National Eating Disorders Association

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blusp
When to push the panic button?

Hi Everyone,
I've known my wife for about 20 years and been married for 10. Until February this year she never appeared to have an ED but has since seemingly developed anorexia. I think the trigger was her putting on some weight such that she didn't fit in some old clothes, although she was still within the healthy BMI range. Since then she has plummeted in weight. As far as I can tell she is barely eating and is exercising at least 2 hours a day; likely more due to all her pacing around the house.

The positives currently is that she diagnosed herself with a problem and sought help from a professional specialising in eating disorders, which she is seeing in two weeks. She came to me and told me what she was struggling with in about late July.

So she seemed on top of things and I tried to support and not interfere but since then her weight keeps dropping. She keeps a log of her weight (which I have read behind her back, I apologise) but it means I know that she is lying to me when I ask how things are going and she says she is recovering and gaining weight whereas I just see the real numbers going down. She is incredibly secretive and doesn't want anyone to know about this which has put me in a difficult position as my parents want to visit but I've had to make excuses since she doesn't want anyone to see how thin she has got. It's difficult hiding all this from my son (9 years old) who I think knows something is up. I hate lying to him so I have to walk a fine line between feeling like I explained things the best I can to him and not causing my wife to become extremely upset. Lately I have become concerned about my wife driving my son places, since I know at her BMI she should could potentially faint - I haven't brought this up with her yet, but I suspect it will cause more upset. In fact, if others can chip on this point explicitly it would help a lot.

Each time I raise something of concern she says "I stress her out which doesn't help her recovery". Of course I want to help, but I am also growing concerned that there is no recovery and she just wants no one interfering with her ED.

I desperately want to respect her wishes and the way she wants to do things. But I'm beginning to feel there must be a point where you hit the panic button where you tell a wider circle of family so they can support and start overriding her; like getting rid of all the exercise machines she has bought. What do I do?

Please help.

_admin_moderator
blusp

Hi blusp, welcome to the forums. We’re glad you’re here and are sorry to hear about what’s going on with your wife. We slightly edited your post to remove mentions of BMI numbers, which are not allowed on the forums. You can view our community guidelines here: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/forums/community-guidelines 

For more support and resources, please feel free to reach out the NEDA Confidential Helpline: 800.931.2237 (M-TH 11am-9pm ET, F 11am-5pm ET) or use the NEDA Online Chat  Monday to Thursday 9am to 9pm and Friday 9am to 5pm. We hope you all stay well and please keep posting.

BobJ48
Blusp - Wife's ED.

Boy, things like this are unsettling alright ! All the lying and hiding that's involved ; that can be one of the symptoms, unfortunately, even for folks who weren't like that before.

The up-side is that your wife realizes that she's in trouble, and is willing to get help. This puts here WAY ahead of a lot of people in her position, so you both have good reasons to feel hopeful about that.

"Each time I raise something of concern she says "I stress her out which doesn't help her recovery".

Yes, and she's probably telling the truth when she says that. Try and keep in mind the idea that at their heart, EDs are about a person being in control, which really is what they can seem to be about for the person in the beginning. All that self-discipline, strict regimentation and hard work, you know ? Just the sort of thing that helps us feel in control. But with time, it begins to dawn on the person that it's just the opposite - that the ED is controlling them instead. This clash of ideas can be super-unsettling for the person, and when we try and "be helpful" it can just stir up those conflicting ideas, and the stress that comes with it even more. So the person gets stressed, and feels less in control, and since their EDs has become so strongly associated with control for them….maybe you can see what I'm getting at. Their ED can get worse rather than better. It's an unsettling mental cycle that's almost beyond their control, and like the "snake eating it's own tail" thing sometimes.

My sense is that what's going to feel supportive to her is if you can seem like you get it about this. Saying things like "I know it must be difficult to feel like you are not in control"…that's absolutely going to feel like the truth to her. "I know it must be hard to feel like eating is the right thing to do" - there's going to be no disagreement about that either. If she feels like you understand what she's going through, that's what's going to be the most helpful I think.

" But I'm beginning to feel there must be a point where you hit the panic button where you tell a wider circle of family so they can support and start overriding her; like getting rid of all the exercise machines she has bought."

Again, keep in mind the control thing. If other people start trying to control her, things are likely to get worse and not better. Conversely, she'll feel more in control (in a healthy way) if she makes these decisions herself.

None of this is going to happen overnight though, so having patience is part of your task as well.

But again, the idea that she's willing to get some outside help for herself is a really big deal ( "I know it must be kind of scary to think about getting help for all this " ) so I'd wait and see how she responds to therapy before I started involving the rest of the family, which to her is just going to feel like more people who want to control her; an idea of which is unlikely to lead things in a good direction.

Anyhow, it's not good to be alone with this sort of thing, so keep posting, OK ?