National Eating Disorders Association

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handcuffedandco...
What do i do?!!!!!!!!

This past week has been the hardest of my life (I can't even imagine what it's like for my girlfriend) and I'm trying to make sense of all this, as I have never experienced this before in my life.

Let me begin with a little background info: My girlfriend just broke the news to me 3 days ago that ED has once again taken control of her. I was absolutely shocked. When she told me that she had binged and purged within the last week I couldn't believe what I was hearing. When we met a few months ago, she told me of her struggles with bulimia after a few dates. I didn't think anything of it. Up until this point I have never had a gf, family member of friend that struggled with an eating disorder. She was worried about how I would react to the news, but I assured her it didn't change my feelings toward her. Needless to say she was relieved. The first 3 to 4 weeks of our relationship were fantastic, but the last 4 to 5 weeks have been trying to say the least. She had become cold. Withdrawn. Despondent. I didn't know what was happening. She expressed her concern over how "fast" we were taking our relationship, but I was simply following suit. She was overwhelmed and wanted to slow things down a bit. I agreed. But even after "slowing things down", she became more and more withdrawn. Simple things like basic communication became strained. What was I doing wrong?!!!!! I was so frustI rated I didn't know what had happened to my girlfriend. It was as if a switch had flipped overnight as she was immediately different. Up until this point, I did not suspect anything ED related. When she told me on Monday night that she was checking herself back into treatment, it was as if someone had "shown me the light". It all made sense!! She was withdrawing from me because ED was trying to isolate her from any and all meaningful relationships she had.

My initial reaction was one of anger towards her, but I quickly realized this has absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with her. I quickly apologized and told her that I am here for whatever she may need and am 100% behind her in her decision to enter treatment again. I'm extremely happy that she noticed ED was taking over and something needed to be done immediately. She however told me that she wanted to end our relationship while she undergoes treatment. I was absolutely crushed. What was I going to do, say no, I don't agree with that? I acquiesced and have spent the last 3 to 4 days wondering what the heck just happened!

I've spent the last 4 days trying to learn as much as possible about bulimia nervosa and body image issues. I have scoured the internet, read books, and tried to join support groups. I'm confident that she'll come knocking once she finished treatment, but there's a part of me that is scared to death that I'll never hear from here again. I wonder if her being overwhelmed in our relationship and ED resurfacing had anything to do with me. I haven't slept much the past few days thinking to myself that I'm partly to blame for her slip up. I've talked to family and friends until I'm blue in the face asking their advice about what to do. The majority of the responses go like this: you are lucky that she ended it with you because you do not want to deal with this for the rest of your life because this isn't a one-time thing. It's a lifelong issue. Walk away while you have the chance.

I choose not to walk away. I love this girl too much. True, we weren't together long and I talk in the intro as if we are still together (it's still something I'm trying to wrap my head around, not having her as my gf), but I care so much for her and I like to think that she'll make a complete recovery and we might resume our relationship. Until then, I guess the only thing to do is lay low and let her do her thing? Help!!! What do I do?

When we were together she would frequently compare her body to other women's bodies. The whole body image issue weighed heavily on her. No matter how many times I told her how beautiful she was and how other women would kill to look like her, she was just not happy with what she saw in the mirror. It broke my heart. Nothing I said made a difference.

Until then, I sit and wait patiently...handcuffedandconfused

_admin_moderator
Patience is a virtue!

Dear Handcuffed,

We are so glad you chose to come on here to talk about your concerns. Your first reaction of anger is not unusual. However, you have a lot of intuition to realize that her decisions are not personal, and that care and support are what is going to help her through this. Your care for her shows in your desire to educate yourself on EDs. Try not to blame yourself for what she is going through. EDs tend to take control over one's reality, and there are so many factors that go into an ED.

Although your gf has relapsed, recovery is definitely a possibility for her! Fortunately, many people with EDs end up recovered. I can't tell you what your gf really wants out of your relationship or what the future holds, but I will say that your support for her recovery can really help her.

Joining a support group may really help you - it's great that you've looked into that. Also, have you thought about therapy for yourself while you deal with all these emotions? No doubt they can be very overwhelming and you need support too.

Please check out these links from the NEDA website:
\http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/family-and-friends (for help on how to talk to her about what she is going through)
and
http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/find-treatment/support-groups-res... (to help find support groups)

Her isolation and withdrawal from relationships are normal symptoms of an ED. If you look under the Learn tab, click on General Information and then click Bulimia Nervosa, you may see more symptoms that you recognize in your gf. (You can learn those here: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/factors-may-contribute-eating-dis...)

You obviously have a lot of faith in your gf and that can go a long way. Are you still in touch with her even though she has separated herself while in treatment?

Again, make sure you help yourself while you try to help her. You need support too!

Let me know if any of this has been helpful to you and if the above links provide you some guidance. Your patience while she goes through treatment will help her AND you!

Good Luck!
Erin
Helpline Volunteer