Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Eating Disorder is Getting in the Way of a Healthy Relationship”

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 wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

74 comments… add one
  • Lexie.b June 29, 2011, 7:09 am

    I think you should seek professional help to help you deal with this and why you have done it in the past. We all know dating can be emotionally distressing at times and you don’t want one rejection/bad date/crazy guy/stupid comment to send you spiraling back into bulimia.

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  • sweetleaf June 29, 2011, 7:28 am

    I really don’t think you should start getting back into dating until you work on you. I know “you should seek therapy” sounds so cliche. It always has to me when it’s been suggested for my issues. After I went through 3 therapists, I finally found one that I really like…a lot. Now it doesn’t seem so cliche. And as I’ve said before on here, you won’t just wake up one day and love yourself. Life is a constant process. You will always be working on how to improve and enlighten yourself until the day you leave this earth.

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  • PFG-SCR June 29, 2011, 8:30 am

    You haven’t gotten your eating disorder under control yet – you just haven’t been in the situation where you’ve felt you “needed” to do it as often. Once you start a self-destructive behavior – eating disorder, self-mutilation, substances abuse, etc. – that you think “helps” you cope with life, stress, etc., it’s very difficult to just stop without having recurrences. There is a sense of control, comfort and/or relief that comes along with them, and until you’ve worked out alternative ways of dealing with those feelings that lead to those behaviors, you’re never going to be able to say you’re free from them.

    I agree with Wendy that you should tell a close friend or your family. I also agree with her that you should seek some time of professional help or support group in order to properly deal with your bulimia.

    Good luck, LW.

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  • Fairhaired Child June 29, 2011, 8:52 am

    The best way to get over ANYTHING it to talk about it. As others said, with everything its best to have a good support system to help with that. If you don’t want to go to your friends and family , please seek others for the help. Either by calling the hotlines Wendy gave you, or by seeking out a support group online or in person of other people who have gone through the same thing. Also try to always give yourself positive reinforcement. Tell yourself that you are making yourself stronger, and that you can do this. On a day after not “slipping up” tell yourself in the mirror “i’m proud of you for the progress you’ve made, and you still look beautiful”.

    Please please reach out for help in others either through support groups, therapy or by reaching out to your existing support structure. Yes, your family and friends will be concerned and rightly so, and they will watch you, but they will also listen to you when you tell them about your journey, whats going on now with your life, and if you set up boundaries. (ie. Mom please don’t listen when I have to go pee to see if I’m hurting myself). Whenever I’m facing a difficult time it always makes me feel better to talk about it, but usually I say “please just listen and dont try to point out mistakes or give me advice, I’m just so drained and I just want to get this off my chest, when I feel better I will come to you again and ask you for your advice, but at this moment I don’t think I could handle anything more than letting you know how I feel.”

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  • SGMcG June 29, 2011, 9:17 am

    Forget about getting into a relationship with a significant other for the moment. Your eating disorder is getting in the way of a healthy relationship WITH YOURSELF. The fact that you think your freedom from bulimia for the two months over the period of Lent, where abstaining from certain foods AND fasting full meals is de rigur for practicing Catholics, only suggests to me that you are potentially switching from periods of bulima with periods of anorexia – which is a dangerously common occurrence unfortunately.

    LW, part of loving yourself is accepting the good and the bad about you, not only with yourself but also with other people who truly love and accept you for who you are. You have a disorder in your health that you still choose to hide from your friends and family – how can you say that you love yourself now when you won’t allow others who love you help you with this. Perhaps you won’t have to fight so hard with yourself when you get into a cycle of defensive vomiting if you know you have someone who’s got your back.

    No one is asking you to become the poster child for bulimia – you don’t have to immediately share your struggles with strangers if you’re not comfortable with them. It takes a lot of courage and strength to recognize that you have a problem and asking for help with your eating disorder is not a sign of weakness. Please summon a call to arms for help with your friends and family. They may not only give you an emotional network, but they could also help you towards more resources to help you.

    For what it’s worth LW, congratulations on reaching out to SOMEONE at least. However, PLEASE reach out to someone who knows you more than just as an anonymous letter writer. By hiding this disorder from those who love you, and what you recognize as the causes of your bulimia, you are letting your ex win and STILL control your life. Please make asking for help from your friends and family the definitive act that helps you truly MOA.

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  • Kerrycontrary June 29, 2011, 9:18 am

    LW, please get professional help for your eating disorder. Eating disorders are LIFELONG problems, just as addiction is. Only with true therapy and, as Wendy mentions, “tools” to cope with this problem you will be healthy. Until then, I would avoid dating. In the long-term when you do find someone you want to be in a relationship with, I would bring up the topic only when you trust them. At that point you can give them as little or as much information as you would like. Eating disorders are a mental health problem (that sounds more sever than I mean it to), and you would want to know if your partner was suffering from depression or bipolar disorder, wouldn’t you?

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  • Morgan June 29, 2011, 9:19 am

    I started dating my current boyfriend 2 years ago, in the absolute depth of my battle with anorexia. And I worked so, so hard to hide it from him. Not eating all day so that I “could” eat when I got a meal with him and blaming my lack of eating on some occasions on a lack of vegetarian options. But eventually he found out, when I got drunk and confessed i had to weigh in with the student health center every Friday. I played it off as a “I’m getting better thing,” but i wasn’t. About 6 months after that, I was still trying to hide it. Trying to hide it when we’d cook dinner together, trying to hide it when he wanted to go cheese tasting, trying to hide it when we went to an ice cream shop on the way back from running errands, trying to hide it. And i wanted to do those things, I wanted to be a normal, happy girlfriend who he could enjoy a bottle of wine over dinner with. And so I made myself be that; it was hard as fuck, ignoring the thoughts, ignoring everything i had spent the previous basically my entire life doing and thinking. And then the thoughts got quieter, and quieter, and then they started disappearing for long periods of time. And the longer I could go without thinking about my eating disorder, the easier it got to ignore it when I did think about it. And I got better; today i am happy and healthy and perfectly able to enjoy a lovely evening watching movies and sharing a pint of ice cream and a bottle of wine without going to the gym for four hours and not eating the next day.

    My point: if you aren’t ready for a relationship, don’t enter a relationship. I don’t really want to say do or don’t. other than do what you feel is right and you can handle. But a lot of time, recovery needs motivation. It could be that you love to dance and your eating disorder results in a series of stress fractures and dance is the one thing more important to you than your disorder. Or it could be the happiest and healthiest relationship you’ve ever been in is the one thing more important to you. Or the desire to have a child. Or the…you see my point. For me, and for several others I have talked to, getting better took finding the one voice in my head that was able to drown out all those thoughts. It’ll be different for everyone, of course. But its worth it. The amount of time and energy in your life not consumed by the disorder is amazing. And its worth it. So, so worth it. Professional help can help; for me, it hurt a lot more than it helped, but that’ll be different for everyone, and I would at least encourage you to try. Because it has helped a lot of people. Just tell someone. It doesn’t have to be a therapist. Just someone. For me, a friend who saw me in his fraternity, sat me down, and said “I see this. I’ve been there. Just talk to me.” was a lifesaver. No judgement, no advice where i didn’t want it, just support. I hope you can find someone like that for you, whether it be a therapist, a friend, a family member, whoever.

