F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum

Welcome to F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum. This is a free service provided for parents of those suffering from eating disorders. It is moderated by kind, experienced, parent caregivers trained to guide you in how to use the forum and how to find resources to help you support your family member. This forum is for parents of patients with all eating disorder diagnoses, all ages, around the world.

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scaredhusband
Hello everyone,

I'm really struggling as I support my wife who suffers from Anorexia and PTSD.

I feel so alone and overwhelmed. I spend all my time loving and supporting my wife but I don't know how long I can do this. I understand EDs and mental illness. I'm well read on psychology and addiction. That's not my problem. My problem is that I don't have a marriage. My wife isn't really living. It's like she's gone. She has no capacity for connection or intimacy because she is so focused on one thing, losing weight. Her world revolves around it.

I admit I am feeling a lot of self pity right now. I think it might help me to connect with some other men and women who are married to someone with anorexia. It's like she is slowly killing herself. She hates herself. How does one stay centered and strong in the face of such a horror???

I feel guilty for even thinking of leaving her but I cannot imagine living with this for the next 6 months let alone 6 years!

Please help.
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Colleen
Welcome, scaredhusband,

I'm so sorry about your wife.  You are right: EDs rob our loved ones of their lives.  It's as if ED eclipses their personalities.  They act and talk like everyone else with ED. You wonder where your loved one went.  It's scary!

You say that you're well-read on psychology and addiction.  It's important to understand that EDs are not addictions (although they seem to share some common traits).  Different part of the brain, different mechanism, different in every way.

As far as psychology, I'm kinda 'meh' on it anymore.  I'd recommend that you become acquainted with neurology as well.  EDs are biological brain disorders that seem to be genetic in origin and highly heritable.  Your wife is not choosing ED.  Her brain reacts differently than yours to low nutrition.  There are fundamental changes that take place in the brains of people who have the wiring for ED that don't happen in neurotypical people--and the trigger is malnutrition.  It can be from deliberate caloric restriction such as dieting, or from inadvertent restriction such as illness, or from a change of diet such as becoming vegetarian, or from a period of uncompensated exercise.

You sound like an educated guy.  Here are some books that I'd recommend:
Decoding Anorexia by Carrie Arnold -- Carrie's a great science writer and she is recovered from anorexia.  Her well-researched book covers all the latest research into neurology and treatment of EDs.
*end of list*
Seriously, if you only read one book about ED, read that one.  It's easy reading and it's evidence-based and it's not written from a parent-child perspective, as so many of the FBT-type books are.

The most important thing is that she needs to eat.  Food is her medicine right now.  Getting to a proper weight FOR HER is the first and most important step in recovery.  If she is underweight, her brain is shrunken and it's really not working very well--it's kind of in 'sleep mode'.  This is reversible with weight gain and regular nutrition.  Unfortunately, this is not something that she can choose to do on her own.  She really needs someone to take charge of her food intake because that is really the crux of this disorder.  It's not that she WON'T eat--she CAN'T.  If you can't get her to eat at home, she needs to go someplace where it will happen.  There are evidence-based treatment centers out there, like ERC-Denver and others.  There are also a lot of Old School treatment centers that instead of focusing on nutrition, play around with feathers and beads.  This is an illness where it demands that families learn everything they can and advocate for their loved one.  Buyer beware, sadly.

FBT (Family Based Therapy) has the best results with adolescents and there is growing evidence that it works well for adult sufferers too -- except for the added difficulty that adults can escape treatment.  FBT empowers families to take charge of eating and make sure that the child is fed enough to gain weight, and then to keep that up until the brain is healed enough for the child to begin to take control of food again.  This empowerment can be modified to work with spousal relationships.  There's a one-week program at the University of California-San Diego for adults and their families which is similar to the adolescent family program.  Basically you spend a week learning about EDs, learning how to coach your wife through meals and snacks, and developing a contract with her so that recovery can continue at home.  There are other places with this kind of program, but again, it's buyer beware.

Another resource for couples is UCAN, Uniting Couples against Anorexia Nervosa, a program run through the University of NC.  I'd give them a call and see what they can offer you.

