family, I’m obviously massively worried about them, hence this post, and had a few questions about the whole situation.

1. How should I first go about contacting them, as having read other posts it can be an extremely difficult thing to do. My initial thoughts would be to just check in on how they’re doing and offer myself as an option if they wanted to ever speak about it to someone they care about, as well as make sure they’re getting the help they need.
2. Is there anything I can do to help or is it best to let them deal with it on the hotlines they have been using?
3. I’m pretty sure but it seems like the ED is the reason for our relationship failing, but part of me feels it’s cowardly to blame it on this.
4. This is very selfish of me, and I would never push them into anything if they weren’t ready, but what does the future hold for us? Is it common for couples to get back together after a period of time because I feel that this relationship is too good to let just fizzle out.

Tryingtoheal
No

Unfortunately, it's not an option on here.

BobJ48
Codman : Pushing away

" They even said I was free to hate them for how they hadn’t been a good partner and encouraged me to block them on social media."

Isn't this a terrible way for her to look at herself ? That she'd be such a terrible person, that she'd be perfectly worthy of treatment like this ? It's a sad thing alright, but with EDs, quite often people find themselves feeling like this. Unworthy of even friendships, because of what a terrible person they must be. You saw some of this in the lack of emotion in her posts too. People can believe that things would be better if they became emotionally numb to everything.

At the same time, as you saw on her social media, "Everything's fine". Which it isn't, but it's much safer and causes many fewer problems to pretend that it is. She may indeed be hanging out with friends, but not ones who know what her issues are, I bet. But since you are the one who does know…well, it's just complicated, and things would be easier if she just set you aside. This sounds cold, I know, but it's possible that she's just not ready to confront her situation yet, which she knows that she'd have to because…of how you care about her. So things really can get all tangled up like that, where the fact that we care ends up being a negative rather than a positive.
Great, huh ?
As to your questions, those can be hard things too. We would like to be of help and support to the person, but perhaps as you are finding out, it's going to depend on if they are willing to allow us to be part of things or not. So we are kind of at the person's mercy in that regard. Which can be a pretty helpless feeling for sure.
If you were to write her, I'd try and keep it brief instead of going into things too deeply. I would not mention how much you miss her, or say anything that implies that you are in emotional pain yourself. You might want to mention that you understand that it may feel safer to her to limit her contact with you, because that's probably just how she feels. Not because you are a bad guy, but more because you know too much. Which of course should not be a negative either, but if she has a lot of ambivalence about her ED…she may not want to get into that with anyone now.
So I'd just try and keep things fairly light, if you were to write to her. If you want to mention the ED, I'd just say that you know she may be struggling with things, and that you know that that can be a difficult thing. And leave it at that. Also, she already knows that you have affection for her, so I would not go into that too much either. Basically I'd say that you'll always welcome hearing from her, so that you are leaving that part up to her.
Because yeah; she's still dancing around the idea that you know about her ED. Is she going to see that as a good thing…or a problem ?
It's a drag when we have to leave things up to the other person like this, but that may be your best strategy now.

Codman123
Reply

Thank you very much for your reply, it’s some very useful insight. I feel as if I need to write to her as by not doing that I feel like I’m giving up on her, which is the last thing I want to do as I know how great she is. I feel there’s such a fine line between being there for her enough and me giving too much so that she completely shuts me out!
Thank you so much again

BobJ48
Too much ? How much ?

Codman,

Yes, you put your finger on the issue I think. How do we show that we care, without the person pushing us away ? As you said, it can feel like a really fine line.
Then there's the part where we can start being hard on ourselves, and blaming ourselves for "not saying the right thing", almost as though we deserve to think poorly of ourselves for caring. It can get kind of ridiculous that way.
None the less, sometimes you'll hear people talk about how they appreciate that their partners stuck with them when they being a ( the "B-word" here). So it's probably reasonable to still give some credit to how things were when it felt like you guys did have a connection.
So in one sense, you don't want to let ED bully and intimidate you, and make you feel lousy about yourself. On the other hand we probably don't want to intrude too much either.
" I know that things may still be kind of rough, so I want you to know that I'm still thinking of you."
Like keep it basic, you know ?

Codman123
Reply

Thank you again for your response and I wish I’d have seen this before I’d jumped the gun and sent the message. I feel I may have made a mistake by sending a message which is longer than the one you suggested. In a nutshell I prefaced the text by saying if she wasn’t open to talking about it then she was perfectly welcome to ignore me. I then mentioned that I had briefly looked it up online and that I know I’ll never fully understand how she feels but I would be there to talk with her if she ever wanted to. I then finished the message by wishing her all the best and hoping she’s having a better time being with friends and family.
On reflection this seems overboard and that it may put unwanted pressure on her, but this could be me overly worrying about not being able to say the right thing like you mentioned. It’s been a few hours since I sent the message and I feel in a state of limbo, not wanting to do anything but wait until she gets back to me, which obviously isn’t a guarantee. It’s just hard for me as this is unchartered territory, but your responses and advice have helped massively, so I again thank you.

BobJ48
Codman : Saying the right things.

