National Eating Disorders Association

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Kickstand
My Girlfriend told me about her Bulimia

Hello All,

I am very new to this topic, and it is a very hard one for me to grasp. I am only 18 years old, a college student, but today my girlfriend of a year and a half admitted to me that she has bulimia and has had since she was 7. There is a very long back story so I will try and recount it as best as I possibly can:

Several weeks ago, my girlfriend was sexually assaulted at a party held at a fraternity house. A man came up to her, took her to a quiet room, and attempted to make sexual/physical advances to her. A friend of hers quickly noticed her situation and got her home safely away from this man, but ever since then she has been in fear of him. Without her permission, her RA reported the incident. She was given the option to go to counseling to try and get a complaint filed so there could be an investigation. She was reluctant, but proceeded anyways.

Fast forward to the last month. She said that during one of her counseling sessions, she admitted to her counselor that she has had bulimia since she was 7, and that she never really saw it as a problem. She always thought that she was just taking control of her body. I'm not sure whether it was the counseling that got her to admit her problem, but regardless, the counselor referred her to the campus health center, where they ran an EKG on her and discovered something unusual with her electrolytes. They told her that she should go to the emergency room to get blood work done, but she refused.

After she got out of the doctor's appointment, she called me and told me all of this today. Before today, I had no idea this problem even existed in her life. I had no idea that she had been facing this disorder, and she's been facing it alone. She shuts people out and refuses to tell them things about her. As far as I know, me, her counselor, and her roommates are the only people that know about this. She has such a hard time opening up to people, but somehow she has opened up to me.

At the end of her story (which ended an hour ago), she told me she wanted to take a three day break. By the end of the three days, she wants to know whether I will stay with her or not because she says she knows the kind of burden that this drama could put on someone else's life, and she hates burdening people; that is another reason she doesn't open up to people. And I am having a hard time coming to terms with this.

On one hand, I love her more than anything in this world. She and I have been together, not just in a relationship, but as best friends two years before our relationship even started. We have invested so much of our emotions and feelings into each other, and when I am with her, life seems to become less bleak and more of a happy place for the both of us. She and I can laugh for no reason, have pointless banter for hours, and be happy like nothing is wrong.

On the other hand, she needs support. I myself have my own set of flaws, flaws that are not appropriate for this kind of forum, but flaws nonetheless. I have social problems, I'm neurotic, and I have a hard time understanding someone else's actions. Now that's not to say I don't have empathy; I do, but I feel like I would not be able to give her the kind of support she needs. I don't know what to say when it comes to her disorder, I don't know what to do if she decides to stop seeking treatment, I don't know how to be the kind of guy she needs in her life. And I'm also not sure if I could handle it. I don't want to seem selfish because my emotions are the last thing that matter right now, but if I can't keep myself together to help her, then I'm essentially hurting her in the long run. If I can't keep myself in check, then how could I help her? But would breaking up with her only make her situation worse?

We're both still so young and naive to the world, and I want nothing more than to help her right now in her time of need. But I'm 18 years old; I barely have a grasp on my own life, let alone be able to do what I need to do to help her. I want to help, but I'm afraid I'll do more damage than help. It's frustrating, but I don't know what else to do or where else to go. I need help so I can help her. And I also need to know if I will be strong enough to help her, or if I'll just end up getting in the way of her road to recovery. Please help me help her.

surikaye
Kickstand

Kickstand,

Wow, it has definitely been a loaded couple of days for you. First, I want to commend you for reaching out and asking for support- that is the best thing you could have done in your situation. i am so sorry to hear about your girlfriend's recent assault as well as her struggle with bulimia, and the impact all of this is having on you. i can completely understand your dilemma, and am really glad you are thinking about yourself. It is so easy to get swept into the helping, supportive role, and sometimes we take things too far and burn out or forget about are own needs, only to make us worn out and unable to continue to provide support.

You have a decision to make, and while ultimately you are the only one who can decide how you would like to proceed in this relationship, I hope that the resources below can be helpful to you in making that decision and coping with this new challenge.

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/parent-family-friends-network
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-referral-helpline
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/family-and-friends

Good luck with all of this and don't forget that you need and deserve support- keep reaching out and caring for yourself- it will only make you into a better caregiver and support!

Kickstand
surikaye

surikaye,

Thank you for the quick and thoughtful response. After much time of deliberation and contemplation, I decided that I would do my best to support my girlfriend and stay by her side. I made a promise to her along time ago that I would be there for her when she needed me and I intend to keep this promise. She called me at 2:00 A.M. last night telling me that she just needed to hear my voice. It crushed me, but by then I had already made up my mind to tell her that I would stay and try and work things out with her. I probably should have mentioned this the first time, but this is currently a long distance relationship. We both go to separate schools, so interaction is limited to phone calls, skype, and texting. There has been so much stress on our relationship, but so much triumph as well. She doesn't deserve to feel broken like she does, and I don't want to make it worse. All that matters is that she gets the help that she needs. As far as I know, she will continue seeing her counselor and getting help, but she prefers it if she and I do not talk about her disorder. It makes her uncomfortable, but she tells me that she is handling it. I trust her to make the right decision; I just hope she doesn't change her mind. As for me, I will keep trying to be the person she needs right now for as long as I can. Thank you for your much needed support.

duncsvoice
Hi Kickstand,

Hi Kickstand,

My partner is currently in a counselling session for her ED, which took about 7 months to be arranged, which prompted me back to these forums.

Just to give you a bit of context - my girlfriend (now fiancee) and I were in a long distance relationship, like you. She'd disclosed her bulimia to me quite early on, and it was an incredible fight for both of us. Speaking from a partners point of you, the fact you are taking your own feelings in to account is already putting you on solid ground for being there for her, and you are a true gentleman for doing so.

