Wow-what a difference a year makes

If anyone were to tell me that we would be where we are now this time last year, i wouldn’t have believed it, i don’t think i would have even let myself hope it. 

This week we received TB’s ‘discharge’ form (you never actually get fully discharged from his treatment centre, you could phone back at any point and speak to someone or get an appointment) incredible!! considering that this time last year i was struggling to get TB to accept that we needed more help.

i just wanted to share some of the lovely things that have been happening since my last post. We had a wonderful christmas period, celebrating with friends and family, we had plans to manage any difficult moments TB may come across and ensured that we had realistic expectations him and his eating/drinking/exercising over this period. 

We also went away for New Years on a climbing trip with some friends, i was slightly worried because i knew that the shops wouldn’t be great and i wasn’t sure that there would be enough suitable food, but we had the most incredible fresh baguettes filled with salami, cheese, salad and avocado everyday (that was a BIG achievement-bread used to be a massive no go).

I even managed to phone TB up the other day completely out the blue after a rubbish day at work and suggest we go out for dinner-i have never done that before, and even as i did it i thought he would say no, but he agreed and we had a lovely dinner out. He did go for a long walk afterwards, but it’s ok, the achievement was in the dinner.

And then the most exciting thing (and the reason why this blog has been so quiet) is that we are buying a house! Those of you who have read this whole post will know that this summer i was feeling particularly low as all my friends around me live’s were moving forward and i felt like we were just stuck. So it is just so wonderful to think that we are now moving forward, TB has been awesome and involved and i feel like it is going to be our house together, he now has the headspace to focus on things other than eating and exercising.

I just wanted to share these as things of hope for anyone else who is in my position, i never believed we would be where we are now, and so don’t stop hoping and trying and fighting!

Orthorexia: A partners perspective-my guest post

Sorry, i know i’ve neglected my page recently, in some ways its good news as TB’s progress continues i have less to rant about! But i also know that one thing i really wanted to see when i was looking for support was the progress stories, so i promise to try and keep writing them up to.

Having said that this post isn’t actually a progress story, i actually wanted to share on this site a guest post i wrote for the Men get Eating Disorders too charity on their website blog recently. For those of you who don’t know this charity-go on the site and have a look around, they have excellent information and support for people with eating disorders and their carers, and they campaign to get information and knowledge about male eating disorders out there.

I can honestly say that the post was the hardest piece of writing i have done so far, its a retrospective post about what being the partner of someone with orthorexia was like. What life used to be like when TB was really bad is not something i often like to think about or dwell on anymore, and it took me around 2 weeks to write the piece. It was scary for both TB and i to think back over that time, and i know it was tough for him to read it, but we knew its not something thats often shared and so he was happy for me to publish it.

So here is the post below for those of you who would like to read it, or you can read it on the website here.

Couple walking

What do you do when you know the person you love has an eating problem, but your not sure if there is a name for it, every time you try to bring it up they justify it as healthy eating, or eating for a training regime, or for maintenance of a strength to weight ratio, you wonder whether it really is an eating disorder if he is still eating, and the media keeps telling you that eating disorders only really affect females?

What do you do when couples all around you are going out for dinners, getting drunk with each other on a friday night, having friends over, booking weekends away, going on holidays, spending evenings on the sofa eating ice cream, visiting each others families, and spending days in bed watching movie marathons just because they can. When you know that would never be possible in your relationship, going out for dinner is well planned in advance and very rare treat, getting drunk doesn’t happen because alcohol is un-pure, you’ve never been on a weekend away, and holidays are too full of unknowns, ice cream on the sofa is not even worth considering, visiting your family can be a stressful and painful experience, and if you do spend days  together, they have to be outside and active to ensure every single piece of food gets put to use.

What do you do when the house is a tip, the wash baskets full, the dishwasher needs loading, the gas people want a meter reading, and you open the fridge to see that there is nothing ‘suitable’ for a meal, that despite having the ingredients for sausage and mash instead you’ll have to go out and do another food shop, because you know the sausages will be too fatty and the mash will have too high of a carb content, then you’ll have to cook dinner and make a lunch that has just the right amount of safe foods to keep him running for the day? When all you really want to do is eat dippy eggs, open a bottle of wine, watch a film, or phone up a friend, go to the pub and catch up?