    Good luck. I feel for you. You can do it.

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    • Bethany June 29, 2011, 9:58 am

      Thank you for sharing your story with us.

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  • WatersEdge June 29, 2011, 9:28 am

    I’m so glad that you’ve decided that you don’t want to live with bulimia anymore. But I think you really need to see a therapist. I’d like to point out that sometimes people with eating disorders don’t want to tell their friends and family because they’ll be watching them like a hawk as LW says, not just because then they’ll worry, but because then the person will be accountable for keeping food down even if they feel like purging. The fact that you don’t want your family or friends to know says to me that you want the safety net of figuring it out on your own, including the ability to revert back to your old behavior if it gets too hard to abstain. Additionally, you haven’t had a consistent period of normal eating (two months with two slip-ups doesn’t count) and you don’t seem to have any idea why you binge and purge besides its effects on your weight (it usually has something to do with having difficulty managing your emotional state). Get help before you start dating, and get a good handle on yourself. Good luck!

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  • ReginaRey June 29, 2011, 8:28 am

    This is absolutely true no matter WHAT afflicts you (a bad breakup, an eating disorder, being overweight, lacking confidence, doesn’t matter): Until you’re really comfortable and happy being YOU, you will never be able to hold down a happy, healthy relationship. If there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we view ourselves or the way we treat ourselves, it WILL bleed over into a relationship. You cannot expect to find a person to build a healthy relationship with while you’re not in a healthy state. The secure, confident, happy people (the ones you WANT to have a relationship with) will sense that you don’t like yourself, and they’ll find someone who DOES.

    I’d say the same thing to someone going through a bad breakup, or someone with really low self-esteem: You need to concentrate on you right now. Your life, your issues, your goals, everything. And yes, a therapist will have the tools to help you figure out why you might have started purging, and how to overcome it and get to a healthier state physically, mentally and emotionally. Until you fill fulfilled being by yourself, you can’t try to be one half of a fulfilling relationship. It’s hard enough for two whole, confident, healthy people to have a good relationship! Don’t put yourself through the dating game when you clearly aren’t in a place to be there…it could cause many, many more problems for your whole health. It’s time to start placing a bit more value on your health and your life.

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    • moonflowers June 29, 2011, 4:24 pm

      I can’t second this more! In a relationship, personal problems ARE relationship problems.

      You can’t expect your own personal issues not to cross over and affect how you respond to your boyfriend, and that in turn will affect how he reacts to you. If you try to wall it off, that will still affect things – he’ll know that you’re hiding things from him and feel isolated.

      Also, in a relationship, all ups and downs are magnified. That means that if life is already going rough for you, and that affects the relationship negatively (i.e. he withdraws from you because you’re acting a bit needier since you’re in trouble), that will just pull you down even faster than if it was just that rough thing on its own. It’s much harder to sort out your own issues if they’re being blown up and tossed back at you all the time.

      Take time to figure yourself out, and to learn to truly love you for who you are. Otherwise men who are unhealthy and need you to be sick in some way, to complement their own sickness, will find you and keep you stuck in an unhealthy pattern. And that’s a cycle you don’t need at all in your life. You deserve better than that!

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    parton_doll June 29, 2011, 9:36 am

    Please tell your family or a close friend about your eating disorder. Yes, they will watch you like a hawk. Yes, they may make you feel like a child. Yes, they may harass you about every meal you eat and every time you go out to exercise. But they will also love you and support you and carry you through these hard times. I was so incredibly ashamed to tell my family that I had eating problems (like they couldn’t tell that at 5’0 and 90 lbs that something was wrong) but it was the best thing. Please don’t worry about burdening them with your problems. Your emotional and physical pain is a burden to them and to you. Getting healthy and having people to support you while you recovery is exactly what they are here to do.

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  • callmehobo June 29, 2011, 9:54 am

    I’m going to go out and say that you do not need therapy, LW- you need to put yourself in a rehabilitation facility. What you are dealing with is not a bad habit, like biting your nails; it’s an addiction that you will struggle with for the rest of your life.

    It’s awesome that you are trying to make yourself healthy, but do you remember the lady who wrote in about whether or not she should tell her family about her cancer? I would like you to read her letter and then her update. She ended up telling her family, and in return she got a wonderful support system. While your disease is different from hers, you still need a solid support from your family and friends.

    Bulimia thrives in secrecy. Please get it out in the open and get some help. Please, please LW.

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  • Bethany June 29, 2011, 9:55 am

    You say “I really just want a healthy relationship now, and I don’t want bulimia getting in the way of it”– But really, before you can have a healthy relationship with anyone else, you need to have one with YOURSELF. And that means doing what’s best for you and getting healthy. Put yourself first and get some help.

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    • callmehobo June 29, 2011, 10:08 am

      I know, it’s kind of like saying “I want a healthy relationship now, but I don’t want my heroin addiction getting in the way of it.” It absolutely won’t happen until she gets some help. If she does, she runs the risk of falling back into the routine of bingeing, purging, and lying.

      I would just hate to see her hurt herself again. Sure, it was thirty pounds last time, but what if you get back into it and it’s sixty? What if the relationship hits a bump and you lose enough that you have to be put in the hospital?

      Please, LW, tackle this monster before trying to involve yourself with anyone.

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  • Laurel June 29, 2011, 9:56 am

    If therapy seems too intimidating right now (or you are having a hard time finding something you can afford) I would suggest another option is that you can look to your church for support. It’s been over two months since Lent ended, and I’m really glad you’ve been able to stick with your Lenten promise. It seems like that was a good source of strength and motivation for you. I’m sure there is someone at your church that you can talk to about this. Depending on who you talk to (and under what circumstances) it will also be kept completely confidential.

    But no matter where you go, you do need to talk to someone about your bulimia. Someone with experience in the field of psychology and/or eating disorders will be able to teach you new coping mechanisms that you can use when the desire to binge/purge comes back.

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  • Desiree June 29, 2011, 9:58 am

    Please listen to Wendy. I was anorexic for over a year. That was eight years ago now, and it is still something I have to stay alert about. Your bulimia was partly induced by the stress of your past relationship; I am worried that if you get in a relationship now, before you are significantly better, you will set yourself for emotional dependence. You could meet a great guy and start a great relationship, and the happiness you feel could prevent you from engaging in your eating disorder. But once that relationship hit some bumps or dissolved, what would stop you from returning to your crutch? Take it from someone who has made this mistake not once, but multiple times. You need to build a self-esteem base completely separate from any men you date; that will be your foundation for resisting bulimia. And yes, do talk to some loved ones. Doing this alone is hard and much more ineffective.

