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DS suspects gf has eating disorder, what do I advise???

(18 Posts)
BenHurrsSandal Mon 09-Oct-17 13:09:57

Hi, my 21 year old DS lives a 3 hour drive away (went to uni and stayed in that city). He now has a 26 year old girlfriend who also is a former student and lives an equal distance from her family.

He rang this morning to ask my advice as he's concerned about how little she eats. She will go whole days eating nothing and just drinking coke. She'll go out for an evening drinking with him having told him she's eaten nothing in the past two days which he finds particularly concerning. He says she can't even finish a bowl of soup and says she's full up. He never sees her finish a meal. He's tried expressing his concerns and admitted he'd got quite frustrated and annoyed when she won't eat and she asks him to stop mentioning it. He says she's not skin and bone but she's petite. She was unable to go to work the other day as she was exhausted. He says she doesn't often miss work but he feels she's clearly worn out. He himself eats like a horse but is skinny. They've been a couple since July and this has been the way it is as long as he's known her.

He asked my advice as he remembered me telling him that at the age of 17, when I was in my first full time job, I too stopped eating for a time and was thought to be anorexic. I explained that it only went on for a few months and I very soon sought help. I was already extremely slim before I started limiting my food intake and lost weight very quickly. For me it was a form of control as I felt out of control in other aspects of my life. I feel I know nothing about eating disorders including whether someone has one or not so don't know what to advise.

I asked if she has friends that he could talk to but he doesn't know them. They work for the same company but on different work patterns so he has to be careful who he confides in at work. I completely get that he needs to tread carefully and speaking to anybody about this could just upset her. I already told him that he needs to be gentle with her rather than getting annoyed and he knows this but is very worried for her.

I'm just wondering if anyone has any suggestions on how I should advise him?

Imonlyfuckinghuman Mon 09-Oct-17 13:15:29

Honestly, if it was my ds or dd I'd tell him to end the relationship. He is far too young to be with some one that has MH issues or eating disorder. He can't fix some one that clearly doesn't think she has issues.

Why is it his responsibility?

He needs to focus on his future not be some ones carer. Very harsh I know, but I have some one with MH problems in my family and they can consume you.

pinkyredrose Mon 09-Oct-17 13:21:31

Disgusting attitude I'monly angry people with eating disorders are stigmatised enough as it is. Maybe as she's his gf he cares about her and wants to help her?

OP could he try ringing one of the eating disorder helplines or checking out their websites for advice?

pinkyredrose Mon 09-Oct-17 13:22:39

Ps there's no 'right' age to deal with MH issues, it's crap whatever age you are.

brightlightsofblah Mon 09-Oct-17 13:44:37

Sorry but i agree with imonly. My dd has mh issues and not eating is her control mechanism to cope. I wouldn't wish that that level of support required on anyone as young as your DS. It's lovely that he wants to help and I'm sure he thinks he's doing the right thing. But he can't help her if she doesn't recognise she needs it.

Does he have contact details for her parents or siblings?

Imonlyfuckinghuman Mon 09-Oct-17 14:10:51

pink he has known her 12 weeks it's too soon to invest in helping some one who doesn't see they have a problem.

I've grown up with a mother who has depression, multiple personality disorder and started with bulimia when she was in her fifties. You have no idea the impact she had on my brother and I

Op son is young and needs to concentrate on his future not a very new relationship with some one who has MH issues. He can't 'save' her

Imonlyfuckinghuman Mon 09-Oct-17 14:11:49

bright that must be extremely tough in you all flowers

BenHurrsSandal Mon 09-Oct-17 14:18:15

Thanks for all of your responses, it's very difficult to know what to suggest to him. He's clearly my son as he has exactly the same attitude as I would towards this I'm afraid - no matter how difficult it might be, we're the caring type and also stubborn so just couldn't walk away! I do take on board that he's young to deal with these issues but I know he wouldn't agree that he's too young. Also, if I were to suggest this I'm pretty sure he'd carry on regardless - he's lived away from home for three years and stands on his own two feet.

I will definitely suggest he tries ringing an eating disorder helpline or looking at their website.

I'd also considered the fact that he (or I) could easily make contact with her mother or siblings via private Facebook message but I'm not sure a) how her mother would feel being contacted like this and b) whether his girlfriend would feel it was a betrayal.

Thanks again for taking the time to post - it's very much appreciated.

Imonlyfuckinghuman Mon 09-Oct-17 15:24:36

it's not about being caring op it's about understanding the magnitude of the problem your ds is taking on. Would you be so quick to encourage him being part of her MH problems if she was a alcoholic or a drug user that wouldn't admit it?

Stubborn or massively naive?

I'm the caring type, I love my mother but I nor any one else in the family could actually 'help' her because a) we were not trained MH support workers/doctors and B) she thought she was fine half of the time and we were jealous as she'd lost weight hmm

Maybe your time with eating problems is clouding your view.

