April 15, 2013

KatieThis is a subject I talk about rarely. It is taboo for me and for many in society. I have an eating disorder, bulimia. I have only spoken to a handful of friends and family about the difficulties I have had with my weight.

At first I was very secretive about my illness. I was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to know. I pretended for a long time that it didn’t matter.

But something changed and I decided it was time to be honest and open with the people closest to me. It was becoming harder to keep from others and had begun to consume my life in a way that terrified me.The first person I told was my partner. He had no idea what had been happening.

His initial reaction was “Oh... OK.” and then awhile later when he had had time to process, “This all really upsets me, it makes me sad to think you could do something like that to yourself.”

I hadn't expected this reaction

I hadn’t expected this reaction and in fact he went upstairs because he needed to be alone. Never had I ever dwelled on the idea that my actions could hurt the person I loved so much. I felt a confusing mix of guilt and anger; guilt at how I had been harming myself and in turn my partner and anger that I had been judged, i felt at the time, so resolutely.

What I wanted was for him to be strong and in control for me. I needed for someone to take charge of the situation and say, “Ok, lets eat together every evening” and question the food choices I was making, “Do you need to eat that,” and “how will you feel afterwards?”

I realised I needed to tell my partner how he could help me

I realised the only way we could overcome this together was to tell my partner what I needed and how he could practically help me. We sat down a couple of days later and I explained that I needed him to be strong for me.

My partner explained that he still didn’t know how to react and felt disappointed. This jolted me. Then what came next was worse; he said that he was scared. He said he was scared as he had no idea of how to react or what to say and that he couldn’t stop me. The anxiety he felt was very real and this in turn gave me a reality check. Not only was I damaging my body, I was damaging our relationship. What I took from this was to be completely honest with my partner about my eating disorder.

It has made us stronger as a couple

Sometimes I find myself spelling out exactly what is going to help me in any given situation. This can be incredibly frustrating, but it works for us and it has helped me grow an awareness of my triggers. Sometimes I feel embarrassed about what I have done but I know it will cause pain and hurt if I keep quiet. Although it was immensely painful and upsetting to be so brutally honest, I’m glad I was.

I believe my partner and I are now a stronger couple because of our mutual honesty and this episode gave me the courage to open up to others. I realise that people will struggle to understand and that others will want to ‘fix’ me. I am now prepared for this, and feel strong enough to accept their reactions.

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Comments

Proud of you

While I've never experienced an eating disorder, I know how hard it is to tell anyone about any kind of mental health issue. Honestly really proud of you for being brave enough to do so. My other half had a similar reaction when I told her my issues and while it was tough to take in at first, I agree that we are much stronger and better of for it! Telling her was the stepping stone for telling those dearest to me and seeking further help when I felt ready. Hopefully things are going better for you now and keep your chin up! Nick.

I think you have been really

I think you have been really brave to write this and to speak out about something which is so often misunderstood and stigmatized. You are so right that talking about it, is absolutely the first step to beating this. Although it was a shock to your partner, I imagine he also appreciates and is proud of you for being honest with both him and yourself. I hope you're getting the support you need and wish you health and happiness in the future. I think you will have inspired more people than you realise, by speaking out in this way.

Could I have some advice?

My girlfriend is bulimic, has been for at least two years. And I want to be able to support her, but I'm unsure how, given that I don't have much knowledge of eating disorders I feel like I flit between pushing too hard and not pushing enough.. As far as I know I'm the only person she's told. How can I show her that I'm there for her and am willing to do whatever she feels is best? Gee

Hi Gee, there are some tips

Hi Gee, there are some tips for how to talk about mental health on our website that you might find useful: http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/talk-about-mental-health/tips

Some advice, Gee

Hi Gee, thanks for sharing your experiences. Helping someone with an eating disorder can be scary and difficult, especially when it comes to knowing what to do and what not to do, and when. I would recommend the book, "Skills based Learning Caring Eating Disorder", by Janet Treasure, which has been written for specifically for friends and families who are close to someone with an eating disorder. It's really helpful and has been put together by experts in eating disorders. I would also try to encourage your girlfriend to see her GP if she is willing to, so that she can get help and support from her local eating disorders service. They do fantastic work and the treatments they provide are very effective.

:)

well done, coming from a fellow, i agree that you have been incredibly brave. It is such a secretive disorder. Its good that you have opened up to your partner, this means that they are in a position to make you stronger when you feel vulnerable. Bulimia is an illness that cannot be beaten alone. Make sure you are getting all the help you need before you tell other people. This is just incase you become anxious of reactions which may trigger another episode. Coming from my experience of an awful 7 years. This is it now, your recovery. xxx

Katie's bulimia

I don't know how I would react, I like to think I would be considerate. At least you managed to get your boyfriend to understand eventually.

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