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  • Painted_lady June 29, 2011, 10:00 am

    As far as not telling your family goes, I know you don’t want them worrying nor do you want them checking in on you, but it sounds like what it sort of boils down to is you don’t want them to see you differently. And that is TOTALLY understandable. But think about it from their perspective and hopefully you can see it a little differently. What if you found out your mom had been hiding the fact that she was an alcoholic from you? Or one of your siblings chose not to tell you he or see had a drug problem? This isn’t in order to make you feel guilty, only to point out that if the situation were reversed you’d want to know, and not because you’d want to make sure your family member wasn’t screwing up but because you’d want to help support them so they’re not having to fight all alone. You’d want to know because you love them. You wouldn’t see them differently because that’s your mom/sister/brother and you love them no matter what. You need to tell them what you need (like someone above said, set boundaries, but also be clear about “I need someone to drive me to and from dr. appointments because weigh-ins trigger the purging impulse” or “I would like someone to go grocery shopping with/for me”) so that they know how to help you and don’t just spazz out of being unsure, but most of all, you need to tell them. Maybe even tell them before you seek help; it’s actually really wonderful to have someone you love hold your hand when you call the counselor or the clinic the first time. But definitely tell them. It must be so lonely and scary to go through this all on your own steam. You don’t have to. And you don’t have to. Please get help, and tell your family.

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    • Painted_lady June 29, 2011, 10:28 am

      So, uh, that was supposed to be one “You don’t have to.” I shouldn’t type before coffee.

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  • Elle June 29, 2011, 10:02 am

    LW, I hope that you call one of those hotlines today. I understand you completely when you say you don’t want to tell any of your friends or family. But you have to admit that you need help. If you didn’t, you would have solved your problems by now. When you call the hotline, be prepared to be completely vulnerable and open. Tell them everything you don’t feel comfortable telling your friends. Just the simple act of saying the things that bother you will give you some relief. You sound like a milder case of bulimia, so just spit it all out. What they will do is help you get to the root of your problems, and they will also give you the tools to do it. Maybe you’re smart enough to figure your problems, but you don’t know all the tools you need to overcome them, and this is where the hotline (or therapy) will come in.

    I don’t know much about the effects of bulimia on the body, but I know that, other than a sore throat(the gastric acid from the stomach is actually destroying your esophagus, it’s not a simple sore throat), it also weakens your heart. If you want to have kids later, it will put your life in danger, or maybe your doctors will advise against any pregnancy ever. This is enough to scare me of ever becoming a bulimic. Another thing: maybe you can eat only stuff that you know you won’t feel compelled to throw up later?

    I’m really glad you wrote Wendy about your problem. That’s the first step towards recognizing you need help. Best of luck!

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  • David Jay June 29, 2011, 10:04 am

    There are 2 key ingredients to all-around health. The first is, of course, being physically/mentally capable and the second is spirituality, which gives you the reason and the purpose to pursue/sustain the former. It sounds like you already have the latter in place, so you just need sit in with a local support group and feed your head for a few weeks/months. Since this particular affliction is affecting no one but YOU right now, you have to learn to love and respect yourself (and to understand your very important role in God’s plan) enough so that your sense of purpose overrides all other desires (even those involving boyfriends).

    This is YOUR battle; don’t introduce it to boyfriends. (Family is okay IF you have a GOOD ONE, but that can also backfire and cause added stress, which leads back to the toilet bowl. Your call.

    Final thought: When you wake up each morning, remember that you don’t have to beat bulimia for the rest of your life… you only have to be it today.

    Best wishes for a swift and complete recovery.

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    • WatersEdge June 29, 2011, 10:52 am

      I think that a lot of people who use spirituality to maintain whatever is positive in their life (whether that is a strong marriage, a commitment to emotional well-being, patience, a giving/charitable spirit, etc) have a hard time understanding how people who are not spiritual could be getting along without it… and they assume that they are probably not getting along very well at all. As countless murderers have proven, a belief in God is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve emotional well-being.

      I also encourage the LW to use her faith to help her get better, if that works for her. But to say that it’s a key ingredient for everyone’s mental health is categorically untrue.

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      • David Jay June 29, 2011, 10:57 am

        Oh you just sound SO HAPPY and FULFILLED by that comment!!
        Enjoy the Kool-Aid! 🙂

      • silver_dragon_girl June 29, 2011, 10:59 am

        How rude.

      • ForeverYoung June 29, 2011, 11:26 am

        I am starting to get offended that you are a contributor on this site. I find your views extremely closed minded. If people don’t fit your exact model of the way life should be lived, (married for 20 years, monogamous, religious), they are so CLEARLY doing something wrong.

        I think you tend to use an extremely degrading tone too. I don’t always think what you’re getting at is an offensive thought, but the way you state it is pretty offensive, to me at least.

        Just a thought. I love hearing other people’s opinions, but I don’t really like the way you state yours. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

      • Sarah June 29, 2011, 12:03 pm

        Absolutely no point arguing with David Jay when he gets like this. He’s just looking for someone to hand his pamphlets to.

      • sweetleaf June 29, 2011, 12:35 pm

        Whoa when I first read that I thought it said he was looking for someone to hand his pampers too. Gross. lol

      • David Jay June 29, 2011, 12:06 pm

        Thank You… that is why I’m a professional writer. I have a gift with words that usually provokes an emotional response from people, and in so doing they expose their own intolerance.

        I cannot do or say anything to change an intolerant person, as that is the ultimate state of “close mindedness”. I hope only to hold those people up so others may see and choose a more enlightened path for themselves.

        Case and point: The contributor before me references “countless murders” caused by “spiritual people”. That is completely baseless, but it’s fine and dandy with you. Instead, you attack me for offering sincere advice to the LW who already admitted to having a spiritual relationship with her God.

        I get it. I know history. As soon as “the Godless” take control, I’m a nameless corpse in a mass grave. However, if I don’t stand up now, I’m already dead.

        Thanks LTC039 for “getting it” and having the spine to STAND. You do realize, of course, that your future isn’t much brighter than mine 🙂

      • SGMcG June 29, 2011, 12:49 pm

        Apologies to LW for bringing this up here. Please ignore this post as it does not relate to your letter. Good luck LW!

        There’s nothing wrong with being controversial/emotional in your writing – I have had the barrage of purple thumbs myself because I sometimes write objectionably to make my stance known. However, I try an own up to the fact that, yeah, I could be wrong. Yet the manner in which you hold people up to their intolerance in your writing really strikes a nerve. If anything, it exemplifies the stereotypes and intolerance you possess and fail to own up to.

