National Eating Disorders Association

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RandomHero
Girlfriend is bulemic at a college campus.

First of all, thanks for taking the time to read this. I'm really worried and I would appreciate any and all information you are willing to give. We are both college students. There are major elements that I believe contribute to her ED (she also cuts). They are as follows:

EDUCATION

She is an Engineer and it takes up most of her free time. On top of studying and doing homework, she has a engineering fraternity that expects a lot from her. She is super intelligent and she devotes a lot of her time and effort to being successful in her classes and her fraternity. She often complains about her work load (more than the normal amount). Her classes make her more sad than anything I think, but I don't think she realizes the effects her workload has on her. This belongs here too, she really enjoys drawing. I noticed as time passed she draws less and less. She uses it at a study break sometimes.

FAMILY

Her family lives in California and we go to school in Virginia. The only people she has is me, her boyfriend, and her friends from school (mostly other engineering students/brothers from her educational fraternity). She has a loving family back home and on occasion says she misses them.

PAST BOYFRIEND

Before she dated me (about a year before) she dated a guy who stalked her and said really mean things to her. Not much else to say here.

TIMELINE

A month ago, she had an off week where she didn't text/talk to me, or she talked to me the minimal amount. She would say things like "I don't feel myself" and "sorry I'm acting so weird, I don't know what's wrong with me". She eventually said she wanted to see me and she told me abut her depression and things seemed to get back to normal from there. I was very scared during this week, thinking I was going to get dumped or wondering why she could be acting this way. I tried to restrain my texts and calls to 1-3 a day to give her space but to assure her that I was going to be there for her no matter what.

5 days into this week, I was out with friends at a local place and she walked in with a group of her friends. she looked like she was just following the group and she looked sad. I don't think she spotted me there, but seeing her knowing she was miserable tore me to pieces on the inside. She left 10 seconds after I seen her and I knew she wasn't ready to talk to me yet. I couldn't comprehend why she was too miserable to talk to me but she was more than okay being with her friends. THIS IN PARTICULAR WOULD BE A GOOD THING TO MENTION IN RESPONSES PLEASE. My opinion is maybe she didn't want me to see her at a low, and maybe she could fake a smile with her friends? Comments greatly appreciated here. But yea, at the end of this down week we somewhat returned to normal, or at least things felt back to normal.

Then, roughly a week ago (a month after the first week I mentioned above), she told me she had bulimia. I noticed the last few times we would hang out, she would be excited at first, then 15 minutes into whatever we were doing she would get tired and say she needed to go to bed. The last time we had time to hang out, she took a nap instead. Then over text she told me she sleeps more than normal because she is bulimic. She also said she hasn't told me before because she hasn't known how to tell me. From what I read, it seems like telling a significant other about a ED is really difficult. She started texting less and less to the point where she said "I'm ok I just need some time". Its now been a few days since she has messaged me. We are currently on spring break, so she went from an extreme amount of work to keep her busy to nothing. Maybe the nothingness was a trigger? Well, now I'm in the same spot I was during the first week this happened. She is texting me the minimal amount, or, not at all.

Its important to note that she copes with things by being alone. She usually keeps her concerns inside and doesn't talk about them. She doesn't like burdening others, especially loved ones, with her troubles.

So, this leads me to what I wanna ask people. What do I do? What I have been doing is texting her 1-3 times a day asking how she is doing and that I'm there for her no matter what. I want nothing more than for her to feel better. It kills me to know she is miserable. I've been told that when someone has a ED, that's all that they can think about. Its hard for them to consider anything else, even their significant others feelings, when they are consumed with thoughts from a ED.

Its hard for me to ignore my feelings of "why isn't she texting/talking to me, I thought we were a team", but I think in this situation, I just have to learn to back off and let her come to me when she is ready. In the back of my mind I cant help but think she is going to break up with me, but her friends and family have told me that they know she loves me and they don't think that's going to change anytime soon. I hope they are right.

In closing, I am worried about our relationship because in successful relationships, open communication is key. Given the circumstances, I think her not wanting to share this is natural, so I cant really be mad. I'm more worried, however, about her health. I love this girl so much, and I feel helpless.

Any comments, negative or positive, is greatly appreciated. Oh, one last thing, I'm seeing my schools counselor so I can maybe learn how to cope with this a little better.

RandomHero
Addition

Also to note, she pushes herself too hard in her studies. Like way more than a traditional college student would. Maybe she is trying to keep busy. Idk.

RandomHero
Addition #2

She is scheduled to see a counselor as well. Kind of important.

