Personal post, trigger warning.
I’m writing this post for two reasons: to help me better understand my thoughts, and to help my partner better understand my thoughts. Although, I’m not sure if I’ll ever ask him to read this.
There are three things I’m worried about: my partner’s well being, my own well being, and our relationship’s well being.
My partner and I have been together for a few months. He recently lost a lot of weight and I recently gained a lot of weight – the reasons are more complicated than black and white. He knows that I am recovering from an eating disorder, but I’m not sure he understands exactly what that means.
My ex was with me through it all – he witnessed the eating disorder develop and was around through years of restriction, purging, over exercising, and finally recovery. He constantly told me that he was proud of me and reminded me that I am strong and have come so far. He always pointed out that my present self is the most confident and happy he had ever seen me, reassuring me that recovery is worth it. He struggled with his weight as well, but was always intensely supportive of my recovery and understanding of my triggers. He was a piece of crap, but his patience and understanding of my mental health was one of the best things about him and our relationship.
Because my current partner didn’t experience all of that, it’s selfish of me to expect the same level of understanding and comprehension that my ex had.
That’s why I was patient with him when he assured me it’s okay that I want to lose weight, despite that thought being incredibly dangerous for me. The more I think about that conversation, the more disappointed I become. It’s not okay that I want to lose weight, and it’s not okay that he reassured me those feelings were okay. I can’t be told it’s okay to want to relapse, especially by my partner. I need reassurance of self love and to be reminded that recovery is worth it, rather than a voice confirming my eating disorder’s thoughts.
Speaking of a voice confirming my eating disorder’s thoughts, that’s exactly what my partner seems to be lately. He opened up to me about his own problems with his weight, expressing his desire to lose weight. Various words and phrases were used, addressing his concerns about his appearance and happiness. When I called him out on this, he contradicted himself, explaining that he was concerned with his health and wanting to prove to himself that he could “regain control.” He listed things he’s noticed about himself because of his weight that he wants to change. Absolutely terrifying words to hear. Sprinkled into this was the fact he feels like he can’t lose weight because he’s scared of how I will react, only making me feel guilty.
He explained that our situations are different: he never chose to starve himself, and I don’t have any health problems to worry about like he does.
I was left shaking, triggered, and guilt filled. Of course, the conversation was much more lengthy than my summary and there were very specific details and numbers mentioned. I couldn’t open up about how I felt; in fact, I was unable to speak out loud until the next day. I texted my friend who urged me to explain to my partner how the conversation left me feeling, but I couldn’t. I still can’t.
The truth is, the conversation triggered me beyond belief. I gained weight just like he did. When my eating disorder is telling me to place my self worth in my weight and appearance, my partner confirmed those thoughts. When my eating disorder is telling me that I lost control of myself when I started recovery, my partner confirmed this. Every thought that my eating disorder fills my head with, urging me to relapse, my partner confirmed.
I am still sick. I am vulnerable. When these thoughts are spoken in front of me, to me, it is not just you opening up to me. It is a voice mimicking my eating disorder’s voice, confirming the thought that I need to relapse. My eating disorder was not a choice that I made six years ago – it wasn’t just choosing to stop eating one day. It was a diet that morphed into a mental illness that could have killed me and still tortures me daily. And it is a health concern. You can’t try to relate to me with your weight problems and simultaneously water down my mental illness.
The most aggravating part was that the next day, we were supposed to go swimming together. He knows that I have problems with my body image and weight/food, and I’ve told him before that these subjects trigger me, yet it seems like he thinks I am immune to triggers when it comes to him or something. That’s not the case. The next day I had to put on a god damn bikini in front of other people for the first time in years, and it was ridiculously difficult for me. It was supposed to be a big deal, some body positive action, but I couldn’t do it. I had to wear shorts and left my tank top on as long as possible. I tried to skip lunch but his mother had me eat half of her lunch. I wanted to cry and die the entire day. I don’t think he realized what he did to me, at all.
What was probably the most terrifying, though, is how similar his words were to my disordered thoughts. I began to worry heavily about him, and I tried to express this to him, but he only retaliated with words that roughly translated to I’m not like you.
I have been left in a difficult position. I want to be here for him. I want to be supportive of his life choices, especially the choices he makes regarding his body because it’s his life and his body, not mine. I want him to be happy and healthy in whatever way that means for him, and I want him to be able to talk to me about his feelings. I don’t know how to be supportive of him in a way that’s productive for both of us, though, and I don’t know how to tell him that the way he speaks to me about these things is triggering – not necessarily the subject matter itself. And what sucks even more is that I don’t know how to tell him to talk to me about the things differently – I don’t know how to coach him in dealing with me.
I have been left with an aching feeling of I don’t want to be me anymore. I want to be the perfect girl that he deserves, thinks I am, and wants me to be. I don’t want to tell him that he triggered me, because I know he doesn’t even understand what triggers are. And I know he didn’t mean to do this to me, because he even said “I want to know what I am putting you through,” but of course I couldn’t explain to him my feelings at the time. I still can’t.
My goodness, it’s been years. I just want this all to be over. When you hit the point where dealing with your eating disorder feels inescapable, what are you supposed to do?
When I say I need to lose weight and stop eating and my partner says “me too” instead of “no you don’t,” am I supposed to feel comforted that he feels the same way, scared that he feels the same way, or disappointed that he is making me feel as though he doesn’t support my recovery? When I reassure him that he is gorgeous and perfect the way he is and that all I want is his happiness, am I doing my job? How am I supposed to properly support him, and how do I explain to him how to properly support me?
He didn’t know me six years ago. He didn’t even know me one year ago. He doesn’t know how I’ve grown or changed, he only knows what his weight loss did for him. He didn’t see my eating disorder destroy me and he didn’t see me come back to life. He is only seeing the struggling girl in front of him, who just eats pizza slowly and cries a lot on her bad days. He didn’t witness the passing out, mood swings, sleeping all day, laxative explosions at midnight, or daily breakdowns. He didn’t witness the exercising for hours, the nose bleeds, the weighing multiple times per day.
I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been doing noticeably worse since we started dating. It’s not necessarily his fault, and it’s not necessarily my fault or my eating disorder’s fault. It’s a mixture of factors that have come together at a very inconvenient time and are torturing me very skillfully. Luckily, I haven’t caved in very much yet – I’m mentally deteriorating, but not physically acting on the urges as much as I’d like to be. But having no one to talk to about it is taking a toll on me. Having no one reassuring me that recovery is the right choice is taking a toll on me.
I don’t miss my ex, but I do miss having someone in my life who could provide me with that support. I’d like my partner to be that person for me, but I don’t know if he ever will be. And the reason behind that is also a mixture of factors – my inability to explain to him my situation, his own personal thoughts and feelings towards weight, my inability to communicate my feelings and triggers, his lack of knowledge regarding eating disorders. I know that he cares and is trying. I know that he accepts me and wants to understand. But his ignorance comes off strong, and it comes off as insensitive.
He tells me I can talk to him, but I don’t feel like I can talk to him. And I really don’t want him to think he can’t talk to me, because I want to be here for him – especially if his thoughts and feelings towards weight and food become disordered. I’m most concerned with his feelings about himself, because he is the most wonderful person I have ever met, and if he needs to open up to me, I want to be his shoulder to cry on. I want him to be happy.
But I want to be happy too.