        Case IN point: There was a letter awhile back in which you ravaged anyone who went into FWB relationships. I countered that some people may want to go into FWBs because of the existing relationship of friendship that helps aid in exploring sexuality. You then applied this scortched earth rationale that if exploring sexuality through the guise of friendship is acceptable then other relationships, like incest and beastiality could apply too. No mention of those sexual encounters that are obviously against most societal mores was even made – until YOU brought them up.

        I get it – you have your own paths and opinions on how to handle things based on your individual experiences. I have my own. Just because my path is obviously different from yours, it doesn’t mean that you have the right to immediately question my path to the point that others observe you as ignorant, extremist and judgmental.

        TL;DR – Don’t be a douche when you write – be a fucking person.

      • lk June 29, 2011, 1:20 pm

        “Oh you just sound SO HAPPY and FULFILLED by that comment!!
        Enjoy the Kool-Aid! :-)”

        This is rude, David Jay. I’m confused by the way you’re talking about God. I was raised a Christian (I consider myself more of a Mathematician-Love-All-Dreamer at this point…) and my brother is a minister, so I’m quite used to hot religious debate, but the one thing I can’t really fathom is how a person who considers religion or “spirituality” such a priority (by the way, I don’t think they’re necessarily related) could feel comfortable recklessly denigrating the other participants on this site. The Dear Wendy forum is not your personal soapbox. Please be respectful of the other opinions & when you disagree, use reason & not wrath.

      • Britannia June 30, 2011, 5:18 am

        I agree with you completely. I consider my jury to still be “in session” in regard to the concept of the presence of a God, but religion and spirituality interest me deeply… I’m going to quote the NIV version of the bible here for good old Christian David Jay here…

        James 2:12-13: Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

        Matthew 7:1-2: Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

        Romans 2:1-4: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?

      • twiglet June 29, 2011, 1:06 pm

        Excuse me, but are you saying that all secular societies murder anyone who believes in god? I know history too, and there’s a lot to be said about the other side of that coin. But really, do you believe that because a society is not ruled by the church/mosque/whatever, every believer is going to be dumped in a mass grave? Really? Do you travel much?

      • misslisa June 29, 2011, 3:20 pm

        A professional writer, huh? It’s not “case and point,” it’s “case in point” – lol! Not to rag on you too much – Sometimes I agree with you, sometimes I disagree (a lot); in general, you’re a tad to the right of most of us on here.

        Me, I’m just a “professional writer” of software manuals, so carry on…

      • David Jay June 29, 2011, 5:26 pm

        I ran my own Tech Writing business for ~10 years doing almost exclusively software manuals. You have my respect and my sympathy! 🙂

      • Random June 29, 2011, 12:42 pm

        Rewriting your comment by making the fact that your opinions are yours implicit instead of explicit, it is your opinion that:

        “It’s offensive that you are a contributor on this site. Your views are extremely closed minded. If people don’t fit your exact model of the way life should be lived, (married for 20 years, monogamous, religious), they are so CLEARLY doing something wrong.

        You tend to use an extremely degrading tone too. You aren’t always getting at is an offensive thought, but the way you state it is pretty offensive.

        I love hearing other people’s opinions, but I don’t really like the way you state yours. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

        That’s the main difference between DavidJay and most, that I’ve noticed. It’s also (to a really really crude horrible approximation) how those male/female writing guessing programs work. It’s also a weak shibboleth for. . . stuff! (sorry: avoding politics). Translation game for everyone: When you read DavidJay, throw in an “I think” in from of every sentence (and vice versa for Forever Young”.

        Anyway, I’m a horribly unspiritual being, but if one hopes to help the LW, I think his perspective is well suited here, judging from her comments.

      • ForeverYoung June 29, 2011, 4:31 pm

        I have absolutely no idea what you’re getting at in your comment.

      • EB June 29, 2011, 1:43 pm

        yeah DJ seems to have a major penchant for playing devil’s advocate… 90% of the time I don’t really give a shit; if he wants to say inflammatory things just to get a rise out of people. whatever. I’ll roll my eyes and return to my real life.

        However, in this case, the LW is dealing with some really serious stuff… so maybe do this poor girl a favor David Jay and climb off your soapbox and save your usual vitriol for an LW who asks about wedding etiquette, FWBs, or MOAing aka someone NOT dealing with a life or death issue.

      • LTC039 June 29, 2011, 10:59 am

        I believe he only mentioned that because the LW mentioned she believed in God. I don’t think he was trying to generalize or be judgemental.
        There’s a difference between being a spiritual person & believing in God. Any murderers you may be thinking of did not murder because they believed in God, nor does that have anything to do with the reasons they murder.
        & as DJ referenced, it’s not the only element needed, just part of it.

      • lk June 29, 2011, 1:53 pm

        I agree. I think David Jay’s advice for this LW was relevant & helpful. She is clearly invested in her relationship with God & her church.

        I think most people are disagreeing with his tone (particularly in follow-up comments) & the idea that spiritual health is only accessible by pursuing a Christian path.

      • David Jay June 29, 2011, 3:09 pm

        Thank You. I did NOT mention her religion or her church, I only re-referenced “her God” with respect to HER reference in HER letter. I did NOT mention Christianity or suggest a “spritual path”. But look at the hatred that it brought out? I’d hate to think this hatred is all anti-God and hope that it is more anti-male.

        My tone is not one of anger or intolerance. (Why would I do that to myself?) I do occasionally demonstrate absurdity with absurdity, as was the case in the previous FWB letter. Whenever you can get a bunch of people to say, “THIS is okay behaviour because I do it” and then almost immediately get them to say, “but THIS behaviour is absolutely gross and disgusting and violates social norms”… well, it makes a much larger point than the topic itself, and I do apologize if those more peripheral points are lost on people.

        The advice I offer is solid. If I’m not sure, I’ll elude to that with the words “I think” or “I suggest” or flat out “I don’t know”. While I would love the opportunity to sit and counsel with some of these people, that is not possible here so I have a very brief window to advise them in the right direction. Yeah, sometimes that comes out harsh because I have to keep it under NNN words, but those are the rules and I abide by them.

      • lk June 29, 2011, 4:31 pm

        Possibly it is *because* you are a professional writer that you seem to see this forum as a battle-of-comments.

        In particular, there was no need to respond to WatersEdge’s comment at all, much less with such vitriol.

        Please keep in mind that – although this may look very textual – it is in fact very human & there are very real emotions at stake.

        WWJD, right? Not WWDJD, haha : )

      • David Jay June 29, 2011, 5:36 pm

        Really? There was NO NEED to respond to:
        “As countless murderers have proven, a belief in God is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve emotional well-being.”????

        Wow. Just… Wow.
        Can’t even justify wasting more words on it.

