This 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.