What do you do when your boyfriend goes away with work for a week, and you completely stop, you eat what and when you like, letting the cupboards go bare, enjoy a drink in the evenings and catch up with friends, when you start to enjoy food for food again stop resenting it and the control it has? What do you do when your boyfriend comes home and you have absolutely no idea how to go back, how to get through the days together, to remember food’s and start regular cooking, no idea how to make it a normal part of your lives together again, and so you greet him not with a smile of happiness but with a grimace of fear?

What do you do when your boyfriend comes home from work and you can see the stress in his eyes and by the way he is holding himself, the absolute terror over the doughnuts that were in the meeting this morning, notice how his shirt looks looser, his colour is paler than yesterday, how he looks exhausted, knowing that dinner will be difficult, the carefully considered and thought-out meal that you prepared will not be ok, and feel sick with tiredness as you watch him do a hundred pull ups and pray so hard that tomorrow will be better and easier, and wander if this is such a good evening to try and talk to him about it after all?

What do you do when you know your boyfriend has just read the calorie and fat content on the chocolate bar you just ate, when you know that despite the size of his meal and what it looks like to everyone else, there isn’t actually much in it, when you can only buy brown carbs if any, when chicken and beef are excluded, lean turkey is the only thing allowed, when the super market runs out of no fat yoghurt and you know he would rather go without than eat something with low fat or sugar in it, when you can see every ounce of fat and carb removed from his diet that you wonder just how long a person can live off pulses and veg?

What do you do when you know that meal your parents lovingly prepared is so full of unknowns your boyfriend is terrified, when you see the happiness in him choosing fruit over everyones toast for breakfast because its ‘healthier’, when you catch the disgust in his glance at the white bread sandwich your friend is eating for lunch, when your invited over somewhere new for dinner and your first thought is to decline because you know that the unknown terrifies him?

What do you do when you wake up to a perfect morning, the sun is shining, you go on a wonderful walk in the countryside, share a pot of tea in a cosy cafe, spend hours chatting and putting the world to rights, watch a film you’ve wanted to see in ages, fall asleep blissfully happy, wake up the next day knowing that it is completely different and cry in the shower to hide your tears and hurt, before putting on a brave face to pull you both through another day?

What do you do when you watch the person you love struggle to maintain friendships, spend evenings endlessly exercising to work off un-clean foods, go through long periods of not sleeping, have crippling stomach aches, doubt his incredible talents, hate his beautiful body and hide it from you, push you away, spend more time researching food than with you, loose all joy from socialising and eating, and neglect his body to the extent that he causes himself an injury all in the name of so called ‘pure’ eating?

What do you do when the person you go to to cry on is the person who is making you cry? When you are so fiercely protective of someone and yet so frustrated at them at the same time. When you want to scream and shout and hate them for the injustice of it all, yet at the same time feel such overwhelming love for this person who can’t see just how incredible they are, and how much they have to give?

Among many of the questions I would ask myself on an almost daily basis were what do I do? Where do I go? How do we get help? What do I do when this has become such a part of daily life, it has become so ingrained in our relationship that it is ‘normal’ to us, how on earth do we find our way out?

I started writing a blog, ‘my boyfriends eating disorder and me’ around 6 months ago with the subtitle, of ‘the third person in our relationship’. Orthorexia is sneaky and sly, it tries to mask itself by proclaiming to be a whole variety of ‘healthy’ ways of eating as a counter argument for our overindulgent society. Anyone who lives with the condition, will know that it truly is an ‘it’ and anyone who’s partner has orthorexia will know that it really is the third person in your relationship.

I met my partner a little over 5 years ago on our first day of university, the two things that I immediately noticed about him was his smile and his height (he is over six foot which I love) as we began to get to know each other I was amazed at his restraint and his love of healthy food. Initially I was very impressed and fell for the sneaky and sly mask, I believed that he had chosen not to go for the over indulgent life that society pushes upon us and just wanted to nourish his body well. As time went on I began to realise that this relationship with food was healthy eating gone horribly wrong.

