• Thu, Oct 24 - 2:30 pm ET

I Am Afraid Of Having A Bulimic Relapse Around My Much Thinner Partner

Thoughts I think when trying not to have a bulimic relapse.

I know, Taco Bell is gross. But potatoes, guys.

Hello, friends. I have written about my eating disorder on The Gloss previously, but it was long enough ago that I know many of you probably haven’t read it or don’t remember the piece. Essentially, I threw up my food for the majority of a decade. After getting better, I found that the after effects are still a huge issue — acid reflux, tooth decay, throat pain, stomach pain, fear of food, obsession with eating, avoidance of eating. They all ache, but it’s those last three that make me shake lately.

I am presently seeing somebody whose body is considerably different than my own (remember my “On Dating With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” story? That guy!). This doesn’t matter to me with regard to whether or not I’m attracted to him; he’s an extremely lovely human being and I like him quite a bit. But I weigh about 20 pounds more than he does and this bothers me. This bothers me immensely.

It is not as though I look at other people and believe that there is such a thing as a “mismatched couple” with regard to appearance. People are not puzzle pieces when it comes to looks; they do not need to “fit” in other people’s eyes. Nevertheless, I am afraid that I look strange, that I look “too large” by comparison, that I look like the equivalent of an oversized coat when near him (and when near everybody else, for that matter). To me, he is the “normal” one and I am the one who should be tucked away, quietly avoiding the gaze of other people who might take offense to my appearance. Sure, I can walk constantly and eat healthily and stop drinking so frequently (all of which I’ve done!), but my thoughts have begun to turn back to my old means by which I would lose weight: throwing up.

Right now, as a matter of fact, I am in the middle of a thought cycle wherein I want to eat every bit of food I can find, then throw it up, then do it all over again. I won’t, because I’ve learned tips and tricks to keep my mind from doing so — and I know how shitty I’ll feel if I do — but I will be seeing him in two days, so in addition to my typical “Sam, you’re fat as fuck” thoughts, I’m also now thinking about how bloated and swollen and terrible my face looks. As I’ve said, these are 100% not thoughts I think about other human beings. I don’t run around wishing people who aren’t size 4s would just go away or calling people ugly in my brain (well, except when they behave in an ugly way); these stupid, arbitrary rules apply to myself only.

Sometimes, I get emails from readers who are currently bulimic or are recovering from an eating disorder. Earlier this week, in fact, one reader told me she had finally recovered, but was currently dealing with the horrible after effects doctors often keep you in the dark about when it comes to getting better. It makes sense that they do, though, because there are some side effects that — had I known about them — I might have found frustrating enough to simply avoid the stress of stopping my habit altogether.

It would be nice to go a few days without wanting to throw up, but I recognize that this is presently an impossibility for me. I’m a neurotic, obsessive weirdo whose anxiety circles around her brain like a vulture. But for the most part, I can sense that the urge is subsiding for hours, even a day at a time. Obviously, I am trying to prevent a relapse all of the time, not simply around my partner, but because of the circumstances, I’m just plain more nervous about that happening when I’m with him (or preparing to see him) than most days.

All that said, I have at least been able to vocalize these insecurities and fears to him. So far, he’s been incredibly supportive about all of my issues while simultaneously making me not feel like it’s just “baggage” that he doesn’t want to deal with, as many of the people I’ve previously been with have done. But while having a kind, understanding person to be with is awesome, I’m trying to make it (A) not something I need to rely on all the time and (B) not something that changes my situation dramatically, for better or for worse.

I’m not sure how to finish this, and to be honest, I probably won’t go sending this his way (even though he is a fairly regular reader/commenter, so if you’re reading this before I get there, buddy, hi!). I am just genuinely curious to know if anybody else has had this issue. Is it normal? Does it go away? Is this something only 15-year-olds worry about and I should’ve gotten over by now?

Photo: Reuben Vollmer (2009).

