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Lockdown madness or the final straw? {LONG}

(15 Posts)
howtocope Tue 02-Jun-20 14:05:04

DH and I have been married almost 30 years. In that time he has regularly lost and gained weight. He has a pattern of gaining by massively overeating and then finding some new regime to lose weight. It's usually extreme and the timing of the weight loss is often linked to other stresses. I read a book about men with eating disorders years ago to try to understand what was happening and I think the dieting gives him a sense of control when he feels like he's lost control of his life. At times he's been able to discuss this issue, but not often. He hates himself when he's overweight and every time he starts some new programme it's like he's on a high. He's finally found the answer.

As you can imagine, lockdown has been difficult. DH has his own company but funding has been a challenge. Overall, he says that he's enjoyed lockdown, that his quality of life has improved and that he likes having more time for himself. Unfortunately, I noticed that he was starting to focus more and more on food and it started ringing alarm bells. One of the patterns is that he becomes irrational. He starts reading about some new idea that is a miracle cure for weight loss, health, whatever. This time it's been veganism and the evils of meat.

I have nothing against vegans but it feels like DH is using this as his latest justification for his limited eating. To give it context, a few years ago DH saw a nutritionist for advice about diet. She said that he had a pretty healthy diet but that he should try to eat more fish and perhaps switch to rye bread for the additional fibre. Within a week DH was eating virtually nothing but salmon and rye bread. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. We went to visit my parents and he went to the grocery store, purchased what he needed and would cook his salmon and rye bread while the rest of us ate meals together. There was also a period of virtually nothing but raw peanuts and fresh pineapple, but I forget how that obsession began. He made himself quite ill that time. And two years with no sugar. He wouldn't even have a bite of the children's birthday cakes. I remember how much that upset them. And a period of nothing but chicken ceasar salad, no dressing. The food choices start from a place of health but descend into something else.

He's been vegetarian for over a year and that's been fine as he has eaten a variety of things but a few months ago he started watching 'documentaries' about vegan eating plans that kept you young, cured disease, etc. I looked into a few of them and one google brought up loads of debunking articles and warnings about the approach. The irony is that DH says he's doing this because he wants to be more healthy. I think he's afraid of getting older and eventually dying. He turned 50 last year.

I could feel it ramping up over the last few weeks and it came to a head on Sunday when he started telling me that Omega 3 is a scam. When I pointed out that taking Omega 3 is recommended for heart health for anyone who doesn't eat meat or fish he said that wasn't true and got angry that I'm not more supportive. I suggested he look at he British Heart Foundation website for guidelines but he seems to think that the medical industry is part of some kind of conspiracy. I tried to express my concerns about his eating habits and he just got angry and defensive and said that I should be more supportive. He hasn't really spoken to me since Sunday. He has always made me a coffee in the mornings and he's stopped doing that. I have a slipped disc in my back so he carries the laundry up and down the stairs for me and he's told me today to do it myself. I know this is a tantrum and I'm trying to just give him space but it is so unpleasant.

The children are 17 and 14 and they had picked up on DH's food fixations years ago. My concern is how all of this is affecting them, DD14 in particular. She has started expressing concern about her weight and what food she eats. She is a very healthy weight now but has one friend who has been in hospital with anorexia and I definitely want for us to have healthy attitudes towards food in the house to balance anything she might be hearing at school or among peers.

Sorry this is so long. I just don't know what to do. The atmosphere in the house is awful. When DH refused to help with the laundry he said 'we need to talk about a lot of things and that's one of them'. Again, he is falling into a pattern of behaviour where he blames me for everything. I'm trying to to give him space and get on with the things I need to do. I'm having a socially distanced coffee with friends on Thursday, which will be nice.

I'm trying to be sympathetic with DH. The food thing is usually a sign that he's struggling, but I also don't want to spend my life watching him go through the same unpleasant patterns of behaviour. This pattern of feast and famine will be damaging his health. He already sees a counselor and was recently diagnosed with ADHD and is taking medication for that.