He has known her twelve weeks and your very accepting of the mind fuck he is about to take on.

brightlightsofblah Mon 09-Oct-17 17:45:14

Thanks imonly - it is really really hard, most of all on her.
But OP I wouldn't underestimate the effect that caring for a loved one with mh difficulties has on you. My other dc are affected as are my dd's friends and my marriage and extended family.

I also don't think it's a matter of whether you are a caring type or not - I most certainly am and in an ideal world would like to heal everyone and take their pain away.
But I can't.
Neither can your DS.
The problem being no one can fix or heal anyone else. You tend to lose sight of who you are in the process and run the risk of ending up questioning your every thought, comment & action in case it has an adverse affect on your loved one. Because the effect it has on them isn't putting them in a bad mood for 1/2hr or them having a gurn - it's them limiting their food intake to 200cals a day for a week until they faint or them crying for hours as they feel so unworthy of the love shown to them.
Sorry, don't mean to derail your post OP, I hope your DS makes the right decision for himself blush and his gf gets the help she needs too

brightlightsofblah Mon 09-Oct-17 17:47:22

Oh and Ben I think contacting her mum is a good idea even though she's 26. She may have other pieces of the jigsaw and might have experience of her behaving like this in the past
flowers

DearMrDilkington Mon 09-Oct-17 17:48:22

If she gets any worse please contact her mum. I'd want to know if it was my daughter and I'd really appreciate you telling me.

tilligan Mon 09-Oct-17 18:03:38

Her "symptoms" may be just the
tip of the iceberg- her MH problems could be well established by now-and it will be a long hard slog to recovery. Not something a 21 year old would knowingly take on.support him but suggest he looks at the bigger picture.

HyacinthBooquet Mon 09-Oct-17 18:08:44

I agree with Imonly.

Oblomov17 Mon 09-Oct-17 18:12:45

I completely disagree. whilst I appreciate your DS and you are very caring people, this issue is far too much of a big problem for him to be dealing with.

anybody going out with each other for only a few months : I too would advise him to finish the relationship as soon as possible.

BenHurrsSandal Mon 09-Oct-17 18:36:24

Thanks again for all your responses and I will be definitely speaking with him again and sounding out how involved he feels with her.

I completely agree that twelve weeks is a very short time to have known her but I think we all remember at 21 it can feel like so much longer. I'm merely saying it's all very well to say tell him to move on but how many people listen to their parents when that's the advice? Especially when they've been living independently for years. He almost certainly is naive as well as stubborn and I get that 'caring' isn't enough. But my original op was partly wondering how I can tell if she has an actual eating disorder when I know nothing about them? (I realise that maybe wasn't clear). Sometimes 21 year olds (particularly naive ones) blow things out of proportion which is why I can't be sure whether there's a problem or not.

Being a mother of 4, I agree as well I too would want to be made aware if one of my DD's were potentially suffering from MH problems, but I would possibly be quite alarmed if an unknown woman (albeit she knows about my son) suddenly made contact with me via FB. Especially one who is delivering scant information second hand. I also feel there may be religious/cultural differences which I won't go into here for fear of outing myself. Great if her daughter has a history but not so great if it's a bolt out of the blue!

I worry I've come across as naive do-gooder on here as opposed to fairly competent parent who has actually had experience of MH issues with other family members and the type of work I do. I just was totally floored by an early morning phone call about something I'm not confident I'm qualified to advise on.

That said, I am grateful for the advice.

Imonlyfuckinghuman Mon 09-Oct-17 20:27:24

I would have an honest and frank talk with your son and ask if he sees this relationship long term because A) MH is long term B) it will be really hard to back out of a relationship with some one with MH if he feels he has had enough.

If he is serious, he has to take a mature responsible approach to this. He needs to read up about eating disorders and the MH issues they hide. That he should see if he can spot any of the signs that's he's read up on. If he recognises any then he should offer her one chance to go seek help, if she refuses - he walks. He walks because he is not an enabler and mature enough not to let her think this is the norm. As that will be unhealthy for them both

op you have to make it clear that if she has MH/eating disorder he has to be adult and responsible about it and not think he can 'save' her because he can't. She is a grown woman and it's not possible with all the good intentions in the world that he can help her. She has to want to help her self.

I know you like to think of your self as caring, most of us actually are, but you really need to put your son first

brightlightsofblah Mon 09-Oct-17 20:34:13

I've had one those FB messages from a boy my daughter had only just met. He told he had recognised the signs as his sister hadn't been well with the same thing and a few things she had said worried him.

Up until that point I perhaps hadn't realised how slippery the slope my dd was on but my god it was a wake up call!

So yes, totally get that you don't want to freak her out - but better to freak her out now than not and things get worse.

You sound like such a lovely mum, your ds felt he could come to you for advice on a really difficult subject which is a testament to how much he loves and respects your opinion and guidance. I'm sure he'll make the right decision ☺️

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