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  • anna

    Aw Samantha, you made me cry a bit.
    I tried to write a couple responses, but I couldn’t. I’m not entirely comfortable with talking about my struggles with anorexia, but this really hit home.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      I don’t want to make anyone cry! I’m so sorry you’ve struggled with anorexia, that is horrible. I do really appreciate your comment, and it means a lot to me that you posted on this. Thank you.

    • anna

      No it was a good cry! A people understand me cry!
      A glass or two of wine coupled with watching the last season of breaking bad might have contributed as well. All the feels, then this amazing article

  • elle

    Ok this may be a very long comment fair warning. I suffered from anorexia/bulimia for several years. I have been “recovered” for 6 years( just an fyi I’m 26 ) to be completely honest I really don’t think the disordered thoughts go away. I really don’t. I feel like these are thoughts and issues that I will have to struggle with every single day of my life. I am not a naturally thin person and my husband is. He is so skinny and he just eats whatever he wants. I really struggle with feelings of jealousy with that and I feel like every time we go out people are looking at us and thinking why are they together it makes no sense. It’s not even like I’m very heavy just kind of squishy I guess. My husband has basically had to learn hoe to talk me down from my thoughts about food and weight when I’m going through actually bad cycle but I think since he really does love me he thinks that our relationship is worth it but I try really hard not to let it dictate our relationship or me and my son’s relationship but it is very difficult. Hmmm I don’t really know how to end this either but I guess just if he really does care about you/sees a future with you then it should be something you can work through.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Long comments are always welcome! I’m so, so sorry you’ve been suffering from an eating disorder for so long. Isn’t it strange how, even though it’s not necessarily a competitive thing, you can still feel so jealous of your partner if he/she can eat tons of food and never get the societally negative side effects from it? But it is really, really great that he has learned how to talk to you about those thoughts. It sounds like your relationship is really, really strong.

      And I think this probably goes without saying, but if you ever need a random stranger to rant to, feel free to email me.

  • Tania

    I don’t think anxiety ever goes away for those of us who have it. We learn to not let it rule our lives, but it’s always there, lurking in the back of your mind, reminding you that you’re not actually good enough.

    But fuck anxiety, man, because you are beautiful and your cheekbones are amazing.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      I think that is the best/only thing to do: not let it rule our lives. But it really is like this stupid shadow and every time I feel good about myself, I suddenly remember that I can’t stand myself.

      Thank you so much, Tania, seriously. Fucking anxiety makes me think my cheekbones are obtrusive to other human beings while my occasional confidence makes me think they’re cool, so on the bright side, I do not totally hate them, haha.

  • http://poorgoop.com/ Samantha

    I don’t have an ED, but I do have anxiety. I get pretty regular panic attacks, and I have to be smart about things like going out, traveling, or just having my period (thanks, PMDD), but I’ve learned to manage it for the most part. My dude is cool as a cucumber, so it’s not something he really understands, but boy is he great when I tell him I’m panicked and need some help. We managed to figure out a way to make it work for three years now. The fact that you’re able to communicate with your partner about how you’re feeling means that you’ll be able to learn to manage these thoughts in time, with or without him. It’s just a new thing to be anxious about right now, and it sucks. But you’re so aware of how you’re feeling, and you’re trying to find solutions, and it’s like my therapist always tells me “remember, that this is only for a limited time, and it will subside.” Eventually, you will find a way to manage it because you’ve learned to manage far bigger, uglier things. Hell, it might even be something that goes away because you’re so awesome and strong (and lovely!).

    • Samantha_Escobar

      I’m so sorry you have anxiety; as you may have noticed, myself and others here are totally with you on that boat, haha (of course, we’re too anxious to actually get on boats, but you know what I mean). Isn’t it weird how so many of us anxious folk date non-anxious people? I ALWAYS seem to be with calm, collected, rational humans. I do definitely agree; it’s so important to communicate these types of thoughts. And I try so hard to tell myself what your therapist says! It’s difficult to remember, but I definitely will try to do that this week.