It can be horrendously difficult. I have my issues as well, I was diagnosed with depression earlier in the year. There will be times when you will say or do the wrong thing, completely unintentionally, and it's hard to not want to walk away. It will hit you completely out of the blue, but always remember that it is the ED trying to destroy her, and you.

Like your partner, mine had been sexually assaulted and was subject to childhood abuse, so entrenched are her issues she believed she wasn't going to get better. But, with the love, support and understanding, we're getting there.

Fast forward seven months later, we're now engaged and planning our wedding, and she's just text me saying she's looking forward to her session and is feeling miles better.

Take the time to read up on her eating disorder as well. Even just a bit of understanding will help you, just as much her.

Good luck.

Kickstand
duncsvoice

duncsvoice,

I appreciate your support. There has been a lot of friction since she and I have continued to be together. While I won't go into specifics, she hasn't exactly been making the wisest choices when she goes to parties. I can't stop her from partying, since we're both in college and want to relax, and I'd certainly be hypocrite if I said that I was not doing similar things, but it concerns me.

I know I should never baby her; she is my intellectual equal (if not, she is far more intelligent than I am), but I can't help but want what's best for her. I cringe every time I say that because I sound just like a parent would, but it's true. I love her and want to make sure that she doesn't do something that she will regret.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to take a break and see other people, but I don't want to. Sometimes when my girlfriend and I talk, I get so frustrated inside because she is so naive. She likes to believe that the world has no bad people in it, and that everyone out there wouldn't think about hurting her. But I know it's not the case, and I have warned her several times.

I guess maybe since I've always been so protective and so overbearing she felt the need to hide this from me. And she has openly said there are other things that she is hiding from me (though much smaller) that she just isn't ready to share yet.

I hate feeling like a stranger to her, and I hate how it's a constant battle to realize that I'm just overreacting to every situation, but I almost feel like I have to.

As for her situation, she's continuing to go to counseling. A few days ago, she admitted to me that she really wanted to purge, but forced herself not to. At the time, she and I were arguing about something, so I don't think I came off as enthusiastic as I wanted to, but I was really proud of her for making that next step. I know that means it won't be the end of it, but it's a start. Next time I just need to remember that I need to be happier for her, regardless of how badly she and I are arguing.

I wish they had a manual for this; relationships, I mean. Things are so complicated because on one hand you need to look out for her feelings above most things, but on the other hand, you need to remember that your own feelings are important too. It's confusing, but I guess out of love I go day in and day out still thinking she is the most special woman in the world.

Thank you for your best wishes, and I am glad to hear how successful treatment has been for you and your wife. It gives me hope that my girlfriend and I will make it through our struggle. I will continue to add comments to this forum to update on everyone on how things are going. Again, thank you so much for your insight and advice.

orangepg
Hi,

Hi,

Thanks for sharing your discussion. I also recently learned of my fiancee's eating disorder about four months ago and it's been a challenging ride. I'm committed to her and I'm doing my best to learn about the condition. I have a great deal of difficulty though with some of the hard conversations as they can get quite aggressive. I'm doing my best to stay calm and open to discussion and not expressing frustration, but that's hard to keep inside. I'm looking into counseling services for myself though and I hope to start that soon. It is helpful to me to read the struggles that other people face in this area. I hope we can all be a support for one another through this forum.

Thanks,

hannahls
orangepg

orangepg,

It is so great to hear that you are looking into counseling services for yourself. You will be much better suited to support your fiancee/wife throughout her journey toward recovery if you are completely healthy (mentally, physically, and emotionally) yourself. You're an amazing person for sticking by her side, but don't forget to continue taking care of yourself too. I'm so glad that you are finding the forums helpful. Please continue to reach out for support or advice if you need it.

Best wishes
Hannah

duncsvoice
Hey.

Hey.

There's a lot of similarities in our situations and feelings, so it's no problem.

Whilst my partner and I are slightly older (28 & 29), and I'm not making any assumptions about yours of course, but she admitted she's done things at parties and the like that she wasn't particularly proud of - but a lot of it was driven by the ED and wanting to fit in. We had an instance fairly early on where she openly flirted with someone else in front of me in a pub, and a blazing row later on she admitted she doesn't feel good enough and needs the approval and reinforcement all of the time. What you said about her being naive is exactly the point. Luckily for both of our partners, they've finally found good people who will look after them. For mine, she said that has been half of the battle, and even then she doesn't feel like she deserves it.

And of course you'll want the best for her - if you love someone that's natural, and it's not cringeworthy in the slightest. But you're doing well to remember that your own feelings are just as important. From my own experiences, it is such a steep learning curve there were moments where we both discussed whether or not it was fair for me to stay - but I made a promise early on (and probably to my detriment) that I wouldn't go.

Thankfully, now, we've reached a point where I can very quickly recognise ED 'wobbles' and we can shut them down. She hasn't binged and purged for an incredibly long time, I think maybe 8-9 months now. It is incredibly difficult however, and that is your challenge to remain happy all of the time. Use the tools available to you (this site has helped, more often than not I just need to talk about her to someone impartial), in the UK we have the Samaritans I call just to chat to someone. And make sure you do. It's so easy to be sucked in to it and make her disorder your disorder and end up making you ill. I'm fairly lucky in the respect that the majority of my twenties were fairly traumatic so I've quickly been able to adjust to it, but as a pretty young chap please do all you can to keep yourself happy. I'll be checking back to see how you're getting on.

All the best.