A relationship with Orthorexia in it, it is overshadowed by the all consuming thoughts of this condition. It is always put first, always considered before the partner, the first thought in the morning and the last one at night. Orthorexia was always there; from the obvious of meal times, to socialising with friends, going out for drinks, quiet times, meeting each others families, learning about each others bodies, days out, weekends away, holidays, future planning, you name it and orthorexia was present for every aspect of my partners daily life, our life as a couple and was considered in every decision we made.

If it was an ex girlfriend hanging around I could have kicked off, if it was an over bearing parent, a destructive best friend it would have been different. But trying to get through to my boyfriend and begin the process of loosing the control orthorexia had over him, was long and difficult, he would give everything to it, and the more he gave the more it took from him and from us. It is heartbreaking to watch the person you love loose themselves to something which gives nothing positive back, knowing that they can’t see all the amazing things that have made you fall in love with them because ‘it’ won’t let them.

The answer to my what do you do question is an unknown, I would like to say ‘fight and keep fighting’, but I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I came a hairs width from walking away, that tiredness with it all overwhelmed me, and I wouldn’t blame anyone who makes that choice. But I did fight, I fought for myself, I fought for my boyfriend, I fought for the couple that I knew we can be and the relationship that I know we will have, I fought against everyone who had ever made me feel that I should leave him, I fought for the lost time and I fought to prove to Orthorexia wrong.

My boyfriend is now receiving treatment, and I have the pleasure of meeting new sides to him everyday, of falling in love with parts that have been controlled by Orthorexia for so long, of watching him re-discover his self, his talents and his worth and most of all knowing that there is a future where ‘we’ are put first.

The weight issue

So i have been sharing on this blog recently just how positive the progress that TB has made has been.

What i would like to share today though is my thoughts on what i call the ‘weight’ issue. TB has been making fantastic progress in terms of his food groups, portion sizes, coping mechanisms, spontaneity, and its incredible to watch, however what isn’t progressing at the same rate as these is his weight, yet one of the first questions people like to ask is ‘so how is his weight doing’.

We are being lead by the health professionals treating him on this one, they do not seem too worried, and told us from the start not to expect massive weight gains, that actually his body would use the nutrients within food to start healing, restoring, repairing parts that it hasn’t been able to in a while. Thats not to say he’s not gained some weight, he has, but it seems to be going at a slow and steady pace, enough for him to get used to his body as it changes. So i find it frustrating when people ask how is his weight doing.

I know that he has an eating disorder and therefore a measure of telling his recovery will be that he is a normal and healthy weight at the end of it, but i want people at the minute to measure his recovery not just in terms of how much weight he has gained. I want them to see it in the fact that his hair is glossier, his skin has lost its yellowy tone, in his increase in energy levels, in the fact this his breath is better, his eyes are brighter. I see his recovery in the greater range of food groups, in the fact that something which would have caused him anxiety for a full day may now only affect him for a morning, the fact that we had lasagne for tea the other night. The other evening we went out for a glass of wine and to the cinema, where we shared some chocolate buttons (TB had 5 of them, but i can’t ever remember seeing him eat chocolate before so it was an incredible achievement!)

But i also want them to see his recovery in the things that they may see as negative, TB is learning to release his emotions rather than internalise them, this can be very sad and scary as his girlfriend, watching the man you love cry is incredibly difficult, but it is so positive, rather than bottling these things up he is releasing them and experiencing them, and it allows me to help him through it.

So when someone asks me how is his weight is doing i want to say ‘ok, but look at all these other amazing things that he is doing, look at all the wonderful things we have been able to do since his treatment started, please don’t judge his recovery on his weight alone’.

TB’s assessment

So we went to TB’s treatment centre last week to have an update with the psychologist there and see how he’s been getting on over the last 5 months.

It was the first time i have been back there since we went for his initial assessment, and the first thing that struck me is how places illicit such emotional responses within us. As we drove up and parked and walked up to the door i could so vividly picture us walking up to that front door about 6/7 months earlier. It had been a stress even getting to that point, and TB had to make up a reason to work as to why he needed the morning off, and i remember that morning feeling a sense of disbelief that we had even got there, feeling so tired of it all, so stressed and emotional that they may not be able to help us, and praying that they would be able to. This time it was different, TB was clearly happy to be going, everyone we met was friendly (i met his body image therapist, who was a lovely lady and he clearly felt so relaxed to be chatting to her) I was a little nervous, but the deep tiredness and exhaustion that i had been feeling last time has gone.