      • ForeverYoung June 29, 2011, 4:40 pm

        I’m not mad you mentioned religion. It can be assumed she is a religious person (lent reference) and I think for a lot of religious people looking at things through those lenses can be extremely helpful. I myself am religious. I just don’t understand why you have to be degrading. It’s not helpful. You remind me of what other sites consider “trolls”. Someone that just has the opposite opinion just to be controversial.

      • Sarah June 29, 2011, 5:43 pm

        Its funny, I don’t even think its a troll thing with David Jay. I’ve known very very religious people in the past who almost seem to gain resolve in their beliefs by how many people disagree with them and how fervently. Its like they get to feel more right because God told them that there would be godless heathens to tell them they’re wrong.I feel like its a defense mechanism to make themselves isolated with moral superiority to keep others from having the power to make them feel bad, but that’s just my opinion.

      • Kate June 29, 2011, 5:45 pm

        I’ve had similar experiences.

      • David Jay June 29, 2011, 6:28 pm

        Please don’t classify me as “very religious” as that indicates some sort of blind faith. What I know of life, love, and spirituality has survived the scientific method with adequate integrity for me to conclude (rationally) that it is true. I espouse a certain lifestyle, via a set of fundamental principles, that leads to personal fulfillment. This is what I try to share between “fun snippets”. If you have your own tried-and-true method, please share it. If you do not, please abstain from belittling mine.

      • Britannia June 30, 2011, 5:26 am

        I think it is more your tone than your message that rubs people the wrong way. You have an air of entitlement, and (no pun intended) holier-than-thou way of responding to people’s comments.

        Case in point: “… I have a very brief window to advise them in the right direction.”

        I think that most people on this site think that right/wrong is subjective and though they believe it generally runs along paths of obviousness, that individual situations cannot be painted over with a singular brush. Your very black and white opinions, while strong and obviously helpful in their own way, are often not presented diplomatically… nothing angers people more than being told that your truth is the absolute truth.

      • LTC039 June 29, 2011, 4:41 pm

        I get where you’re coming from & I get where the other commentors are coming from. Both sides have equally reasonable arguements. I just don’t like it when people take things out of context, get all riled up about, just because they have strong opinions about it.
        I feel that happens a lot on this site, & when I read the comments that they’re lashing out against, I’m like “wait, that’s NOT what this person meant at ALL”. Sometimes it is something to point out, however.
        I just felt that your comment was NOTHING of what people were accusing you of, so I pointed it out, because if there’s one thing I have a pet peeve about, it’s that.
        At times I think you do come across as harsh & unneccessary, but hey, you said it yourself you’re a professional writer!

      • ForeverYoung June 29, 2011, 4:52 pm

        I guess i’m a little confused about why being a professional writer is a defense to being a complete jerk. It is not helpful!!

      • lk June 29, 2011, 5:15 pm

        Ha…I think it might be a tangential defense just because as a professional writer, David Jay might be more detached from textual expression than other people & might be more inclined to see every opportunity to express himself in writing as an assignment that he has to win kind of..

        I agree with you that he sometimes sounds like a jerk…but I don’t agree he is one. I don’t really believe in jerkiness, haha…

      • David Jay June 29, 2011, 5:31 pm

        Sadly, the “Professional Jerk” field is pretty much filled by Hollywood actors and media people, so I had to step down to writing. Of course, that was before I learned that I can justifiably kill countless people! I see some new doors opening up! 🙂

      • lk June 29, 2011, 6:19 pm

        DAVID! This is my last post on this thread because this is supposed to be about the LW.

        But seriously, how in the world are you categorizing “Hollywood actors and media people” as jerks?? And NO ONE said you can “justifiably kill countless people” — WatersEdge implied that many violent individuals are self-professed religious faithfuls (which is not “baseless” at all, but quite true).

        Have a good evening! Sorry for getting a little impatient.

      • David Jay June 29, 2011, 8:37 pm

        I see what you’re trying to do here… VERY clever! I’m not biting though!!! 🙂

      • Random June 29, 2011, 12:33 pm

        “As countless murderers have proven, a belief in God is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve emotional well-being. ”

        That’s a comment on sufficiency, not necessity (just talking formally).

    • SGMcG June 29, 2011, 11:59 am

      I can understand where you’re coming from regarding spirituality. Yet just because someone does not acknowledge any semblance of spirituality, does not make that individual have any less reason or purpose towards capability. By virtue of existence of the individual, their capability is potentially endless.

      For some, spirituality stems from individual faith and fosters a semblance of community and belonging. I think your encouraging her to CONTINUE hiding her eating disorder because of her spirituality is a direct slap against the faith in one’s self, the creation of community and sense of belonging that spirituality can potentially encourage. Assuming that the LW is a practicing Catholic from her Lent comment, one can argue that, because she is hiding her bulimia, she is also turning away from God and the opportunity to absolve her sins through Confession. Although most Catholic priests I know will say that bulimia isn’t a sin because there is no conscious choice with a psychological eating disorder, the fact that she continues to be dishonest and hide her eating disorder with her family may potentially be sin because it prevents her from fighting for her life against her illness with all the potential resources she can obtain – a very circular and indirect form of suicide, if you will.

      However, these theological discussions regarding the catechism of the Roman Catholic faith do not belong here. As a fellow humanist, I encourage to LW to keep fighting her eating disorder every day. I also implore her to also not be afraid to get help beyond the DW community – because we can only do so much to help. If you really want to stop your cycles with bulimia, it’s time to recruit others who love you to help.

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  • silver_dragon_girl June 29, 2011, 10:12 am

    As the sister of a former (and occasionally relapsing) anorexic, please, PLEASE open up to your family and close friends about your eating disorder. PLEASE. My sister and I have never talked about hers, and because of that I feel as though I have no way to help her even when I see her struggling.

    Your family WANTS to help you. Your friends WANT to support you and be there for you when you’re struggling. You’re worried about them “watching you like a hawk,” and yes, they might, but only because they want to help you. They won’t judge you, or feel burdened by this information. This is WHY we have family and friends, to help us through life’s horribleness.

    Please talk to a close friend of family member. Please.

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  • twiglet June 29, 2011, 10:17 am

    I agree with all the replies which suggest confiding in friends, family, joining a support group, or getting counselling….I’d just like to add, do not ever even contemplate joining an online forum directly related to eating disorders, as there are a number of very harmful ones out there. I know you didn’t mention such a thing, so sorry if I am speaking out of turn, but I’ve known a few people really held back by sites which appear to be sympathetic, helpful, full of people who seem like they know everything you are going through, but which turn out to be pernicious and actually supportive of a “lifestyle” that you have so very wisely decided to turn your back on. Good luck,you deserve the better life that you are choosing for yourself!