OP’s posts: |
MikeUniformMike Tue 02-Jun-20 18:35:53

He needs help.

Do you want to stay married to him?

LuluBellaBlue Tue 02-Jun-20 18:42:29

I hear you, and feel very sorry for you as he clearly has a eating disorder (I too have had them and know how hard work I could be!)
However I agree that tonnes of the websites inc recommendations from people such as the British Heart Foundation are a load of b*llocks!
Sorry that doesn’t help much!

I guess the choice is:
Will he seek help?
Do and if he did, do you want to stay married to him?
What do you want out of your life?

NoMoreDickheads Tue 02-Jun-20 18:55:31

However I agree that tonnes of the websites inc recommendations from people such as the British Heart Foundation are a load of b*llocks!

They parallel NHS guidelines and are based on the height of evidence-based science.

BarbedBloom Tue 02-Jun-20 19:01:30

He really needs help. I got like this at one point. I started having an apple and orange as my lunch, then I stopped breakfast. Then in the evening I had a tablespoon of mash and half a chicken breast. I started to feel really good doing it, like I was helping my health but thankfully I realised I wasn't and managed to stop it before it got worse. It is weirdly addictive.

This cycle of binge and then unhealthy diets is going to be terrible for his body. You can see it is affecting your children too. I remember back in the 90s my mum would do every diet going and as a teenager I started to emulate that. It leads to a lifelong issue with food.

I would be telling him to get help and if he refused, sadly you have to treat it like any other problem e.g. alcohol, gambling and start making decisions about what is best for you and your children, which could mean separation

howtocope Tue 02-Jun-20 19:56:37

Thanks for responding. I’m not sure what I want to do. I love DH and would like to stay married to him. He’s a lovely man most of the time but I’m getting very tired of these repeated patterns of behaviour. He sees a counselor every week but I’m not sure he talks about the food thing. We did marriage counselling together years ago and he wouldn’t talk about the most difficult things when he was there without me.

We’re definitely reaching some kind of turning point. I’ll be 50 next year, the kids are evoking more independent. I’ve been a SAHM for 18 years and I’m studying now for a new career. My prospects look good at the moment. While DH seems to be afraid of these changes I’m excited about the future. I love the idea of focussing on more interesting things than my appearance. I’ve been growing out my grey streaks in lockdown and I love them. I want to be healthy but I don’t want to fret about it. As time goes on I find DH’s focus and behaviour more and more intolerable.

One thing occurred to me this afternoon. I wonder if his ADHD meds could be affecting his mood. He increased the dose recently. I’d like to talk to him about it but he’s still so angry. I’ve tried to break the ice by buying him an iced coffee yesterday and patting his back when he came to bed last night. He drank the coffee but flinched away when I touched him.

OP’s posts: |
howtocope Tue 02-Jun-20 19:59:16

It’s interesting you mention alcohol and gambling. One of his responses to my concern about his eating is that it could be so much worse. He could be drinking, gambling, doing drugs. As if this was justification.

OP’s posts: |
Sarcelle Tue 02-Jun-20 20:49:05

I wonder if he feels you slipping away from him. Your world seems to be opening up a bit, he might feel threatened. I am not saying you are wrong to have options etc, just that might be why he has got a bit worse.

Nanny0gg Tue 02-Jun-20 23:41:29

Does he react badly to change? So escalates what he has control over?

howtocope Wed 03-Jun-20 08:38:02

I’m feeling more empowered and sometimes I wonder if he feels emasculated by that. His income is a big part of his sense of identity and success so I wonder if the idea of me earning and/or having success outside the home feels like it’s undermining his sense of self.

He usually likes change. I think monotony is the greater threat in a general sense. His ADHD means he gets bored easily. I looked into the meds he’s taking and mood swings is a definite side effect. It’s unlike him to stay this angry for so long. Lockdown could be contributing too. I want to talk to him but I dread his response. I actually feel frightened. Not physically but for the horribleness of another argument.