You are a loving husband to seek help for your wife.  That's good news for her!  EDs are devastating to sufferers AND their families, but they are treatable.  There is great hope for your wife!
Colleen in the great Pacific Northwest, USA

"What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease."
Alexander Pope, 1688-1744
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Sotired
I am sorry to hear how hard things are for you.its hard whether it is your child or your spouse that is affected..everyone involved on a day to day level of care for someone with anorexia can sympathise with you.so is what you are experiencing a relapse?has your wife ever been in recovery or has she suffered from anorexia in this form since you have been with her?
It sounds like you have done some reading but to get your marriage back along with the intimacy that's part of marriage you may need to look at putting your wife in some form of treatment.if you are in the U.S. You have the uscd programme and my understanding is that they have an adult programme your wife and you could do.people from the U.S. On here can guide you better than I can.
There are resources on atdt that can help you they are on the feast page.
The best way to get your marriage back is to have your wife agree to treatment.can you talk about her anorexia with her parents and get them to help you?sitting with your wife for meals is very important as is distracting her from purging or exercising for an hour after each meal.or you could both look into what residential options are available to your wife.
These are just suggestions of course.if mainly what you needed is to be heard-we hear you.and we all understand how hard it is to live with someone with this illness.if you tell us what country you are in as tooth fairy said,we may be able to help you figure out what resources you have available.in sickness and in health...we say those words hoping we don't have to live them but sometimes we do.so now is a time to gather friends and family who are helpful and research good options for treatment.
Good luck,
Sotired42
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scaredhusband
Wow.  Thank you so much.  I am so thankful that I found this forum tonight.  I was starting to lose hope.  I truly don't know what to do and I don't know how much longer I can hang on.  Having you all here for support is making me feel a lot better already.

As requested, here is some more details about my situation.

My wife and I live in British Columbia, Canada.  She is 40 years old.  We have been together Since August of 2010 and married since July 2013.  She has had a long history of severe trauma covering much of her life (age 14-26).  She has been clean from drugs since 2002.  She was addicted to heroin and cocaine.  She quit drinking in August of last year (2015).  Almost as soon as she quit alcohol, she stopped eating almost completely.  On average she consumes less than 500 calories per day.  Most days it is less than 200.

She has not had any treatment for ED.  However, she is very willing and actually WANTS treatment.  She is currently not working because she is receiving short term disability benefits for PTSD.

She has undergone many sessions of psychotherapy (including EMDR) for trauma, but so far nothing for ED.  She is on the waiting list for our local government ED clinic.  We do not have the funds ourselves to send her to residential treatment for ED.

At first when I started to connect the dots and realize that she most likely had anorexia, I got scared and I tried to get her to change.  That only ended pushing her away from me.  She's my wife.  I do not have control over her.  I quickly realized that if I was going to survive, I had to find a way to maintain inner peace and serenity regardless and in spite of what she does or does not do.  With the help of many sources, I believe God has directed me to live my life according to a 5 point "system".  I believe that my purpose in life is simply to love everyone.  Next, I am directed to help everyone as I am able, bearing in mind that help that is unwanted is NOT help.  I believe that I need to accept life as it happens.  Then, when others my harm, disturb or disappoint me, my only recourse is to forgive everyone for everything. (doesn't me I tolerate abuse or bad behaviour indefinitely though).  Lastly, I believe that I need to simply have faith that God will give me everything I need and many things that I want.  I don't have to worry.  He's got me covered.

I followed this 5 point system for a couple months and got tremendously good results.  I was able to stand by my wife regardless of what she said or did.  She has felt safe and close to me enough to share her secrets about her ED with me.  That would not have happened if I had kept hounding her.

Last August she weighed 210lbs.  Today she weighs about 145.  She is 5'10" tall and she is fairly active.  She likes to go hiking almost every day.  In fact, in a few hours she is going for a 6-8 hour hike with a former friend of mine.  This man was a dear friend of mine until 2 months ago. I approached him about my concerns about my wife and the two of them hiking alone together for such long hikes and the fact that she does not hardly eat and just brushed me off and said he would keep on taking her hikes whether I liked it or not.  I was so hurt that I ended our friendship.  But my wife says that she has every right to continue to hike with this man because she loves getting out into the woods and it helps calm her mind.  I am afraid that her hiking is part of her ED because she can burn lots of calories.  