So we had his assessment, which went well, they seem happy with his progress, how he is engaging with it, but i was relieved to hear that they still felt he does have a way to go (because i agree) and that when the time does come to reduce and stop treatment it will be a decision we all make 🙂 I was able to voice some of my concerns and the therapist said that it would be a good idea to get everyone together (including me) so that i can ask my questions and we can all come up with a plan when the time comes. It was so nice to hear that i would be included in this, because whilst this is TB’s therapy, we are a team and as and when it does reduce/finish, we will be left to continue on the journey together.

Interestingly i mentioned to TB in the assessment that i still think he has a long way to go with addressing lots of his fear foods, for example the idea of eating even the smallest bite of chocolate still terrifies him, (i am a serious chocaholic!) he still sees it as un-pure, thinks it will dirty his body and thinks that he will suddenly gain a ton of weight from eating it. Amazingly, he agreed, and said that he should try eating some and face it head on, i am ASTOUNDED!

Anne x

Five months in.

So this week TB and i are going to visit his treatment clinic together, he has a kind of progress assessment to look at how it is all going, see what the next steps are and how many more sessions etc he will have. I honestly cannot believe that it has been this long already, having spent months and years praying for this to start, the fact that we are five months in seems incredible.

So far i think, so good, I don’t think that i could have asked for any more effort on TB’s part with engaging in and persevering with the treatment. It has been incredible to watch him grow in confidence, he is a much nicer person to live with and in general our lives feel much lighter. It has also been wonderful knowing that i don’t have to have all the answers anymore, i no longer have to worry if my advice is correct or if i am pushing too far, i take my lead off the professionals who he is seeing and who he has been able to offload on twice a week. So as i said, so far so good.

TB and i celebrated five years of being together with a visit to Scotland earlier this month, this was true progress, it would never of happened before now, and if it had it would have been a real struggle, it was wonderful. We spent a day at the beach (i love beaches on cold winters day) and i felt the happiest i have felt in a very long time about us.

I am still scared though, I know that i have been incredibly lucky so far, and i am worried that it has been too easy. I had a real crashing down to earth moment the other weekend when having worked all weekend, TB came home and broke down for a few hours, it had all gotten too much for him, and he has completely had enough, his injury is still taking a long time to heal, work was particularly difficult, and whilst these aren’t the eating problem itself they are so wrapped up together its very hard to separate life stresses and the effect on eating. It was a horrible moment for the both of us, but i am so proud of him. I believe that at your weakest point, the strongest thing you can do is to admit your weaknesses and ask for help, and thats what he did.

So the assessment/catch up is this week and i know its a time to talk about how TB is doing but i almost want to barge in there with a gazillon questions of my own, i think the plan after this is to drop down the amount of therapy he recieves a week, but that terrifies me-will this cause relapses? we’ve come so far but surely there is more to go, how do you truely know when he is ready? i know its expensive therapy and the idea is to wean off it, but what if he does relapse? what if he comes to me with questions and i cant remember what or how to answer, what if its a really tough week and i don’t know how to help? sooo many questions. I think i would like to go to a few of his sessions, so that i can meet his therapists and hopefully they can help me to learn how to help. TB has said i can meet his body image therapist this week so hopefully my questions can start there.

After these past few months i am truly excited for our future together i just hope that this journey we are on keeps heading in the right direction.

Anne x

The (un)useful things people have said

So I have been thinking about writing this post for a while now it is a list of things that throughout TB’s eating disorder people have said to me, i am sure that they believed that they were being useful or just expressing emotions that they needed to at the time. I want to make it clear that i hold nothing against anyone who said any of these comments, merely that despite their best intentions they were not useful, and often still are not.

Some people may relate to some of these, or perhaps your looking for information on how to speak to your son/daughter, partner of either, from my experience try if you can to avoid some of these phrases. So while this may seem like a rant on my part (it kind of is!) i will also try and explain what would have been a more useful thing to say.

(these are in no particular order-just the order in which i remember them!)

