View Full Version : am I too sick to love someone?

11-26-2011, 08:44 PM
I've been posting on the regular anorexia board for a long time. Right now, I'm in the midst of a health crisis. After years of taking a prescribed laxative for my IBS (this came after decades of laxative abuse), I got so incredibly sick all of a sudden (horrible diarrhea) that I started dropping weight and I've had to stop taking the prescription medicine.

That's all I'll say about that. It's been, you could say, a shitty month. In the middle of all sorts of tests, weaning myself off of the prescription medicine, Thanksgiving, and now feeling just plain sick, I met someone. I'd been doing a little bit of Internet dating, really not very enthusiastically, just kind of off and on. And this guy appeared. And we had a date. And he is lovely. Incredibly lovely. In the middle of being a total mess otherwise, I have a crush on him.

I keep thinking that I shouldn't mess up his life with all my screwed-up-ness (very severe depression, ed, chronic pain, oh I could go on.) He meditates. He teaches special education at a high school. He's a musician (so am I.) he's been married (I have not.) He has kids (I do not.) He has a social circle (mine is limited by my depression; my phone rings maybe once a week. I do not call people unless I have given myself ten successful pep talks.)

But I know these things about me. I'm funny, I'm brave, and I'm gifted. I just don't know if those are enough. I just wish that I had a little bit more "normal" in me. I wish I didn't live with quite so much shame, anger and fear.

if anyone has been able to navigate their ED stuff and managed to have a solid, loving relationship that doesn't deny its existence, but isn't dragged down by it, I would love to hear from you.

I'm a pretty old fishy, as fishies go. I am in my sixties, young for my age but there ya are.

11-26-2011, 10:05 PM
Flo - you are not too sick to love someone and to be loved. I got tears in my eyes just reading that. When I first started dating my current boyfriend, I felt the same anxieties - I don't want to screw anyone else up or be a burden because I'm so hopeless. That was when I was deep in depression and had regressed in my recovery. But as I got to know him and we shared these intimate secrets about ourselves, I understood that he has issues too. Everyone does. I know you know this, but I think you have to believe it. Having an ED doesn't make you screwed up. It doesn't make you abnormal or unworthy of love. It is complicated. But it sounds like an important part of recovery for you will be opening up with other people. I don't mean that you should put all your eggs in one basket, but if you do find someone (and this man you met really does sound lovely) you will be forced to work through some of the fears you have, and maybe it will help you get better at least at letting yourself accept and give love.

Does that all make any sense? I'm trying to be coherent, but I'm not sure I'm conveying this very well. Bottom line: I do know how you feel. But interacting with other people is so, so important. And you shouldn't make the decision for him - that isn't fair to either of you.

11-26-2011, 10:09 PM
Hi Flo :love

I have always heard the adage If you can't love yourself, how can you love someone else? Also, I have heard If you can't be happy on your own, how can you be happy with someone else? I think, after long consideration, that that is a crock. I don't think love is reserved for those who have achieved complete self love and self sufficiency. A more useful question is Can I behave in a healthy way in a relationship? I had a long (well, for me, long) relationship when I was still in denial about my ED. Despite all of the messed up things inside me, he and I both strove for health, and I think we did pretty well, There was a lot of love between us. I have to admit, I couldn't "fall in love" with him and that is what ended things. But I think that had more to do with our chemistry and less to do with my mental health. I wouldn't, for the world, have missed out on that relationship because I hadn't achieved complete self love. He had issues of his own, but I think together we helped heal each other with our love.

BUT I was in intensive counseling at the time and he was in a twelve step program, so we were both working towards health with all our might, with a nice big support system. Without that, I don't think we would have done well.

So maybe a better question than Can I love? is Can I work towards health? I think you know whether it is possible, what with one thing and another, to add another layer of complexity to your emotional life, and stay on track in your quest for health.

As for being too sick for someone else to handle... it is up to the other person to decide what they can handle.

All that being said, I am no great shakes at the relationship thing, and maybe someone else has a more helpful perspective than I do. I just feel strongly that waiting for perfection in self love and self sufficiency is unfair.

11-27-2011, 08:14 AM
Hi Flo,

So, if you set him free, he can go out and find one of the many perfect women out there, who will make him truly happy? :sarcasm:winky

Everyone has problems. Sure, yours may be worse than some, but they may be better than some, too.

I don't think you're too sick to love someone. Or to be loved. Don't shortchange yourself because of your illness. Sunshine Poppy is right that he should be the judge of what he can handle. You don't need to make that decision for him.

Just try to be the best 'you' that you can be.

11-27-2011, 09:04 AM
You guys have really helped me! Now and then I get a response to something I wrote on the board, and one or two fishies write back with exactly what I need to hear. And what really strikes me is that I'm old enough to be grandma to some of you!


Speaking of grandma-hood, part of what I am factoring in here is that I don't have the next fifty years to perfect my self-love skills. I don't have all that time to work a made-for-TV-movie recovery, and look back on my illness as a terrible period of my life and be glad I'm never going there again. Who I am now is who I am. I went into the internet dating thing kind of thinking that all of us who are working on ourselves are good enough.

And I'm printing these posts out to stick on my fridge.

11-27-2011, 01:17 PM
It saddens me that you think you are destined to be alone and never in relationship. I think having people in our lives that care about us is important and you deserve it. I think where you are at your stage of life (did not mean that as a slam at being older) well, and at mine as well, people have stuff, issues and are who they are. They are beyond changing for others or keeping things hidden. I think having someone special in your life that you care about is a good motivation for you to being as healthy as you can be and not making excuses to doing the "intentional sick things" That did not work for most of your life. It is time to try something different. I think that letting someone into your life is important. Let him decide if you are too sick for him. But at the same time, you have the responsibility to do what you need to do to take care of yourself and eat and be as healthy as you can.