Anyways, I talked to her tonight and she seemed slightly open to have me take over some control over her life.  I'd like to get her eating again.  Many posts I have read say how critical it is for her to regain proper nutrition and weight.  Hopefully she will work with me while we wait for her to start the ED program at the local clinic.

Ideally, if I had the money, I would pay to send her to residential treatment to a facility that specialized in ED treatment.  For now, we have to "do it ourselves".

Any suggestions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Love and Peace to you all.

:-)))

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deenl
Hi scaredhusband,

It's really great that you are reaching out. The VERY best help and ideas we are using to help our son come from this forum. You can adapt them for your wife too. But also very important is the emotional support and the feeling that you are among people who understand. It is true that many people here are parents with children with EDs but some things we go through are universal whether it's with kids, YAs (young adult) or spouses; anorexia, bulemia, EDNOS, BED, ARFID. We all KNOW what it's like to see our loved ones struggle with illness and we all KNOW how hard it is to support them in healthy eating.

Here is a link to another recent thread by a spouse. If you click on their name to the left of their post you will find a link to email them directly if you so desire.

http://www.aroundthedinnertable.org/post/new-here-need-advice-and-just-help-how-can-i-recruit-my-wifes-parents-to-7937890?highlight=mother+law&pid=1290994164#gsc.tab=0

Peer support for the carers can really help you and through you to support your wife. Please keep in touch.

D
2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, stable but no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly and cautiously gaining weight at home and seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. [thumb] 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight
  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal.
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.
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deenl
Hi scaredhusband,

You sound like you have a really super system for self care there. My husband is a strong believer in God and it helps him immensely.

You are sooooo right to worry about the exercise. Compulsive exercise is an element in the disorder for many.

May I suggest that you take your wife to your GP? Eating disorders are very hard on the body. It would be very comforting for both you and her to know that certain things are ok; I'm thinking pulse and heart rythm, blood pressure, etc. These need to be done lying and standing. (I've forgotten the name, Someone help me out here, orthostatic???)

I don't want to scare you but at the same time we can't be afraid to discuss the very real potential health risks involved in restriction.

This link is also something I have found very useful. I helped me realise that many of my son's symptom are simply down to starvation and will reverse when he is fully fed. Ha, ha sounds so much easier said than done. 

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You may of heard of the Minnesota Starvation Study done in the 1940s on HEALTHY men. There is a very good list of the effects observed in this link. http://eda.org.au/wp-content/uploads/the-effects-of-starvation-and-refeeding.pdf


Keep looking for information and support here and I'm sure you will make slow but certain progress,
D
2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, stable but no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly and cautiously gaining weight at home and seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. [thumb] 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight
  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal.
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.
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Torie
scaredhusband wrote:
Next, I am directed to help everyone as I am able, bearing in mind that help that is unwanted is NOT help. 


Hi scaredhusband - Welcome to the club no one wants to join. It's great that you found this forum - your wife is lucky to have you.

I understand your point about unwanted help not being helpful, but I can assure you that the healthy part of your wife DOES want help. Unfortunately, when this vile illness sets up shop in someone's brain, it literally prevents them from thinking rationally about food-related topics. It's so bizarre how this happens - they are sane and rational in every other area, but their brains have temporarily gone haywire about food/eating/weight. The lower their weight falls, the more scrambled their thoughts are on this. She needs someone else to think about food rationally for her because she. just. can't. right now. To me, that's sort of the definition of anorexia - the inability to process thoughts about food/eating/weight in the formerly rational way they used to - and once again will, with proper treatment. It's not that the woman you know and love has vanished - she's still in there, and she needs your help. 

The good news is that anorexia is treatable. And you have found the very best place for help and support. Please feel free to ask all the questions you would like. 

-Torie
"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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