I just want you to be happy’, (ok so this one isn’t that bad, its more the frequency with which it can be said that gets to me) of course you want me to be happy! i’d be upset if you wanted me to be unhappy, plus i am happy, i may not be for this conversation, but you are presuming that i am always unhappy and that its just because of TB’s eating disorder. Perhaps you could say, apart from this are you happy, or let me know if you get really down or something that gives the impression that you know other things are going on in my life which may make me as equally happy or unhappy.

‘he’s so skinny to hug i can feel all his bones, its not nice’. This one REALLY gets to me, i don’t hug someones boyfriend and ever comment on their weight, they could be slim, they could be large, but i wouldn’t dream of saying ‘he’s so chubby to hug, its horrible’. Don’t people realise that they are talking about your partner, the person you have chosen to be with, someone who you very much love and basically insulting you both?! Plus is that really all you can think to say about someone. I love him very much and if hugging him when he’s on the lower end of his weight doesn’t bother me, then it definitely shouldn’t bother you.  I think its entirely ok to say ‘he looks a little pale, how is his health’ ‘or i’ve really noticed a drop in his size recently, is he having a particularly though time at the moment’ talk to me about his health, don’t give me your opinion unless its constructive, and please show some empathy.

‘do you still find him attractive, i mean he’s lost so much weight, don’t you ever feel big when your with him’. Now i’m pretty sure that unless i welcomed you in to a conversation on this chances are i probably haven’t chosen to talk to you about it for a reason, a) its kind of personal and b) are you suggesting that i’m overweight, because last time i checked i wasn’t, and no i don’t feel big-but should i do?! i mean i’m pretty secure in myself, but are other people thinking i now look big compared to him?! I know people care and just want to look out for me, but again phrase it in a way that shows me you have confidence in me ‘it must be tough being around this all the time, you know if it ever makes you doubt anything about yourself i’m always here to chat’ is a much nicer way to open up the conversation. Don’t get me wrong, this is a big worry and if you do feel that way you should open up to someone who loves you and you trust.

‘your a young couple, you should be having fun and doing good stuff’. If anyone knows this its me, I pretty much used to feel this on a daily basis and i didn’t need people reminding me of it, no one is more aware than i am/was of what we were missing out on!!!! That said, sometimes its nice to have a good rant to someone i love and trust about just how rubbish it is and how much it sucks and how i wished things were different, but that conversation is usually initiated by me. I don’t want to dwell on what we can and cant/do and don’t do- please stop reminding me, just celebrate with me when things change.

‘it just seems like your always supporting him’ this is kind of a ‘duh’ comment, he has an illness what else am i supposed to do to the person i love? ‘sorry TB, today i cannot support you as it is my day to be supported’ yes, our balance is a bit off at the minute and i am often more supportive, but i am so grateful that there isn’t anything going on my life which means i need as equal support-can you imagine how much more mental space that would take up for TB?! There have been times when i’ve felt that i needed more support than i have got, but i’ve leaned on my support network during these times, and its important to note that its just as tough for TB to know that at times he hasn’t been the person who i have needed. There is no telling where our lives will take us, and no telling at which point the balance will switch and i need TB more than he needs me, the important thing is that there have been a few times where i’ve really needed the support and he has stepped up and that is enough for me for now.

‘i just think its very selfish’ Brilliant, you have hit the nail on the head it IS selfish, but not in the same way as someone who is selfish by not sharing, or spending money on themselves, this is an illness, not a life choice, which leads quite nicely in to…

‘does he know how much this affects you/puts pressure on you’ There are two things to this, yes and no. Yes i am sure he knows it affects me, no i am not sure he knows the full extent, but either way it probably won’t make much of a difference, knowing how much it upsets and puts pressure on me just serves to make him feel more guilty a lot of the time, does he know how much i love and support him and no matter how much pressure i feel i will always be there for him? yes, i personally feel thats more important on the road to recovery than continually reminding him of myself (isn’t that just as selfish?!) and making him feel guilty about it? My usual response to this was, on a day to day basis no-but when it all got too much and really counted-yes. There has to be a balance in there somewhere.

‘I’m not saying you shouldn’t be together’  Well i jolly well hope your not….please don’t ever say this, we need your support, not your judgement.