Mady1012
Hi randomhero

Hi!

Welcome to the forums! I am really sorry to hear about your girlfriend. I can only imagine how hard this is for you not knowing exactly what is going on with your girlfriend because of her absence in communication. Unfortunately, when in mental illness state, communicate your feelings and emotions to others can be extremely difficult. Also, you mention she over works herself, "perfectionist" or overachievers, are common in ED. Have you talked to her possibly overworking herself? I know you are in a tough situation, but try talking to her and showing her your support. It may be best for her to seek professional treatment if she is willing to. The NEDA Helpline can guide you to resources in your area, and they can be reached M-Th 9AM-9PM F 9AM-5PM EST at 1-800-931-2237. I would also recommend reading this https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/parent-toolkit as there is a lot of informative and useful information that may help you. You are doing a wonderful thing trying to get help for your girlfriend. It may be hard, but it is possible and she can over come this. Hang in there, and please let us know how things go.

Best wishes,
Mady

kelsey207
Hi RandomHero,

Welcome to the forums! I'm sorry to hear about your girlfriend's health, and about the stress the ED is causing you, too. EDs are ruthless--they don't just affect the individual; they affect everyone around them, too.

A lot of aspects of your girlfriend's "profile" (so to speak) sound very familiar and are common among people with EDs (e.g., self-harming, perfectionistic personality characteristics, depression) so she isn't alone there.

It can be really hard to know what to say or what to do in a situation like this. It sounds like you're taking a lot of great steps by doing your research, posting here on the forums, and seeing a counselor yourself. That's great, and it shows what a dedicated boyfriend you are. It's clear how much you care about her and want to help. In some ways, the things you're already doing--being there for her, giving her space but also reminding her that you're there whenever she needs it, etc.--are all you can do. It can be really difficult to feel so powerless in the face of EDs, but in some ways it's up to the person suffering to take the necessary actions to move toward recovery. Others around them can be there to provide support, though. Sometimes it can feel repetitive on your side to just continually remind her that you're there anytime she needs you, but eventually the message will get through to her and she'll know you're there to turn to.

It can be challenging to separate the person suffering from their ED, but it's important to make that distinction. Your girlfriend doesn't want to be having this negative impact on your life, your girlfriend doesn't want to be giving you the "cold shoulder", your girlfriend doesn't want to be unhappy and unhealthy. The ED wants all of those things. Keeping the person separate from the disorder in one's mind is hard, but doing so can help to keep you from getting upset with the person suffering or otherwise resenting them or their actions.

EDs make people act very secretively. There is a lot of shame associated with disordered eating thoughts and behaviors, so many people try to keep their distance from others so they won't find out how they're feeling, what disordered things they're doing, etc. And, as you said, the ED can consume so much of their time and energy that there isn't time for anything (or anyone) else. It's also important to remember that EDs have very negative effects on people's physical health and this can impact their mood, energy level, and interactions with others. The ED is putting enormous physical stress on your girlfriend's body, and her body is just trying to keep her alive and functioning. This can make more "secondary" functions (including relating to others and being social) fall to the wayside.

You mentioned the specific incident when your girlfriend went out with friends but wouldn't spend more time with you, and I think your interpretation of the situation (i.e., she was able to "fake it" with her friends, but didn't want you to see her in such a low place) could be correct. Perhaps she feels like you know her better and can see through her attempts to hide how she's suffering. However, I'm not inside her head, so you might want to ask her about that specific case if that event stands out to you. It might be hard for her to talk about, though. Like you said, telling a significant other (or anyone for that matter) about an ED is really difficult. Especially given what you've said about her personality, she sounds like a driven, hard-working, ambitious person, so for her, admitting she's struggling with an ED might make her feel like she's admitting a failure or weakness. Again, I can't speak for her, though. Everyone's ED is different, and what is true for one person may not be for another.

It's clear how much you care about your girlfriend. And it's understandable that you're frustrated and unsure about what to do, given the circumstances. However, your seeing a counselor and reaching out to resources like NEDA and the Forums are great next steps. And if your girlfriend is starting to see a counselor and moving towards professional treatment, that's great news. It sounds like things are heading in a positive direction, which is awesome. The path to recovery is long and difficult, but it is worth it.

I hope you get some of the advice and support you're looking for here on the forums. Please feel free to post other questions here anytime, and keep us updated on how you and your girlfriend are doing! We want the best for you! Good luck!

confusedex
Kelsey207, I just wanted to

Kelsey207, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your response. I posted earlier today, and the original poster's situation sounds very familiar to mine.