SINCE I was a child, I worried that I would never find myself. I’ve always felt a little lost, like I was simply imitating friends, family, celebrities; but I was failing. I could never looked like they did. Even when I tried so hard that I wound up in hospital, I could never measure up. ‘Peter Pan’ was my favourite book – I was part of the Lost Boys, and later, part of the eating disorder community. I fed off it, lived for the pity. Some people say that the denial stage is the hardest part of an eating disorder, however, I was different. I was so desperate for attention, for anyone to validate my body, my hard work, that at one point I actually wanted the disorder. It made me feel like a part of something, somewhere I wasn’t judged. After this period, guilt totally overtook me. I was so ashamed of myself. I just couldn’t get it right.
I have befriended a lot of toxic people over the years. Don’t misunderstand; I don’t blame any of them. It definitely wasn’t easy to be friends with me, and this post is not a slam at anyone, however, I feel it is important to talk about just how important friendships are when going through a tough time, and the correct ways to be there for someone with an eating disorder. From a very young age I had issues with my body, and I would have friends who embodied what I believed was the ‘perfect body’. After this point, I then befriended some who were so unbelievably self-involved that it took away from my own issues. I could sit for most of the day, listening to them chatter away about the most trivial subjects, trying to ignore the demons that raged inside me. My plan worked for a few years, and I was content with my supporting roles in my friendships.
MY life began to crumble before my very eyes. I started going to parties, boys were interested in me, I was hot. I was wanted. However, some preyed on my acute vulnerability. And those ‘some’ ruined a part of my life that I will never get back. I don’t think any of them really understand the effect that their words, their actions had on me. So I will explain in order to stimulate their feeble minds. And if they are too weak to read this, to weak to truly understand the carnage they caused, then they are more cowardly than I initially believed. This is not a ’13 Reasons Why’ complex. This not a book, not a fiction. I was strong enough to overcome it. Almost strong enough.
SOME of this group may believe that they are exempt, because they ‘stood up for me’. This is most definitely not the case. It mostly started with a whisper. My friend, a friend who I now know I should never have trusted, had told most of the group, and more, that I had an eating disorder, just a few short days after my diagnosis. I was totally broken, and had panic attack after panic attack. I thought that what felt like the world would know. Yet, it was my world. Due to her thoughtless actions, her desperate craving for attention, her need to claw her way into the spotlight, she caused my world to implode. This is step number 1 of friendship – you keep eachothers secrets until the last. However, the true carnage started after I left the group. I was sick of them, the way that they judged others, constantly bitched about people they thought were lesser than them. However, prior to leaving this group, they proceeded to bitch about me. For anyone who has experienced an eating disorder, you will understand that this the worst thing that could happen. I was desperate to be loved, to be viewed as beautiful. To them, I was nothing. Some preyed on my fragile state. They spoke words that were diabolical, next to the talk of animals. Truly, they behaved like animals. They asked if I smelt of sick when I was kissed, and said that I was too fat to be anorexic. More disgusting comments followed. The rest of the group sat and watched. This was not a joke, not a funny roast. This was the destruction of my little confidence, leaving me to sift through the ashes of my obliterated self-worth, only to find nothing. ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ How wrong this is. In our day and age, cruelty does not end at school. We come home to social media; to whatsapp, facebook. We can constantly see what others are doing. You can never escape the words that others pin on you. Everything is out in the open. Even now, friends can make you feel shitty. We are made to feel that ‘feelings’ should be thought, not felt. Being left out still brings back the hurt I felt at one of the worst points in my life, and not being believed is still a hard emotion to deal with.
HOWEVER, I have made the best friendships of my life. Thanks to these people, I understand what a good friend really is. My true friends have always been there for me, never made me scared of my feelings. They always check on me when I’m not in school, or if I haven’t answered a message. Still now, I have friends who only message me if they want something, or if they feel bad, because I’m ‘the eating disorder girl’. These friends are not true. Yes, they are nice, or they believe they are, but their total selfishness, their happiness with their own lives can blind them from the truth – that they are hurting others with their actions. However, the people who have always been there without a second thought for themselves, who came to the hospital to see me even though they had bad experiences there, who could tell when I was upset instead of telling me of the plans I had missed. Who would cancel their stupid plans just to see me for ten minutes when I had no energy to even move from my bed. These are the true friends.
IT is sometimes hard to see these friends in your life. I have had trouble with it, however, I can now see that true, real friendships are so important; to your health, emotionally and physically, and especially to your recovery. Recovery is not easy. Your body has been put through agony, starvation and exploitation. I have ruined my digestive system, and my immune system is ridiculously low. I have so much bloat that I look three months pregnant. Recovering from an eating disorder means training your body to eat again. It’s like running a marathon after not walking for a year. Your body has been put through hell and back again, but YOU WILL RECOVER. With true friends around you, friends who really care about you rather than your party status, who can handle the real you, these are the friends that you need. You need friends who can occasionally put you first, because the next year will most definitely not be easy for you. Friends who understand this will be your rocks; I know that I’m so grateful for my true ones.
I will lay out a few ground rules for friends and family who are dealing with an eating disorder/depression, as I know it’s not easy for you either, but if you’re willing to try, to wholly be there for your friend, you will make a massive difference to their recovery.
- Never comment on weight. Weight is an extremely fragile subject, as bloating will be constant (there is a post on bloating and how to deal with it here: #BeatTheBloat). When they bring up weight, dieting or simply ‘feeling fat’, don’t fuel the fire. Simply remind them that they are doing well in their recovery, and that you’re there for them.
- People in recovery may have issues with their health, specifically regarding the way that they retain and digest food. It is truly exhausting; my acid reflux caused my chest and stomach to burn after every piece of food ingested, and I have constant headaches due to the water retained by my body. Don’t leave them out of plans. They may feel exhausted or uncomfortable, especially if it is a situation where they have to eat. I urge you, be patient. Let them know you are there for them; visit them when they are in bed, even if it’s for ten minutes. Offer to take some food off their plates when out. Encourage them to try.
- Little milestones are important to recovery. Even if these seem tiny; they ate a cube of cheese, or ate in-front of certain people, it is imperative to their journey. Praise them, for if they are telling you, it must be important to them. Tell them how proud you are.
- Try to notice them. I know this sounds funny, for of course you notice them; they are your friend! What I mean is notice them when they’re upset or low. It will not be easy for them, and there are times when they will feel totally demoralised. Just a small text letting them know that you are there is truly enough. They might not answer, but they will know and appreciate it.
- Physical touch is important. Sometimes, words can only penetrate a darkness skin deep, when it goes on for miles. Touch can bring someone out of this. Just a hug, a squeeze on the shoulder can let them know that you’re there when they emerge from their dark cloud.
IF you feel you cannot be there for them, please, tell them. They won’t mind, but don’t pretend to be there if you can’t. They will understand.
TO those still in recovery; we can do this. Reach out to your friends, and shed your old skin, along with the fake friends that you surrounded yourself with simply for flattery. Show your true friends that you care, and that you appreciate them. They’ll know. Don’t become the lost being you once were, because if you haven’t already, you will find yourself. You will recover, and this will end.
Allow yourself to be happy; you deserve it.
You have fight left in you, all you have to do is find it.