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    • lk June 29, 2011, 1:06 pm

      I mention this in my response… but I just wanted to say that I think girls of a certain age are very vulnerable to destructive eating behaviors & I have seen “confiding in friends” literally turn into an entire group of friends with an eating-disordered “lifestyle” — just as in the online communities.

      LW, consider carefully before you tell a friend. You can’t be sure where the other person may be in terms of their self-perception & it could do more harm than good for both yourself & your confidant.

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  • lk June 29, 2011, 10:52 am

    I know that your relationship presented some *triggers* for your eating disorder, but please don’t confuse that relationship or your ex with the *cause* of your bulimia. I know that this is a very difficult struggle, but please read all of the advice people are giving & come up with a plan to help yourself. Life is challenging & there will be more situations and stresses that will trigger your self-esteem & eating issues.

    Keeping it secret & hoping you’ll somehow learn to dominate this alone is NOT an option. A hotline is a great option if you don’t feel you can turn to friends or family (& honestly, I don’t think it’s always a great idea to share with a friend…it can put a lot of strain on you & on the friend – who is not trained to help, does not fully understand the issue & can become quickly impatient, gossipy or even develop esteem/eating issues themselves).

    Best of luck & there is a lot of support behind you – even just on this forum.

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  • melikeycheesecake June 29, 2011, 11:18 am

    Work on getting yourself healthy LW. Seek help before you worry about dating.

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  • LTC039 June 29, 2011, 10:23 am

    Sorry, but when it comes to disorders like the one you have, you CANNOT do it on your own. Can you imagine how your family would feel if something happened to you & they never knew about it? Think about it that way, maybe that will incline you to tell them.
    Also, I’m concerned that you’re willing to tell a potential boyfriend about your disorder vs. your family & friends! It makes me wonder if you put way too much of yourself in relationships. Maybe that’s something you should evaluate.
    I think it’s really amazing that you’ve recognized you have a problem & want to correct it, but it’s OK to seek help. You need to! Please please please either tell your family, or call the numbers Wendy gave you & def. don’t jump in to a relationship until you’re 100% ok with yourself, at this point, it is imperative that you put yourself first.
    I really hope you take all the advice to heart & get the proper help you need. Hope to hear an update from you!

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  • mf June 29, 2011, 11:41 am

    LW, I’m glad you’re getting better, but I think you know, deep down, that you’re not ready for a relationship. The first step is to stop purging (or, in my case, it was to start eating), but that’s the easy part. The hard part is what happens after that, when you have to re-learn to how live and eat like a normal, healthy person. I was anorexic for about a year, but it took four years to re-train myself to think about food and my body in healthy, balanced way.

    I understand why you don’t want to to tell your family. When my parents started to figure out that I had an eating disorder, they did more harm than good. But you really do need to tell someone (a counselor, therapist, minister, mentor, grandparent, friend). I know it’s terrifying. It’s probably the scariest thing you can imagine. But you’re walking around with this heavy, burdensome secret, and it’s weighing you down every day! You don’t have to carry it alone.

    I remember the night I told my best friend about my anorexia. I was deeply ashamed and so afraid of what she would think of me. I was amazed and relieved to find that it didn’t change how she thought of me or how much she loved me. So you never know – people may surprise you and you may surprise yourself with how strong and brave you can be!

    Best wishes to you! You’re already on the right track, you just need to keep working toward a happy, healthy life.

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  • Greebo June 29, 2011, 11:50 am

    LW, if you’re around and wouldn’t mind explaining, I have a question about your comment that your family would “worry too much” and “watch you like a hawk”. Could you talk a little more about this family dynamic?

    I’m asking because your expression leaves me wondering whether your family falls within what I’ll call the “normal” worrying category (ie, keep in touch with us, we love and support you and tell us how to help you), or the “controlling” end of the spectrum (ie, we’re going to call you several times a day whether you want space or not, email you dozens of Internet stories about eating disorders, demand to see your food log and insist on sharing meals at which they harp on you about what you are or aren’t eating).

    Please understand that this isn’t meant to imply one type of family loves you more than another. It’s just that sometimes good intentions backfire.

    I advocate that you find a support network, but you know your social dynamics best. If you genuinely believe that your immediate friends and family will create additional stress, then maybe a support group of anonymous strangers is a better option for you.

    Either way, I wish you well.

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  • Sarah June 29, 2011, 12:23 pm

    Ok, you have to listen to this. Absolutely. Must. Listen. Ready?


    Tell a friend. Tell a family member. Tell a counselor. Tell anyone you trust (btw, include the hotlines Wendy listed as sources you can trust. Their entire reason for existing is to help you without the fear of judgement.)

    I know what its like to a have a self destructive pattern. Self destructive behavior thrives in an introvert and sometimes it can seem as though the fear of others finding out the truth can seem worse than the disorder at self. There were times that hiding my secrets became so crippling that I would have to run to the nearest bathroom so no one could see me have terrible panic attacks. I trusted myself to decide was were the best decisions I should make, when the truth was I was the last person I should have trusted.

    You need to include others in this. Wendy is absolutely right, you cannot do this alone. And even if you could, what is the point of that? To live your life in fear of falling back into a disorder and have all the weight of the fear on your shoulders? Spend too long hiding something so important from the people you love will close you off to everyone, not just potential boyfriends.

    You know this is a medical disorder, so treat it as one. Would you suppress the truth about a lump in your breast? No, you would tell a doctor or loved one so they could help you consult someone. It cannot get better until you get help, otherwise you’re just condemning yourself to an emotional prison that gives your bulimia the lock and key.

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    • ForeverYoung June 29, 2011, 5:13 pm

      I know other commenters have mentioned this, but I am kind of obsessed with you. You have the best advice and are hilarious. So please never leave.

      Reply Link
      • Sarah June 29, 2011, 5:41 pm

        🙂 You are so sweet!

  • AKchic June 29, 2011, 3:13 pm

    Eating disorders are like addictions. It starts out as something that you do because it’s something in your life you can control. You control what you do with your body (when/where/what comes up). Unfortunately, the urges to continue doing it soon get out of your control and become addicting (because you start looking thinner, which is flattering sometimes).

    You should look into a support group to help you quit, and a therapist to help you figure out WHY you do it, and what your triggers are. I would recommend not being in a relationship until you know these things and can control them.

    Good luck.