11-27-2011, 03:07 PM
Thanks Cats, and it's really great to hear from you. I'm going to let him in if he decides to come. He's more than welcome. But I think you're right, I need to keep the focus on my recovery first and foremost, not on what someone else wants of me (if he's a good person, his expectations will be in sync with this.)

Last time I started a relationship, the man was totally unaware that he was completely focused on fitness, what the body looked like, the importance of looking young. I think he kind of wanted "arm candy". I hadn't relapsed and yet when I met him, but I remember the compulsive exercising and trying to drop weight (which I never had to lose) so that he would be proud of me. Nobody, not even the therapist I was seeing at the time, was recognizing the signs of anorexia. So I'm going to be very, very careful this time around.

What I worry about most when I look inside myself is not so much the eating disorder, but this: I am so angry. And I hate to use the word, but I am so bitter. I don't want to be either one of those things. Especially the bitterness. I don't quite get where it came from (probably lots of losses over the years), but it really gets in the way of generosity, tolerance, and trust. I am working on it hard in therapy, and I have been praying to be set free of it. I do not want to hate. What I find this ugly stuff boiling up inside of me I feel so out of control. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? Besides, I have had so much in my life other than loss and alienation. Those have been big--huge--but I have had some really cool stuff happen to me. Like, I mean, way cool.

Like dogs. Like music. Like a wonderful piano teacher. Like poetry. Like all the wealth that poetry has brought into my life. Like the ways in which survival against some truly lousy odds has made me a better person. And as much as I miss my old home, I'm creating some nice little nooks and crannies in this one that remind me that my real "home" is totally portable.

I guess that's kind of a gratitude list. Maybe that's what I need to do to counteract the Crabby-McNasties when they descend on me. And they descend so hard. And they are so invalidating. I look inside of me when I am feeling like a monster, and all I can think is if I were another person seeing all that rage, I would head for the next county. I'm up against that every bit as much as this stupid, stupid eating disorder. Probably more.

I'm pretty nauseous today. Cramped up, not sure how to feed myself. Not sure what's going to trigger pain in my belly and what's going to help it feel better. Eating HURTS. It feels like I'm suddenly allergic to everything but chicken bouillon. I have to keep my word, somehow, to my doctor: that I won't lose any more weight. (How I'm going to prevent that, I have no idea.) I also have to not shove these symptoms aside if I have plans to go out. I'm real good at that. I'm terrible at letting myself just be sick and resting. It feels so scary to disappoint people who expect me to be well enough to carry on.

This is going to be a real challenge. I'm so glad you guys are here. Big hugs.

11-27-2011, 09:53 PM

I find myself relating so, so much to your point about the anger and bitterness. I know exactly where it stems from, too. I kept issues with my family bottled up for a long time, and I was feeling incredibly angry for YEARS, and even now that things have gotten a gazillion times better in my family I still feel that the anger lingers even though the issues have been resolved. How to work through this? I wish I knew. Part of me wants to work on it by myself. Part of me wants to confront my family about my years of silence. But I know I can't ignore it anymore.

As far as what you can do today: you know you have to eat even if you'd be more comfortable not eating. We know that our sense of hunger is distorted. And because of the EDs, we are hypersensitive to feelings in our gut. Really, it's just about mechanical eating. Eat because you know you have to to take care of yourself. When I feel unwell I like oatmeal with fruit, or some butternut squash or asparagus soup. Also important to get protein, so maybe a handful of almonds would do you well? Sorry you're not feeling well. I hope you feel better tomorrow! :]

Lastly, and I'd do well to take my own advice about this, concentrate on your own points about how much progress you have made in your recovery. You've stopped, or at least decreased, some of these compulsive behaviors, and you made such a beautiful list there of things that are great about your life. Remind yourself of these things when the anger seems overwhelming. That's what I try to do...try being the operative word. But most of the time, it helps.

11-27-2011, 11:50 PM
I did not intend to mean focus on your recovery first, although that is important. I meant that you need to be the healthest YOU can be so you can participate in a relationship if you want to. Don't sabotoge things by not eating or igoring the signals your body is giving you.

11-28-2011, 08:59 AM
Hi Cats,

I didn't think that, don't worry!

And thanks Pantther. You are incredibly wise about this stuff for someone who is about a third my age! I wish I'd had that kind of integrity when I was that young.)

I think what I want most is for my heart, soul, and mind to be safe places. Whether anyone drops by for a visit, moves in, or even if no one's ever in there but me. The last four years have shown me what it means to inhabit a self that is not safe. It's kind of like living in a house where the wiring is so faulty that every outlet is a fire hazard. I would like to not have to be afraid of my mind. How destructive it is. I would like to be home in myself. I even would like, just for a minute now and then, to take my sanity for granted.

That's what I mean, I think, by "well enough to love." And I'm not there. Maybe talking about this is a start.

11-28-2011, 06:02 PM
"The last four years have shown me what it means to inhabit a self that is not safe."

Yes. What a beautifully sad but true way to say that. We've trained ourselves to treat ourselves cruelly, so how can we trust ourselves with our selves, much less with loving another person? Sometimes I feel the same way with my current bf. I was absolutely terrified when we first started dating, and even considered breaking it off before it even went anywhere.

But maybe part of learning to inhabit a safe self is by learning how to love someone else. I truly think caring for someone else and letting him care about me has helped me in my recovery.