National Eating Disorders Association

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Jack104
My girlfriend is in treatment

Hi,

This is a first time post. My girlfriend has suffered from an eating disorder for 8 years and is currently in treatment for the second time. She was recovering for about 2 months before she relapsed, she had to leave treatment abruptly because her insurance would not cover it. Now she is back in treatment, and she will have to go to residential treatment (For the 2nd time) if her lab results do not improve We are in a long distance relationship, she is in the USA and I am in Europe. She is very open about her disorder and I am extremely grateful for her honesty!

She is slowly recovering but I am aware that it is a long and challenging process. I just find it hard to encourage her on certain issues. She is concerned about gaining weight and eating without purging. She talks about weight fluctuations and many uncomfortable symptoms (Swollen feet/hands and stomach pain) that occur when she is eating properly.

Can anyone give me any advice on what to say to her to make her feel more comfortable with gaining healthy weight and how it will benefit her in the future? I am at a loss. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Jack

Erin_Patricia1
Welcome!

Hi Jack104!

Welcome to the NEDA online community forums! We are so glad that you have found a place where you can receive the support and advice that you need! I am so sorry to hear about what is going on currently with your girlfriend. It seems like you both are going through a very difficult time right now but it seems like you're doing all that you can in order to help and support your girlfriend. Sometimes, it's just hard to know what to say to someone who is going through this situation. I struggled with an eating disorder for awhile and what really helped me get through that initial weight gaining process, was just having a solid support system and knowing that even though my thoughts were not always rational, having someone there to validate how I felt and listen was really crucial.

Here are also a few links that might be helpful:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/parent-toolkit
-I know it's technically to help "Parents" but there is also a lot of useful and helpful information you can find on there.

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-referral-helpline
-The NEDA’s Information and Referral Helpline is there to help you and your loved one assess different treatment options. In addition, the helpline volunteers have extensive training to prepare them to be able to help you find information, treatment and support options.

Please keep us updated on how you and your girlfriend are doing. You always have a listening ear here on the NEDA forums. I wish you the best of luck!

Erin_Patricia1

BobJ48
Jack

Hey Jack,

Yep, 8 years is a long time to have something like this controlling your life alright. Which is ironic in some ways, because EDs are, in large part, about having and exerting control. So it helps to keep that concept in mind I think, when interacting with people who struggle this way.

For example :

" She is concerned about gaining weight and eating without purging."

So there you go : On the one hand, by now she must be getting awfully tired of this disorder being in control of her life, but on the other hand she doesn't feel comfortable unless she exerts control by purging.

So yeah, the control issue can be one that starts getting pretty tangled for people, and I bet it's getting pretty tangled for her as well. Does recovery mean giving up control, or does it mean regaining control ? I can pretty much guarantee you that she's asking these same questions, during those times when ED lets her I mean.

So that's one supportive thing you might say : " I know it must be difficult to know how to think of this all." Because for a whole lot of people it is.

She's going to have to think about how she feels about going for treatment as well. People can have some pretty mixed feelings about that. Are the treatment people going to take control away from her, or is she going to use the opportunity to take control of her ED herself ? The attitude that people bring with them to treatment can make a whole lot of difference.

But it always means taking risks, you know ? So that's another theme you can go with. That it can be difficult to think about taking risks like this. Because again, risk-taking is a difficult thing for many of us.

Basically a person can feel supported if they feel that someone else understands the fears that they have, so that's something you could work on as well. The "understanding" part you know ? Rather than "helpful suggestions" and such.

Like you said, it's great that she feels safe being open with you, so that in itself is a way that you're helping already. Giving her the chance to be open with someone you know ?

As an aside, actually getting treatment : All the paperwork, the uncertainty about whether a person will be admitted or not, then there's often an indeterminate waiting period that a person has to suffer through as well : That angle of the thing can be really stressful too, so be ready for her having to confront that as well, and the ways in which that in itself may stir things up.

Good for you for being there for her as a supportive ear though. And do keep writing OK ?

Bob J.

Catlady09
Jack104

Hi Jack104,

Welcome to the forums!

I understand it can be hard to find what to say, or how to say it. Sometimes the best things we can do are just let people express their frustrations, and encourage them to continue on. It may benefit you to seek out someone who can help you learn how to support her in this time. I wish I could provide more tips in this area, but I was the one who went through the eating disorder, not a loved one.

I'm sorry she had to leave treatment the first time due to insurance. Erin_Patricia1 added some excellent links that may be able to help sort through some of that.

It's also important that you take care of yourself during this time, too. Having a loved one go through an eating disorder is very hard for everyone in their life. What kinds of things are you doing for self care?

Take care and keep us posted,
Catlady09

Jack104
My girlfriend is in treatment

To Erin_Patricia1, BobJ48 & Catlady09,

Thank you very much for the kind and informative advice, I really appreciate it! My girlfriend was taken from treatment and she is currently in residential care. She's making steady progress and i'm extremely proud of her! I'll definitely take on all of your advice, I think the best thing I can do is provide constant support and a listening ear so she can vent and get issues off her chest.

I also attend regular therapy sessions so I have a mental health professional that I can talk to!

My girlfriend will be leaving the residential program soon, and she will return home and attend part time treatment. It will definitely be a challenge for her, but I will be with her every step of the way. I know that recovery is a long and non-linear process, but with the right support and professional help I know that over time she can rid herself of this disorder.

Thank you all for the helpful advice! It's great to have a community to talk to,

Jack

BobJ48
Post treatment.

Jack,

Like you said, once the person gets back in the real world, that can be when the real challenge begins ! So many people just crash and burn, right at that particular point in things, so having support lined up beforehand is really important.

Right from when they get out, I mean, and not just if things seem to start getting worse.

It sounds like you understand that part though, but it's really worth being aware of just in case.

Bob J.