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  • misslisa June 29, 2011, 3:41 pm

    Okay, as someone who has been there, I’d like to offer some suggestions. (And as an IT professional, I’m making it a step-by-step list 🙂
    1. Keep on praying and exercising your faith – that was the number one thing that got me thru those awful days of purging/starving.
    2. Tell your doctor you have extreme anxiety. If you don’t want to open up about the real issue, then don’t. An RX for xanax or valium can get you through emergencies (acute desire to binge right away), and a daily small dose of lexapro or citalopram can get you through the long haul. For me, an eating disorder was the manifestation of an anxiety issue, and these meds have meant the world to me.
    3. For me, it also went hand-in-hand with other controlling/rigid behaviors. Practice loosening up in other ways: Skip a workout once in awhile, have a cocktail, let the dishes sit out overnight. Whatever works for you to train yourself to be less demanding of and more gentle with yourself.
    4. Counter to what others are saying, don’t tell anyone unless you really are ready and can trust that person. When I told my doctor, a therapist, my pastor, & my dad about my “problem,” they offered no help whatsoever, were very condescending (e.g., “well you’re thin and look great so what’s the problem?) and acted like I was a weirdo. Even when I confided in a family member who also had “the problem,” she gave me the same treatment. Now, this was around 1985-87, and times have changed, so maybe you will have a different result than I did.
    5. Know that time will heal this. I still think about “the food thing” several times a week, but it’s been nearly 25 years since I participated in these destructive habits. The meds I’m on now didn’t exist then, and I couldn’t get help from anyone then either, yet I still got over it. You can too!!

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    • Fairhaired Child June 30, 2011, 2:54 am

      How aweful for you to go alone! Thankfully you had a strong faith to keep you through it and so were -in a sense – not completely alone. While I’m not religous myself, I know that just the feeling of sitting and SAYING whatever you feel is on your chest – either to a higher power, your mirror, or to a friend. That really helps in the long haul.

      I do believe though, that this LW (if she doesn’t have a family who will react the same way as yours did) will find help in her existing support group should she feel eventually comfortable to reach out to someone in it. I know that before many people were not as open about expressing their feelings, problems etc as most people are today.

      For instance, its hard not to go through life without hearing about sex from SOMEONE either from your family, or a friend etc. And people like to share experiences bad or good, however like 40-50 years ago, it was very frowned apon to talk about such things, even when to warn a girl what is expected on her wedding night. (For instance my grandparents slept in different beds their whole life two twins in one bedroom – remind you of the movie Pleasantville anyone?) I believe that other things, such as eating disorders, are not “hush hush” anymore and its more readily talked about and more sources of support are now available to those who want it. This day and age everyone feels the right to talk about anything, because it makes us feel better just to talk about it – esp if that something is a difficult situation that they may need support to get through.

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  • SpyGlassez June 29, 2011, 3:47 pm

    Whether or not you are religious (you mention Lent; I automatically assume Catholicism, but I could be wrong), you might benefit by meeting with a counselor from Catholic Charities. They have a sliding fee scale, and in my experience their counselors are awesome. They don’t come at things from a preachy standpoint, and they will counsel anyone regardless of affiliation. For me it was cutting, not an eating disorder, but meeting with a counselor helped me feel accountable and like I could express myself to someone freely. I wasn’t comfortable talking to my family about it, but my counselor helped me rebuild my inner dialogue. We only talked about religion if I brought it up, but it was helpful to me to be able to discuss religion with someone who would not automatically assume that religion was the root of my problem (as had a prior counselor; believe me, religion was the reason I was still ALIVE).

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  • Britannia June 30, 2011, 5:57 am

    I understand the foundation of where you are coming from, despite differences in our exterior lives.. I have dealt with anorexia and OCD from a very young age. An eating disorder is an OCD kind of problem, a basic pattern of the brain that is incredibly difficult to overcome… so difficult, that I’m not sure it can be conquered without help from a third party. I definitely think that you need to focus on yourself and become mentally healthy before finding a romantic partner — a mentally unstable person cannot be emotionally supportive or properly responsive to emotional stimuli, and that will wreak havoc on anyone who is emotionally bonded with you. I am going to give you the Cliff Notes version of my experience with dealing with my eating disorder over the last 15 years or so, and hopefully you can find something helpful/applicable from my anecdotes…

    Trying to take control of your mind through simple sheer will: An incredibly difficult endeavor. The mental pay-off of following the “rules” makes it hard to do healthy things and do things that go against your mind’s set of rules for “happiness”. I experienced brief periods of reform, with inevitable relapse. Ultimately, I was trying to use my same unhealthy methods of self-control in order to get better that I was when I was engaging in unhealthy methods of behavior. I do not suggest trying to go “cold turkey” or going at this alone; without someone else there to bounce thoughts off of and receive an objective perspective from, it’s like trying to bowl without bumpers when the ball is your physical health.

    Institutionalization: A good idea for someone who is in a very critical state of health. The constant access to therapists is very good for someone who is in the advanced stages of mental illness, and the intense lack of freedom is good when someone doesn’t think they have a problem and do not want to get better. Frankly, I did not find hospitals helpful in the long run, because their general method of therapy is getting your body healthy first and then worrying about your mind once that’s taken care of. Well, when you have an eating disorder, it’s much harder to deal with your problems when you’re stuck in a body that you have no control over. Actually, it makes things worse inside your mind – it made me freak out and rebel, which made my recovery process even more complicated and difficult. But of course, for someone who is near death, of course getting your body to a stable level is of upmost priority – your mind won’t matter if you’re dead. I would suggest seeing your doctor and having him run tests to see if you need to be temporarily hospitalized or not.

    Seeking help from family: Family may be a good option, but it wasn’t for me. My family is very judgmental and overly concerned. It was maddening to have them constantly hovering over me and nagging me. It created discord between us, discord that has never gone away because at every meal I share with them, they raise their eyebrows at me. They always give me a look over when they see me and question me about my lifestyle. It makes me resent them and not want to visit them. Family simply cannot be objective when helping a family member overcome anything, and this sort of complication will stick forever.

    Trying the “Love Conquers All” approach: I tried to fix myself by falling in love, which failed horribly. When the very basis of your mentality is unhealthy, you cannot respond to emotional stimuli in a healthy way, and that ends up hurting the other person. I have also fallen in love with people who are also mentally unhealthy and not wanting to get help, and for a while it seemed helpful because they could understand and accept that I had a weird way of reaction and reasoning… but ultimately, two sick people do not make one healthy relationship. You come intensely bonded without having any actual compatibility, and they condone your mental illness, which keeps you from getting the help you need.

    Hitting rock bottom: This happened to me when I literally could not get out of bed in the morning without fainting and I couldn’t eat anything but mushroom rice, spinach, apples, and chicken. Whenever I did eat, I exercised until I fainted. When I went to see my doctor, my body did not produce enough blood for a blood test despite my vein being tapped for several minutes. He said he didn’t know how I was walking, or even how I drove myself to the office… and he didn’t allow me to leave until I called someone to get serious help, not just to drive me home. Once I saw such concern in the eyes of a virtual stranger, and the literal proof that my body could not perform basic functions, it made me realize that I had a real problem – not one that I could “manage” on my own. I had to admit that I sucked at managing my problem, which really sucked, to put it simply. But once I realized that, I started to get help. Hitting bottom is never an advisable way to go about things, but for many girls it seems to be the only thing that wakes them up. Please do not be one of those hard headed people who has to smell the death coming off a carcass before realizing they should not be keeping company with an effing carcass.