      Thank you so much. You are awesome and I really appreciate your comment.

  • http://ThePeppercat.com/ Candace

    My boyfriend is much thinner than me, too, and yes it sucks. I mean, (as I’ve said before) living in Manhattan constantly makes me feel like I’m on the brink of a relapse. But there’s something about seeing his thigh next to each other that makes me want to die. It also doesn’t help that I was still struggling with my disorder when we started dating, and that only in the last year have I become larger than him.

    But yeah, I don’t know if the fear of relapsing ever goes away, but being able to talk about it with him is really important. And if you ever DO relapse when he’s around, the look of sadness you’ll see on his face when he finds out will be enough to at least curb those thoughts for a while. Because you;ll see how much he cares about you and tht will be all that matters. :)

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Living in Manhattan really does make it hard to stay on track with being healthy. And that thigh thing is EXACTLY what I mean — it’s the comparison that is so stressful, agh. I just feel disproportionate because I am (A) naturally wide-ish, as my shoulders and rib cage and hips are all fairly wide and (B) slightly overweight according to medical standards. Agh. But it is very true — if I were to relapse, I think that it would at least help to have somebody who cares nearby :)

  • Roxanne Marie Zoltan

    So, all of my most significant relationships have been with men who can eat whatever they want without really seeing a change in their weights or bodies. I love eating, I love all kinds of food, and I love sharing food with people I love, but this still causes me a lot of anxiety and it always has. You also know I genuinely enjoy exercising and learning about nutrition, but it’s still a struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with food because in the back of my mind there’s that horrible voice going “you have to try to stay thin, he doesn’t”. There’s other stuff I want to say but I might just call you, haha <3

    • Samantha_Escobar

      I love eating! I love it so fucking much, and I wish it didn’t have so many footnotes and connotations and asterisks involved. And whenever I hear about people who enjoy exercise, you’re the first person I think of! Probably because that week I stayed with you in eleventh grade and we went to the gym with your mom and it was awesome.

      Also, I love you very much. Thanks, Roxe.

  • JLH1986

    I try to remind clients, these thoughts/feelings are temporary. After so many years, your brain is hardwired to respond a certain way. And we have to actively think different thoughts. Sometimes it’s harder than others. Thank you for writing such a great piece. I might print it off for some of my clients who are several years in recovery (with your permission of course).

  • http://www.classically-fragile.deviant.com/ Kelly

    I tried to post a long comment on my phone but it deleted it so if it posts twice I apologize and promise I am (probably) not a creeper.

    First I wanted to say that you are gorgeous. Not just in light of this, I’ve always loved your makeup tutorials and you have lovely creamy skin, beautiful blue eyes. Gah I’m so jealous!

    More than just that you’re such a beautiful person. What you’re doing, being so open about this is wonderful. I know it’s hard to open up about it (I just opened up to everyone on my facebook including my family about struggling with an eating disorder for a decade.) Eating disorders thrive in secrecy so right now you’re taking a big step by talking it out instead of reverting back to old habits. You’re stronger than you realize.

    The thing that helped me the most was doing things to make me feel like a beautiful person on the inside. I volunteered my time, helped people who needed it and comforted people who needed a shoulder to cry on. I started to really listen to others and thought of myself less.

    Remember that the things that make you so lovely don’t lost weight. Your eyes don’t lose weight, neither does your smile. Your sense of humor, your compassion and kindness don’t have a number attached to them. Those things make you so special. You’re not a mannequin, you’re a person. Your body is precious, it deserves to be cherished and nourished. Anything other than that message is a lie.

    I know you’ll be okay, just stay strong. Just remember that he cares about you the way you are, not the way you could be. I’ll be sending lots of love and positive thoughts your way in the meantime. :)

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    Recently I was extremely low on money and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money on the internet! I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills! I’m so glad, I did this.. With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. – f3k1