I recently dated a guy for over a year, but due to the stress and emotional turmoil that the relationship put on me, and self-esteem issues that I suffered from originally, I became bulimic a few months into the relationship. Though I knew it was wrong, and that it could cause health pains (it caused severe ones in my throat), I didn’t stop until a few days before the relationship ended a few months ago. No one, especially my ex, knew about my eating disorder, and everyone believed that I was just eating right and exercising more, since that’s what I told them.
After losing thirty pounds (currently 120 lbs at 5’2), I decided that I couldn’t live that unhealthy lifestyle anymore, and for Lent, I made a promise to God and to myself to not only give it up, but to also take up eating right and exercising properly. It was hard to give it up and to try to be healthy, but it worked. I was free from bulimia for over two months until recently when I gave into it again, twice. I’m trying again though to kick it to the curb, but it’s extremely hard to do.
I’ve started to get back into dating recently, and I’m worried that my eating disorder (that I’m still trying to fight) will get in the way of a healthy relationship. I know that I can’t talk to any of my friends or family members about my eating disorder, since they’d be too worried about me and watch me like a hawk, and I don’t want to put that on them, so it’s hard trying to find someone to ask advice from. Though it’s nothing serious yet, there’s one guy who I recently started seeing/talking to, and to use him as an example, when would you say that I should tell him about my health, if ever? Does anyone who I end up seeing in the future need to know about it, or about the emotional distress my ex caused me? I really just want a healthy relationship now, and I don’t want bulimia getting in the way of it. I’m finally loving who I am, and my body, and I’m finally happy enough to really try to move forward with my life, and I don’t want it (or even my ex) to keep me back in anyway. — Recovering Bulimic
You’re asking the wrong question here, darlin’. Rather than asking how you can keep your eating disorder from getting in the way of a healthy relationship, you should be asking how you can keep a relationship from getting in the way of a healthy lifestyle. You’ve made finding a relationship a bigger priority that getting healthy and as past experiences have proven to you, that won’t work. You can’t have a healthy relationship until you get a handle on your eating disorder — that absolutely has to be priority number one — and if you’ve been “free from bulimia” for only two months, with the exception of “two recent slip-ups,” you clearly do not have a handle on your disorder just yet.
Bottom line: you are not ready to jump into a new relationship. Your focus needs to be on getting healthy and at this point anything that distracts from that focus — like dating — will greatly hinder your recovery. It’s great that you’ve made improvements recently, but I’m worried about you trying to get better on your own without any support or help from anyone else. You’ve already had two slip-ups recently. What makes you think you won’t have another next week? Or two the week after? What makes you so certain that the next time life gets a little stressful — and you don’t need to be in a relationship for life to get stressful! — you won’t go the whole binge-and-purge route to feel a semblance of control in your world? The truth is, without tools and support to help you through those periods, you are much, much more vulnerable to slip-ups.
Please do consider telling some family or close, trusted friends about what you’ve been dealing with. They’re there to support you; it’s their job. This is the kind of thing people need their friends and family to help them through. But even if you decide you aren’t ready to confide in them just yet, at the very least call one of these following hotlines and speak to someone who can help you formulate a plan for full recovery, help you when you feel the urge to purge, guide you through the challenge of sharing your illness with your loved ones, and yes, even help you figure out when you might be ready to date again (and when and how to discuss your eating disorder with someone you care about). You can’t do this alone. Call for help:
Eating Disorders Information and Referral Line: 1-800-931-2237
Eating Disorders Help Hotline – Bulimia / Anorexia: 1-800-227-4785
National Crisis Line – Anorexia and Bulimia: 1-800-233-4357
National Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center: 1-858-481-1515
Bulimia and Self-Help Hotline (24 hours crisis line) : 1-314-588-1683
National Eating Disorder Hotline: 1-800-248-3285
Food Addiction Hotline: 1-800-872-0088
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.