OP’s posts: |
howtocope Wed 03-Jun-20 11:34:02

I texted him this morning and asked if the meds might be affecting his mood. He didn’t reply. It’s ridiculous. We’re in the same house.

I don’t know what to do. I’ve been trying to give him space but how long can this continue? It’s Day 4 of his silence and avoidance. Should I just continue to give him space and wait for him to come to me? Should I try to speak to him?

It seems like he’s on some kind of strike. Not replacing loo roll, using up the milk without replacing it or letting me know, not coming to eat when the rest of us do. He makes his own food and doesn’t seem to be eating much from what I can tell.

OP’s posts: |
Iwalkinmyclothing Wed 03-Jun-20 11:48:53

He is an adult and has responsibility for his mental health. If he cannot manage his mental health issues alone, he has a responsibility to seek help. As a parent he has a responsibility to protect or allow others to protect his children from any harm his illness may cause.

I know that sounds harsh and unkind. It really isn't. Your DH is unwell. He can't help being unwell. But he can help how he responds to that. And that he is unwell does not mean his family have to accept his behaviours. You have noticed the impact of his disordered eating and associated beliefs on your DD already and you are right to be concerned about that. He is punishing you at present for not buying uncritically into the latest expression of his illness and you do not have to accept that.

I am wary of giving "this is what you should do" advice as all I know about the situation is what you have written here. But based on this thread and solely from a "this is what I would do" perspective- I would, face to face if possible and safe, by email/ phone/ text etc if not, be very, very blunt with him. I would tell him that it is not acceptable to behave as he is doing, that he needs to access professional support now, that his actions were harming our children and me and that we did not deserve that and would not accept it. I would contact gateway mental health services locally for advice.

Your DH is suffering and unwell: that does not mean you have to accept his behaviour, and if he has no control over his behaviour, then it is time for professional involvement.

needhandhold Wed 03-Jun-20 13:48:48

He’s completely checked out and it’s not fair on you especially during lockdown when you’re trying to keep your kids going to. I think it’s time to stop pussy footing around him. He’s an adult and he has responsibilities. You’ve been too nice over the years. If it was me I’d write him a letter

“You are an adult and you have parenting and household responsibilities. This silent treatment tantrum stops now or you pack your bags today and leave and I file for divorce. I’m done with your tantrums and moods. You are not (at the very least) pulling your weight in the house. You’re not even replacing loo roll or milk that you’ve used up. Sort yourself out. Now. You are being rude and disrespectful. We had a disagreement about Omega 3. I have a right to my own opinions about diet and nutrition. Are you going to tantrum against anyone in the world who disagrees with you? That’s narcissistic and arrogant. You are being a bad husband and a bad father. I’ve put up with this crap from you for years now. This is lockdown and a global pandemic and you’re throwing this shit because of an argument over omega 3? Buck your ideas up or leave”

and mean it.
Find your anger. He’s treating you like crap. Put your foot down.

howtocope Wed 03-Jun-20 15:14:21

I wish I had the balls to say or write that. I’m afraid if I wrote an angry letter it would be used against me forever after. I feel like I’m just avoiding the situation right now. I do need to get in touch with my anger. I don’t think he would leave even if I asked him to. I imagine that situation being a hundred times worse. I have to be able to leave but right now with lockdown and financially I don’t see how.

I’m seeing friends tomorrow and I think getting out of the house and being with other people will help me get some perspective and hopefully buoy me up to talk to DH. I spoke to a friend today who has known DH for over 20 years and she was very supportive. It helps being able to talk about it.

OP’s posts: |
needhandhold Wed 03-Jun-20 16:10:39

Used against you how? He’s giving you the silent treatment and not pulling his weight? You’re not using that against him?! I think you’re too nice, too facilitating and he’s taking advantage of your good nature. If you want to keep it simple then just write “my endless patience and goodwill is fast running out” you need to make a stand. This can’t carry on. It’s bad for you and your kids. He needs a kick up his arse

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