Help me help my wife
January 20, 2009 6:19 PM   Subscribe

How to help my wife deal with my eating disorder?

I have had an eating disorder for about 10 years, I have been to a clinic twice to treat it. Both times I went into a clinic I was under 100 pounds. My father was really the only one who recognized I had a eating problem, and took the steps to help me. My mother and the rest of my family was the main reason I had a problem. I was constantly being told I was fat (and when I was really skinny) that I looked really good and I needed to keep that weight. After the second clinic visit I was able to get it through my head that nothing was wrong with my weight and everyone who said I was fat was wrong.

Now I'm 24 years old, and I've had a serious relapse. My mother passed away 8 months ago, after her death I went into a bad place and didn't come out for awhile. I felt I had no control over anything, and the only thing I could control was the food I ate, and if I would throw up or not.

I have realized that I need help and I am getting that help. But my question is how can I help my wife deal with it? I need like books or other reading material that could help her understand how she can be there for me. She can empathize with me but she doesn't know how to support me or be there for me.

Can anyone help me? Thanks in advance.
posted by roxiesmom to Human Relations (9 answers total)
Have you ever visited Something Fishy? They're a great site in general, and I know offhand they have information meant for loved ones of people with EDs.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:57 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

My sister was hospitalized a few months ago. For her, 'being there for me' or 'support me' meant finding ways to manipulate and guilt me into supporting her eating disorder. I suggest that you both go to a therapist so that she can learn not to reinforce your behavior.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 7:20 PM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure whether you're just looking for informative resources about eating disorders; if so, there are a lot of people who can give better advice than me.

But I think it's possible that you may be focusing on your wife's reaction in order to either distract yourself from your condition, or to make it not entirely your fault (because if you lack support, you can't be blamed). This isn't a criticism at all; if either of those things is true, they are part of your disorder, and you can deal with them. I though of this because of some of your phrasing, so if I'm totally off base, I apologize.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:23 PM on January 20, 2009

You can help your wife deal with it by dealing with it.

Those are some heavy, heavy sentences there, they really, truly are gems -- 'material that could help her understand how she can be there for me.' 'She can empathize with me but she doesn't know how to support me or be there for me.'

Holy smokes!

If she feels that she has need to support you or be there for you, I'd recommend to her that she go to some AlAnon meetings -- they are the masters at living with people who have addictions and/or compulsive disorders of one sort or another, they excel in detachment, in loving the person while allowing the behaviors and attitudes of the person be what they are. If you feel that she has need to support you or be there for you, you have the opportunity to grow through that, and become a more loving human being.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:05 PM on January 20, 2009

I was aiming for "Preview" and instead hit "Post."

I considered letting it stand as it is; it is honest, it is true. But there's more to it than that.

There is honesty. There is brutality. There is no such thing as brutal honesty. It's not right -- imo -- to brutalize someone with the truth.

Continue dealing with your ED. Continue loving your wife. Allow her empathy to be enough for you, and for her -- it's truly all you need, and it's far more than many get from their partners.

Empathy is supporting you, empathy is being there for you. Anything more than empathy and it starts getting real sticky for both of you, games begin to be played, rackets run.

I'm understand going through hard patches in life and backsliding into territory that I'd hoped I'd left behind me; I have surely experienced all of that, and more than once. I truly am sorry that you've lost your mother, especially if you and her had not found the peace yet; I was knocked terribly hard by my fathers death, and we had reached peace in our differences, in fact had truly come to know, understand, and love and respect one another. A blessing.

You'll have to reach that on your own, if you hadn't had the opportunity to get there with your mother before she passed on, and doing so has challenges. It can be done. I know it for a fact because I've done it in another very significant relationship in my life.

Eating disorders are hell, very difficult to recover from, and always close at hand for backsliding. I've been all over the map with it myself, from compulsive overeating to anorexia to orthorexia, which I may be in the throes of right now -- I don't think so, nor do those I trust (most of them), and the people who give me the most shit about the weight I've lost since I've started my yoga practice and healthy if Spartan diet are overweight, and it seems to me that they've an axe to grind. But that is of course how it would seem if I am in it. Duh.

I told you that to tell you I know the terrain, I'm not just some mope teeing off on you. Okay, so maybe I AM just some mope teeing off on you. But I'm attempting to do so with compassion. Consideration. Care. Which is to say: Empathy.

I wish you good luck. You've a head start on that, empathy from your partner.

I wish you peace.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:41 PM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Sometimes one of the hardest things to deal with is the realization that other people can't understand but that they still care. It's easy to get angry with them, even when they are doing the best they can.
posted by fshgrl at 11:11 PM on January 20, 2009

As you've now discovered, eating disorders are not caused by other people saying inappropriate things. They are disorders that revolve around control and coping mechanisms, and I will not be remotely surprised to discover that they are largely genetic. If you're still at the stage where you're blaming your mother, I fear you haven't been very thoroughly treated. Blame is not a useful means of dealing with an eating disorder.

Did you visit a clinic twice, or did you have two extended stays? Two visits to a doctor will not cure you of an eating disorder. You need more serious help than that. I hope you're currently getting it.

Along with most other people, I'm going to recommend therapy that includes your wife. It will help her to be part of your recovery, and a therapist can help her not enable your disordered eating.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:52 AM on January 21, 2009

Response by poster: To clarify I had two extended stays in a clinic, one was for a month and half and the second was for 3 months. I've realized through those stays and through therapy today that I have no one to blame for my bulimia other than myself, and it is done strictly out my desire to control something.

As dancestoblue stated my mother and I never solved our issues, she passed away before she could tell me why she treated me the way she did. I do not blame her completely for my actions, I know she was only the person that I blamed in the beginning, and that she only added to the fear I already had.

Thank you for the answers, my therapist suggested that my wife and I do therapy together but I'm not completely sure she thinks it is a good idea, guess I really need to push for it.
posted by roxiesmom at 4:30 AM on January 21, 2009

It's not your fault either, roxiesmom. It's just how you're wired.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:45 AM on January 21, 2009

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