‘Does he realise just how bad it is?’ gahhhh how this question got on my nerves-at the beginning, clearly not or else he would have accepted it, a couple of years in, still clearly not or else he would be getting treatment, will he ever know? i don’t know. Its as though you are suggesting i am not doing enough to let him know how bad it is and i just feel bad now. A better thing to say would be ‘is there anything you need help working out how to get across to him’, ‘is there anything i can do to help him see how bad its getting’-its nice to know that you want to help, your prepared to get involved, and don’t see this as an alien thing happening to us/him-we need support.

‘I’m sorry i just don’t know how much more i can help’ The times that i have heard this have generally been when someone else is at their wits end and isn’t sure what to do, the problem is it comes across angry. Please remember that (in my case) i’m often not asking for you to ‘do’ anything, except have a listening ear, a cup of tea, a box of tissues and a whole host of fun things to do to take my mind off it.

So that’s all i can think of off the top of my head, but i will add more if i remember or someone says something new! Just to note though, please don’t get too cross at people, they love you and care about you and sometimes you need them to say things to push you in to action, read my support networks-parents post, i know that sometimes someone has to be the one to ask the difficult questions.

Thank you for reading

Anne x

Recent happenings, a summer of progress

Firstly i would like to apologise to anyone who had been following this blog regularly for the lack of posts recently, It has been a very busy summer!

As the title says, it has been a summer of progress, when anyone asks me how he is doing i always say ‘slow and steady’ which to some may sound negative, but its not, we knew from the beginning that this was going to be a long process, there wasn’t going to be any overnight miracle where TB woke up decided to eat cake and spend the day watching box sets on the sofa!

So slow and steady for me is positive, it means that every change that happens has time to be accepted, I have less fear of the one step forwards, two steps back idea, each change is being integrated into our lives to become a part of normal life and not be overwhelming for either of us.

So I would like to share a couple of the highs (and the lows) of our Summer.

The one i really want to start with is the ice-cream evening!! Throughout mine and TB’s relationship one thing i have always wanted to do is spend an evening on the sofa watching a film and sharing ice-cream, that may sound silly, but it something i’ve seen my friends do and its always on films! One weekend we had planned to do some bits for our house, and were discussing what film we should rent (yes we still go to blockbuster!) when TB lead me to the frozen section of the supermarket and told me that we were going to have some ice cream to share that evening!!! I was so excited, but also super concerned and wanted to ensure that he was prepared to do it, he said he was and so we picked 2 super little pots of ice cream to have that evening.

After dinner TB was the one who went to get the ice cream and we sat on the sofa watching a film together and sharing some ice cream-it was wonderful 🙂 yes i ate most of it myself, but just the act of him suggesting it, trying it and participating (he had 1 spoon to my 5) but he did it, and i am so so proud of him for it. He set himself a spontaneous challenge (something he has to do for this therapy) and did it!

There have also been more little changes that i have noticed, TB pushing himself more with food groups, going for seconds on things he wouldn’t have previously, taking less time to  get relaxed and chill out when he can. This was most noticeable on a day when we had planned to go training at the climbing wall, TB hadn’t done anything all week and you could tell he was so excited to go and do something. However within less than half an hour of us being at the wall he was in a lot of pain with his shoulder injury and it was clear that he wasn’t going to be able to climb. Usually i dread these kinds of situations, and we haven’t really had one since he’s started treatment, so i had no idea what would happen. But we left the wall, went and did something else and rather than the rest of the day being ruined like it once would have been, there was just a few hours of stress.

We have been good as a couple, you can see that the regularity of the treatment and talking to someone is helping, and its nice that i can now be the supportive partner rather than trying to guide him through it with no real knowledge! We have also been on holiday with my parents this summer, this would have been inconceivable previously as they are big food and drink lovers when on holiday. And to say that it wasn’t difficult a lot of the time would be a lie, but we had a lovely holiday, we made it through, TB participated in everything we did and every meal we had. I could tell it was a real stress for him at times, and i tried to keep reminding him how proud i was, and he should focus more on the positives than the negatives-like the fact he was actually there!! But i’m not sure how well it got through.

So i can say that we are definitely on the road, there is still a long way ahead of us, particularly with the cold winter nights soon to set in, and the christmas (eek-im sure it will be upon us before we know it!) will present a whole host of challenges, but it would be nice to think that if we stay at this pace then there will be lots of forwards steps and not so many backwards ones!

Thank you for reading

Anne x