    Out-patient therapy: The best option, in my opinion. I have experienced the most success in managing my problem when I have someone to regularly talk to. My therapist is compassionate but she doesn’t tolerate any bullshit. Finding the right fit with a therapist can be a very frustrating and arduous process, much like trying to find the right life partner, but the outcome of finding the right therapist will outweigh any sort of frustrations or energy expenditures that you go through when searching. My therapist is someone who I can be intensely honest to, and she is intensely honest to me, and I do not have to worry about our relationship outside of that dynamic, which is why I’ve had so much more success with her than with the help of my family. She is able to look at me and listen to me without emotions or attachments coloring her perception, which is the most useful thing in the world when you are trying to receive useful advice from someone.

    I really hope you figure out something that works for you; please give Wendy an update to share with us!

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  • Rachel June 30, 2011, 12:02 pm

    LW. I suffered with bulimia for many years as a result of terrible self-esteem nurtured in my first relationship. I understand feeling out of control and guilty. I also understand the sense of relief after having purged and the secret elation of getting away with fooling friends and family and loved ones. It can feel dark and disgusting, hiding this part away from everyone you know because you don’t want them to worry about you or think there’s something wrong with you. But you have to understand that your disorder is a product of our society and negative people in your life that have made you feel, in many ways, inadequate and unworthy of acceptance. So much so that you choose to punish your body because you believe there’s something wrong with it. But, LW, there’s nothing wrong with your body. There’s no more wrong with your body than there was with mine. I was and you are waging war against your body. Keeping it from being it’s best. Abusing it. And there’s no reason for it.

    You should absolutely talk to someone you love about this. If you’re not ready for it, then you’re welcome to talk to me. I’d be happy to give you my contact information so that I can be here for you. It took me a long time but I was able to tell my best friend about it and she holds me accountable even to this day. Whether I was ready for a relationship or not, I met and fell in love with a wonderful man who taught me that I’m beautiful. He never made me feel inadequate or unworthy of love. I wasn’t searching for him, but he pursued me and has been a great support ever since I trusted him with my secret. I struggled with my disorder even afterwards, but today I love my body for what it is and have found that I’ve grown healthier (and a smaller size through proper eating habits and exercise!) and happier with my body. I’m no longer a slave to my fears and my disorder. The better I’ve treated my body, the better it treats me.

    I would also recommend reading Unbearable Lightness by Portia DiRossi. She put a face on disordered eating, and her triumph encouraged me to take my life and my health back.

    You’re under no obligation to tell anyone about it. But not having to bear your burden alone will better allow you to be more accountable for your actions. The friend I told lives far away. She’s been through a lot of up and downs with her weight, so I felt she could understand some of the dysmorphia and anxiety that comes along with body changes and weight changes. For your loved ones it’s about seeing you become healthy, not watching you like a hawk to catch you in the act. They hold you to your word. My friend and my love (now, my husband!) let me bring up any issues when I have them, and talk it out with me when I want to. Knowing that it’s within my power to monitor and maintain my well-being gives me such a sense of strength. I am not my eating disorder. I am my body’s hero.

    The best relationship is one where you can talk to your partner about your weaknesses and know that they won’t throw it back in your face or use it against you. You don’t have to tell a potential partner right away. There’s no right time. Tell them when you’re ready to share that with them and allow them to support you. If they’re not up to their challenge, then you won’t have to waste your time with them. I’m not saying you can use that to weed them out, but you’ll do better to open up when you’re ready than to stunt the potential relationship with secrecy.

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  • Lian July 5, 2011, 2:42 am

    LW, I agree with mf. Please take the time to heal yourself first. Like the other posters, I also had an eating disorder, and I think I just broke up with my first boyfriend because of it, indirectly. I’m still not comfortable with myself. The poor guy is lovely and cares for me very much, but it was too difficult to be a good girlfriend while still fighting with myself. It’s hard to try to love two people at once if you can’t even handle yourself. I don’t know if we would have worked out or not because the eating disorder is still a mental barrier and still distorts everything. The eating’s not the problem anymore; it’s the disorder. Please sort it out and ensure you can take care of yourself first.

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  • melancholia October 4, 2012, 4:44 pm

    This was posted last year, but I feel compelled to comment anyway.

    I sincerely agree that you still need to focus on yourself and staying healthy before you consider getting into a relationship with someone. There’s nothing wrong with getting to know people and making connections, but I think you need to keep romance out of the equation for now.

    While this was posted in 2011, I am not sure of your progress with your health or relationships at THIS point in your life. But I would like to tell you my experience with an eating disorder:

    I was a lot heavier in high school, not overweight, but definitely chubbier than I would have liked. I danced every day for 1-2 hours a day, so I was very active. After I moved out from my parents house with a friend after graduation, I felt compelled to get control over my body and to slim down. I knew a lot about eating disorders, what the signs are, what the individual categories for EDs are, etc. There were 6 girls in my circle of friends who had active eating disorders through high school (there were 11 in the group). So ED wasn’t something foreign or new to me by any means. I found tips of how to lose weight as fast as possible on the internet, I signed up on Pro Ana websites, found illegal diet pills at a fitness store down my street, and used my own “techniques” to drop weight in unimaginable ways. I went down from 155lbs to 114 in a very short period of time.

    My family worried about me and I went into therapy. I really liked my therapist, I learned a lot and by the time I was finished with my sessions, I felt better about myself. There is one thing that I did not know about eating disorders – they never go away. You will always have this mental illness, because that is what it is – a mental illness. I didn’t even learn that in my counselling sessions, I learned it through support groups and shows like Dr Phil and Dr Drew, who finally explained why I kept “relapsing” after I “thought I had control over my eating disorder”. You can get to a positive, healthy place with your body and your mind, but you always need to keep in mind that this illness will always haunt you. You WILL need to discuss this with family members, friends and future romantic partners, because if you don’t then you will continue the secretive life style and path. What happens when you are stressed out from work/finances/other outside sources and you don’t feel safe to discuss your eating disorder with your closest friends and family?

    I am heading into my 5th year with my (now) fiance and when I first met him I had relapsed and was back into my eating disorder. He knew something was going on and he asked me about it. I felt safe enough with him to talk about it and he has really helped me ever since. He’s been supportive, he’s read up on eating disorders and how to deal with a person that is suffering from one. He has made himself available for me to talk openly about how I feel and about any struggles I have along the way, because trust me! there are times when I still feel the urge to restrict and/or purge. But communicating with people I feel safe with and people who don’t judge and are able to keep me strong is so, so, so important.

    There are many websites and help lines you can contact for help with this as well. Good luck on your journey, I hope my story helped some.

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