I know you may regret some of what you wrote, but at the same time we don't want to get dragged too far into the Twilight Zone in situations like this. What I mean is, on some level it should be OK to expect that we can engage in regular every-day sort of conversation, rather than our feeling like we have to walk on eggshells with every sentence, or have an advanced degree in psychology in order to communicate with the person. That's just not how life or relationship should have to go, you know ?
Having said that, I'll admit that certain strategies may be better than others. As you said, the person is in a sensitive situation, and we don't want to put too much pressure on them.
For example, we know how terrible someone is feeling. They've been our friend for a while, and we've exchanged notes with them in the past, and then suddenly….nothing. In my head, I'm worried, because I know they've done certain "rash things" in the past. So it's true; I'm worried if they are still alive or not.
But…I don't want them to feel like I'm pacing the floor with worry. Which would not be an unusual response on my part. But even so, I don't want them to feel like our friendship is a burden on me - one which they are responsible for.
So right - How do we craft a note to them in circumstances like that ? Or if we do finally hear from them, do we just pretend that we weren't worried ?
Which actually is our best stance I think. Maybe there are circumstances which would cause any person to worry. But not us, you know ? We are sustained by a certain inner confidence that things will be fine. I was on a board with parents once, and you can imagine how they must feel seeing their kids go through things like this. Their feeling was that you have to "Act like a Redwood". The winds can blow, and the storms will come, but they just continue to be sturdy, like it's not upsetting them.
Maybe we don't have to be as dramatic about it as that, but their feeling was that a "Don't let 'em see you sweat" - type of position was what was the most helpful in the long run.
So when I don't want to put pressure on someone, I'll just talk about a nice hike I went on, or show them a picture of a nice sunset I saw. Or mention how my garden is growing. Things like this show that I care, but don't involve "getting into it" if you see what I mean ? Plus, I actually did go on a nice hike, and I did see a nice sunset, so I don't feel like I'm BSing in any way either.

Codman123
Reply

I see where you’re coming from, the analogy with the friend really resonated with me and I completely get the Redwood tree (funnily enough in the house I grew up in there was a redwood tree and I can’t remember it blowing in the wind once). And actually that’s what’s helped me most with the breakup, as talking about other things with friends has made me feel more comfortable than delving into the subject.
She’s got back to me this evening and she admitted that she’s not been doing too well and that recovery is going to be a long process. She also asked how I was doing which I feel is a good opportunity to apply the advice you mentioned above. I’ll tell her about a couple of things I’ve been up to. One last question, and I know it may seem like you are baby feeding me at this point, but is it worth letting her know that I’d like to stay in contact with her, as long as she’s ok with that. I’m sorry but I’m still trying to get to terms with the not trying to step on egg shells, I’m sure it will come with time!
I can’t thank you enough for all of this and all of the good work you’ve been doing for others on this forum, it’s been massively helpful.
UPDATE
She has got back to me this morning and mentioned that with all her uni work that she’s completely overwhelmed and that me messaging her puts added pressure onto her. So I guess for now she wants to shut me out and there’s nothing I can do but respect that decision.

BobJ48
Mixed messages.

"She has got back to me this morning and mentioned that with all her uni work that she’s completely overwhelmed and that me messaging her puts added pressure onto her. "

Yes, and when yesterday things seemed hopeful. So I think you are seeing more of how EDs can effect people. One day staying in touch and sharing feelings feels important, and then the next day…it doesn't sound like such a good idea. People with EDs can feel conflicted about this, and that's where some of the pressure comes from. Not so much from you wanting to engage, but from inside themselves, trying to decide what feels safe to them. By that I mean, not that you as a person are unsafe, but whether or not she feels it's safe for her to be thinking about her situation at all.
Which is how it can be when things get rough for people. It can feel like the best approach would be to just try and ignore it all. But when it's messing a person's life up, and intruding on their minds in the persistent ways that EDs do, "just ignoring it" can be extremely hard to do. So I think what you are seeing are her back-and-forth struggles with that.
And you are a liability, because you do know how serious it is.
On the one hand she trusted you with the knowledge so that she would not be alone with it, but on the other hand, she probably wishes that nobody knew. So again, it's the back and forth thing. Which is probably some of what she meant when she said she was not doing too well.
I'm not sure if you should stop writing her or not. On the one hand, it's unhealthy for her to be shutting you out. You've seen how exciting it is to get a message from her. For her, seeing your name in her inbox may be exciting too, but more in a " I don't want to have to think about any of this" sort of way, no matter how friendly your notes may be.

In any case, I would not give up hope. EDs do a pretty good job of bullying everyone who's involved, so try not to let this one bully you.

(And yes, what about all the drama? If we care, it can be hard not to be drawn into the drama. So keep the"Being a Redwood" thing in mind, and see what you can do to keep your perspective, and a tad bit of emotional distance from the moment-to-moment aspects of it all. )

Codman123
Reply

When you say she probably wishes no one knew, I believe this is spot on. I think the one of the few reasons she told me was because she had made up her mind with regards to breaking up with me, potentially believing this would relieve some of the pressure on her. This would have been extremely confusing for me to understand had she not told me about her ED. Transparency in our relationship had been extremely important to her and one of the main reasons we had been so good together.
With regards to writing to her, I think I’ll give it a couple of weeks. It’s only fair on her part that I respect her request that we don’t speak for now so hopefully that bit of time will give her the opportunity to grow and feel a little better about me offering myself for chatting. But I don’t want to give up on her that easily. What I’m getting from her responses is that she won’t be able to open up to me and start chatting regularly until her uni work has settled down, and I know her term doesn’t end until mid June which seems way too long to go without at least checking in. It’s just hard as at least for now I guess I’ll never know what stage of recovery she’s at. I don’t even know when it first started, although I do have my guesses.